Thank you for your interest in Unitarian Universalism. You can find a great many resources on the website: uua.org
Meanwhile, it is fair to say that Unitarian Universalism impacted society as much as society impacted and continues to impact Unitarian Universalism!
As a “living tradition” UU is very attentive and responsive to current issues, actively influencing societal attitudes and this country’s laws!
In the 19th century Unitarians and Universalists were at the forefront of social reform movements, working as abolitionists, working on prison reform and healthcare reform, working to assure women’s rights, etc. That tradition of social/political engagement continues today, as UUs work on behalf of economic justice, GLBTQ rights, immigration reform, reproductive justice, and environmental issues, etc.
Many people join Unitarian Universalism because it is “relevant religion” – active in the world today, focusing on the power we have to improve the world we live in, rather than focusing on what may or may not happen after we die.
Central tenets are: the worth and dignity of all people, equity and justice, peace, democratic process, the right of conscience, and the responsibility that comes with interdependence.
The discovery/translation of Buddhist and Hindu religious texts in the 19th century also influenced Unitarian Universalism – opening it to a broader understanding of and appreciation for the wisdom of traditions beyond Christianity.
The horrors of the Civil War, WWI and WWII, that led to the overall decline of religious affiliation of any sort in this country (“how can there be a God when such horrors exist?” was a common question of those times) also influenced/broadened Unitarian and Universalist theology. Today Unitarian Universalist congregations honor a wide range of traditional religious beliefs, as well as humanism, agnosticism, atheism.
Reverend Stefanie Etzbach-Dale