The Voices of Ethical Culture


Fritz Williams, Leader, Baltimore
Loving life is, of course, thoroughly “pro-life.” But it is not pro-life exactly in the sense that supporters of the pro-life movement mean when they use the term. For the most part, pro-lifers are talking about defending life in its least sentient and most marginal stages. Fetuses. Embryos even before they are capable of sensation or mental activity. And life when the light is growing dim — among the terminally ill, the hopelessly senile, those in an irreversible vegetative state. The fact that pro-lifers defend the lives of those who are helpless and incapable of defending themselves adds pathos to the cause. But I am talking about being pro-life in larger terms. About honoring, supporting, and celebrating life over the entire course of a life. I am talking about my life and your life and the lives of all our fellow travelers. I am talking about treasuring and nurturing life because life is fragile and short and because life gives shape to the totality of our experience. For a short time, my life and your life is that in which each of us exists. It belongs to us as nothing else does. It is the one thing that really matters. Loving life begins with prizing our own lives. We do it by living life fully and consciously and by making our love of life a life-directing force. We do it by not fleeing from the accidental and random nature of our existence and by not denying our mortality. We do it by experiencing wonder over being alive and savoring life’s pleasures. We do it by attempting to fill our lives with goodness, purpose, and joy. Seems obvious, doesn’t it? Something all of us know instinctively to do. Something we cannot avoid doing. But life is also the most ordinary thing there is. It is a given. And it is deceptively easy to take it for granted and to lose our sense of wonder and privilege. We get caught up in our routines and the everydayness of life and grow bored with our own existence. Sometimes we need to repossess our lives. Resuscitate them by
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Joseph Chuman, Ph.D., Leader, Bergen
In the June 2006 issue of Focus (Bergen’s newsletter), I attempted to define Ethical Culture’s constituency by enumerating the people whose commitments and temperaments would ensure that they have no interest in joining the Ethical movement. Among these are devout believers in traditional religion, those affiliated with traditional religions by dint of nostalgia, sentiment or lifelong habit, the “new spiritualists” who are looking for more enthusiastic and self-oriented belief and practice, as well as those who resonate with our ideals but by temperament see no purpose in congregational affiliation. This invites the question of who positively comprises our constituency? An implication of this inquiry is that, despite our universalist philosophy, we, in fact, appeal to a much smaller wedge of the population than we would otherwise like to believe. There are two ways of answering the question, which overlap. We can look at the issue of who affiliates with us from the perspective of belief, and secondly from the perspective of personal and social need. It was clear that when Felix Adler founded Ethical Culture 130 years ago, he appealed to potential members on the basis of Ethical Culture’s philosophy; in other words, on its ideas within the religious spectrum. This is perhaps the more highminded appeal. But if we are frank, I think we must conclude that people join our group (or perhaps any group), and moreover remain, not on the basis of the ideas it stands for, but for causes we can define as social ones. Ideas matter, but in the sense that the ideas of the group must not violate the beliefs of its members; without the social glue, ideas alone will not sustain long-lasting affiliations.
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1 1 2 3 4 5 6 6 7 7 8 9 9 10 10 11 12 13 A Pro-life Manifesto Who Is Our Constituency Moyers Series RE & YES Conferences New Ethics Groups Forming Letters to the Editor Ethical Culture Greeting Cards Be Here Connections Summary of Kathy Kelly’s E-B Address A Really Good Week Don Montagna Retirement ESWoW The Enemies of Intelligence Constance Flynn AEU Board of Directors Meeting (photos) November: Elections, Change — & Ethics From the UN

Newsletter of the

Published Quarterly President: Arnold Fishman Executive Director: Katharine Archibald Editor: Lee Smalley
Chair, Editorial Board: Ellen McBride Copy Editor: Richard Reichart AEU phone: 212-873-6500; fax: 212-362-0850 Web site:; email: office(at) Address: 2 W 64 St., New York, NY 10023 Dialogue is available on the AEU Web site; click on Latest News and follow the links. Dialogue welcomes letters and original articles on subjects of interest to AEU members. Email to office(at), or mail or fax to the AEU office.

An AEU Resource for Societies

In April 2006, leading writers and thinkers gathered in New York City for the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature to reflect on Faith and Reason. Bill Moyers sat down with Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Martin Amis, Colin McGinn, David Grossman, Mary Gordon and and others to explore the relationships between religious fundamentalism and democracy, equality, and human rights. The series that evolved from these discussions, Bill Moyers On Faith & Reason, aired on PBS this summer, and raised the following questions, "Are fear and violence the inevitable consequence of clashing beliefs, or is a more tolerant world possible? " The AEU has purchased the series on DVD for loan to societies in order to facilitate your own explorations of this topic. Discussion guides, free transcripts, and other useful information are available at moyers/faithandreason/index.html . A three month loan of the DVD series will be available from the AEU starting in late October 2006. Societies will be asked to cover the cost of shipping and handling. To reserve the series for your society's use, please contact the AEU office at 212-873-6500 or office(at) .

The Bill Moyers Series

Email addresses are shown with “(at)” in order to thwart unwanted “spam” when Dialogue is posted online. Use “@” when actually writing the addresses. —Ed.

October 25 - 27: National Leaders Council (NLC) Meeting, Murray Grove, NJ November 3 - 5: Religious Education Conference and Family Weekend, Pottstown, PA Theme “Social Action: We Can Change the World.” November 10 - 12, 2006: Youth of Ethical Society (YES), Front Royal Virginia. November 10: Presidents Council November 11: AEU Board of Directors meeting January 20, 2007: AEU Board of Directors meeting March 10: AEU Board of Directors meeting March 14 - 16: NLC May 12, 2007: Board of Directors meeting May 25 - 28 FES Conference June 13 - 14: NLC, Long Island June 14: AEU Board of Directors meeting, June 13 - 17: AEU Assembly, Long Island June 17: Board of Directors meeting Aug 11 - 18: Lay Leadership Summer School II



Join the AEU Religious Education Committee for a weekend of ideas, activities, and friendship at the

& Family Weekend November 3 - 5 Fellowship Farm Pottstown, Pa.

