How is Ethical Culture religious?

How is Ethical Culture religious?

Ethical Culture holds that all people have inherent worth, regardless of their background, station in life or contribution to society. This means, at a minimum, that we not violate others or ourselves. Non-violation is not enough, however. Ethical Culture teaches that we must act in a positive way to support others to realize their potentials and in their ethical growth.

Ethical Culture believes that a sense of the religiosity emerges from more sensitively recognizing, appreciating, evoking and celebrating the humanity that resides in all people. In addition, Ethical Culture is deeply committed to appreciating the natural world on which we depend.

The humanism of Ethical Culture is non-theistic. While it does not technically deny the existence of a Supreme Being, Ethical Culture does not concern itself with theological issues. It focuses on the human and natural realms, and on the improvement and celebration of the one life we are certain we possess.

Ethical Culture is recognized by the government as a religious organization. Its leaders are legally empowered to officiate at marriage ceremonies. In fact, the leader of our society, Joe Chuman, has written his reflections on the Ethical Culture wedding ceremony for our national organization.


  1. Dear Dr. Chuman:

    Your comments made at the Church last night, April 21st, and printed in NJ.COM are reprehensible and utterly fallacious, belying your “Ethical Society” as a responsible organization.

    NJ.COM evidences you (Chuman) called senators who opposed the federal gun control legislation cowards, and said gun rights advocates were “driven by fear.” Your comments are not only inappropriate but inflammatory. And, you say your an “Ethical Society”. That is a good laugh. Your “inciting” comments:

    “This is their culture, grounded as it is on a hyper-individualism that harbors a visceral distrust of neighbors and is nurtured on a survivalist apocalyptic fantasy of end-time war against government authorities,” Chuman said. “Maybe they should look to contemporary Syria as a fulfillment of their glorious visions.”

    Maybe you should look at what Nazi Germany did to 6 Million of your people, and 12 Million others before you attack the very people who would save your proverbial a*s if this government ever turned on its people. And, don’t think it cannot happen here. And, don’t tell me you and the politicians are upholding our Second Amendment Rights and won’t confiscate our guns–and it will never happen here. It already has: The Korematsu case where several hundred thousand Japanese-Americans were interned in concentration camps in the deserts of California and Nevada in WWII. Confiscation of firearms is occurring right now in New York State and California. How does that equate with your “Ethical Society”.

    I posit this for your though:

    Human beings only have two ways to deal with one another: reason and force. If you want me to do something for you, you have a choice of either convincing me via argument, or force me to do your bidding under threat of force. Every human interaction falls into one of those two categories, without exception. Reason or force, that’s it.

    In a truly moral and civilized society, people exclusively interact through persuasion. Force has no place as a valid method of social interaction, and the only thing that removes force from the menu is the personal firearm, as paradoxical as it may sound to some.

    When I carry a gun, you cannot deal with me by force. You have to use reason and try to persuade me, because I have a way to negate your threat or employment of force. The gun is the only personal weapon that puts a 100-pound woman on equal footing with a 220-pound mugger, a 75-year old retiree on equal footing with a 19-year old gangbanger, and a single gay guy on equal footing with a carload of drunk guys with baseball bats. The gun removes the disparity in physical strength, size, or numbers between a potential attacker and a defender.

    There are plenty of people who consider the gun as the source of bad force equations. These are the people who think that we’d be more civilized if all guns were removed from society, because a firearm makes it easier for a mugger to do his job. That, of course, is only true if the mugger’s potential victims are mostly disarmed either by choice or by legislative fiat–it has no validity when most of a mugger’s potential marks are armed. People who argue for the banning of arms ask for automatic rule by the young, the strong, and the many, and that’s the exact opposite of a civilized society. A mugger, even an armed one, can only make a successful living in a society where the state has granted him a force monopoly.

    Then there’s the argument that the gun makes confrontations lethal that otherwise would only result in injury. This argument is fallacious in several ways. Without guns involved, confrontations are won by the physically superior party inflicting overwhelming injury on the loser. People who think that fists, bats, sticks, or stones don’t constitute lethal force watch too much TV, where people take beatings and come out of it with a bloody lip at worst. The fact that the gun makes lethal force easier works solely in favor of the weaker defender, not the stronger attacker. If both are armed, the field is level. The gun is the only weapon that’s as lethal in the hands of an octogenarian as it is in the hands of a weightlifter. It simply wouldn’t work as well as a force equalizer if it wasn’t both lethal and easily employable.

    When I carry a gun, I don’t do so because I am looking for a fight, but because I’m looking to be left alone. The gun at my side means that I cannot be forced, only persuaded. I don’t carry it because I’m afraid, but because it enables me to be unafraid. It doesn’t limit the actions of those who would interact with me through reason, only the actions of those who would do so by force. It removes force from the equation … and that’s why carrying a gun is a civilized act.

    Civilization was formed on the basis of self-defense. Hence, the reason for castles, navies, armies and the people being armed for their own self-defense against invading hoards. Settlers in the Old West were heavily armed, usually with a pistol, repeating rifle and shotgun to stave off Indians and criminals. People carried sidearms on their hips in most Western towns and it was civilized, save for the few gunfights between criminals and sheriffs/marshalls.

    The Right to Keep and Bear Arms was the reason the Japanese never invaded the US mainland after bombing Pearl Harbor in WWII. We had no naval defenses between Hawaii and California after our battleships were destroyed. Admiral Yamamoto, who studied in the US in the 1920s and 1930s said that he would not invade the U.S. because “behind every blade of grass would be rifle” and the person would know how to use it.

    Given that your “Ethical Society” only picks and chooses what is “ethical” in your mind, apparently it doesn’t follow that Christian doctrine calls for self-defense through the ages and into the future. So, I am not surprised by your negativity towards the way other ethical people think or live their lives, if they don’t ascribe to your propaganda and “gaslighting”.

    Bruce Eden, Charter Member
    Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (
    Pompton Lakes, New Jersey

    • I reply to your letter not because I agree with your argumentation, but I appreciate that you took some time to write your piece, and I want to acknowledge that you did. Let me say up front,that if you found my remarks at last night’s rally “inflammatory,” then I am not the only one with this capacity. Adjectives you employ such as “reprehensible” to describe my remarks as well as characterizing them as “propaganda” one may conclude are themselves inflammatory, and at least not respectful.

      First let me say, that your presumption that what I had to say last night belies the Ethical Society as a responsible organization is unwarranted and unfair. I may be the professional leader of the Ethical Society, but whether one agrees with me or not has no bearing on the character of the group as a whole or the members who comprise it. Each member is an independent agent with opinions and a sense of moral responsibility which is his or her own.

      With regard to the body of your discussion, you assert that a personal firearm removes forces from the equation, thus allowing reason to flourish, and this is a paradox. In my view, this is not a paradox. It is a non-sequitur and is wrong on its face. If a gun stands behind any rational stance, then it is force that is the ultimate persuader and not reason, and this conclusion seems inescapable to me.

      You posit the gun as an equalizer. I suspect that this is true if we live in a society based on vigilantism. But the fundamental reason we have police services and a judiciary is to offset vigilantism, which devolves into a never ending cycle of violence begetting violence. This is not the society I live in and choose to live in, and if I can be presumptuous, it is not he society you live in either. The scenarios you provide obviate the conditions which pertain in the modern, civilized world.

      I could go on with the discussion of how the carrying of guns allegedly makes us safer, but it is my firm conviction that arming individuals will not enable us to shoot our way into a safer society. Self-defense arguments which have theoretical cachet seldom are realized successfully in the real world.

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