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Understanding Ethical Religion
Understanding Ethical Religion
Edited by Howard B. Radest
Howard Radest, in the 1970s, assembled a
collection of historically-relevant Ethical Culture writings. These essays provide a
sense of the ideals and history of Ethical Culture.
Chapter 1. Why an Ethical Religion?
Chapter 2. What's Special About Ethical Religion?
Chapter 3. What Kinds of Belief?
Chapter 4. An Ethical Concept of God
Chapter 5. Ethics and Personal Life
Chapter 6. Ethical Religion and the Child
FLORENCE W. KLABER was Director of Religious Education for the American Ethical Union, and Director of the Sunday School of the New York Society for Ethical Culture. She was the author of widely used curriculum materials and was active as a lecturer and consultant in religious education conferences.
(please be patient while we add more of the documents from this collection)
Chapter 7. Ethics and Social Reform
- John Lovejoy Elliott: The Relation of the Ethical Ideal to Social Reform
- Felix Adler: Social Reform
- Discussion Questions for Chapter 7
Chapter 8. Ethical Religion and the Future
- Horace L. Friess: Retrospect and Prospect
- Jerome Nathanson: The Strengths and Weaknesses of Ethical Religion
- Discussion Questions for Chapter 8
Discussion Questions for Chapter 1
Why an Ethical Religion?
- Adler speaks of the "spirit of religion without its dogma." What does he mean by this? What alternative meanings might this have?
- What is meant by a "consecrating influence?"
- Adler speaks of Fundamentalism as being "obliged to attack" the Ethical Culture Society. Who might be obliged to attack us today? Are they? Why? Why not?
- Adler lists three alternative bases of ethics: ethics as God-given; ethics as convention; ethics as will. What does he think about each of these? What do you think? Are there other alternatives?
- What is meant by the "independence of morality?"
- Morality is "living in, living for, something larger," says Salter. Do you agree or disagree? Why?
- Salter speaks of a "higher morality." What does he mean?
- Black asks, "Why not let men differ about their answers to the great mysteries of the universe?" Well, why not? (How might a Catholic, a Buddhist, a Humanist, answer . . . why not?)
- "Deed not creed"--but, says Black, "deed implies an outlook on life . . . deed is part of a larger faith . . ." Do you agree? What larger faith?
- Is religion a unifying force? Can it be? What kind of unity?
Discussions Questions for Chapter 2
What's special about Ethical Religion?
- Martin describes the relationship between dissatisfaction and religion. What does this point to in the picture of popular religion in our day (Peale, Liebman, Sheen)? What about our own position in this matter?
- Morality is a means or an end. Of these alternatives, which makes the more sense to you? What does Martin say about his choice? Does he convince you?
- What does Martin mean by a "supreme" end? Do you think there is such a thing? Why, why not?
- In the discussion of creed and deed, does Martin allow any legitimate place for creed? Would you?
- Review Martin's "three meanings of the independence of morality." What do these show about the strengths and weaknesses of the Ethical Movement?
- Martin says, "We are not a sect, but a fellowship." What does this mean? Do you agree? Is this a good thing?
- What is the "bond of union" in an Ethical Society? What does Martin mean by "ethical progress"? Do you agree? Why, why not?
- What "new" moral situations have arisen that require "new" moral ideas?
- What does Martin mean by "moral experience"? Describe, if possible, an example of moral experience in an "unexplored" field.
Discussions Questions for Chapter 3
What Kinds of Belief?
- Elliott says, "We, too, have our revealed religion." What does he mean?
- Can we build a "religion" around our "associations with living men and women"?
- Neumann indicates that "unhappiness" accompanies religion. What does he mean? (Compare Martin's comment on dissatisfaction in section II) Do you agree, disagree?
- At the same time he speaks of "satisfaction" in ". . . striving which is its own compensation." Does this contradict the idea expressed in question No. 3? What differences are there between "happiness" and "satisfaction," if any? Give examples if possible. Try to avoid merely semantic argument.
