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Reflection 22 (p16 - cont)
Why Do Right? A Secularist's Answer

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If it be asked, Why is Secularism regarded by its adherents as being superior to theological and other speculative theories of the day? the answer is, (1) Because Secularists believe its moral basis to be more definite and practical than other existing ethical codes; and (2) because Secular teachings appear to them to be more reasonable and of greater advantage to general society than the various theologies of the world, and that of orthodox Christianity in particular. That Secular teachings are superior to those of orthodox Christianity the following brief contrast will show. Christian conduct is controlled by the ancient, and supposed infallible, rules of the Bible; Secular action is regulated by modern requirements and the scientific and philosophical discoveries of the practical age in which we live. Christianity enjoins as an essential duty of life to prepare to die; Secularism says, learn how to live truthfully, honestly, and usefully, and you need not concern yourself with the "how" to die. Christianity proclaims that the world's redemption can be achieved only through the teachings of one person; Secularism avows that such teachings are too impracticable and limited in their influence for the attainment of the object claimed, and that improvement, general and individual, is the result of the brain power and physical exertions of the brave toilers of every country and every age who have labored for human advancement. Christianity threatens punishment in another world for the rejection of speculative views in this; Secularism teaches that no penalty should follow the holding of sincere opinions, as uniformity of belief is impossible. According to Christianity, as taught in the churches and chapels, the approval of God and the rewards of heaven are to be secured only through faith in Jesus of Nazareth; whereas the philosophy of Secularism enunciates that no merit should be attached to such faith, but that fidelity to principle and good service to man should win the right to participate in any advantages either in this or any other world.

The ethical science of the nineteenth century derives little or no assistance from orthodox Christianity. Notwithstanding the fact that Broad Churchism or Latitudinarianism has begun to make some concessions to reason and scientific progress, and however strongly apparent may be the desire for compromise on the part of the theologians, there are still many of the most distinctive doctrines of orthodoxy which are most decidedly opposed to the standard of modern ethics and influence. Such, for example, is the doctrine of vicarious atonement, where paternal affection is ignored, and where the innocent is made to suffer for the guilty; that right faith is superior to right conduct apart from such belief; and, most especially, that unjust and equity-defying dogma of eternal condemnation. It is really beyond the scope of such a system as the orthodox one to promote the moral development of humanity. This can only be effectually done by the action of those social, political, and intellectual forces to which we are indebted, as it were, for the building up of Man from the very first institution of society. These have been, are, and ever must be, the moral edifiers of the human race. Without them true progress is impossible, since it is by them that we are what we are. It is: (1) the social activities that have led to the formation, maintenance, and improvement of human society; (2) the political activities that have led to the formation, maintenance, and improvement of the general government, to the establishment of States or nations, and to the recognition of the mutual rights and duties of such States; and (3) the intellectual activities that have led to the interchange of human thoughts, to the formation of literature, to the pursuits of science and art, to the banishment of ignorance and the decay of superstition, to the diffusion of knowledge, and, finally, to all mental progress.

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