Can you have a religion that doesn’t involve a belief in God? A lot of people equate religion with a belief in God and the supernatural. But we say that Ethical Culture is a religion because of the role it plays in our lives. Our members include believers and non-believers. We take part in Ethical Culture in order to examine our place in the world and to support one another in living moral and purposeful lives.
Why is Ethical Culture considered humanistic? It is humanistic because we rely on reason and other human capacities rather than on supernatural powers and holy scriptures. And it is humanistic because we focus on the challenges and possibilities of this life rather than a belief in an afterlife.
Is Ethical Culture non-denominational? You could argue that we are non-denominational because we function without scriptures or creeds. But we avoid the term non-denominational because it is often used to describe fundamentalist Protestant churches which are not associated with established denominations, councils, or associations.
Is Ethical Culture a liberal organization? Since its inception, Ethical Culture has been actively involved in working for social, economic, and political justice. We have played a leadership role in the creation of kindergartens, visiting nurse associations, and public housing. We have marched for racial integration, and we have spoken out for gay and lesbian rights. But in all that we do, we prize clear thinking, the free exchange of opinions, creative problem solving, and an openness to ideas from all sides.
Does Ethical Culture observe religious holidays such as Christmas, Easter, and Passover? Instead of celebrating traditional religious holidays, The Baltimore Ethical Society commonly has held seasonal celebrations–a fall festival of thanksgiving, a winter festival of sharing, a spring festival of hope and peace. In addition, we have other observances–such as ceremonies honoring ethical heroes and remembrance Sundays dedicated to those who have a special place in our memories.
What kind of ethical education do you provide for children? Children enjoy learning in our all-purpose educational area with its adjoining room for crafts. Ethical Culture Sunday education classes deal with subjects such as human diversity, comparative religions, awareness of the needs and feelings of others, fair play and social justice, environmental responsibility, character building and ethical decision making.
Do I have to be a member to participate in the Baltimore Ethical Society’s meetings and programs? Visitors are always welcome at all our activities. Their presence enlivens our programs. We enjoy getting to know visitors and having them get to know us.
Is it permissible to belong to another religious group and to an Ethical Society? For most of us, Ethical Culture is our religion, but we realize that some people may want to maintain other religious ties even while they are participating in Ethical Culture, and we have no rules against membership in other religious organizations.
How can I join the Baltimore Ethical Society? We encourage anyone interested in membership to attend several Sunday meetings. Doing so provides the best opportunities for learning about the Baltimore Ethical Society progams, activities and members. Then attendance at a Newcomers Meeting which is held monthly on the last Sunday of every month with the primary purpose being the discussion of membership is the next step.
What are the benefits of membership in the Baltimore Ethical Society? One obvious benefit is participation in our educational, social, and ethical action activities–including those which may be organized on short notice. There’s also the assurance and satisfaction of being part of and taking part in a community where continual learning about the larger world takes place and wherepeople unite in celebrating life’s joys and in supporting each other through life’s crises.
What are the responsibilities of membership? The Baltimore Ethical Society is supported by its members. For over 60 years, Ethical Culture has been alive in Baltimore because of the time and talent members have contributed to the Society’s programs and activities and to the financial contributions of its members, who have always given as generously as they can based on their own circumstances.
Who runs the Baltimore Ethical Society? The membership annually elects a Board of Directors to govern the Baltimore Ethical Society as a democratic organization. A variety of committees address caring, membership, ethical action, religious education, public relations, building issues, and print and web communications. Individual members also contribute particular skills. This rich and varied infrastructure is what runs the Baltimore Ethical Society.
Does Ethical Culture have clergy? A Leader is the Ethical Culture equivalent of clergy. The American Ethical Union also trains and recognizes Leaders and also Officiants, who conduct ceremonial functions, most commonly weddings but also commitments, namings, and memorials.
Highlights of the history of Ethical Culture from its founding in 1876 by Felix Adler up to the present time will be discussed with particular attention to our relationships with similar movements, such as Humanism.