Ethical Culture has a rich history in Social Action. No time is better than now for building on this tradition. We will have a hands-on, curriculum creating weekend with Bob Bhaerman and others, as we explore how to make Social Action a vital part of your Sunday School. Activities include an intergenerational nature hike, campfire, talent show, and our Let’s Make a Difference project. Children’s programming will run concurrent with the adult sessions. Fellowship Farm began in 1931 as a pioneering interfaith and non-sectarian institution that sought to break through the prevailing climate of segrega-

tion to educate and advocate for justice for all. Now a retreat and educational center on 120 acres, Fellowship Farm is located just 41 miles from Philadelphia. For registration materials, please see the AEU website,, or contact interim AEU DRE, Aimee Neumann at dre(at) Hurry! Although registrations are due Friday, October 6, later registrations will be accepted if space permits. We hope to see you there!

We Can Change The World

Social Action:

Join other Ethical teens talking about music and ethics and the ways that music influences society. Topic: Who writes the songs? Ethics in the use of music

Youth in Ethical Societies

November 10 -12 Pre-conference November 9 & 10 Northern Virginia 4-H Center Front Royal, Virginia
This year's YES conference will be held near the "Gateway to the Shenandoah Valley." The Appalachian Trail runs right behind the conference center, and Skyline Drive is only minutes away by car. The pre-conference activities will be centered around the Washington Ethical Society (WES), and will feature a trip into Washington, DC to visit the national monuments or some of the many Smithsonian museums. The Northern Virginia Ethical Society (NoVES) in nearby in Vienna, Virginia and the WES will be planning these activities. Our teens plan and run the conference.

Our subject is ethics in music, especially the ways in which music influences culture and ethical behavior. The conference is designed to allow teens from diverse backgrounds to meet and discuss ethical issues as well as to do create ethically relevant art pieces together. Most teens who come to our conferences go home tired but happy. They love the YES conference and want to revisit it each year until they graduate from high school and move on to FES. This year’s officers come from Long Island and St. Louis — Alex H, Jon G, Pippa N, and Elaine T. All high school-aged teens are welcome; however they must sign the YES code of ethics and be sponsored by an adult who is present at the conference. Registration is open until October 26. To get registration materials, check with your society's youth advisor, director of religious education, or society office. You can also contact the AEU office 212-8736500,, and Susan Buzek, the National Youth Advisor for YES & FES 301-564-9675, sbuzek (at) 4-H center: WES: Autumn 2006 3

The first meeting of the Rockland County group was held September 10 with 20 adults and three children attending. The effort is being headed by Alan Berger, former RE Director at Queens. They are interested in having any leaders, officiant-status members, presidents, etc., who would like to speak in the coming months. Monica Weiss from Queens together with a Queens Sunday School graduate ran a children's program while Berger addressed the adults about the history, philosophy and structure of Ethical Culture. All participants spoke about why they were there and what they hoped for from the Society. The meeting ended with a discussion of the various responsibilities necessary to keep it going. and some delicious “nonviolent food” was enjoyed, according to Berger. A Rockland County newspaper, The Journal News, published an article about the nascent group on August 31. Here are some excerpts:
It's a religious movement, but there's no deity. It involves weekly Sunday discussions, but not from a pulpit. And it's coming to Rockland County. Alan Berger, a Chestnut Ridge resident and business owner, has been involved with the Ethical Culture movement for 15 years and is starting a chapter in Rockland. "It's very grounded in what we do daily to try to make changes in the world," he said. Berger is the former Sunday School director for the Ethical Culture Society of Queens. Berger said he has chosen to spearhead the Rockland society after hearing from interested parents who patronize his Chestnut Ridge nursery school. Erin Gardocki said she first heard of Ethical Culture about a year ago while speaking with Berger. Although she was raised Catholic and her two young children have been baptized in the Catholic church, Gardocki said she was looking for Ethical Culture to help fill a spiritual void in her young children's lives. "I like the sense of community and to have something all inclusive," she said. Gardocki said she wanted her ch i ldr en to ha v e r e s pe c t a nd understanding for all religions and cultures as they are growing up in such a diverse area. "It certainly seems like a good opportunity to reach out to anyone who may feel the need for a little more spirituality or meaning in their lives," Gardocki said.

On August 20, 2006, fourteen people gathered at a library in San Jose for a meeting advertised as Ethics: A process of developing individuals and relationships. The room was prepared for the event, including a greeting table with a guest book, name tags, flowers and ethics statements from various authors; a free literature table with the Concept Map for Ethical Culture, Vision, Purpose and Top 10 Reasons from the AEU website; and a reference literature table with various books by Adler, Radest, and Rosenberg displayed. A CD was playing. On a wall, the welcome sign from AEU Lay Leadership was posted, and on a standing easel was the agenda. People first engaged in lively conversations in small groups, then continued the discussion when we reassembled. We did a closing round of likes, wishes and what would bring people back, and heard the following: enjoyed hearing people of different backgrounds, their thoughts and ideas; wanted more time; the location was good; enjoyed the small group discussion; wanted to engage more with people who are interested in making the world better for the next generation; enjoyed the food and drinks; wanted to think about a purpose in life; felt out of place; felt couldn’t participate because of a language barrier (Spanish); wanted to do some ethical action but thought it was too early in the group process. The next meeting was on September 10, with twelve people attending. Interactive exercises were held on active listening, providing an opportunity for participants to get to know each other better and to learn about and practice one of the most important skills of interacting with others. Further discussion was held on what people would like from the group. All those present were invited to join the planning team to help prepare for the next meeting, scheduled for October 8.

