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Opening Words from Sun. October 13 by Donna Kniest

October 14, 2019
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I am going to begin with a short true story:

Years ago we visited my brother-in-law in Virginia and for dinner my sister-in-law served fresh butter beans straight from the local farm. They were mouth watering. I had never tasted fresh butter beans before – NOW mind you, I am NOT talking about canned or frozen butter beans – only farm fresh – best picked that day.

So every year since, I have gone to Soulard market and bought butter beans which can only be found at one farm stand-Snarrs. I shell them and freeze them, and I am VERY STINGY with them -never serving them to guests so they last as long as possible.

Well, One day a couple years ago our 10 year old granddaughter was over for dinner. She is quite the little gourmet for her age, and , feeling GENEROUS, I made the butter beans – simmer 30 minutes with a pinch of salt and butter. She loved them and told me over and over how delicious they were and that she would have her Mom cook them. I explained how rare they were….

So, This year when I went to Soulard to buy them, the farmer told me the flooding had washed away the crop and there were none to be had. I WAS VERY SAD. Then a few weeks later, I got a text from my granddaughter including a photo and it said, “ Grandma, Mom and I found butter beans at Theis Farm “ – this is a farm up near UMSL right off HW 70 and Hanley Road. So, I raced to Theis Farm and bought all they had.

Now you are probably wondering why I am telling you this story: it’s because this incident brought to mind one of the major occurrences in life in which I believe – and that is —whatever you want, give it away and it will come back to you – some say ten fold. the Bible says in Galatians: “You reap what you sow.” I have seen this happen so often in my life but having only 3 minutes, I can’t tell more stories. The simplest example I can think of is when you smile at another – what happens? They smile back.

And I guess we should all be warned here not to frown, to judge or criticise or punch someone out as it can work both ways.

Yes, I believe that whatever you want, you must give it away.

So if you want to be loved, shower love on others. If you want to be included more and invited out more, invite others out for coffee or a walk, or to your home. If you want butter beans, cook butter beans for others….

Now I will be the first to agree with you that this doesn’t always happen immediately. You’ve all heard the saying “what goes around comes around?” But It doesn’t always come around fast enough, and Sometimes we think it will Never Come Around at all!!!

Think of a seed that is planted in a garden – one seed grows quickly and flourishes. Another seed is picked up by a bird and carried away. Sometimes the seed disintegrates and becomes part of the earth. But I believe that no seed ( actual or metaphorical ) is ever wasted; the good that you do today could even be met with total contempt, but that good goes out as a vibrational force into the ethers and is held in a kind of miracle escrow account. Deepak Chopra, a modern spiritual guru cleverly calls this “the great cosmic accounting system.” I am not a scientist by training, but it has occurred to me that this is like Newton’s 3rd law of physics which says “for very action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

So in the future I have vowed to be more generous in sharing my beans.

And I hope I have given you something to think about. And when Our program ends, turn to someone near you and smile.

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.

Art Show – Susie Tenzer

October 4, 2019

There’s something deeply personal about pausing at the ordinary and seeing what’s especially beautiful or meaningful or otherwise fascinating. I love finding those moments which most people take for granted. I use my camera and seek out optimum perspectives. Then, with colored pencils, I work to capture the way the light plays with the angles and surfaces, capture these snapshots in time. What’s important to me is bringing you a sense of simple beauty, allowing you to see what I do … seeing the ordinary as extraordinary.

Born and raised in St. Louis, Susie attended Washington University School of Fine Arts and ultimately received a BS in Education from the University of Missouri in St. Louis. She retired from teaching in 2004, which allowed her to go back to the drawing board – literally! She bought a set of colored pencils on eBay and found her niche. Her colored pencil drawings are in private collections around the world. She has won numerous awards in the United States and Canada. She is a member of the International Guild of Realism and a signature member of the following art organizations: Colored Pencil Society of America, Missouri Artisans Association, Greater St. Louis Artists Association, Susie is represented by Artisans In The Loop Gallery and Missouri Artists On Main Gallery.

There will be a reception for Susie Tenzer October 20, from 12:30-2:30 pm in the Foyer.  The Ethical Society will exhibit some of her work from October 18 through December 1.

Opening Words from Sun. September 29 by Michelle Ciurria

September 29, 2019

Hi everyone. I’m the new director of the We Thinks Good philosophy discussion group. Today I’m going to talk to you about personal identity, which is the theme of the next meeting. And I’ll try to keep it short.

What is personal identity? Relatedly, what does it mean for your personal identity to persist from one moment to the next?

One popular theory is that your personal identity resides in your psychological states, and so your personal identity persists over time just as long as your psychological states persist over time.

Derek Parfitt has challenged this theory by introducing a number of thought experiments that cast doubt on our intuitions about out personal identity, particularly the notion that our personal identity resides in our minds rather than our bodies.

Imagine that you’re visited by some aliens who inform you that your planet is going to be destroyed in a nuclear Holocaust in the next year, but they can save you by teleporting you onto their space ship. You’re about to agree to this generous offer when the aliens explain how the teleportation device works. It works by eviscerating your current material form and replicating it at your destination. That is, it’s like a biological photocopier that automatically destroys the original.

When the aliens see the look of horror on your face, they assure you that your personal identity – your self – will most definitely persist through the teleportation process, even though your current material form will be destroyed. It’s not a death machine, they assure you; it’s just a convenient mode of transportation.

