Northern Virginia Ethical Society (NoVES)

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  • Monday, May 28, 2018 12:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I experience mixed emotions on Memorial Day.  Although I am morally opposed to violence and war, it does not trouble me to respect and honor those who gave their lives for what they deemed to be a worthy cause.  Death is an inescapable finality.  When it comes too soon it is tragic.

    I find it difficult to extend respect and honor to the American Military as an institution.  More and more, it seems that American military force is used to replace honest diplomacy, further America’s geo-political interests, and serve corporate interests.  Human rights, if they enter the picture at all, serve as a pretext for economic and political interests.  The hypocrisy shown in where and when American military force is used is staggering.

    I realize that the world today is far from renouncing the use of violence as a legitimate means of settling differences.  I also realize that while I decry America’s use of violence abroad, I benefit greatly from it.  I enjoy America’s high standard of living that consumes resources at a greater level than most of the other inhabitants of our planet.  American economic and military might preserves my lifestyle.

    On Memorial Day, I willingly partake in sad reflection on the loss of life and devastation of war.  I will try to avoid the military triumphalism that I often see displayed.  Memorial Day is a time to mourn.

    I will silence these conflicting thoughts that bounce around in my head.  Instead, I will focus solemnly on those who died in the service of their country – for that is one of the tragedies of war.  Those who died deserve to be remembered.

    I will contemplate this poem by Thomas Hardy about a death in the Boer War far, a death so far from home.

    Drummer Hodge

    Thomas Hardy, 1840 - 1928


    They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest
         Uncoffined—just as found:
    His landmark is a kopje-crest
         That breaks the veldt around;
    And foreign constellations west
         Each night above his mound.


    Young Hodge the Drummer never knew—
         Fresh from his Wessex home—
    The meaning of the broad Karoo,
         The Bush, the dusty loam,
    And why uprose to nightly view
         Strange stars amid the gloam.


    Yet portion of that unknown plain
         Will Hodge for ever be;
    His homely Northern breast and brain
         Grow up a Southern tree,
    And strange-eyed constellations reign
         His stars eternally.

  • Thursday, May 24, 2018 8:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Dear NoVES Members – 

    I struggle at times to hold the worth of others at the forefront of my consciousness. To recognize human worth in times of conflict and disagreement. To fully recognize our common humanity and our common struggle to do what each of us believes is right.

    Acting ethically would be easy if there was never any disagreement or conflict.

    Resolving disagreement is an opportunity to take my ethics beyond the theoretical and put it into practice.

    I will do my best to rise to this opportunity, respectfully, creatively, with concern for others.

    Conflict leaves disappointment and hurt feelings in its wake.

    After conflict, healing and the repair of relationships are necessary.

    How we act in the wake of conflict, how we reach across divisions to begin healing are the true indicators of ethical inclusion.

    Everyone acted for what they believed to be the best interests of NoVES at the recent members meeting. 

    As the NoVES community emerges from conflict, the challenge is to re-affirm commitment to our community and strengthen connections with others.  To recognize the integrity and worth of all of our members.

    There is no right side or wrong side. 

    In some cases, there is deep hurt that needs healing.

    There is an opportunity to truly listen to others, to move forward with greater understanding.

    Felix Adler, the founder of Ethical Culture wrote:
    Life is worth living if I live to support the worth in others. And if I find and enlarge the worth in myself. We add to our moral lives in two ways: by living rightly according to the light we have. Secondly by constantly seeking for new light. In the moral world if we do not find new understandings, and if we do not advance and grow, then instead we shrink.
    It is my hope that as NoVES moves beyond conflict, I am able to support the worth of others, to move forward with deeper understanding and renewed commitment to the NoVES community.

    Yours in Ethical Struggle,

    Randy Best
    NoVES Leader

  • Saturday, May 19, 2018 8:47 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I spent today observing a Red/Blue workshop conducted by Better Angels (  This organization’s slogan is “Let’s Depolarize America”, and they aim to do just that.

    I observed four self-identified conservatives (Reds) and five self-identified liberals (Blues).  Over the course of a day, this group engaged in facilitated exercises to identify stereotypes, find common values, and ask questions of each other.

    I was privileged to spend a day observing how the power of listening to each other opens us up to recognizing an other’s inherent humanity.   This realization leads to greater understanding and respect for people holding some views that are very different from my own.

    The purpose was not to change anyone’s mind.  The Better Angels’ goal to dial down the polarization was achieved in this small group today.  This organization is in the process of growing so that more and more people can have this experience.  What a worthy enterprise!

