The religious climate across the nation and internationally has been undergoing a sea of changes. There is a growing population of people who are affiliating themselves as nones, humanists, secular humanists, ethical humanists, and non-theists. Many are overwhelmed by the issues and causes too numerous to address in one’s lifetime.

The Susquehanna Valley Ethical Society [SVES] is establishing itself as one of the 20-plus societies across the nation under the umbrella of the American Ethical Union. Affiliation with the AEU offers 501(c)3 status as well as the ability to provide the necessary programs that encourage and support Ethical Living and Ethical Action in the valley.

The Ethical Culture Movement was founded in 1876 by Felix Adler with the vision to unite humanity over ethical values and moral action. The New York Society for Ethical Culture was established at that time as the first incorporated Ethical Society in the nation.

The New York Society established the tenement house building company shortly after its incorporation and The New York Society’s Free Kindergarten program for the city’s working class neighborhoods and immigrant families. Also founded was the first non-missionary visiting nursing program in 1878.

In 1882, a second society was established in Chicago and the birth of many newly formed ethical societies continued to flourish across the nation. In order to promote the mission of ethical culture, these societies decided to become members of a new national federation of Ethical Societies in 1889. Today 22-plus Ethical Culture and Ethical Humanist Societies are under the affiliation of the AEU. The formation of the International Humanist and Ethical Union in 1893 (and re-organized in 1953) resulted in the proliferation of humanist, rationalist, secular, ethical culture, atheist and freethought organizations in more than 40 countries.

Ethical Action is an expression of the society’s core commitments to honor the worth of all people, cultivate relationships, and build justice. The Ethical Society works together to bring out the best in others as well as ourselves, enhancing everyone’s unique capacity and responsibility to contribute to a more humane world.

One of the SVES’ action projects is the BUYcott initiative. The members of SVES believe in supporting our locally-owned and operated businesses by preferential patronage. In other words BUYcott them as much as possible. Supporting the projects of other like-minded organizations is also important in our mission. For example, the SVES encourages our community in donating to the Sunbury YMCA’s annual Coat Drive. Individuals can drop off their lightly used winter outerwear to any of SVES’ three gatherings at 3 p.m. on Oct. 2, Oct. 16, and Nov. 6 at the Cherry Alley Café in Lewisburg.

To further this ethical agenda personally and in society, the group commits to the following principles:

n Ethics is central.

n Ethics begins with choice.

n We choose to treat each other as ends, not means.

n We seek to act with integrity.

n We commit to educating ourselves. 

n Self reflection and our social nature require us to shape a more humane world. 

n Democratic process is essential to our task.  

n Life itself inspires a natural response.

SVES serves as a community in which members can build a circle of friends, find inspiration and purpose, provide moral education for their children, celebrate seasons and life events, and clarify their world views. The organization emphasizes the importance of developing a clear personal philosophy that makes your life understandable and meaningful. Those engaged benefit from a diversity of viewpoints and encourage each other to think freely and to disagree without being disagreeable.

The SVES promotes two important core values: 1) live by eliciting the best — it is by acting in a way that encourages the finest characteristics in others that brings out the best in ourselves; and (2) respecting human worth — treat all people as having an inherent capacity for fairness, kindness, and living ethically.

Visit SVES website or on Facebook for more information and the times and meeting place of our first and third Sunday of the month gatherings.

Pattie Arduini, SVES co-founder and Susquehanna Valley Progressives Steering Committee member.

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