There are a few questions that we hear often. Click on the question to find a basic answer.
In Ethical Culture, do you believe in God?
As an organization, we are nontheistic, which means that our discussions and activities do not include God or the supernatural. Our members are welcome to explore the existence of God outside of the Ethical Society, and they may believe in the supernatural. Our focus as an Ethical Society, however, is on the here and now and our personal connections to one another.
Is Ethical Culture an atheist group?
Our organization is nontheistic, by which we mean that God and the supernatural aren’t part of our community discussions and activities. That means that many atheists and agnostics, or others who don’t have any belief in gods, are comfortable in our community. We also have members who would describe themselves as deists, theists, naturalistic theists or “spiritual but not religious” – people who want to put ethics first in this shared community.
Can I belong to another religious or humanist organization as well as the Ethical Society?
Our members are free to belong to a church, synagogue, or other religious organization while also affiliating themselves with us. And some members belong to other humanist organizations while also belonging to the Ethical Society.
Do you have a specific text from which you draw your beliefs, or a founder whom you revere?
We do not have any text, or any particular set of beliefs or dogma that is mandatory for our members to follow. We sometimes refer to or quote our founder, Felix Adler, but we do not revere him or study his writings the way one studies the Bible for “the truth.” We believe that people are not infallible, Felix Adler included. Some of Adler’s ideas and beliefs in founding the first Ethical Society are still upheld today, while other ideas of his are completely outdated or do not match our modern humanist world view.
However, if we were to point to a few guidelines for our morality and philosophy in Ethical Culture, we would say:
- Ethics is central in my life.
- Every person is important and unique.
- Every person deserves to be treated fairly and kindly.
- I can learn from everyone.
- I am part of this earth; I cherish it and all the life upon it.
- I am a member of the world community which depends on the cooperation of all people for peace and justice.
- I can learn from the past to build for the future.
- I am free to question.
- I am free to choose what I believe.
- I accept responsibility for my choices and actions.
- I value deed above creed.
How is the Ethical Society distinct from Sunday Assembly?
Sunday Assembly is a relatively new movement of godless congregations. Each chapter has a program once per month and the programs in each chapter follow the same format. These programs include music, a short message on positive living, and community reflection. Our Ethical Society is different because we meet once per week and our Sunday programs have many different formats depending on the presenter, the topic, and the needs of the community. We also offer more community building programs during the week and we do social justice projects together in order to reflect the value of “deed above creed.”
How is the Ethical Society distinct from a Unitarian Universalist Church?
Both have a diversity of beliefs among members, and a focus more on this world, but there are some differences. The focus of an Ethical Society is more tightly on how we live our lives and we are less likely to explore matters of belief, including attitudes towards theism, as a community. Similarly, we tend not to celebrate traditional religious holidays, but instead, have seasonal festivals that honor the underlying values in many religious celebrations. Our Sunday meetings look a bit less like a Protestant worship service, with no prayers, though we do have a central talk, share joys and concerns, sing a few simple songs together, hear some excellent music and include a few rituals to set the time off as special.
Do you have programs for children?
We do not currently have a program for children on Sundays, but we are likely going to have a summer one-day program for children in August 2015. Currently, the 4-H Club meets monthly at the Ethical Society, and it is open to children ages 9-13. We are planning to revive our Ethical Education program for children in the next 6 months. Please get in touch with us if you are interested in programming for children!
What is the appropriate attire? How should I dress?
We encourage people to come as you are. Most dress casually. Wear whatever makes you comfortable and that you consider appropriate for a public gathering, as we are a non-judgmental group.
I am not a 'joiner.' Is the Ethical Society right for me?
Many of our members and friends would say that they aren’t “joiners.” They don’t like being a card carrying member of any congregation or organization. What’s unique about us is that we do not force our members to do anything or believe anything in particular. If you like visiting us from time to time but do not want to become a member, that is fine with us.