Ethical Culture Comes to Texas

By Sharon Sarles

Ever wish you could find a real community, a stable group of stable people where you could explore spirituality and social issues unafraid of contradicting some one’s dogma? I sure did … and I found it! Ethical Culture was created precisely to be nondogmatic, always searching for new truth and always open to the individual. Yet in this wide umbrella. there is a center too. We believe most strongly that right behavior begins with reciprocal respect. We have found it useful to ensconce respect for the dignity of the individual at the core of our beliefs as well as to attempt to learn how to better work in a communitarian structure. While our beliefs are not rooted in any single tradition, nevertheless we walk in fellowship with all those who believe in the golden rule, or as we say, “who spell God with two o’s”. We attempt to cultivate ethics, so we work towards personal improvement, better human relations, and social peace and justice.

The Ethical Culture movement was started 125 years ago by a man trained for the rabbinate named Dr. Felix Adler. Upon his return from studies in Germany, he found that what he wanted to do was beyond that day’s boundaries of Judaism. He did not fill his father’s shoes at Temple Emmanuel but instead became a professor of ethics and an officer in the Free Religious Association. Soon he began offering lectures. Jews and Christians and non-believers flocked to hear him speak and eventually the New York Society for Ethical Culture was born. Several other societies have sprung up since across the country and in other countries.

Ethical Culture came permanently to Texas in 1994, when the Ethical Culture Fellowship of Austin was founded. We are growing into a true community with concern for our diverse members, a program for our children, social events, a social action project, and meetings discussing a wide range of topics. Like a religious group, we offer times to celebrate life’s joys and sorrows to our members. Ethical Culture Leaders are certified to perform weddings, and often provide nondogmatic or nonfaith weddings to the community.

[Editor’s note: we changed our name to the Ethical Society of Austin in July, 1999.]