Ethical Culture is a humanistic, religious, and educational movement inspired by the ideal that the supreme aim of human life is working to create a more humane society.
Toward a More Humane Society
The various ethical societies agree that . . .
- 1. Ethics is central. The most central human issue in our lives involves creating a more humane environment.
- 2. Ethics begins with choice. Creating a more humane environment begins by affirming the need to make significant choices in our lives.
- 3. We choose to treat each other as ends, not merely means. To enable us to be whole, in a fragmented world, we choose to treat each other as unique individuals having intrinsic worth.
- 4. We seek to act with integrity. Treating one another as ends requires that we learn to act with integrity. This includes keeping commitments, and being more open, honest, caring, and responsive.
- 5. We are committed to educate ourselves. Personal progress is possible, both in wisdom and in social life. Learning how to build ethical relationships and cultivate a humane community is a life-long endeavor.
- 6. Self-reflection and our social nature require us to shape a more humane world. Spiritual life is rooted in self-reflection, but can only come to full flower in community. This is because people are social, needing both primary relationships and larger supportive groups to become fully human. Our social nature requires that we reach beyond ourselves to decrease suffering and increase creativity in the world.
- 7. Democratic process is essential to our task. The democratic process is essential to a humane social order because it respects the worth of persons and elicits and allows a greater expression of human capacities. Democratic process also implies a commitment to shared responsibility and authority.
- 8. Life itself inspires religious response. Although awareness of impending death intensifies the human quest for meaning, and lends perspective to all our achievements, the mystery of life itself, the need to belong, to feel connected to the universe, and the desire for celebration and joy, are primary factors motivating human "religious" response.
Where Do Ethical Groups Meet?
Ethical groups are found all around the world. Following are some:
When the New York Society for Ethical Society commenced in 1876, as described by Jean Kotkin, it was
- strictly an exclusive male club, with the gentlemen coming to hear Dr. Felix Adler speak dressed in their striped pants, tall hats, and cutaway coats. They arrived in their carriages at Standard Hall while their wives stayed home and saw that the servants prepared a hardy Sunday dinner for their husbands. He, in turn, if he were so inclined would share his interpretation of what Dr. Adler had said.
- It was in Chicago, when the Society was founded there in 1882, that ladies were first counted as members. It took the New York Society four years, until 1886, ten years after its founding, to start admitting the ladies and it wasn't until 1893, 17 years later, that formal provision was made for admitting women to membership. At the same time, an associate membership for minors was created.
- Philadelphia has the honor of having the first woman speaker on the platform. On May 16, 1886, Dr. Francis Emily White addressed the group. Mrs. Percy Waddington was the first woman to speak on the New York platform in 1899. Her topic was "The Moral Issues of the War in Transvaal." The first woman to be elected to the Board of Trustees of the New York Society was in 1901, 25 years after the founding of the Society.
Kotkin then names the many leaders who have been activists since then. See entry for Ethical Culture's Women Leaders.)