  • Sunday, May 13, 2018 7:57 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    It was my pleasure to present this two-hour overview on May 4 th . Sixteen people attended the class held at the Vienna Community Center, a convenient and well set up venue for classes or discussions that will be used for future events.  I presented a brief bio of Felix Adler, the founder of Ethical Culture, along with his philosophical ideas of non-theism, community engagement, and promoting social justice. Other influences on Ethical Culture such as pragmatism and humanism were also introduced. It was a lively presentation with lots of excellent questions and discussion.  Future classes will delve more deeply into these topics.

  • Monday, January 15, 2018 3:25 PM | Deleted user

    A member requested that I provide an excerpt from my recent talk, “Towards Utopia”. I chose to include the section talking about Ethical Culture History and Felix Adler’s ideas, along with some of my own. You can hear my complete talk at: 

    Towards Utopia (excerpt) Oscar Wilde wrote: "A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not even worth glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realization of Utopias." I need a Utopian vision that reflects my Humanist Values, my Humanist Ideals. Felix Adler, who founded Ethical Humanism as Ethical Culture in 1876, had a philosophy based on Ideals. He envisioned a Utopia where every person was endowed with intrinsic worth and, therefore, needed to be treated with dignity and respect. People should be supported by society so that they are able to achieve their full potential and make their contribution to making the world a better place. Attributing intrinsic worth to people leads to obligations with respect to that worth. These obligations are the basis for ethics and moral action. Adler’s Ethical Humanist Ideals included: 

    • Every person has inherent worth; each person is unique.
    • It is our responsibility to improve the quality of life for ourselves and others.
    • Ethics are derived from human experience.
    • Life is sacred, interrelated and interdependent. To realize the worth of people, Felix Adler set out to improve conditions for human flourishing.

    To achieve this, Adler founded the Ethical Societies as a place for people committed to improving the world, increasing their understanding of themselves, and deepening their relationships with others. Adler, and the members of the Ethical Societies, also founded organizations that would act to improve the world. These organizations addressed the issues of their day including: 

    • The Hudson Guild and Madison Settlement Houses in New York City
    • The Child Study Association that advocated restrictions on Child Labor
    • The Model Tenement Association to improve housing conditions
    • The Visiting Nurses Association to provide access to health care; and 
    • The Ethical Culture Schools Ethical Humanists were also instrumental in founding The American Civil Liberties Union and The NAACP.

    History is inspirational, but what does my Ethical Humanist Philosophy lead me to today? How can I act to promote my Ethical Humanist Ideals? What is my version of an Ethical Humanist Utopian Vision? Bertrand Russell wrote: "It is not a finished Utopia that we ought to desire, but a world where imagination and hope are alive and active." I struggle to find a Utopian Vision of hope in a political environment dominated by corporate interests and tax relief for the wealthy.  I realize that if I want politics to change, I must work to change politics. I must continue to oppose policies that discriminate and deny opportunity to others. My Ethical Humanist Utopian Vision is founded on reason, evidence, facts, and most importantly, promoting the human worth and dignity of everyone. Like Utopias of the past, in my Utopian vision people are free from want, with abundant food, good health, safe in their lives, possessions, and liberty. In my Utopian vision, the earth must also be cared for so that human life may continue to flourish. My vision of Human Dignity recognizes the worth of others by: 

    Recognizing the rights of refugees and immigrants to be part of our nation – because people cannot be illegal. 

    • Working to overcome Systemic Racism because Black Lives Matter too. 
    • Recognizing and dismantling White Privilege, Patriarchy, and Male Privilege. 
    • Creating a world free of sexual harassment where offenders face consequences for their actions. 
    • Promoting a Universal Basic Income so that everyone is free from deprivation 
    • Investing in people by providing Free Education and Health care for all. 
    • Changing America’s Criminal Justice system to promoting community service and education as alternatives to incarceration. 
    • Working toward Peaceful resolutions to conflict and an end to War. 

    My Utopian Vision raises all of us up for a more egalitarian future that everyone can be part of realizing. Eduardo Galeano wrote: "Utopia is on the horizon. I move two steps closer; it moves two steps further away. I walk another ten steps and the horizon runs ten steps further away. As much as I walk, I’ll never reach it. So, what is the point of Utopia? The point is this: to keep walking." My Utopian vision is evolving, changing as I continue to learn and grow. But it remains focused, directed by my Humanist Values and belief that we are all worthy, we are all deserving, and we have the potential to co-create the good and work toward making the world a better place- for everyone.

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