To the aliens’ surprise, their assurances don’t convince you.

So, the aliens give you a second option. Instead of teleporting you to safety, they’ll replace your biological cells with mechanical analogues that can withstand the force of a nuclear blast, thereby allowing you to survive the nuclear Holocaust. And since they know you’re not keen on instant evisceration, they offer to replace your biological matter gradually – over the course of a year.

When the aliens see that you’re still not satisfied, they start to think that you’re quite irrational. What could be wrong with gradually replacing your biological cells with mechanical analogues, when all the cells in your body are naturally replenished by biological processes in a matter of weeks? What’s the difference between mechanical substitution and biological substitution?

At this point the aliens are becoming quite perplexed by the ostensible irrationality of the human mind, but they try one last solution. They will transplant your entire brain into a host body capable of withstanding a nuclear blast. This host body will be partly mechanical, and its mechanical parts will protect your frail biological brain, to which you are so irrationally attached. The host body won’t be identical to your current body, though. The aliens have carefully studied human preferences and have produced a set of identical host bodies based on their research. All of the host bodies are exact replicas of Brad Pitt circa 2003, as their research has revealed that human beings show a decided preference for white males with muscular exteriors and other stereotypical masculine attributes. Therefore, all of their host bodies are exact replicas of 40-year-old Brad Pitt.

When the aliens see that you’re still not satisfied, they start to fear that human beings aren’t even an intelligent species.

“What’s wrong now?” they ask. You explain that Brad Pitt is a man and you’re a woman. That is, Brad Pitt’s body doesn’t fit with your gender identity. Therefore, transplanting your brain into Brad Pitt’s body won’t fully preserve your personal identity. The aliens don’t know what you’re talking about, as they come from a genderless society. They don’t understand why you would care about gender, let alone whether your gender presentation matches your gender identity. After all, gender is just a social construct that human beings made up. You try to explain that just because something is a social construct, that doesn’t mean that it’s not real. Money is a social construct but money is so real that people die without it. But the aliens just roll their eyes.

How will you escape the impending nuclear Holocaust with your personal identity fully intact? Can you?

To find out, please join me at the next meeting of the We Thinks Good group (October 6 from 3-4:30pm).

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.

AEU Defends the Right to Vote

September 8, 2019
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The American Ethical Union passed an important resolution on voting rights (proposed by the Susquehanna Valley Ethical Society). We urge all “to take personal and collective action to reclaim our Democracy by affirming our shared commitment to the Democratic Process as essential to a humane social order which respects the worth of all persons and therefore requires a fair and just process, which elicits and allows a greater expression of human capacities.”

The Resolution addresses many obstacles to voting including voter suppression tactics, restrictive registration processes, criminal disenfranchisement, limited access to polls, gerrymandering, financial influences, and foreign intrusion. It encourages people to educate themselves, protect the right to vote, and vote their values. “When the voices of the People are silenced, our Democracy perishes.” 

Read the full “Defending the Right to Vote” resolution at:

Joyce Best Named 2019 Ethics in Action Awardee

September 6, 2019

Lifelong Activist Joyce Best has been named the 2019 Ethical Society of St. Louis Ethics in Action Awardee.

“Our congregation is filled with exceptional, activist humanists,” Best said of the Ethical Society. “Previous winners include many of my friends and mentors. I am deeply honored to receive this award.”

Best and her husband, Steve Best, worked together for many years on various social causes. Their family aspired to live as Ethical Humanists concerned about racial equality, peace and justice.

Lifelong Activist and Ethical Society of St. Louis Member Joyce Best has been named the 2019 Ethical Society of St. Louis Ethics in Action Awardee.

“Joyce was an active member of the Committee on Racial Equality and was featured in the recent Missouri History Museum’s exhibit on the civil rights movement in St. Louis,” Ethical Society Leader Kate Lovelady said. “She participated in sit-ins and other interracial actions, including helping to form the Freedom of Residence group in St. Louis, and, with her husband, acting as a ‘straw buyer’ to allow a black family to buy a house in a non-integrated neighborhood.”

Best was active in Mothers and Children Together, which sponsored visits of children with mothers in prison. She also lived out her ideals in her family life, living in an integrated four-family flat in north St. Louis and sending her children to local public schools.

In her profession as a librarian, she helped establish a library at the Pruitt Igoe housing project. She is a long-time active member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and with that group she helped establish a children’s peace camp in U City, planning and administrating the camp and working there each day as a volunteer for several summers.

Best also locally coordinates the national Jane Addams Book Award, which recognizes children’s books that promote interracial harmony and world peace.

Best’s Ethical Society work includes serving on the Board of Trustees, and years of active participation in the Sunday School, including as volunteer director; in many committees, notably the Ethical Action Committee, and single-handedly administering the Gilpin Fund utility assistance program; and in the Tuesday Women’s Association, including being president and co-president, chairing the international lecture series, and currently continuing to organize the monthly book reviews.

“She also continues to be a strong and consistent voice of conscience at the Society, making sure we are investing in socially-screened mutual funds, for instance,” Lovelady said.

The Ethics in Action Award includes a monetary stipend. The ceremony honoring Best will take place Sunday, October 6, at 11 a.m. at the Ethical Society of St. Louis, which is located at 9001 Clayton Road. There is ample parking behind the building.

For more than 40 years, the Ethical Society of St. Louis has honored compassionate leaders in St. Louis, who try to help the powerless and bring hope and positive change, with the Ethics in Action Award.

