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Music and ethics; Jeffrey Kurtzman, PhD

June 8, 2008

Professor Kurtzman will inaugurate the June Arts and Ethics platform series by exploring the relationship between music and ethics. From early Chinese, Persian, and Greek times, music has been thought to have powerful effects on human beings and capable of contributing either to their improvement or degradation, i.e., to have ethical consequences. Professor Kurtz-man’s talk will examine both the history and prevalence of such ideas and the reality of the impact of music in an effort to evaluate the validity of such ideas and understand the role music plays or could play in modern society.

Jeffrey Kurtzman earned his Ph.D. in musicology from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. He was one of the founding faculty of the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University and is Professor of Music and former Chair of the Department of Music at Washington University. A specialist in 16th- and 17th-century Italian music, he has published books and articles on Claudio Monteverdi and other Italian composers, as well as numerous editions of music by Monteverdi and others from the same period.

He was the founder of the international “Society for Seventeenth-Century Music” and is a member of the editorial boards of the Society’s publications. Prof. Kurtzman’s research has been supported by the John Simon Guggen-heim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Deutscher Akademischer Austaushdi-enst, as well as grants from Middlebury College, Rice University, Washing-ton University, and the University of Venice. Professor Kurtzman has performed at the piano several times for Ethical Society platforms and has given two lecture-recitals for the Ethical Society this year.

The future of Ethical Societies; Liz Mulhall, Tara Klein, Matt Herndon, and Evan Gross

June 1, 2008

Come hear a platform about the past, present, and future of Ethical Culture membership growth. Members of the Future of Ethical Societies Liz Mulhall, Tara Klein, and Matt Herndon as well as the Membership Director at the Ethical Society of St. Louis, Evan Gross, will be presenting their ideas in a three-part platform.

Tara is a member of the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island and she recently completed her thesis on Ethical Culture history at Vassar College.

Matt is a professional web designer in the Washington, DC area and will talk about the role of technology in Ethical Culture membership growth.

Evan will talk about how the St. Louis Society is expanding its outreach.

“Citizen mom”; Kate Lovelady, Leader

May 11, 2008

Mother’s Day was originally “Mother’s Day for Peace,” and this Sunday we will celebrate and explore the original roots of the holiday as an antiwar movement that sought to bring women together as ethical community leaders. But the inspiration for this platform is mostly personal. The role of mothers (and “mothering” caretakers of either sex) in building strong communities and teaching ethical values is often overlooked, as I have learned from watching the struggle of my mother and many women of her generation to feel valued in a status-conscious society. Many things have changed over the years, and women have more choices and opportunities than ever before in history, yet questions of identity, worth, and what it means to be a good citizen are as vital as ever.

A human faith; Kate Lovelady, Leader

April 13, 2008

I like periodically to update and present some of the great wisdom from our past. We need to know history in order not to repeat it, or not to have to re-invent it; there is a lot of historical thought that is surprisingly relevant to today. Unfortunately, that thinking can lose its power over the years due to changes in language and communication styles.

This Sunday we will explore the central ideas in “A Common Faith,” a seminal work on religious humanism by famous American philosopher John Dewey, who while not a member of an Ethical Society had close ties with our movement. His ideas were radical in his day, and remain radical in ours, and I will do my best to translate them into modern language so that they may re-inspire a new generation.

“The religious is any activity pursued in behalf of an ideal end against obstacles and in spite of threats of personal loss because of its general and enduring value.” – John Dewey

From vengeance to mercy, Part 2; Kate Lovelady, Leader

March 23, 2008

This Sunday’s address will continue our look at justice in America. Two differing concepts of justice are retributive justice, which focuses on punishing the offender, and restorative justice, which focuses on the reconciliation of the offender, the victim, and the community. We will examine some of the current problems of our criminal justice system and hear some stories of remarkable reconciliation and healing. We will also explore the ethics of restitution, forgiveness, and mercy, and ask how the values of religious human-ism can help us encourage forms of justice that affirm worth and dignity and seek to bring out the best in all of us.

We ought always to deal justly, not only with those who are just to us, but likewise to those who endeavor to injure us; and this, for fear lest by rendering them evil for evil, we should fall into the same vice. – Hierocles

From “What passes for religion”; Tony Hileman, Senior Leader New York Society For Ethical Culture

March 16, 2008

For centuries, the threshold of religion was our acceptance of forces beyond nature, and our reliance on them for information about things we do not know and perhaps cannot know. The prophesies of those claiming insight to the forces and mysteries of the universe guided our thoughts, our actions, and our lives. We no longer suborn intellect to authority, and we’ve come to recognize that religion consists of involvement as much as contemplation. As our concept of what passes for religion shifts, are there imposters that we should be protesting? Have the prophets of yore become the pretenders of today?

