Some visitors to the July talk asked about the Identity Statement that we read. In person, we had been inviting people to say it together, and during virtual meetings, we have a member volunteer to read it each week. This statement was developed and adopted by members of the Riverdale-Yonkers Society for Ethical Culture in the past; we adjust a few words now and then.
It reminds us each week why we come together. The desire to have a place to “learn and practice ethical living” for adults and children is key. We don’t have any “right beliefs” about metaphysics that everyone adheres to, and in fact, have some diversity of beliefs among us, from atheism to naturalistic theism to other beliefs which members have every right to keep to themselves. Our focus is not on what we do or don’t believe in. We don’t have common beliefs — but we do share a common faith that people are capable of caring, for ourselves, for each other, for all of humanity, and for the world and universe that makes possible our own life.
It is also not an expectation of perfection. Occasionally I’m asked how we dare call ourselves an Ethical Society. I respond that first, we don’t officially, though that is how we often summarize our long name. We’re a Society for Ethical Culture. We want to promote a more ethical culture, in our own lives and in the wider world. We don’t see ourselves as necessarily more ethical than others, we see ourselves as committed to ethics as a central purpose in life. And we understand that “being more ethical” is a lifelong growth project. We’re human and will make mistakes — and we can try to learn from those mistakes. We strive to be the kind of environment that promotes such learning and growth.
Here is the full text of our identity statement:
Ethical Culture is a way of life
that fosters reverence
by nurturing life, building connections,
and living as fully as we are able.
It is not about right beliefs, but right actions.
It is a call to be human, not to be perfect.
It is remembrance and awareness of
our infinite interconnectedness with all being.
That through this conscious choice to live,
we may renew our world,
and the world of our children.
Our Society strives to be a warm environment
in which to learn and practice ethical living.
Believing in community
and with a faith in the caring capacity
of others and ourselves,
we seek those ways of being together
that make the ethical life
possible and enjoyable.