To learn more about the Ethical Society of St. Louis, visit

Welcome to the 2019-2020 Fall Season

September 3, 2019

Welcome to the birth of a new Ethical Society season!

This season, the Ethical Society is moving through the Stages of Life, inspired by our Statement of Purpose, which includes the commitment that we will “support each other through the stages of life.”

Each month through Platforms, Forums, and other activities we will explore a theme related to human (and other) development and growth and change. The themes are Birth, Innocence, Experimentation, Potential, Rites of Passage, Making a Living, Responsibilities, Wisdom, Endings and Beginnings, Legacy, and Generations.

Opening Words from Sun. August 18 by Bradley Shutes

August 18, 2019

I remember watching “The Jetsons” on Saturday mornings as a kid. In the 1962 debut episode entitled “Rosie the Robot” we were introduced to George Jetson and his family of the future. George works at Spacely Sprockets as the operator of the company’s Referential Universal Digital Indexer. Operating it required George to press two buttons, labeled “On” and “Off”.

Jane, George’s wife and sophisticated homemaker, had to push far more buttons than George’s two-button machine . She had to push a button for cleaning the floors, a button for making breakfast, anther button to wash and fold the laundry, yet another button for cleaning the dishes. She had to push so many buttons that she developed a crooked index finger. She begged George for a robot maid to push the buttons for her, but George refused; “Jane, we are not getting a robot maid and that’s final!” So Jane went to the robot maid store and got Rosie, the robot.

George was furious, of course. Tonight’s dinner guest was to be George’s stingy and hot-headed boss Cosmo Spacely. Surely his boss would think he was overpaying him if he saw George with such an expensive luxury item like a robot maid. Sure enough, after discovering Rosie, Cosmo fired George. But Rosie saw the injustice in this and came to George’s defense. Using her New Jersey accent, she scolded Cosmo Spacely, and smashed a pineapple upside down cake over his head.

We don’t have loveable robots like Rosie in our homes today, but we do have millions of industrial robots in our factories. I’ve had to square my engineering career in the robotics industry with my humanist values. I’m not naïve about the impact of my industry. The hard truth is that you can’t stop the advancement of automation any more than you can hold back an incoming tide with a spoon. But even if you could, should you?

In the early 90’s, I lost a friend and classmate in an accident involving a gigantic sheet metal stamping machine. He’d still be alive today if a robot was tasked with putting the sheet metal blank into that press.

The best outcome for this modern automation revolution is not robotic maids like Rosie to push our buttons and make us pineapple upside-down cakes, but rather, jobs that are risk-free and reward full. We should be valued not by the number of repetitive motions that can be crammed between 15 minutes breaks, but by our inventive, artistic and social skills. Industrial robots save our lives, our sanity, our dignity, our backs, our wrists and our index fingers. I’m sure someday in the long distant future Jane Jetson will approve.

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.

Art Show – Artist Guild Students

August 13, 2019

The show will have student work from five Missouri High Schools. The work was shown last spring at the St Louis Artist Guild Student Show. We are very impressed by the quality of the work done by these high school students. The schools participating in the show are Salem High School, Clayton High School, John Burroughs High School, MICDS, and Parkway Central High School.

There will be a reception for the students September 8, from 12:30-2:30 pm in the Foyer.  The Ethical Society will exhibit some of the students’ work from September 6 through October 13.

How We Talk Together Online

August 12, 2019

Communicating online can be difficult. When we can’t see each other’s faces, or hear another’s voice, we can make mistakes. We can mistake a person’s meaning, their tone, or even their character – particularly when the lack of physical proximity brings out the worst in us. When discussions start to go wrong, they tend to spiral downwards, each comment interpreted in the worst possible way, until we’re just shouting into the ‘net.

This is not conducive to building community. When people are willing to say online things they would never say to someone’s face, relationships suffer. People begin to believe their fellow congregants are worse people than they are, and everyone is reduced to the slice of themselves they put online. Because of the unpleasant interaction on social media, people are less willing to talk through things in person. Nobody learns. Nobody grows. The community suffers.

This is why we have rules to govern what our members are allowed to post in response to articles on our Facebook page and in our Facebook group. The rules aren’t there to prevent discussion or to shut people down. They are meant to foster community, to help our online spaces meet the same standards of mutual respect and trust we expect to observe when members of the Ethical Society meet face to face.

That said, this is what is allowed on our social media pages:

  • Expressing your own view. It is acceptable – even encouraged – for participants to say what they think about a particular post.
  • Disagreement. It is perfectly acceptable for participants in a discussion to disagree, to say why or why not they support a particular view or perspective, as long as they do so respectfully.
  • Commenting on others’ comments. Replies to another’s comments are not necessarily problematic. It is fine to respond to what someone else has written.
  • Judging behavior and language. It is perfectly acceptable to talk about another’s actual behavior or the language they have used. If someone’s language is homophobic, for instance, or if they have breached the rules of the group, it is fine to talk about that behavior.
  • Rejecting consensus. It is fine not to believe what others believe. We are a freethinking community, and we don’t do dogma. You have a right to express your view even if you are the only one taking your position.

