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Ethical Society of Boston meets without ritual

Instead of heading to church to hear a sermon on Sundays, the Ethical Society of Boston uses the day of rest to pursue a way to create a more humane society in the world, sans religion.

The Ethics Society of Boston is part of the Ethical Culture Movement, founded in New York City in 1876. The movement calls for members to help others become better people and create a just world. Group members have helped found various organizations in the past, including the American Civil Liberties Union.

The first group in New York City created settlement houses for immigrants and pioneered in the social work field, Chris Young, who has been a member for 10 years, said. The group’s work is best described as ‘doing good without God,’ he said.

Tufts University professor Margo Woods spoke to about thirty members of the Society at Longy School of Music in Cambridge Sunday about how nonviolent communication helps the Boston chapter members help others. Nonviolent communication is the balance between being overly confrontational and passive, Woods said. The most important part of the communication is to know that there is not someone who is right and someone who is wrong in an argument, Woods said.

‘It takes a while to be confident enough in your convictions to realize, yes, I’m smart and I can argue this, but this communication is about how we connect, not who wins,’ she said.

Woods told The Daily Free Press that she first learned about nonviolent communication at a special workshop during a national meeting for the American Ethical Union. She said the movement supports a peaceful way of discussing disagreements.

‘The system just seems so intuitively correct,’ she said. ‘It’s wrong to judge. Arguing won’t help bring us together.’

People who suffer from depression can benefit from nonviolent communication because it can help establish a sense of self worth, Woods said.

‘Depression is the reward we get for being good,’ she said. ‘Depressed individuals need other people’s support, complements and appreciation, so they focus on others’ needs rather than addressing their own.’

Ethics Society President Andrea Perrault said Woods’ presentation was excellent and went along well with the group’s core values.

‘We’re always looking for more ways to build up our own community and go beyond the group,’ she said. ‘The notion of advocating nonviolent communication goes very well with our general purpose.’

Marvin Miller, who has been a member since 1965, said the Sunday morning meetings present stimulating ideas, and this week’s was no different. Although he said the group has gotten smaller over the years, he still enjoys the weekly meetings.

‘Our movement is about education and reaching out,’ he said.

Young said he liked how activists come together for Sunday meetings to talk about their projects, instead of performing typical religious rituals.

‘I think part of the problem is that we do not have the ritualistic aspect that characterizes many other religious movements,’ Young said. ‘I personally enjoy that instead of sermons, we have activists coming in every Sunday talking about their work.’

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