4 Dialogue

Thank you for publishing "Beyond Spirituality" (Dialogue, Summer, 2006) I think James Coley's suggestions about Ethical Culture are highly pertinent. There appears to be something inherently wrong with the Movement, at least here in the Northeast, where memberships are dwindling. Mr. Coley's message about the specific language of Ethics is applicable and suggests a focus that I think the Movement lacks. We can still be inclusive without losing our uniqueness as a religion. We shouldn't try to be like the UU at all.

“Beyond Spirituality”

Mr. Coley also argues that when we say spiritual we sometimes mean moral, but Adler drew a clear distinction between the two terms: "The moral man, commonly so-called; the man who is honest, pays his debts, performs his duties to his family; the man who works for specific objects, such as political reform; this man, worthy of all respect though he be, is still intent on the stages of his journey. The spiritual man, as we must now define him from the point of view of Ethical Culture, is the man who always thinks of the ultimate goal of his journey, i.e., a moral character complete in every particular, and who is influenced by that thought at all times and in all things. Spirituality, in this conception of it, is nothing but morality raised to its highest power." [Essentials, pp. 4-5] Is there supernaturalism is this definition? If we were to expunge religious language from the Ethical Culture Movement, we would lose much that is valuable and gain little for the effort. If we cannot say "The place where people seek the highest is holy ground," if we cannot endow our activities with the heightened purpose conveyed by sublime language, then we will be left with a Sunday morning experience that is arid -- a university lecture with music. Let us not move in this direction.

Sharon Stanley Long Island

James Coley’s rationalist critique of Ethical Culture deserves extended comment. The use of religious language in our Movement, Mr. Coley argues, is misguided. As he sees it, religious terms are hangovers from an era of supernaturalism, and the movement would do well to expunge them from its vocabulary. If we are thinking clearly, we do not need such language. The word faith, for example, really refers to hope; spiritual, when that term has any meaning at all, turns out to mean moral. Unfortunately, Mr. Coley writes as if Ethical Culture were invented yesterday, as if it did not have an intellectual and linguistic inheritance. If we look at some of the founding ideas of the Movement, we find the use of religious terminology that is neither supernatural nor intellectually muddy. Take, for example, that which Adler called the act of faith that lies at the heart of Ethical Culture: "Before ever we have discovered whether a man has worth in him or not, the moral law enjoins us to ascribe it to him, to treat him as if he had it, to see in him the light of possibilities which he has never made good: and thus, and thus only, shall we bring to light, in part at least, the precious things in his nature…." [Essentials of Spirituality, p.18] Such a commitment on the part of Ethical Culturists is not a matter of hope. Hope is too weak a term for what is asked of us here. Faith is the correct word, and I see no reason why we should abandon it.

Marc Bernstein AEU Archivist

James Coley responds:
Mr. Bernstein is simply mistaken in his assertions that I have proposed that religious vocabulary be "expunged" from Ethical Culture. Indeed, I defended a particular instance of the use of religious language in the article. In reply to his remark that I wrote the article "as if Ethical Culture were invented yesterday," which was followed by quotations from Felix Adler, all I can say is that my conception of Ethical Culture is that, although we are right to honor Adler for having been one of the founders of the Movement, we are not bound to his teachings or definitions of religious terms for that reason, or for any other. My conception is one of Ethical Culture as fundamentally a forum, without creed or orthodoxy.

Autumn 2006


Greeting cards featuring art of Sunday School children at the Ethical Society of Northern Westchester illustrate twelve "Core Values of Ethical Culture." The original art, painted on fabric, has become a large quilt now hanging at ESNW. There are twelve different colorful cards and envelopes to a package; each card (a standard 4 ½ by 5 ½ inches folded) has an illustration of one value on the front. The inside is blank for your message; the back has a color photo of the entire quilt and the address of the American Ethical Union. As the holiday season approaches, what better way to celebrate Ethical Culture and spread the word than by sending an Ethical Culture greeting card! The cards make great gifts for relatives and friends as well. The cards are available from ESNW for $10.00 a box; your Society can easily resell them for $12.00, and a modest fundraising will be enjoyed by all. Please consider purchasing multiple boxes. Send checks to Vera Albert, Treasurer, Ethical Society of One of 12 Different Fronts Northern Westchester, 108 Pinesbridge Road, Ossining, NY 10562. For years people have asked about Ethical Culture greeting cards; now they are available for us all to enjoy.


as well as facilitating progressive I’m thinking of the importance Bob Berson projects; and I'm saying "be of presence, of "being there," of Leader, Northern Westchester there" — or, more accurately, "be all the ways we can be there for each other. I think of our Sunday meetings and how here." important it is simply to "be there," not only because we invite people, often from far away, to speak with Please be here, with and for each other, our guests us, but also because it is so good and important for and friends, and those in the wider communities of which we are a part, and for whom we may do our us to "be there" with each other and for each other. own — even small — bit toward making this a betMuch of my summer reading referred to the impor- ter world. tance of communities; of strong, "thick," social relationships; of caring, collaborative groups of warmly —Adapted from Leader’s Message in the September issue connected people in fostering health and happiness, of the newsletter of Northern Westchester




As AEU President, I receive newsletters from most of the societies, and they almost invariably contain a President’s Report. I find these reports of particular interest. Recently, one president chose “connecting” as a theme. It stated, “I see it in three parts: Reconnecting with members and former members who now feel on the periphery...or beyond. Strengthening supporting connections with one another and with other Ethical societies. And making new connections with individuals who don't know Ethical Culture...but would gravitate to [it] if they did.” Sound good? On reflection there is a glaring omission: There is no mention of the national or international organizations. This is not meant as criticism, because I find this insular attitude prevalent throughout the societies. Since my time as president, the AEU has made a concerted effort to reconnect to the societies. The institution of the Presidents Council; moving our board meetings around to differ-