This is what is not allowed on our social media pages:

  • Personal attacks or insults. There is no reason ever to personally insult or attack another member of our community. This includes calling people “stupid,” insulting their character, If an issue is so drastic that it needs to be addressed directly, contact myself or Kate and we will attempt some form of mediation. Insulting someone else online doesn’t help, and undermines the relationships necessary to build a healthy community.
  • Broad judgments of character. While it may be tempting to judge people based on their behavior online, we want to encourage members to get to know each other deeply and to bring out the best in each other. Therefore, we ask that people not express broad judgments of a person’s character on our social media pages.
  • Jokes at the expense of others, particularly marginalized communities. We have a policy which guides our communication at the Ethical Society: we’ll laugh at ourselves, but not at other people. We ask our members to follow the same policy online.
  • Statements which reinforce the marginalization of any group of people. The Ethical Society exists to uphold the worth and dignity of all people. Any statements which are racist, homophobic, transphobic, sexist etc. are inconsistent with our core values as a community and will be removed.

These rules still leave a lot of grey areas. Communication is complex, and there will always be room for disagreement as to whether a particular post violates the rules. Therefore, we have two uber-rules which override all other considerations:

  • The admins’ decisions are final. When we make a decision, that decision will stand. If you disagree with a decision, speak to us in person about it, but do not argue about it in the thread.
  • Relationships are paramount. The most important thing about our social media pages is that they exist to further the broader goals of the Ethical Society: the creation of a community of love and justice in which all people are honored and treated with dignity. This value overrides any of the rules – our main concern is keeping people in right relationship with each other and fostering growth and fellowship.

These rules will change and develop over time as our community changes. For now, this is how we expect our members to engage with each other on social media.

Opening Words from Sun. August 4 by Melodee DuBois: Woodstock, Fifty Years Later

August 4, 2019

Good morning. I’m Melodee DuBois, and I’ve been an Ethical Society member for the past six months. This summer we’ve recognized some momentous 50-year Anniversaries: Stonewall in June, and The Moon Walk in July. Another major 50-year Anniversary is happening this Friday, August 15th, Woodstock. And I feel privileged to be among the few who attended this epic festival.

Over the decades, Woodstock has been eulogized and trivialized. But however you perceive it, it was a totally unpredictable larger-than-life phenomenon, the likes of which we’ve never seen again. Yes, there were problems and challenges, but now fifty years later, I still feel its enduring impact.

Woodstock was billed as a 3-day celebration of peace, love and music, and I and my brother decided we simply had to go. So we and two of his band members packed our ’57 Chevy with gallons of water and boxes of canned goods, all of which came in very handy since the festival’s concessions were fully depleted by the second day.

We took backroads into New York state, arrived early, and staked out our spot close to the stage. There were no hotels…you just had your tent or car for sleeping or shelter from the rain. And it did rain – 5 inches the first night, turning the meadow into a sea of mud! But with our water-proof tarp, rain parkas and provisions, we were fine and able to bask in the incredible music we’d come to hear.

And what music! The roster of artists read like a “Who’s Who” of late 60’s rock legends: The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, and SO many others. My keenest musical memories were of the ‘protest songs’, and the rallying power they had with the crowd: from Country Joe’s Viet Nam Rag to Joan Baez’s rousing We Shall Overcome. These soaring moments united us all in the anti-war sentiments we were acutely feeling.

However, as extraordinary as the music was, it was the genuine spirit of generosity and friendship that prevailed. We all shared whatever we had, sometimes trading food for wine or weed, or vice versa. Many volunteered to feed those with no food in a hastily set- up food kitchen. Thousands of sandwiches made by local women were dropped by U.S. Army helicopters, while nearby residents gave us water. This was humanism at its best.

Today Woodstock occupies an iconic place in our pop cultural history. Nearly a half-million of us made it there. We were idealistic and believed we could make a difference. Were we a little naïve? Probably. Did all the societal changes we wanted happen? No. But did some good positive effects take hold on those who attended? Yes, I believe so.

I’m not saying that Woodstock was my sole influencer at the time, but that experience was pivotal in planting some seeds that helped make me who I am today. I came away with some significant truths: 1st — The value of sharing community with like-minded people; 2nd – Social or political differences should never prevent us from helping those in need; and 3rd — Good thoughts and prayers won’t bring about change…it takes direct action to make a difference.

These tenets have remained with me over the years. They are also at the core of the Ethical Society’s humanistic mindset, which is why I found my way here and am so glad to be part of this like-minded community today. Thank you.

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.

Ethical Society Blood Drive

August 3, 2019

Want to take an ethical action? Give blood through the American Red Cross at the Ethical Society on Monday, August 12, 2019 between 9am and 1pm.

There is a severe shortage of blood, and only volunteer donors can fulfill that need for patients in our community. Nationwide, someone needs a unit of blood every 2 to 3 seconds and most of us will need blood in our lifetime.

To schedule an appointment please call 1-800-Red-Cross (1-800-733-2767) or visit and enter “EthicalSociety” to schedule an appointment.

AEU Opposes Death Penalty

August 2, 2019
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The American Ethical Union expresses its dismay at this week’s news that the federal government will resume executing prisoners on death row. Our organization has been a staunch and consistent opponent of the death penalty for decades.*

Killing people held in state custody is never acceptable, regardless of their crimes, because it violates two fundamental human rights: the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment. Capital punishment is an affront to the ideals of human worth and dignity we exist to uphold.

Our criminal justice system, while protecting society from dangerous individuals, should be humane and focused toward rehabilitation and the restoration of people into the community. Once someone is convicted of a crime and incarcerated, the restriction of their liberty is the maximum punitive element acceptable: the state may take your freedom, but it should never take your life.

