The Unitarian Bahais (UBs) combine two spiritual traditions, Unitarian and Bahai.
One comes from the East (Bahaism); the other comes from the West (Unitarianism). One arose out of Islam (Bahaism); the other from Christianity (Unitarianism). Both have a progressive outlook. Together, they represent a contemporary spiritual viewpoint that is tempered by reason, freedom of thought, and common sense.
Let's briefly look at each individually.
You may be familiar with the Unitarian Universalist (UU) Church. Many UBs belong to it and have meetings in UU congregations. However, the Unitarian tradition began before the founding of the UU church.
Unitarian roots date to 16th century Hungary, Poland, and Transylvania. Unitarianism was part of the Protestant Reformation. Reviving the ideas of some early Christians of the Middle East, Unitarians advocated a belief in one God and saw Jesus as a human prophet, rather than the accepting the doctrine of the Trinity. In this sense, the Unitarian view of God and the messengers of God was more similar to Islam than orthodox Christianity.
Moreover, Unitarians strongly upheld reason as a necessity in religious thought. Unitarianism challenged church creeds and insisted upon freedom of conscience. Truth was not to be dictated by a church or religious hierarchy, but each person was free to believe, or not believe, according to the dictates of his or her own mind.
That conviction remains among Unitarians today. UU congregations have no creed. To be a member, you are not required to conform to a religious test. Within UU churches, there are those who believe in God and those who don't. There are those who profess Christianity, yet also those who profess Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, paganism, or humanism.
The common denominator of all Unitarians is a focus on the oneness and diversity of Truth, and the responsibility of each individual to search for it with one's own mind, heart and soul. People may not always agree about religious beliefs, but we must agree to respect each other and our differing perceptions and interpretations of reality. Divinity and Goodness are to be found in many different spiritual traditions, and no one religion or religious figure is the "only way."
The Bahai faith dates to 1844 in Iran with a teacher called The Bab (meaning "the gate"). He came from a Shiite Muslim background and followed a school of thought called Shaykhism, which expected the imminent advent of a great messenger of God and a new era of history in which visions of the prophets will be fulfilled. The Bab announced the coming of a new spiritual messenger, who represented a lineage that included Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Zoroaster, Krishna, Buddha, as well as other unknown religious founders throughout history, around the world. Bahais believe this messenger was Bahaullah (meaning "the splendor/glory of God").
Bahaullah announced his ministry in 1863. Like the Bab, his heritage was Iranian and Muslim. He wrote numerous books, poems, essays, and letters to believers, as well as to world leaders of government and religion. Some of his most noteworthy writings include The Hidden Words (a short work of poetic proverbs and admonitions from God), The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys (a mystical work in the Sufi tradition), The Kitab-i-Iqan (The Book of Certitude, a book-length essay about the repeating cycles of religious history), and The Kitab-i-Aqdas (The Most Holy Book, a book of laws and teachings for personal behavior, spiritual practice, and community life, which reformed the laws of Islam).
Bahaullah's teachings centered around the theme that God has always inspired prophets, messengers, and spiritual leaders to continually assist humanity to ascend to higher and higher levels of spiritual understanding and civilization. There is never a "last prophet" or "greatest prophet" – religion keeps evolving, and society should ideally reflect this evolutionary process. Bahais call this idea progressive revelation.
Bahaullah taught that the world desperately needs to come together, putting aside nationalistic, racial, and religious prejudices. It is time for all humanity to build a global society based on universal spiritual and humanistic principles. Only by doing this we can avert catastrophe.
A major teaching of Bahaullah was the independent investigation of truth. He invited people to investigate his writings and teachings to personally determine their truth and validity. In addition, it means that people should be well informed in their beliefs and should not blindly or passively take the word of religious authorities.
Unitarian Bahais are a liberal voice among the Bahai community. There are many groups of Bahais, the largest of which is led by the Baha'i International Community organization (commonly called "The Baha'i Faith") based in Haifa, Israel. Some other, smaller groups include Orthodox Bahais and Reform Bahais. Though UBs share much in common with some of these groups and welcome dialogue with them, we are very different from them in that we do not insist on absolute obedience to a religious administrative order, creed, or any individual or governing body. Bahaullah taught that there should be no clergy of the Bahai religion, and UBs believe he did this specifically to avoid the pitfalls of a religious organization and/or clergy members defining what is true for individuals.
Unitarian Bahais accept the basic principles of Bahaism and interpret our Bahai faith in the spirit of Unitarianism. UBs are free to study and interpret Bahai writings according to their own consciences, rather than blindly obeying a religious hierarchy. Many of us are members of Unitarian Universalist churches and hold Bahai meetings there, but this is not required.
Unitarian Bahais invite all to investigate Bahai teachings. We teach the Bahai faith according to reason, and in a way that is especially relevant to the modern world and progressive values. We reach out to persons who have been hurt or rejected by the mainstream conservative Bahai organization.
You will find a warm welcome among the Unitarian Bahais.