Arnold Fishman, President, AEU
ent societies; the resurrection of the AEU Ethical Action Report (“Green Sheet”): and the AEU In Touch are but some of those efforts. Dialogue has become more responsive to the needs of the societies. However, we cannot do it alone. These efforts must be reciprocated if we are to become an effective national presence. I have lobbied each society to appoint a liaison to the AEU and the IHEU and include their report as an agenda item at each meeting of their board. This is especially important for societies that have no member of their board on the AEU board. We must also connect to a united movement. I am convinced that our growth and stature is hampered by the fuzziness of our identity. We must brand ourselves in a unified fashion. The AEU now insists that all new groups use a name in which the first word is Ethical -- as in “the Ethical Society of XYZ.” We are discouraging FES (Future of Ethical Societies) from designing a new logo. We would rather they adopt


the standard logo in use at most societies, and perhaps those societies that have modified theirs would consider abandoning that modification. The Philadelphia Ethical Society (PES) has agreed to an experiment to advertise itself as the Ethical Society of Philadelphia (ESoP). We want to see if that will increase our visibility and our numbers. I would ask the other societies whose name does not begin with the word Ethical to consider such an experiment. I will propose that the next Assembly support a resolution that we change our name from the American Ethical Union to the Ethical Union of America. “Ethicals,” either as individuals or in groups, should be sensitive to our relationships with each other and the world. This is the essence of Ethical Culture. We are at our best when we quell our parochial instincts and engage the universe. Until we can learn to do that successfully, we cannot take our rightful place as the voice for religion in the twenty-first century.

simply, share scarce resources and stay behind closed doors, separated from their families. During nine months spent in a maximum security prison and three months in a minimum security prison, I never saw “the bad sisters.” I met women grievously harmed by inexorable war against the poor. I met women who posed almost no threat whatsoever to people — certainly nothing compared to the menace of nuclear weaponry, weapon proThe main role models during my for- liferation, and the industrial poisoning mative years were women who never of air, water and ground accomplished gave any visible sign of having even by U.S. corporations. the slightest interest in accumulating personal wealth. They taught us an There are many reasons to be troubled invaluable lesson. Where else can one about the fact that one out of every find such simplicity, such sharing of 136 U.S. people are imprisoned. The resources, such long periods of reflec- prison-industrial complex, the fastest tion? Ironically, I have found similar growing new industry in the U.S., realities when incarcerated in U.S. represents a war against the poor. prisons. Women in prison live quite We've nurtured a callous disregard for I grew up in a working class neighborhood on the southwest side of Chicago where most families identified closely with the nearest Catholic parish. Essentially, the nuns ran the parish. They taught our classes, directed the choirs, organized church events, and supervised parish functions. We'd never heard of feminism, but we certainly knew that the nuns were in charge. poor people all over the world. I've seen it function in Nicaragua, Haiti, and Iraq, where people have suffered horribly because of U.S. policies that wage war against the poor in order to exploit resources in the lands where they live. The nuns exemplified the main ingredients of an alternative to U.S. military dominance. They practiced simplicity, service, sharing of resources, and a reverence for all life. They "exported" these values through their everyday witness. I believe they held a key to a door we could and should open if we're to liberate ourselves and our children from the consequences of our overconsumptive and wasteful lifestyles. Autumn 2006 7

Joy McConnell, Retiring Coordinator AEU Lay Leadership Summer School

An entry from my journal at Summer School: “My first morning on The Mountain in 1996, I went for a walk in the cool darkness of the forest, down the mountain from my cabin. It was July and the rhododendrons were still blooming, dropping their pale pink petals on the path. When I returned to my cabin I had blossoms on the soles of my shoes. I knew it was going to be a really good week.” From August 5 to 12, 2006, 31 Ethical Culturists from around the country gathered at “The Mountain” in Highlands, North Carolina, for the sixth AEU Lay Leadership Summer School. The vision of the Summer School is to provide a base for the evolution of the Ethical movement as it faces the challenges of the future – to learn how to build a truly ethical culture. The program encourages staff and participants to build authentic ethical community where ethical relationships are enhanced and individual and group skills are nourished. Students and the staff, alike, are continually challenged to do better in accomplishing both task goals and goals for ethical relationships. Among the 31, was the staff of seven, including this year, Katharine Archibald, new AEU Executive Director, who was there to learn all she could about Ethical Culture and its values and practice as well as to share her vision of her work. Jone Johnson Lewis, a founder of the summer school, gave brilliant lectures on Ethical Culture history and several organizational components. Curt Collier delivered high-energy talks on Adler and his philosophical and religious context. Kate Lovelady, Leader of the St. Louis Society, acted as chaplain. Matthew

Hile, Linda Napoli, and I also taught workshops and led other group activities with the others. The staff had spent much of the previous year planning and preparing for the week. For many, over the years, the Summer School has been a transformational experience, inspiring some participants to become professional leaders and others to make deeper commitments to their Ethical Societies and to the American Ethical Union. Many participants have become presidents or held other office, served on crucial committees or become members of the AEU Board of Directors. It is an intense week at “The Mountain” filled with lectures, workshops and problem solving activities that deepen participants’ knowledge of Ethical Culture philosophy and history and focus on building ethical relationships even as they become more skilled at accomplishing organizational tasks. “Journeys” groups are offered each day for small, consistent groups meeting to discuss their experiences and explore topics leading to deeper reflection on their own life stories. Each day ends with a celebration designed and implemented by different groups of participants – an exercise that calls on the utmost creativity and resourcefulness of those who plan and implement these dynamic and inspiring events. As in other years, this summer’s School surprised us with ceremonies, both soul stirring and hilarious, thought provoking and joyful. One of this year’s participants, Bob Wentworth, from the Washington Ethical Society summarized the week’s learning. The subject matter included:
• •