Some convicted and condemned to death have later been exonerated as innocent. Certainly, some who are innocent have been killed. The state cannot restore justice after the execution of someone who is innocent, making capital punishment even more of a moral wrong.

The moral imperative to abolish the death penalty is particularly urgent given the fact that in its application it is definitively racist. The death penalty is sought more often against people who kill white victims than African American or Hispanic ones, and people of color are disproportionately sentenced to death. This compounds the inherent depravity of capital punishment, creating a system in which the lives of people of color are literally treated as less important than the lives of white people.

That the USA still applies capital punishment is an embarrassing anomaly: of the 195 nations on the globe, only 55 still execute people, including only a handful of industrialized countries. Every country in Europe has abolished the death penalty, except Belarus, “Europe’s last dictatorship.” The USA is a sad outlier among developed nations in its enthusiasm for state-sponsored killing, and we should all engage in actions to end this cruel, inhumane, and evil practice, including contacting our representatives and the administration to object to this particular action.

*The American Ethical Union first supported abolition of capital punishment in 1960, and reinforced that position in 197319741979, and 2000Statement online here.

Opening Words from Sun. July 14 by Dave Gutekunst

August 1, 2019

Good morning! July’s theme is “Bringing out the Best”, and oddly, that made me think of government bureaucracy. 

For the last several years, I haven’t seen much connection between goodness and government or politics. Quite the opposite: I feel shocked daily at the monstrous inhumanity perpetrated by our government.

This affects my psyche, and maybe yours, too. If you live near Tower Grove, you may sometimes hear muffled, profane shrieking around 6:00AM. That’s me, screaming into the void as I read the news each morning. (I’m exaggerating, but just barely…) It’s worst for my poor dog, who is developing some strange Pavlovian conditioning: she’s learned that when I am swearing at my laptop, breakfast is imminent. 

So, I’m frustrated about our government. The challenge is focusing on productive action and avoiding cynicism and disillusionment.

I’m lucky that a small part of my work as a professor at SLU lets me see the good that government still does. For the last few years, I’ve been going to Washington twice a year to serve as a grant reviewer for federal research funding through the Veterans Administration (VA).

I thought it might be heartening to hear about the process by which government agencies (VA, NIH, NSF, etc.) decide who gets federal research dollars. I contend that it brings out our best.

To be clear, this doesn’t counterbalance the horrible things being done in our names. 

  • People are still in cages. 
  • Systemic racism still pervades law enforcement and the legal system.  
  • Survivors of sexual abuse still observe that if their assailants are rich and powerful enough, justice will be slow, if it ever comes at all.

But this is a tiny piece of good news. It’s a reminder that governments are people (my friends), and that it is possible to build institutions based on ethical values.

Here goes: the process begins when research teams submit their applications. Each application represents several months of work by teams of researchers, built on decades of scholarship. Based on the topic, each application is assigned to a review section and 3-5 specific experts. My review section focuses on rehabilitation for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, osteoarthritis, amputation, etc. 

As the “experts”, we pore over the applications, focusing on scientific rigor, the importance of the problem they’re trying to address, and the likelihood that the research will improve treatment outcomes or lead to new technologies. 

Then, in February and August, we gather in nondescript conference rooms in DC and argue it out. We take it seriously. The end result is a set of detailed critical reviews that inform funding decisions and are also returned to the researchers. Only 10-20% of grants are funded, so the feedback helps researchers decide whether to resubmit or move on to another idea. 

The whole process is built on principles of transparency, accountability, and competition, with strict guidelines to limit bias and conflicts of interest. Every session begins with a VA administrator reiterating the mission of the review process: that we are contributing to the distribution of the people’s money, and that we are gathered to act on behalf of our fellow citizens to decide how to use some of our collective wealth. It’s a reminder that we are all in this together. 

I’ve heard this half a dozen times, and it still gets to me. It provides a ray of hope in this dark historical moment. As I hear it, I recognize that I will probably go back to cursing at the news, but it’s a moment of hope, and that’s valuable. 

If we get through our current situation with our democracy intact, we will need to rebuild many of our institutions, and to reestablish the ethical foundations on which they’re based. 

So if you also find yourself screaming at your laptop, try to remember that in tiny puddles deep within “The Swamp”, there are dedicated, talented people working to bring out the best.

Thank you.

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.

Opening Words from Sun. July 21 by Susan Hurt

July 23, 2019

Good morning, my name is Susan Hurt, and I’m fairly new to the Ethical Society. Prior to becoming a psychiatrist, I was introduced to the theories of Erik Erikson in college, and this is what I want to talk about today.

Erik Erikson was a developmental psychologist who maintained that personality develops through eight stages of psychosocial development, beginning in infancy and lasting throughout adulthood.

Based on Erikson’s ideas, the field of psychology re-conceptualized the way that the later periods of life are viewed. They are now considered active and significant times of personal growth.

I’m going to skip over the first 6 stages of development that Erikson described and review the 2 later adult stages, as this is my area of focus today.

Generativity vs. Stagnation is the seventh stage of Erik Erikson’s theory. This stage takes place during ages 40 to 65 yrs.

Generativity refers to “making your mark” on the world through creating or nurturing things that will outlast you as an individual.

Examples include raising children, productive work, and involvement in community organizations.

