We affirm and promote the following principles which are integral to our Ethical Movement:
Every person has inherent worth; each person is unique.
We affirm the dignity and worth of all human beings, however different their abilities or backgrounds. Worth is independent of the idea of value. Value is dependent upon the contribution a person makes to society while worth exists independent of productivity. From the idea of universal human worth follows the right of every person to food, shelter, clothing, health, safety, education, work, play, respect, and affection. Every person is unique and different, and the development of each person is related to nurturing his/her distinct qualities and talents.
It is our responsibility to improve the quality of life for ourselves and others.
We connect personal and social ethics by recognizing the principle of reciprocity in human relations. We affirm that any action which brings out the distinctive worth in others brings out the distinctive worth in one’s self; also, any action which demeans others demeans one’s self.
Ethics are derived from human experience.
Many religions locate the source of ethics in God-given commandments, we find its source in the human condition. What is right or wrong, good or bad is so because it fosters the development of what is best in life. Human intelligence and feelings are the sources and human experience is the sanction of ethics. We grow ethically by increasing our capacity for bringing out the best in others and ourselves. This process begins in the family and extends into friendships and local community and reaches out in relationship to the global human community.
Life is sacred, interrelated and interdependent.
Life is a great, mysterious gift. We affirm our respect for the interdependent web of existence, of which we are all a part. It is our commitment to the goal of a world community with peace, liberty, justice or all.
“Always act so as to elicit the best in others, and thereby yourself.”
This phrase is as close to a commandment as you will find in Ethical Culture. An extension of the Golden Rules found in most World Religions, filtered by the ethical philosophy of Immanuel Kant, the phrase embodies Felix Adler’s belief that spiritual perfection was possible (if it was possible at all) only through direct moral engagement with other human beings.
We are never isolated from human society, and the effects of our actions always has an impact, great or small, positive or negative, on the lives of others, and theirs on us in return. And so by helping to lift others to a higher level of moral awareness, we also lift ourselves.
Merely doing unto others as we would have them do to us ignores the unique situation of every human being. What we would have done unto ourselves is probably the wrong thing to do unto someone else. By acting so as to elicit the best, we allow others the freedom to make their own ethical choices.