• • • • • •

Nonviolent communication Group dynamics and balancing task versus relationship/process Decision making styles Life cycles of groups Leading groups at different stages in their lifecycles Personality types Conflict resolution Congregational development (models, lifecycles, research, role of social justice) Ethical Culture history and
(Continued on page 14)



Mary Herman and Julie Campbell, President, Washington
On July 1, 2006, after 34 years as Senior Leader of the Washington Ethical Society (WES), the irrepressible Donald Montagna retired. At a June platform and reception, the WES community celebrated Don’s countless contributions to Ethical Culture, to WES, and to the many individual members whose lives he has graced. Don and his wife Nancy joined the New York Ethical Society in 1966 after seeing an ad for it in Time magazine. He became an active volunteer and within two years was invited to join the leadershiptraining program. He trained at the Long Island Ethical Society, mentored by Algernon Black, Horace Friess, Leonard Karp, and Jerry Nathanson. In 1972, at the age of 28 — despite concerns about how young he was and looked — Don was selected to become leader at WES. From the start, Don was known for his creative and powerful voice promoting innovative thinking in the Ethical Culture movement. He argued that for Ethical Societies to make a real difference in the world they must be authentic communities practicing Ethical Culture in all respects. Don also became known for his affinity for, and leadership toward, humanistic spirituality. As the new leader of WES, Don energized the AEU, spending several days a month serving on the AEU Executive Committee, the AEU Board, and as president of the National Leaders’ Council. He was instrumental in reviving interest within the movement in the philosophy of Felix Adler, whose major books by then had gone out of print. Don remains one of the foremost experts on Adler. In growing WES, Don became an early student in the emerging field of congregational development. Not only did he turn around WES’s membership decline, he then took WES from a small, family-size to a program-size community, an accomplishment that no more than three percent of religious congregations ever achieve. Under Don’s leadership at WES, numerous innovative programs flourished. Highlights include designing and teaching numerous courses that became known throughout the region, helping to form and lead the Washington Ethical High School, spearheading the founding of the Northern Virginia Ethical Society, revitalizing the WES Sunday School, developing and leading a powerful Comingof-Age program, and giving rise to and leading the International Partners program and its efforts in Latin America. During his tenure of more than three decades, Don delivered over 600 dynamic platforms, officiated at weddings, memorials, baby namings, personal and community celebrations too numerous to count, and reached out to members in need with seemingly unlimited capacity.
(Continued on page 14)


The ESWoW Web site is now up and receiving visitors. Please visit us at The ESWoW was developed as a means of providing Ethical Culture community to people not associated with an Ethical Culture Society. Our hope is to form a new Ethical Society composed of people across the country and even around the globe. On the ESWoW Web site, you'll


find Platform addresses in print and audio with an opportunity for members and visitors to discuss them and our blogs. You can participate in the forums – sharing your ideas about issues of Ethical interest. There's a section for home practices, and we'll be adding online courses, curriculum materials for children, resources for social action, and ways for members to connect and learn about each other. While we value your participation in the ESWoW website, we are trying especially to build a resource for people not currently members of an Ethical Society.

Current members may help by inviting non-members to visit the Web site. We have made it easy for you to do this: Go to and use the “TELL-A-FRIEND about ESWoW” feature. Enter your name and your friend’s e-mail address and click “Submit.” We welcome your help in creating the Ethical Society Without Walls. Thank you!

—Susan Rose susan.rose(at) —Randy Best ESWoW Co-leaders
Autumn 2006


Howard B. Radest, AEU Leader Emeritus
and appearance of species, had a fruitful and empirically dependable reply in evolution. To be sure, it was enmeshed in controversy from its nineteenth century beginnings onward. But in today’s world, and nowhere more than in the U.S., we witness a vicious, mind-boggling display of ignorance hiding in the claims of scriptural literalism. Today, it is called, ironically, “intelligent design,” the latest strategy of creationism. Politically potent and economically well funded, ignorance endangers the present and future mind of America’s generations, corrupts democratic discourse, and poisons community debate. The successes of ignorance are symptomatic of a deeper illness of modem society including liberal society. First, there is a dramatic and disastrous scientific illiteracy abroad in our culture, an illiteracy not confined to the “right” or to the “literalist” but widely exhibited in the population, including the liberal population. Thus, theory is confused with opinion and responsibility to the truth is confused with sentimental relativism. Our knowledge of history is no less lacking as we hear claims that we were a “Christian nation” in our founding and that America’s crisis rent controlled and rent stabilized housing was in jeopardy. She joined the Clinton (neighborhood) Coalition of Concern and headed the housing committee of Community Board Four for several years. In 1984 she ended a speech to the New York City Board of Estimate saying something like: “I prayed last night for the words of a Shakespeare to let you know what’s in my heart. But I don’t have the words of a Shakespeare. I can only speak from my heart and hope that you hear it with yours.” Before Jean hired her, Connie worked as a bookkeeper for the EnIt may or may not be accurate to claim that we are in the midst of a culture war. But, the fact is that from the White House to the school board, science — that is disciplined critical intelligence — is corrupted and ignored. Global warming is one example. Molecular biology, stem cell research, and genetic research are others. The social sciences are no less a victim. For example, the most superficial look at the anthropology and sociology of the Middle East would have taught us that sectarian warfare was predictable in Iraq, just as Islamist fundamentalism was ideologically dominant and pervasive in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and to a somewhat lesser degree in Egypt and the Emirates. In short, the Enlightenment victory of rationality over superstition and secularity over theocracy has, in our time, suffered serious if not fatal defeat, particularly in one of its original homes, the American republic. Nothing illustrates this more dramatically than the battle over Charles Darwin’s “big idea,” that chance, change, and time could under conditions of natural selection explain the vast array and fascinating variety of nature. The “mystery of mysteries,” as Darwin called it, the disappearance CONSTANCE FAITH FROSCH FLYNN
November 8,1931 - July 18, 2006

would be resolved if only we would return to our theological roots. Our social ethics confuses myth with reality as in the rhetoric and moral nonsense of “family values,” that, among other things, celebrate the subservience of women, the authoritarianism of men, and the purity of the male/female relationship. God, if there is a God, must weep at what is done in his/her/their name. The point, however, is not to rehearse the horrors of modern American culture but to identify what is to be done and to point to the liberal failure, our failure, to do it. We, too, have been infected by a postmodernism that reduces values to subjective preferences and diversity to mere life-style. In short, we have forgotten our roots, our Enlightenment roots, in science, democracy, secularity, and the welcoming community. Doing so has opened the way for the enemies of intelligence, and they have only been too pleased to seize the opportunity. —Summary of a talk presented at New York , August 20, 2006