Those who fail to contribute during these years may feel unproductive, disconnected, or uninvolved with their community – don’t worry, there’s hope if you have difficulty in this stage.

Ego Integrity vs. Despair is the eighth and final stage and begins at age 65.

It is during this time that people slow down, contemplate their accomplishments, and develop integrity if they believe that they have led a successful life.

If individuals see their lives as unproductive or feel guilt about their past, they may be dissatisfied with their lives and despair.

Erik Erikson’s wife Joan had much to say about stage 8 when she was in her nineties.

In particular, Joan stressed the great value of the elderly given their wisdom and the considerable contributions they can make when successfully integrated into society. She worried that the elderly today are too much cut off from others, and that this marginalization is harmful to everyone.

Now, I wanted to talk about Erik Erikson today because he addresses all ages, including adults of advancing years. And here at the Ethical Society we have this month’s theme as “Bring out your Best.” Well, I think it’s a great theme, because we don’t ever want to lose sight of the fact that we the have the best – those with wisdom and memory – right here amongst us.

It’s important also to realize that, according to Erikson, if any of his 8 life stages are not completed successfully during its specified age range, it can be completed successfully at a later time. It just takes a supportive community – which we have right here – and the inspiration that personal growth is always possible. I think this gives hope to us all.

Thank you.

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.

Art Show – Women in Focus

July 6, 2019

Women in Focus St. Louis presents “Beauty All Around” at the Ethical Society gallery, with the opening July 21 from 12:30 – 2:30 p.m. The show remains on display and available for viewing through Friday, August 30.

As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Confucius said “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it”. Photographers can experience a state of meditation as they move through the world behind the lens of their cameras. And, photographers can share a vision of the world with the viewer by capturing a single, solitary moment in time. We always hope that vision will touch your heart and open your eyes to a different way of seeing and perceiving. Ultimately, art can make the world itself a more beautiful place. We hope you enjoy the beauty we share with you in this show.

Women in Focus is a St. Louis branch of similar organizations in Atlanta, Chicago and Las Vegas. As our founder traveled and lived in these different cities, she gathered groups of women together to share their passion for photography. We claim as our mission joining together to support and promote photography, as well as share in the camaraderie that comes from joining together as women to share our artistic visions.

There will be a reception for the photography group Women in Focus, July 21 from 12:30-2:30 p.m. in the Foyer.  The Ethical Society will exhibit some of the group’s work from July 21 through August 30.

Diversity, While Challenging, Is Worthwhile

July 5, 2019
Leader Kate Lovelady gives a Platform on “The Challenges of Diversity” June 16, 2019.

A Post-Platform Reflection by Adrien Gojko

Kate Lovelady’s Platform address of June 16, dubbed “The Challenges of Diversity,” covered quite a bit of ground.

She went over how “diversity is essential to ethical living.” Explaining in a candid yet kind manner, she discussed how we’ve “moved beyond tolerating diversity” and into “appreciating” diversity and how it makes communities more interesting, more beautiful, and healthier.

She briefly brought up cultural relativism and the differing ideas surrounding it. In all honesty, I had to look up that term. My understanding is that cultural relativism is the “cure” to ethnocentrism.

Ethnocentrism, a term I’ve learned from taking University-level anthropology classes, is when you judge other cultures based only on your own experience. Essentially, it’s assuming your experience is the “default” and all others are “incorrect.”

Cultural relativism is all about trying your best to emphasize with people of other cultures by using your imagination muscles to envision things through their lenses. It means looking into other people’s worlds through the context of their experiences.

Then, she brought up the problem of civil, human, and minority rights briefly, before she announced that she wanted to focus on the issue of diversity within the Ethical Society itself.

I, personally, have many feelings about diversity within ethical culture (or, frankly, the lack thereof), so this statement certainly piqued my interest. Kate said how ethical societies should reflect the world around us.

I definitely don’t always feel like ours does. I don’t feel I get much variety of people from our Society – especially people like me (queer, disabled). I want to see that change and to help that process.

Kate made it a point to bring up our Society’s first annual report card on diversity and inclusion was given by the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the Ethical Society reported how “we still have a lot of work to do.”

I hate to say that I definitely agree. I’m hoping to help bring a change in our Society and in diversifying our Platform and Forum speakers and membership.

She said that we need to learn to recognize the form(s) of privilege that we have, and how ours and others’ lack thereof effects our dynamics with each other.

Kate brought up that she strongly advised looking up information about a culture before grilling someone of that culture about their opinions. If this had been at a rowdy church setting, I might have gotten up out of my seat right there and shouted, “AMEN, AMEN!!”

She went over how important and wonderful diversity is for us, and for others. How we need each other, but also to respect the dignity of others too.

A great point brought up was how a lot of the older white people tend to ask where the younger folx and diversity are – and why they aren’t bringing in their own friends of younger ages and diverse races, sexualities, genders, etc.

As much as I love the community here at the Ethical Society of St. Louis, I will be the first to admit I’ve felt hurt sometimes by some members here. I’m fully aware that the actions of a few don’t reflect the whole, but I think saying this could be a good learning opportunity for many.

I use they/them pronouns and identify as gender-fluid. I make it a point to correct most of y’all when you use the incorrect pronouns. Most of the time, it’s okay and we move on. However, some of you have approached me and turned it into an intellectual debate or asked me about the grammar.

I’m not an English major nor an on-call queer rights activist. It isn’t my job to educate every member of the Ethical Society about how gender and language are social constructs. I wouldn’t mind, except it keeps repeating and becomes tiring.

