|Posted on November 18, 2011 at 5:40 PM|
The American Ethical Union, also known as The Ethical Culture Societies, is a congregational movement for those who seek community but who are not followers of god-centered traditions. Ethical Culture falls within the broader Humanist tradition and finds that ethics, human relations and community-building inspire a religious response rather than the dogma of theology. There are currently 24 branches, called "societies" and "circles", across the United States. There is also an online community called Ethical Society Without Walls for those that do not have a society within reach. The societies are entitled to the same tax-exempt status as other religious organizations, a right that has been upheld in court several times.
The American Ethical Union has it's roots in the New York Society for Ethical Culture founded in 1876 by Felix Adler. Adler had been in training to become a reform rabbi until he had an intellectual awakening while earning his doctorate in Philosophy and Biblical Studies at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. There he came under the influence of Neo-Kantian writiers and the emerging Social Reform Movement. In the late 19th century, the early Ethical Culture societies were deeply involved in the Settlement House Movement serving the urban poor as well as other civil rights and social justice issues.
The group neither confirms nor denies a belief in any god or gods. The movement has no creed or dogma, believing that dogmatic theology has only served to seperate and divide people. The most important tenet to the group is the idea of "deed not creed". In other words, it is more important for people to build a better world together and that differences in philosophical and religious traditions should not divide or impede people from working together.
The societies are organized like many other congregations and they provide activities that celebrate the miliestones of life - weddings, baby welcomings, and memorial services. The societies hold meetings on Sunday mornings when an oral presentation is generally made on a subjest of ethics, a current issue of the day, or on a topic concerning personal struggle, growth and fulfillment. Response and discussion is always welcome. In most societies there is an active Sunday School where children recieve age appropriate instruction cultivating awareness and concern for ethics, the environment and social participation.