- "Religion," says Golding, "is ever in the making." Can we find a secure orientation is such a view of religion? How?
- The "social" interest of the Movement is expressed by Golding: "The man who has truly come to himself has come home to humanity." What does this mean? What implication has such a view for our attitudes on race, war, etc.--if any?
- Nathanson points to the modern events that have challenged so-called "easy" optimism, etc. How then have faith in man? (Refer also to Elliott above, questions No. 1, 2)
- Human nature is not "given" but developing (i.e., changing). Do you agree, disagree? Why?
- What are the implications for social action, personal ethics, etc. of your agreement or disagreement in question No. 8 above?
Discussions Questions for Chapter 4
An Ethical Concept of God
- Muzzey says, "Everybody, except the avowed atheist . . . believes in some kind of God." What does he mean? Do you agree? Why, why not?
- Muzzey distinguishes between theists, deists, atheists, and agnostics. Review the definition of each. Is there place in the Ethical Movement for all of these? Ought there to be?
- Kant's three postulates (assumptions) which must be assumed to satisfy a man's religious cravings are "the existence of God, immortality, and a future state of reward and punishment." Do you agree? What other alternatives might "satisfy a man's religious cravings?"
- Why would some members oppose the use of the word, "God"? Would you? Why, why not?
- Muzzey wants to bring God down to earth ("God is created in man's image," God as an anthropocentric idea). Does this kind of God make any sense to you?
- What is meant by a "spiritual society as the pattern to which human society should conform"?
- Muzzey focuses on the "ethical qualities" and speaks of "Ethics as a religion." Do science, art, have any place in such a religion? What place?
- How would you describe "faith" for an Ethical Culturist?
Discussion Questions for Chapter 5
Ethics and Personal Life
- If marriages aren't made in heaven, where, when, and how are they made? (Refer to Nathanson's conditions of an "ethical" marriage--security, understanding, concern.)
- Marriage is a continuously growing relationship. What kinds of growth would be included in this? Give illustrations.
- Does this concept of marriage eliminate "romance"?
- According to Frank, do the ideas of good and evil give way to ideas of healthy and unhealthy? What do you think?
- What is meant by "social and cultural responsibility?"
- Miller describes what must be a moral problem for many business men and women. Is this kind of problem found only in the business world? Illustrate.
- Do you agree or disagree that "the assumption that what affects me is of greater value than what affects others is an assumption that cannot be reasonably justified"?
- "A choice that is not responsible is not genuinely free." What does this mean? Do you agree or disagree?
- Bridges speaks of making changes in ourselves, of being a "creator." How does this relate to Frank's description of the interdependence of man and society?
- Martin says that "our comfort is . . . the Spirit of Truth." What does he mean? Is this a tenable description of consolation?
Discussion Questions Chapter 6
Ethical Religion and the Child
- Black says, "Just as with sex education, religious ideas play upon the child whether the home or school provide for them or not." Do you agree, disagree? Give examples.
- Black describes some "needs" that children have. Could you make a list of "needs" as you see them? Indicate ways in which they can be satisfied. Are there different ways of satisfying the same need? Explain and illustrate.
- Black describes a "child's religion" in a rather interesting paragraph. Do you agree with his description? Is it really a "child's" religion?
- Should non-Christians celebrate Christmas? Why, why not? How?
- If we would educate children, we must first learn to listen to them. What does this mean? How does this apply when "children ask about God"? or Death? or Sex?
- What is meant by a "sense of belonging"? What are the dangers involved, the advantages? How is it achieved? Illustrate.
- Should children "build their own religion"? Can they?
- Klaber lists "the following hopes for our Ethical child..." Refer to this list. Do you find the list adequate? Comment on each of the items.
- "Religion begins in the home." Do you agree, disagree? What role does the Sunday School play?
- "Liberal religion . . . must be discovered." What problems does this point of view create for education? What benefits accrue from this attitude?