Tony Hileman is Senior Leader of the New York Society for Ethical Culture. Tony began as a successful businessman in Indiana. He then went on to a second career in wire service journalism, working in Europe, the Middle East, and Northern Africa for United Press International, then as an executive for Agence France Presse (AFP). Disenchanted with corporate life, Tony left AFP and began his next career as an independent consultant, first in the field of journalism and then more broadly. He eventually specialized as an executive coach, helping individuals achieve personal as well as professional success while simultaneously discovering the vast numbers of people who support a Humanist life stance similar to his own. These years saw the full development of Tony’s lifelong views on Humanism and eventually led to his position as executive director of the American Humanist Association in 1999. As Tony often expresses to Humanist and non-Humanist audiences alike, “the need for a strong Humanist voice in the national dialogue has never been greater than it is today.” He joined the NY Society for Ethical Culture in 2005.

From vengeance to mercy, Part 1; Kate Lovelady, Leader

March 9, 2008

This Sunday’s address is the first of a two-part examination of ideas of justice in current American culture. We look back on the “Wild” West as a time of lawlessness and vigilantism, but have our underlying attitudes toward justice really changed all that much? Our criminal justice system, a largely privatized industry and a pawn of political games, emphasizes punishment over rehabilitation, seemingly blind to the fact that most prisoners will eventually again be our neighbors. Our popular culture sells to even the smallest children a vision of heroism in which the good guys hurt or kill the bad guys, and we all cheer. How can our ethical values help us to promote justice that keeps us safe and that aids the healing of victims, perpetrators, and society?

From Imus to Jena and several Sharpton stops in between: The media’s role in racial polarization; Mark Albrecht

February 24, 2008

The tragic Don Imus and Jena 6 situations were two of the biggest stories highlighted by the media in 2007. And the term “race” served as the back-drop. Predictably, the African-American, dynamic duo of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton stepped up to participate and serve as “de-facto” representatives as national dialogue began. But what exactly are Sharpton and Jackson’s roles, who appoints them, and what are the effects of their participation in these types of situations?

Additionally, what kind of dialogue did we end up with as a nation? Are we better off for it? How was that dialogue moderated? And what role did the media play in all of this?

Ethical Society member Mark Albrecht is a Senior Media Communications Major with a double minor in Multicultural Studies and Anthropology at Webster University. Three years ago, Mark had a personal epiphany. Witnessing the state of affairs in the city, state, nation, world and planet, he realized that if he didn’t get personally involved in social change, then it was not realistic for him to expect positive change.

At Webster, Mark has been active in many student organizations including the University Recycling Committee, ONE Webster (student branch of the ONE Campaign to end global poverty and AIDS), Behavioral and Social Sciences Club, and Habitat for Humanity. He traveled to New Orleans twice to do Hurricane Katrina recovery work and advocacy and is in the process of doing a documentary on the topic. Mark won a Dean’s Award for Service from Webster University in 2007 for his work to bring awareness to Katrina’s after-math.

Currently, his focus is social justice through Media Literacy and Media Re-form and working with Jobs with Justice, ACORN, wecanmo.org, Think Before You Ink campaign, and other grassroots efforts focusing on responsible humanity.

Atheists anonymous; Kate Lovelady, Leader

February 17, 2008

The U.S. Constitution explicitly prohibits any religious test for public office, yet polls reveal that Americans are less likely to vote for an atheist than a member of any other minority, and the presidential candidates as usual are vying to be named “Most Religious.” Americans also tell pollsters in over-whelming numbers that they believe in a god, yet more Americans are living outwardly-secular lives than ever before, and “angry atheist” books top the best-seller lists. What are the roots of anti-atheist prejudice and what is it really like being an atheist today? What is the duty of Ethical Culture, a “non-thiestic” religion that seeks to unite people on the common ground of ethics, to stand up for non-believers?

The evolutionary emergence of purpose; Ursula Goodenough, PhD

February 10, 2008

A common misunderstanding of Darwinian evolution is that it renders existence meaningless and without purpose. In fact, the origin of life marks the origin of meaning and purpose: indeed, if they exist anywhere else in the universe, we will probably never know. This understanding, Dr. Goodenough will suggest, has wondrous ethical implications.

Ursula Goodenough, Ph.D., is Professor of Biology at Washington University. Before joining the staff of Washington University, she was Assistant and Associate Professor of Biology at Harvard from 1971-1978. Her primary teaching has been a cell biology course for undergraduate biology majors, but she also co-teaches a course, The Epic of Evolution, with a physicist and a geologist, for nonscience students. Her research has focused on the cell biology and (molecular) genetics of the sexual phase of the life cycle of a unicellular eukaryotic green algae and, more recently, on the evolution of the genes governing mating-related traits. Her laboratory has been supported by grants from NIH, NSP, and USDA and she has written three editions of a widely adopted textbook, Genetics. Dr. Goodenough has served in numerous capacities in national biomedical arenas, including review panels, editorial boards, and many positions in the American Society for Cell Biology.

Dr. Goodenough joined the Institute of Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS) in 1989. She has presented papers and seminars on Science and Religion in numerous areas and written a book on the subject, The Sacred Depths of Nature (Oxford University Press, 1998). She is a strong advocate of teaching the History of Nature in our schools.

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