Connie Flynn began at the AEU office as Jean Kotkin’s secretary in 1981, continuing as my secretary in 1985. We could not have had a more loyal worker. Her major love and personal attention was for “her” members-at-large, and she would work tirelessly to find interesting material to include in the packets that were sent to them. Connie lived in a rent-controlled apartment on her beloved 42nd Street across from the Port Authority. Early in the 80’s it looked like

campment for Citizenship (EFC), whose offices were then in the basement of the New York Society. She had come to EFC via the Fortune Society, an organization started in the seventies, also in the basement of the New York Society. Her daughter and son-in-law, June and Alan Grutzner of Glen Cove, NY and a brother in Florida, survive her. Anyone interested in memorializing Connie is asked to make a contribution to a hospice facility of their choice in her name.

—Margaretha Jones, New York Former AEU Executive Director



New York, September 9, 2006

Top: (l to r) President Arnold Fishman, Philadelphia; Treasurer Ron Solomon, Baltimore Second: Bart Worden, National Leaders Council (NLC), Leader, Westchester; Executive Director Katharine Archibald Third row: Thomas Hoeppner, Chicago; Megan W., FES Representative; John Daken, Washington; Secretary Mary Witry, St. Louis Bottom row: Boe Meyerson, NLC, Leader, Essex; Harry Strickholm, guest, Bergen; Andra Miller, New York; Carl Romano, ESWoW; Vice President Jennifer Scates, Austin Not pictured: Ivo Antoniazzi, Long Island
Photographs by Lee Smalley, Dialogue editor

Autumn 2006


Andrea Perreault, Boston
but stranger things have happened. Maybe Lieberman's dilemma will lead the country to broader political philosophies and deeper discussions of issues and ethics in our political debates. Another hopeful sign comes from corporate philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates, who, in partnership with Warren Buffet, have brought creative thinking to the foundation world. Did any of us ever think as expansively as they are thinking about eradication of disease? The Gates Foundation is willing to dream big, and with The partisan divide in that spirit they may bring the U.S. seems to have change. Their strategy in worsened, and the media We say we want younger members, addressing the AIDS crisis only seems to capture but to get younger members, we will in Africa by focusing the attention of the need to communicate as they do. attention on helping people with game women to protect themshows, crimes, and sports rivalries. Election time is approaching and selves again shows that dreaming big is at the core of change is in the wind. Could there be a more important their mission. But how can this fact influence electoral time for ethics? Are there any hopeful signs? I think at politics? By demonstrating a strong and determined will to conquer serious problems without being least two are evident. influenced by petty political agendas, the Gates's can The defeat of Senator Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut show the electorate how to tackle problems effectively. Democratic primary in August showed that grassroots If good candidates adopt their message, society could be organizing still has a powerful effect. The voices of the winner. average citizens against the Iraq war influenced the outcome. The election this month may tell us even Then what can we do to capture a growing spirit of more. Regardless of the victor — "Team Connecticut” civic and political engagement? If such an awakening (Lieberman) or "Team Democrat" (Lamont) -- we does occur in society, and the population is more might see a new day for political activism in this interested in exploring ideas and creative solutions to country. If Lamont wins, the voters opposed to the war problems, could we benefit? Ethical Culture long has will have rallied to make electoral change. If Lieberman provided a forum for stimulating dialogue about social wins, his strategy of mobilizing a voting bloc from issues. But does our format fit with how people get Democrats, Independents, and Republicans may pave their information today? Maybe not. We may need to the way for new thinking that could influence politics look toward technology; we have websites, but maybe throughout the country. In either case, the influence of we'll need to do webcasts. Or, can we develop an Independents may force Democratic and Republican "ethical ring tone"? We say we want younger members, organizers to abandon their traditional categorization but to get younger members, we will need to of voters. Acceptance of third party candidates may communicate as they do. Let's be as expansive in our occur. We may not have imagined Joe Lieberman as thinking as Lamont, Lieberman, Buffett and the facilitator of wider acceptance of third party politics, Gateses. Are we up to that challenge? It hardly seems that two years have elapsed since George Bush got his second pass at the Presidency. And what a challenging two years it has been for the country and the world. The Iraq war has continued with little hope of "democratic" resolution, the mid-east erupted into large scale violence, and the ravages of nature have cost the world dearly — as Al Gore effectively documented.

