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Reflection 22 (p5 - cont)
Why Do Right? A Secularist's Answer

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Alas! it is too true that the world, for the most part, has hitherto worshipped force. Poets, from Homer downwards, have thrilled thousands with graphic descriptions of scenes of splendor and of glory. Military renown has been regarded with greater interest than have the triumphs of ethical culture. Such men as Alexander the Great and Napoleon have been exalted to the highest pinnacle of fame, and their deeds have been extolled as if these men had been the real saviors of the people. This is a mistaken adulation and an undue exaltation, which is opposed to the Secular idea of right. What can be more wicked than devastating and depopulating countries in order that one warrior may rival another in what is called military glory. As John Bright said at Birmingham in 1858: "I do not care for military greatness or military renown. I care for the condition of the people among whom I live. ... Crowns, coronets, miters, military display, the pomp of war, wide colonies, and a huge empire are, in my view, all trifles, light as air, and not worth considering, unless with them you can have a fair share of comfort, contentment, and happiness among the great body of the people. Palaces, baronial castles, great halls, stately mansions, do not make a nation. The nation in every country dwells in the cottage." Right cannot advance if brutal force remains in the front.

It may be urged that, if our estimate of men in modern "Christian England" be correct, there is but little chance of establishing any system of right. Happily, although what we have written is unquestionably true in some cases, it is not true of all men. There are other members of the human family who possess dispositions which enable them to act rightly, so that the world will be the better for the part they have played in the great drama of life. These workers for the public good are influenced by higher laws than Bibles or Parliaments can command or enforce. According to the Secular view of right, all persons should be instructed in the duties of citizenship; they should be impressed with the necessity of taking an active interest in all things that pertain to the welfare of life, and to consider political and social rights as well as those that refer merely to ordinary every-day conduct. Of course, as civilized beings, we require some center of appeal, some test by which we can determine what is right and what is wrong. However defective our standard may be considered, and however varied the results of an appeal thereto may prove, we know of no higher authority to do right than because it accords with the general good of society. We regard it as utterly futile to go back to Bible times, when theology was supreme, to find a test by which modern conduct shall be regulated. Doing right in those times meant obeying the will of the despot, and complying with the wish of the priest. At that period right had no relation to the requirements and independence of the individual. In the evolution of human life the chief business of men is to translate might into right, and to substitute mental freedom for intellectual subjection. Under the influence of the Secular idea of right, it will be found easier to speak the truth than to endeavor to deceive. Candid and fair dealing will be looked upon as the sovereign good of human nature; and the acquirement of, and adherence to, this commendable habit will be found less difficult than mastering the technicalities of law, the reasonings of metaphysicians, or the verbose quibbles of theologians.

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