by Rev. Leland Stewart

“Ethics consist in my experiencing the compulsion to show all will-to-live the same reverence as I do to my own life.”    – Albert Schweitzer, Science and Spirituality, page 143

The theme of our message is the Golden Rule, which in some form is present in all religions.  It is the heart of ethics, which has to do with the relation of one human being to another and to all humanity and all life.  The same ethics apply in government as in our individual lives, and a responsible society needs to have a powerful ethical basis in order to fulfill its mission.

This applies to how a society handles its finances as well as in every other aspect.  Not every person and organization in our society should have the same amount of money available to spend, but a society in which the 1% has as much money as the other 99% is clearly out of bounds for a responsible society.  There need to be laws that prevent this unbalance, but an important part of changing the balance should be based on what is ethical.  When 44,000 people in Los Angeles County alone are homeless, while others live in exorbitant luxury is clearly out of balance and in need of the increase of ethical principles and governmental support.

Dr. Albert Schweitzer, who is quoted at the beginning of this message, says in his Philosophy of Civilization, that civilization is essentially ethical in character.  The transitional nature of our present condition, moving from the end of western civilization to the birth of global civilization, is that our sense of the need for ethics has weakened, and with it the quality of civilization itself.  Our awareness of human values needs to be expanded now to include all races, cultures, and religions.  Making the transition from the predominance of western civilization over others to where a global standard is necessary takes time and patience, but we need to understand where we are going and why we now need a global ethic.

The Parliament of World Religions in 1993 introduced “A Global Ethic”, which since that time has been kept alive and further developed.  It is becoming the task of religions cooperating with each other to make clear what the global ethic will look like, and eventually to put forth a code of living that gives guidance to the emerging global civilization.  The second part of Schweitzer’s book has as its title, “Civilization and Ethics”.  In his later life, Schweitzer had a spiritual experience while on the Ogowe River in Africa, in which we became aware that the central teaching of the new ethic is “Reverence for Life”.  The Golden Rule is very similar in its focus to this teaching.

It is time that the world as a whole, and in particular the United States of America, chooses to live by a personal, social, and global ethic that is based on respect for all life.  Our survival depends upon it.

May peace prevail on earth!!!



Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people.  A nation does not have to be cruel in order to be tough.

– Franklin Roosevelt, qtd. in Science and Spirituality, page 160

The violent events that took place in Paris in the last few days bring up two principles that seem to be in conflict with each other.  One is freedom of speech, and the other is the need to avoid violence.  A magazine in Paris prided itself on its satirizing of important matters: in this case the person of Islam’s prophet Mohammed.  Instead of treating him as the revered figure he is for millions of Muslims, he was belittled and made light of.

The contrast was that religions are supposed to be nonviolent and respectful of different opinions.  It is well known that Muslims are very sensitive about how their religious leader is treated.  The magazine did not take that into account in its pages.  While one can say that the principle of free speech would allow different opinions to be aired, it is not respectful to downgrade any individual, and especially the head of a religion who is held in high esteem by millions of people.

These two contrasting principles came into conflict in Paris because of the way in which the magazine pushed the limits of free speech.  The result was a violent confrontation that resulted in the death of a number of people and the unsettling of a major city and its surrounding communities.

One of the most needed attitudes in order to have a world at peace is respect.  The world’s religions generally teach respect as one of their most important values.  In the present period of transition, this sacred value and others have found themselves ignored, with other lesser values take their place.  The situation in Paris is a good illustration as to what can happen when the basic human values, which are supposed to be taught and followed by religions, are not kept in the consciousness of the world’s peoples.

Perhaps the simplest way of teaching this principle so that it is remembered and applied is The Golden Rule, which now is most quoted as “Treat others as you would have them treat you”.  UDC’s Interfaith Celebration in the Los Angeles area has been focusing for the last year on developing a Global Code of Living.  Now that we have entered 2015, which is UDC’s 50thanniversary, we are moving into applying the teachings of a Global Code of Living.  We invite those who are concerned about having such a code of living as guidelines for our present and future ways to live are invited to join us in this effort.

Spirit is One; paths are many!

~Rev. Leland Stewart


Peace in the sense of the absence of war, is of little value to someone who is dying of hunger or cold. …Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free.

         —The Dalai Lama, Science and Spirituality, page 177


During the Culture of Peace Series, which began in January 2013 and ended in April 2014, the series started with Inner Peace and ended with Social Justice and Human Rights.  This design was based on the Peace Wheel, which contains twelve sectors and four quadrants.  Peace is at the center of the Wheel, which means that it necessarily contains an inner and an outer dimension.

Until recently, peace has tended to be only outer, and oftentimes it becomes caught in social issues where people hold polarizing points of view that then lead to hostility and sometimes violent clashes.  Many examples could be given today where such opposite perspectives are leading toward misunderstanding and hostility.  The idea of diplomatic solutions to these hostile positions is found to be difficult to achieve.

The Peace Wheel was designed with the idea of helping people to have a more holisitic understanding of life, which means that they are trained to meditate and thus to be more centered in their life outlook.  Instead of reacting to first opinions and perspectives, they would evaluate both sides of an issue and seek to resolve any disputes through dialog and nonviolent decision-making.

The theme of the International Day of Peace this year is: People Have the Right to Peace.  In particular, children have the right to grow up in a safe and respectful home, where they can be encouraged to respect others and to go on to a higher education, which is not likely to happen if they are forced to go out and earn money at an early age to help support their families.

The religions of the world generally have a moral and a spiritual aspect.  While not all religions are based on a personal God, they usually proclaim a Universal Spirit, an Ultimate Reality, or a Life Force.  A simplified form of a universal ethic is the Golden Rule proclaimed in some form by virtually all religions, which is Treat others as you would have others treat you.

One of the projects of UDC through its World Interfaith Network is that of developing A Global Code of Living.  A global ethic would focus largely on the ethical side of the code, where a code of living would recognize both the moral and spiritual dimensions of conduct.  The Golden Rule is a good place to start, but there is much more to say.  If you are interested in being part of this project, please contact UDC.


Spirit is One; paths are many!!!