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“Believe or disbelieve as you want. We shall at all times honor every honest conviction, but be one with us where there is nothing to divide; in action. Diversity in the creed, unanimity in the deed. This is that practical religion from which none can dissent.


“This is that platform broad enough and strong enough for the worshipper and for the infidel. This is that common ground where we may clasp hands as brothers and sisters united in humanity’s common cause.”


-Felix Adler, Founding Address

Founded in 1876 by Dr. Felix Adler, The New York Society for Ethical Culture is the cornerstone of the Ethical Movement. Throughout our history we have worked diligently to create community institutions and organize effective action to promote civil society and pursue social justice in New York City and beyond.

What We Believe

Ethical Culture is a Humanist religion centered on ethics, not theology, whose mission is to encourage respect for humanity and nature and to create a better world. Members are committed to personal ethical development in their relationships with others and in activities involving social justice and environmental stewardship.

We believe all individuals have inherent worth and dignity, the potential to grow and change, a responsibility to strive for ethical growth, and a responsibility to create a better world.

As an Ethical Community we are all part of something that transcends the individual experience and are enriched through our relationships with others.  As such, we have responsibilities to each other, to the Society, and to the community.

Our Affiliations

Established in 1893, the American Ethical Union (AEU) is a federation of Ethical Societies that creates, nurtures, and inspires ethical humanist communities to foster a world that is democratic, compassionate, just, and sustainable. Ethical Action is an expression of our core commitments to honor the worth of all people, cultivate relationships, and build justice. We work together to bring out the best in others and ourselves, enhancing everyone’s unique capability and responsibility to contribute to a more humane world. AEU is headquartered at NYSEC, on our fourth floor.

AEU programs include the National Ethical Service (NES) at the United Nations, Youth of Ethical Societies (YES)Future of Ethical Societies (FES), and the Encampment for Citizenship.

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Formerly the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), Humanists International is an umbrella organization of humanist, atheist, rationalist, secular, skeptic, freethought and Ethical Culture organizations throughout the world (currently 125 member organizations from 47 countries), founded in 1952. HI works to build and represent the global Ethical Humanist movement that defends human rights and promotes Humanist values worldwide.

The Society supports and often enters into formal arrangements with organizations or groups that have a common mission, values, or purpose and where there is mutual regard and a desire to support one another and strategize together in work that our committees and Leaders are engaging in to advance our ethical mission. These organizations identify with our commitment to education, advocacy, and action in the pursuit of social justice and environmental stewardship. We make these relationships known in our literature and on this website, thus increasing awareness and the Society’s voice in the city, further opening our door to attendance and membership.

The Society’s committees and Leaders are always open to member suggestions that could lead to fresh affiliations. These often arise when, in engaging with a particular group, there is prospect for joint programming or a sharing of space for talks or events. It can also arise and become nurtured as a result of ‘Ethics in Action’ initiatives undertaken by the Society. The Society also responds to a particular group’s need for a safe environment in which to gather. Each of our affinity groups are subject to periodic review.

Social Justice

  • American Indian Community House
  • Amnesty International
  • Feminist Freethinkers
  • League of Women Voters
  • Police Reform Organizing Project


  • 350NYC
  • Beyond Plastics
  • Climate Reality Project
  • Drawdown NYC
  • Food & Water Watch

Other Partners

  • American Slavery Project
  • The Emergency Shelter Network of Faith-Based and Community Organizations
  • Interfaith Center of New York
  • Partnership for the Homeless

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Ethical Culture a religion?

For those who view religion as a set of values to which people are committed, and in terms of which they find a faith to live by, Ethical Culture is considered a religion.

Is Ethical Culture considered a religion by all its members?

No, since some members associate the word “religion” with creeds, doctrines, and sectarianism. For them, Ethical Culture is a fellowship based upon a philosophy of life, emphasizing education, growth, and social service with the purpose of helping people live better lives.

Does Ethical Culture accept the idea of a god?

Ethical Culture is nontheistic and humanist in emphasis and members are not committed to any theology. We leave belief in a deity up to the individual.

I am a member of a religious group. May I still become a member of Ethical Culture?

Absolutely! Many Society Members are also members of religious congregations and are comfortable being part of both.

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