I’m not a case study. I’m a human being and want to be treated as such. The reason we’re all here is to cultivate a community. Please, I don’t want to feel like an outsider anymore. I want to be treated as human too – by EVERYONE in our community.

I’m sure there are other minorities that come into our Society and feel the same way. I want to watch our Society flourish with fresh ideas, being mentored by those of you that have been around for awhile.

My call of action to you is to ask yourself this one question before talking to someone – a guest or member – that is different from you: ‘Will what I’m about to say make this person feel subhuman?’

When in doubt, take Kate’s suggestion from the Platform and try Google.

Adrein Gojko is a social media intern for the Ethical Society of St. Louis.

NOTE: The ideas and opinions in this post do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.

Humanist Words at PrideFest Interfaith Service

July 2, 2019
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These words were offered by our Outreach Director, James Croft, to close the Interfaith Service at PrideFest St. Louis 2019. Photo by Philip Dietch.

We Humanists don’t have scriptures, but we have poems. This poem, A Call to the Living, was written by Algernon Black, who was once leader of the Ethical Society in New York.

This is a call to the living,
To those who refuse to make peace with evil,
With the suffering and the waste of the world.

This is a call to the human,
Not the perfect,
To those who know their own prejudices,
Who have no intention
Of becoming prisoners of their own limitations.

This is a call to those who remember the dreams of their youth,
Who know what it means to share food and shelter,
The care of children and those who are troubled,
To reach beyond barriers of the past
Bringing people to communion.

This is a call
To the never ending spirit
Of the common person,
Our essential decency
Our integrity beyond all education and wealth,
Our unending capacity to suffer and endure,
To face death and destruction
And to rise again
And build from the ruins of life.

This is the greatest call of all
The call to a faith in people.

I don’t know about you, but my faith in people has been shaken recently. Seeing the vicious divisions within our own movement which have surfaced over the past few weeks, it certainly feels to me like we are becoming prisoners of our own limitations. This week, for the first time since I came out almost ten years ago, I considered skipping Pride. I feel disappointed in my own community, and angry, and it doesn’t make me feel very proud.

Yet I look out across this crows – and I see children dancing to the music up front, people clamoring to hear our words from outside the barriers, members of every part of our LGBTQIA+ community – I am reminded: I am still alive. I am still morally and spiritually alive, and I refuse to make peace with evil. And I think that is true of many of us here today. Is that you? Do you refuse to make peace with evil? I thought so.

We’re here at PrideFest – at this service so very early in the morning on a Pride weekend, on the 50th anniversary of Stonewall – because we understand that Pride is more than a party. Pride is more than a celebration. Pride is the assertion of our dignity in the face of a challenging world, a declaration that despite our suffering despite the prejudice, despite what the world has done to us we are still alive.

That means we have to keep on living. We must keep living into the challenges we face as a community. And I think our challenge today is to do precisely what Algernon Black’s poem calls us to do: we must remember the dreams of our movement’s youth. Because whatever the people were fighting for at Stonewall I guarantee it wasn’t the police marching in the Pride Parade and our trans community retiring from it. It wasn’t corporations who give money to PrideFest one day, and then to homophobic politicians the next. It wasn’t our community at each other’s throats because we are not listening to the most marginalized among us.

That’s not why Marsha P. Johnson, on the second day of the Stonewall riots, climb up a lamppost and dropped a handbag – filled with a brick! – onto a cop car’s windshield. That’s not why homeless street kids – kids who had nothing – risked everything in a running battle with police through the streets of New York, fighting to protect the only place that felt like home. That’s not why Harvey Milk was shot, in an office in San Francisco, for proclaiming a message of hope.

We must remember the dreams of our youth.

So my call to the LGBTQIA+ community of St. Louis is to rise again. To rise from the death and destruction of our time – young people becoming less accepting of LGBTQIA+ folks than previous generations; a surge in hate crimes across the nation; a political establishment taking away rights we fought so hard to win – and build from these ruins something new. That would be a Pride we could all be proud of.

Why the Ethical Society Won’t be Marching Downtown This Year

June 26, 2019
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The core value of the Ethical Society of St. Louis, as a Humanist congregation, is the worth and dignity of every person. Our community exists to help create a world in which the inherent dignity of everyone is recognized and respected. This is why the Ethical Society has supported the equal dignity of LGBTQIA+ people for decades: long before other congregations were “open and affirming,” the Ethical Movement was loudly proclaiming that lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and all other queer people should be treated with respect and afforded equal civil rights. This is why our movement has trained and hired openly queer clergy leaders and staff for decades: indeed, of the current staff of the Ethical Society of St. Louis, half are members of the LGBTQIA+ community including our two Leaders! This is why Kate Lovelady, our senior clergy person, for many years refused to perform marriage ceremonies while the law discriminated against same sex couples. This is why we have marched in the Pride Parade for many years, proudly carrying our banner and supporting our LGBTQIA+ members.

And this is why it was so difficult when we decided not to march in the Pride Parade this year, following the decision to readmit armed and uniformed police officers after they had agreed to march out of uniform instead. Since I have received many questions from our members and from the broader community about this decision, I’d like to take a moment to share some of the context, to explain why we came to the decision we made.

