What makes Ethical Culture different from other religions? These questions prompted Leader Emeritus Richard Kiniry to make his account of what it means to be a member of Ethical Culture. Discover our philosophical background, our way of life, and how Ethical Culture can help transform the world.  -editor.

Before the reader begins this paper, a few comments on terminology are in order. Our religion goes by two names: Ethical Culture and Ethical Humanism. Ethical Culture is the name that our founder, Felix Adler, gave to the movement. The core of our religion is a humanistic perspective that emphasizes the importance of ethical conduct in human relationships, hence our other name Ethical Humanism. Both are valid names for our religion. Throughout this paper, I will refer to our religion by the name Ethical Culture and I will refer to followers of our religion as Ethical Humanists.


For some time I’ve been advocating a more definite statement of Ethical Culture as a specific Ethical Humanist religion.  I believe growth has eluded us not only because of the lack of organizational techniques or publicity, as important as they are, but because we have not articulated a full-service religion, meaning a religion with all the pieces:  a worldview, a moral approach, plus intellectual and emotional satisfaction. Believing that Ethical Culture has a life-changing capacity in the way it connects personal living with responsibility for community, I want to be able to present a shared vision that is accepted as a statement of Ethical Culture while remaining an open-ended, evolving approach.  

This is an attempt to collect into a consistent whole the divergent ideas that Ethical Culture has lived with through the generations.  I want to put the pieces together in order to demonstrate with confidence that they do hang together. I hope some of our movement’s Leaders agree.

This is not a philosophical piece; it’s a workshop offering a step-by-step understanding of Ethical Culture.  There are plenty of philosophic ideas included, but those ideas are presented in a popular fashion.  I have used the Concept Map, pieces from Leaders books and, since I have all the GEP materials, I have borrowed and stolen from many of the Leaders.  So this is not a wholly original piece per se, but rather one person’s effort at pulling together the diverse pieces. 

This paper is divided into three sections. The first section states my case to justify the need for this project and then I progressively go through what I assume are the pieces of Ethical Culture, concluding with what this religion offers as advice to both personal and communal living.

Continue to Section I: Deed Before Creed