Richard Koral challenged the congregants at the Ethical Humanist Society in Garden City to ponder on one question: what is the good life? He drew up scenes of wealthy men and women eating lobster on tropical islands, adventurers exploring ancient ruins and making groundbreaking discoveries or leaders who lived an admirable life full of struggle.
What Koral’s speech boiled down to, however, is that an enriching life is one full of relationships and steeped in community. Such a community could be found at the humanist church where Koral, 68, of East Meadow, was installed as a leader on Jan. 28.
“I think he opened the door for a lot of people to consider [the good life] for themselves, said Arthur Dobrin of Koral’s speech. Dobrin has been a leader at the Ethical Humanist Society for 33 years and said that he looks forward to seeing what Koral will offer the congregation.
The Ethical Humanist or Ethical Culture movement was founded by German-American philosopher Felix Adler in 1876. The religion strips the dogmatic principles of theological creeds to, instead, focus on virtue, community and philanthropy.
“We can’t answer some questions,” Koral said. “We can’t answer who is the creator of the universe. But we still have to cultivate our own approach to living. And here, ethics is the religion.”
Many followers, Koral said, join the movement out of a desire to continue religious teachings without ritualistic practice. “We still have pot luck dinners, offer people a place to get married and have weekday schooling for kids to learn about strength and morality,” he said.
Koral was raised Jewish and received a Doctor of Ministry from Hebrew Union College after earning his Juris Doctor at New York Law School. He found the Ethical Culture movement when he met his wife Regine, who was raised Catholic.
When they two married, they were uncertain what role religion would continue to play in their lives and Koral’s mother suggested that they have an ethical humanist ordain their wedding, which they did.
Koral continued practicing law as his day job, while taking courses with the national school for humanist studies called the Humanist Institute. From there, he joined the Ethical Culture Society of Westchester and has held positions in the American Ethical Union, the national federal of Ethical Societies. In addition to being installed at a leader at the Ethical Humanist Society, Richard also serves part-time as a Leader at the New York Society for Ethical Culture.