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The Program (What We Choose: Ethics for Unitarian Universalists)

A people and their religion must be judged by social standards based on social ethics. No other standard would have any meaning if religion is held to be a necessary good for the well-being of the people. — B.R. Ambedkar (1891-1956), Indian jurist, philosopher, writer, orator, and civil rights activist who fought against the Hindu caste system

Unitarian Universalism is grounded in the understanding that our actions speak louder than our words or beliefs. Faithful living for us includes discerning the course of action that best reflects our beliefs and values and then acting or choosing accordingly. As inheritors of a faith tradition that honors a wide variety of sources of religious understanding and authority, our big questions are: How do we discern the moral course of action in a particular circumstance? To what source(s) of authority do we turn for help—personal experience, community wisdom, conscience, religious texts, the words and deeds of prophetic people, reason, science, God? If we are intentional in developing a personal ethical framework to live by, then the behavioral choices we make and the actions we do or do not take can reflect our most deeply held values.

Development, clarification, refinement, and expansion of our ethical thinking often occur in the midst of crisis or in response to an event or relationship that calls our world view into question. However, this program offers an intentional process of engagement with others in examining ethical concepts, dilemmas, and questions to help participants clarify and expand their ethical understanding independent of a personal crisis. Participants examine how they have arrived at ethical positions that they hold dear. They explore new perspectives, identify areas for further questions and exploration, and perhaps more fully embrace ethical positions they reach through careful discernment. This program will deepen and expand participants' knowledge and skills for a process of ethical reflection that is central to living our Unitarian Universalist faith.

This program uses the words ethics and morality. While often used interchangeably, the two words point to different ways of describing the choices we make. Morality has to do with adherence to behavioral codes that come from religion or philosophy. Ethics describes the obligations we have to one another and to the natural world and the behaviors dictated by those obligations. Morality refers to rules of right conduct while ethics refers to a system of moral principles.

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Last updated on Thursday, January 19, 2012.

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