Ethical Culture is an ethical approach to life created by people who are trying to deal with life’s challenges unencumbered by beliefs and doctrines that offend reason and divide people into opposing camps. It is a movement of inquiring and thoughtful people who want to be free to exercise their own minds. It is a base of operations for people of conscience who don’t want religious differences to stand in the way of working for a better world.
Ethical Culture was founded in 1876 by Felix Adler, who had been groomed to succeed his father as rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, the leading reformed synagogue in New York City. Adler was eager to put aside the elements of religion that were peculiar to any one specific faith in order to construct a religion which concentrated on human relationships and worked to achieve social and political reforms and improve people’s lives. His supporters joined him in forming the Society for Ethical Culture in New York. In the process, they founded a new religion–a religion of “deed before creed.”
Today there are two dozen Ethical Culture Societies, each with its own lay and professional leaders and each responsible for its own educational, social, and ethical action programs. These Ethical Culture Societies are members of the American Ethical Union, a national organization which serves their needs and fosters an awareness of participating in a larger movement.