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Sylvain and Phyllis Ehrenfeld, Bergen, and NGO Representatives to the UN for the IHEU and the AEU's National Service Conference
WORLD POPULATION DAY While emergency political negotiations through the Security Council continue, other UN bodies pursue work which is fundamental to the well being of the world. One such issue is population. Each year the UN marks World Population Day. Major changes in population affect poverty and economic development, environmental stress, availability of the necessaries of food and water, climate change, consumption patterns. Most importantly, the condition of women and children are subject to all these issues. Mostly these effects are interrelated. Increasing environmental stress highlights the need for sustainable development. The UN Population Division is the most important organization collecting this data from sources all over the world. Because the quality of the information varies in different countries, the UN Population Division sends experts to help them improve their statistical gathering abilities. Where is world growth in population heading? More than 3 billion young now represent nearly half of the world's population. This year's report calls the world's attention to the necessity of investing in education, reproductive health, job skills, and employment opportunities, particularly for girls. Today more than 500 million people aged 15 to 24 live on less than $2 a day. This is about 20% of the young. 96 million young women in developing countries do not know how to read and write. 14 million adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 become mothers every year. It is worth noting that every year of education for girls decreases child mortality. The current population size is 6.5 billion. Because of falling fertility rates the world's population is estimated to level off at about nine billion by 2050. Life expectancy has increased so that there will be many more older people. However because of high fertility in the past there is a high proportion of young people. Due to better hygiene, nutrition and medical practices in the last century, mortality rates have experienced the most rapid decline in human history. Dynamic change characterizes the current population picture. This is reflected in new and diverse patterns of childbearing, mortality, ageing and urbanization. By 2007, the urban population will account for half of the population of the world! Some cities, which could be called mega cities, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, and Delhi, each have more than 15 million residents. Another 20th century phenomenon, continuing unabated into the 21st century, is the skyrocketing consumption of resources by the world's wealthy nations. These dramatic increases in consumption take their toll in ecosystems. The world's one billion richest people, about 20%, consume 80% of the earth's resources. Given the explosive speed of development of huge countries, such as China and India, consumption patterns cannot continue as they are. More people are living longer, with healthier lives. However many are left behind, producing gross and ultimately dangerous inequalities. As one shocking example, many are dying quite unnecessarily from easily curable diseases. The billionaire Warren Buffett has added millions to the Bill Gates Foundation to respond to this injustice. The world's inequalities are both the greatest danger and the greatest moral challenge of our times.


More“From the UN” articles are in the Bergen Society newsletter at

Mark your calendars!

Memorial Day Weekend, May 25-28, 2007 New York
FES leaders, most of them students, are making FES more active and visible in the Ethical Movement. They are attending the AEU Board meetings (Megan W), sending out contact postcards to recruit more members (Alex R), and

planning to recruit FES members at this year's YES conference in the Virginia/Washington, DC area (Rachel K and Spencer W). They also are planning to attend the upcoming Lay Leadership Summer School II in August (Rachel K), and to present a workshop at this summer's AEU Assembly (Max R and Stefan B-K). Stefan has been steadily updating the Web site Watch for notice of a group work project during winter break. If you are interested in joining FES, email Susan Buzek at sbuzek(at) to receive the contact info you need. Please join in — FES is thought provoking and fun!

Autumn 2006


McCONNELL (Continued from page 8) religious context (Adler as one who arose out of a context that provided some of the ideas that we suppose had originated with him) • Adler's philosophy and why it was seen as compelling and different (Adler as a challenger of the Platonic dualistic model that has dominated Western philosophy and religion for millennia; nuances about Adler's concept of spirituality and ethical development). • Adler's attitudes towards women; and other miscellaneous topics • Functions of the AEU and plans for new web site capabilities Bob says he found “all aspects of the program worthwhile, but particularly interesting to him was the experiential work on group dynamics and leadership, and the emphasis on adequate attention to ‘relationship’ as well as ‘task’ as a manifestation of Ethical Culture values.” Over the years people have wondered why we chose “The Mountain” as the site for our summer school. Basically we wanted a place that was really beautiful and awe-inspiring, a place on the frontiers of our Movement to draw us out of our normal paths, and an organization which shares our values. The breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the top of Little Scaly Mountain, the star-filled night sky that many of us no longer know in our city dwellings, the rainbows, the wild rhododendron-filled, temperate rainforest have nourished the hearts of summer school folks from the beginning. (Not

to mention the songs of the tree frogs.) The Mountain’s mission — To embrace the diversity of life, creating an environment to energize people to work for positive change — is certainly in concert with our own values. Devorah Weinmann, from the Long Island Society, wrote “The question nagged me . . . How great can this place be that everyone travels 3 hours from the closest airport to get there? I have to admit that I didn’t get it right away, but by the end of the week, the mission statement of the place and the gentle ways of the staff made the answer clear. For example, one day I commented to one of the cooks that I was really looking forward to more of their homemade bread. I asked what I had to do to make that happen. He replied, ‘You just did it.’” Hugh Taft-Morales, Washington Society member, shared what he gained from the summer school with his society. Among other comments he writes, “I gained a deeper appreciation for the role of relationship building in growing Ethical Culture. While I have taken this as a given, and as a natural part of the way I interact, I learned a lot about my limitations and areas in which I could improve. Some of this came from reading and discussing of Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, by Marshall Rosenberg. I see that we need to work harder to minimize ‘affective conflict’ (rooted in our communication and miscommunication) so that we can better admit and understand our ‘cognitive conflict’ (actual rational disagreements). Alan Easton, from the St. Louis Society, shared that this was his first experience

of intensive group dynamics. “In a week’s time I saw my own and others’ interactive habits revealed. Which person talks a lot? Who needs to be in charge? Who sits and watches? Who wants to talk but doesn’t talk . . .” “I still ponder the insights I gained from that week. I see groups with new eyes.” As one of the founders of the summer school, I have been proud of what we are accomplishing through this wonderful, intense week. I have seen people become aware of their own and other’s behaviors and become more skilled at dealing with differences. I have experienced people becoming competent with their own, nascent leadership skills as they saw what they could do to bring about change. I have watched as individuals looked more deeply into their own ethical journeys and who have discovered new purpose and commitment in their lives. And I have seen summer school graduates working to make their societies and the AEU more highly functioning organizations where ethical relationships are nurtured as tasks are accomplished. But, most of all it is the relationships and connections built at the Summer School that I am left with. At summer school, participants share their lives, their questions, their confusions and their growing edge with each other. They come to know each other at a deeper level that such shared experience brings. Summer School graduates truly have friends all around our movement. We see it in the smiles and hugs when summer school classmates see each other at assemblies and conferences. There is a shared experience there that will never be forgotten.

