Ethical Humanism, also called Ethical Culture, is an evolving body of ideas that inspires Ethical Society communities. Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity. For Ethical Humanists, the ultimate religious questions are not about the existence of gods or an afterlife, but rather, “How can we create meaningfulness in this life?” and “How should we treat each other?” Our members are free to believe what they like about deities and the supernatural, and we do not talk about a god or gods on Sundays. In order for human beings to have good lives, love must prevail, truth must be respected, honesty esteemed, justice secured, and freedom protected. Learning how to realize these ideals in personal and political relationships is the purpose of Ethical Societies.
Is Ethical Humanism a religion?
Some of our members consider Humanism to be their religion, while others consider themselves non-religious. The founder of Ethical Humanism, Felix Adler, said “[Ethical Humanism] is religious to those who are religiously minded, and merely ethical to those who are not so minded.”
Does Ethical Humanism have a creed?
No. We are not bound by any creed or dogma. Rather, Ethical Humanist Societies emphasize the importance of developing a clear personal philosophy that makes your life understandable and meaningful. Learning to benefit from a diversity of viewpoints is one of our challenges. Members encourage each other to think freely and to disagree without being disagreeable. We do agree on “Deed before creed,” sometimes expressed as “Diversity in the creed, unanimity in the deed.”
What beliefs do Ethical Humanist Societies teach?
Freedom of Belief: When we stimulate our thinking with new insights and inspirations, our understanding of the world evolves, and we realize the full capacity of our human spirit.
Eliciting the Best: It is by acting in a way that encourages the finest characteristics in others that we bring out the best in ourselves.
Respect for Human Worth: We treat all people as having an inherent capacity for fairness, kindness, and living ethically.
Ethical Living: When we put into practice ethical principles such as love, justice, honesty, and forgiveness, we experience harmony within ourselves and in our relationships.
Reverence for Life: We cultivate the spiritual dimension in life by experiencing our interdependent connections to humanity, nature, and our inner values.
What are some principles of an ethical society?
Ethics is Central: The most central human issue in our lives is creating a more humane environment.
Ethics Begins with Choice: Creating a more humane environment begins by affirming the need to make significant choices in our lives.
We Choose to Treat Each Other as Ends, not Means: To enable us to be whole in a fragmented world, we choose to treat each other as unique individuals having intrinsic worth.
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 honest, open, caring and responsive.
We are Committed to Educate Ourselves: Personal progress is possible, both in wisdom and social life. Learning how to build ethical relationships and cultivate a humane community is a life-long endeavor.
Self Reflection and Our Social Nature Require Us to Shape a More Humane World: Growth of the human spirit 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.
Democratic Process is Essential to Our Task: The democratic process is essential to a humane social order because respect for the worth of persons requires democratic process, which elicits and allows a greater expression of human capacities.
Life Itself Inspires a Natural “Religious” Response: Although awareness of impending death intensifies the human quest, the mystery of life itself, and the need to belong, are the primary factors motivating human religious response.
The American Ethical Union The American Ethical Union (AEU) is the umbrella body which connects and represents all Ethical Societies in the USA. The AEU trains Ethical Society Leaders (our word for clergy); provides resources for Ethical Societies around the country; and organizes an Annual Assembly where members of Ethical Societies join together to discuss the great ethical challenges of the day. You can find their website here.