Unity has abandoned the popular image that God is an elderly, superhuman male with a white flowing beard who lives in a remote place "up there". We do not believe that God is fickle, answering some prayers and ignoring others. We do not look upon God as a deity to be feared. One fundamental attribute of God is that God is good. We are created to be "healthy, happy, prosperous, loved and loving, courageous and strong". If we fall short of these goals, it is because we have separated our mind from God, and allowed negative thoughts to intrude. God is within each one of us; and is directly accessible. We need only to quietly turn within ourselves to contact God.
Unity follows a form of pantheism [better yet, panENtheism... WM]. God exists in all things. God is present throughout creation: in humans, plants, animals, the earth itself, etc. [And, all things are present in God, hence panENtheism... WM]
Unity rejects the traditional Christian view that Jesus is a deity to be worshipped; we point out that at no time did Jesus tell his disciples to worship him. Rather, we look upon Jesus as a great healer, miracle worker, and mystic who had a direct access to God. We believe that his actions can be emulated by believers today. One's life is to be dominated by love, and compassion, even toward one's enemies.
Unity rejects the concept of original sin, (the belief that because of Adam and Eve's actions in the Garden of Eden, we are all conceived in iniquity and born in sin). We look upon the Genesis story as an allegory; a very human attempt to explain our beginnings. We emphasize that humans are created in the image and likeness of God, and are thus not intrinsically evil or sinful.
Rather than looking upon heaven as a place "up there" to be experienced as a reward after death, Unity conceives of heaven as expressed by Jesus: "The kingdom of heaven is at hand", and "The kingdom of God is in the midst of (within) you". Charles Fillmore definedit as "a state of consciousness in which the soul and the body are in harmony with Divine Mind". One does not have to wait until death. Heaven can thus be enjoyed at any time through prayer. Through proper technique, attitude and receptivity one can elevate one's personal consciousness to a heavenly state.
The Unity Church does not conceive hell to be a place of eternal torment in which people are eternally punished with fire because of their beliefs and/or actions during life. It is not a place to go to after death. Rather it is a state of consciousness to be suffered here on earth. Charles Fillmore wrote: "One does not have to die in order to go to hell, any more than one has to die to get to heaven. Both are states of mind and conditions, which people experience as a direct outworking of their thoughts, beliefs, words, and acts. If one's mental processes are out of harmony with the law of man's [sic] being, they result in trouble and sorrow; mental as well as bodily anguish overtakes one, and this is hell".
Many Christians look upon Satan as a quasi-deity; an all evil presence who is the opposite of the goodness of God. Satan and God are often portrayed as fighting over individuals' souls. This dual divinity has obvious links to Zoroastrianism which was incorporated into ancient Jewish legends which, in turn, were later codified as parts of the book of Genesis. Other aspects of Satan were derived from ancient Greek and Babylonian beliefs.
Unity interprets Satan's temptation of Jesus symbolically. Satan did not tempt Jesus to turn stones into bread; it was the "voice of human hunger"; the temptation to throw himself off the highest part of the temple was "the voice of human desire for recognition"; the temptation to becomea ruler was "the voice of worldliness".
Thus Satan is not a physical entity; but is one's lower nature: selfishness, greed, the desire to turn away from God. Satan can be resisted by systematically striving towards one's higher nature.
Traditionally, sin has been defined as falling short of perfection. Unity uses an alternate definition: "living under a false sense of separation from God". We view this as a delusion because God is in reality continuously present within us. This false belief can be overcome through prayer.
One of the most prominent beliefs concerning mankind is that we were "conceived in iniquity and born in sin". We have accepted this thinking of ourselves as incurable sinners, so much accepted it that it is a difficult exercise to entertain an alternative to this idea.
We have accepted, even concluded, that we are indelibly tainted with the original sin of Adam and Eve. But if we take the time to explore the Bible in depth, we will realize that the story of Adam and Eve is allegorical. It was composed after much of the rest of the Old Testament was recorded, designed to give a beginning to the story of human beings. We cannot deny that the story of creation is beautifully written, but we would do well to remind ourselves that it is man's endeavor to write of his beginnings.
Many of us have been bombarded since childhood with the teaching that we are miserable sinners, resulting from the "fall of Adam", and the implication has been that an entire lifetime would not be sufficient time to eradicate the taint of our sinfulness.
Unity defines heaven and hell as conditions in the here and now. They are not places where people go to spend eternity. Rather, many in Unity believe in a form of reincarnation. After death the soul is believed to leave the body, and to live again in another human body. This is/was a common belief among: present day Eastern religions the early Christian Church prior to the Council of Constantinople in 533 CE the Essenes, one of the three Jewish sects while Jesus was alive.
Unity cites references from the Christian Scriptures which show that the concept of reincarnation was common during Jesus' time. In the Gospels of Matthew and Mark , John the Baptist is referred to as the reincarnation of Elijah. In Matthew, some of the populace guessed that Jesus was a reincarnation of John the Baptist; others guessed Elijah; still others guessed Jeremiah or one of the other prophets. Jesus neither criticized the people for their beliefs, nor declared reincarnation to be heresy. Each lifetime is viewed as a time of preparation for the next life, leading towards eventual perfection.
Unity has no missionaries. We rely upon our teachings being spread by our readers and followers and by the literature itself.
"New centers and churches are normally started as study groups sponsored by an existing ministry or the expansion department of the Association of Unity Churches. Both the Association and Unity School of Christianity provide support materials and services to emerging ministries."
Real prayer does not involve begging God for a favour, or repeating standard prayers in a ritual setting. It an act of becoming spiritually one with God. If one applies Ralph Waldo Emerson's concept of prayer: the contemplation of the facts of life from the highest point of view, then prayer can be a constant personal activity. One can also use the "arms" of prayer by mentally embracing some other individual as the target of a prayer or the "wings" of prayer by directing one's prayer at all those who are receptive.
It is not limited to Sunday church services. Worship can be pursued at any time and location when one feels adoration and devotion for God. Ideally, it can be experienced continually through the day.
Within Christendom, some faith groups follow the tradition started by John the Baptist; they totally immerse the body in water. Others regard baptism as symbolic; they simply sprinkle drops of water on the person. Most Unity practitioners do neither. We note that Jesus never made baptism a requirement for others during his ministry; and so, we do not have a formal baptism sacrament. Rather we encourage every believer to attain a Spiritual Baptism which is a deeply personal event, a cleansing "prayer experience with Spirit, an ultimate dialogue between an individual and God." The individual emerges purified, having experienced a religious conversion of great intensity.
There has been much controversy over the meaning, details, and purpose of the rite of Holy Communion (the Lord's Supper) within Christian Churches. Most Unity ministers do not have a formal ritual. We recall the words of St. Paul "The Kingdom of God is not foodand drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit". Communion becomes a close encounter with God in private prayer, in which one becomes aware of the impact that God is making in all areas of one's life.