MONTAGNA (Continued from page 9) In his closing words at WES’s 60th Anniversary celebration a few years back, Don spoke of his gratitude for all those who have kept the dream of Ethical Culture alive. He said: “It is the work of the many women and men who went before us, who nurtured, supported and strengthened this community, who lived their faith in humanity as a force for good in their community that we inherited. They were willing to work hard, stay the course and do

whatever it took so that our community would survive. We are the embodiment of all their hopes, dreams, disappointments, and visions of the future. This is our legacy and to their words, dreams and hopes we owe a debt of gratitude and love and the responsibility to strengthen it and be sure that it will be passed along to the next generation. That is what it means to live the legacy. To live this vibrant, living, breathing humanistic religion of ours, embodied in you, me and everyone who calls themselves an Ethical Culturist.”

When Don stepped down, he was the only Senior Leader the vast majority of WES members had ever known. The members of WES will miss his leadership, wisdom, and energy, and are committed to his legacy by keeping alive the dream of building an ethical culture and by assuring a vibrant future for WES. Don and Nancy Montagna remain members of the Washington Ethical Society and passionately interested in its future and in the future of the Ethical Culture Movement.



WILLIAMS (Continued from page 1)

opening our eyes to opportunities and challenges and activities that give us purpose. We need to rekindle the light. Loving life also means loving the lives of others and being keenly aware of the hurts and joys, the limits and possibilities others experience. It means loving life with a vibrancy that’s contagious. It means working to overcome poverty, disease, injustice, violence and all the conditions which prevent people

around the world from achieving and exercising their full humanity. It means attacking the forces in us and around us that conspire against life. A love of life is a powerful moral motivator. It defines the kind of world we want to work for. It must be a world that honors, protects, nurtures, and celebrates life — a world where nothing takes priority over loving life. A world where economic success, political power, and moral righteousness are all defined by the infinite value of a human life.

Being a pro-lifer myself, I am tired of arguing with folks who call themselves pro-life. I’m tired of slogans and strategies. I would just like to expand our understanding of the implications of the word. Being pro-life cannot possibly be achieved simply by campaigning against death, which is an inevitable part of life itself. It can only mean loving life and all of the possibilities of this short existence. It is a passionate concern for liberating the fullness of our humanity.

CHUMAN (Continued from page 1)

So much for preliminaries. Whom are we for, taking into account both philosophical interests and social needs? We are for the religiously questioning who are also inclined toward humanism. What I mean by “religiously-questioning” is people who span the gamut from atheist to the liberally religious, and who, for reasons of their biographies, have questioned the truth-claims of the historical religions and feel a need to be their own agents in reconstructing what it is that they believe. They may take as their own, Emerson’s call that “Each man should have an original relationship to the universe.” In this sense, they feel that religion is in some sense important, even if they totally reject it and define themselves as exclusively secular people. Moreover, even if they are not philosophically inclined, they sense that their beliefs and those of others are best when they serve human interests and the cause of human betterment. They are people who yearn for a life rich in experience, both for themselves and others. Related to this is what we might call the “skeptical temperament.” Those attracted to Ethical Culture, again, may not be philosophers or intellectuals, but they like ideas, value education and sense their importance. Moreover, they are viscerally uncom-

fortable with intellectual authoritarianism and dogmatism, as they are uncomfortable with political authoritarianism. It is this penchant for individualism that deters many who share our humanistic worldview from joining us. It also creates a certain internal challenge for those who do, for the support for individual thought that such folks find attractive in us is exactly the dynamic that runs against the communal sensibilities and the half-way conformity that makes the viability of any group possible. Which leads to the next characteristic of those who potentially join Ethical Culture: They are people who understand, appreciate and feel comfortable with group life. While valuing their individualism, they maturely recognize that, in order to enjoy the rewards a community provides, there must be, at the same time, a prudent suppression of individual expression. In short, authoritarians will not be attracted to us, but neither will radical individualists who see the purpose of a group solely as backdrop for their unbridled self-expression. We are for people who are politically progressive. Ethical Culture unmistakably has molded us into an organization that is critical of the political status quo, and this historically has worked itself out into political progressivism. Can a person of conservative political values find Ethical Cul-

ture attractive? Yes. But he or she would be the kind of political conservative who is not wedded to conservative political dogma, just as we would hope that people of liberal political persuasion have liberated themselves from liberal dogma. In a more sociological vein, we are attractive to interfaith (or better put “intercultural”) families. In an era of intermarriage, we treat both partners in an intercultural marriage completely on an equal footing, with no agenda of conversion or second-class citizenship. So here we have a list of characteristics, by no means exhaustive, of our constituency, current and potential: Humanists, who value ideas, the importance of relating to religion (even if by its rejection), skeptical inquiry, group life, progressive politics, and who may or may not be in mixed marriages. Clearly, we are not for everyone. Sometimes I ask myself whether this set of conditions is a product of a distinctive historical moment in American history, that of the immigrant and post-immigrant phenomena of the turn of the last century. But if we have faith in the perennial values of the ideals to which Ethical Culture is dedicated, then we need to also believe that there are people who hold to these ideals in every generation, including our own. Autumn 2006


Long Island to Host 2007 Assembly
Plan Ahead!
This will be the fourth AEU Assembly hosted by the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island, and they have all been outstanding events with attendance in the hundreds. Count yourselves among us. You are in for a treat! Again this time, the activities will be held at the magnificent park-like C. W. Post Campus of Long Island University, Thursday, June 14 through Sunday, June 17. Look for future notices in Dialogue, in the mail, and at and

Humanism is not a spectator sport. It is a lived philosophy and, for many, a religion. It is not a dogma or creed. It is both an attitude about life and a way of life.
— Anne Klaeysen, Leader, Long Island

American Ethical Union 2 West 64th Street New York, NY 10023



The Voices of Ethical Culture