Over the past few years there has been increasing tension between the LGBTQIA+ community (particularly transgender people and queer people of color) in St. Louis and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. Numerous incidents have led to a total breakdown of trust, including but not limited to:

Many local LGBTQIA+ activists feel that these incidents are demonstrative of profound problems within the STLMPD – problems which threaten the liberty and safety not only of LGBTQIA+ people, but of all residents in the city. These concerns are shared by groups such as the ACLU, which sued the city police in 2017 over its unconstitutional behavior. Jeffrey Mittman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Missouri wrote in 2018:

“Officers used vague and perplexing ordinances to demand arbitrarily that free speech activity end when they decided. They used pepper spray and tear gas to punish people they disagreed with. And they destroyed phones and cameras and deleted files to avoid being caught engaging in such nefarious acts…A large group of St. Louis police officers wielding batons provocatively chanted, “Whose streets? Our streets!” the night of the infamous kettling incident. Earlier, they made unlawful arrests and used illegal force against protesters.”

This is not, then, a problem of a “few bad apples” poisoning the reputation of an otherwise fine police force. Rather, it is indicative of a deeply broken culture of policing, in which the police see portions of the community – including members of the LGBTQIA+ community – as an enemy to be violently subdued rather than citizens to be served. This is entirely incompatible with the core values of the Ethical Society. The STLMPD is failing in its duty to recognize and respect the equal dignity of the citizens who employ them, meting out “justice” in a highly politicized manner based on their own judgment regarding who is worthy of protection and who is not. I believe it is our ethical duty, as those who seek to stand for the dignity of all people, to speak out when one of our most important and powerful social institutions so spectacularly loses its way.

This, I imagine, is part of the reason why a number of our LGBTQIA+ members expressed deep concern when the police reneged on their agreement not to march in uniform in this year’s pride parade. To be clear: the Chief of Police, the Mayor, and the Pride Board had come to an agreementthat, in recognition of the 50th anniversary of Stonewall (an uprising against police brutality which Pride Parades commemorate), police would march in the parade without uniform and without firearms. This agreement coincided with the decision by the Pride Board to make the Metro Trans Umbrella Group (a group representing the trans and gender non-conforming residents of the St. Louis Metro area) the Grand Marshal of the Parade. MTUG agreed to march on the condition that police would not be in uniform, due to the continued harassment faced by trans people at the hands of the police, and the many problems listed above. Less than two weeks before the Parade, the police, Mayor, and Pride Board broke that agreement, betraying the trans community’s trust and leaving MTUG in the lurch. This led to a number of Ethical Society members requesting that we withdraw from participation in PrideFest entirely: they feel betrayed, angry, and unsafe, and they no longer wished us to be present.

However, I was aware that likely not every LGBTQIA+ member of the Ethical Society likely shared those concerns, so instead of making a decision based only on the feelings of those who had contacted me, I decided to ask our LGBTQIA+ members to discuss our options in an open forum where they could air their views. We had that meeting on Sunday, and on the basis of this meeting, the Ethical Society decided that we will 1) not pull out of PrideFest entirely, but rather maintain an institutional presence at PrideFest, keeping our table and participating in the interfaith service; 2) invite our members to march, instead of in the parade downtown, in a separate march organized by the trans members of our community on Friday evening; and 3) encourage our members to march with other organizations in the Pride Parade if they wish.

The Ethical Society of course believes that police officers should be treated with dignity and respect as human beings. Everybody, of every profession and regardless of their actions, should be treated in accordance with their inherent worth and dignity. Police officers choose to do work which is difficult and often dangerous – I am particularly conscious of this in a week in which a North County officer was fatally shot in the line of duty. But asking police to march in a Pride Parade without their uniforms or weapons – essentially asking them to conform to a dress code – is not demeaning or a threat to their dignity. Police were still welcome to march as individuals, and were never (as was erroneously reported) banned from the parade. Community groups like Pride must be allowed to set the parameters for participation in their own events – otherwise communities lose control of the very events which are meant to celebrate them. Furthermore, the numerous deep-seated problems with the STLMPD – problems which the force has been incredibly slow to address, while resisting meaningful oversight – do not augur well for any future changes.

I feel for LGBTQIA+ police officers who may have been put in a challenging and unpleasant position. Sometimes, when we are called to make difficult moral judgments, it is not always easy to see how the dignity of all people involved can be respected – and I think this is one of those cases. But it is clear to me that the Ethical Society’s responsibility is to 1) respect the wishes of our LGBTQIA+ members and 2) to follow the lead of the people most affected by this issue. Today, the Metro Trans Umbrella Group announced that they have resigned as Grand Marshal for the parade, and instead will march only on Friday evening. The Ethical Society will be marching with them.

Opening Words from Sun. June 23 by Krystal White

June 23, 2019

Good morning! My name is Krystal White, my pronouns are she/her, and I define myself as a READER! I read more than 100 books a year – I’ve read more than 80 so far in 2019 – and this should give perspective when I share that Trevor Noah’s autobiography, Born A Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, was the best book I have read in the last three years. Will you raise your hand if you’ve read Born a Crime before? Each of these folks will tell you – the book is thought-provoking, emotionally touching, and hilarious! The End Racism Team encourages everyone to pick it up and give it a try this summer so that we all can discuss it together in August and September.


Art Show – Diana A. Bose

June 3, 2019

Diana A. Bose, St. Louis native, resident of University City,  member of St. Louis Artists Guild, discovered painting quite by accident.  Diana began with a drawing class at Forest Park Community College and now finds painting a way of life.