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Reflections on Ethics 22 (p 2 - cont)
Why Do Right? A Secularist's Answer

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Secularism is opposed to the orthodox idea that we should do right through fear of hell. This is the lowest and most selfish reason for doing good that can be given. According to the Secular idea, the desire to do right should not be prompted by merely personal considerations, but with the object of enhancing the best interests of others, as well as our own. Besides, the fear of hell has proved inoperative, either as an incentive to right action, or as a deterrent to wrong doing. Even those who profess to be influenced by this motive have a greater dread of a policeman than of a devil, and a more vivid conception of a jail than of a hell. Penalties remote from life do not, by any means, exercise the same powerful influence upon human conduct as do those of the present time. The Secular idea of right and wrong is, that neither is the mere accident of the time, and that these terms do not represent a condition which is the result of "chance"; on the contrary, they denote actions which are the outcome of a law based upon the fitness of things. The primary truths in morals are as axiomatic as those in mathematics. Moreover, there is, in the mind of every properly constituted person, an appreciation of right and a detestation of wrong. We urge that vice should be shunned because it is wrong to individuals, and also to society, to indulge in it; and that virtue should be practiced because it is the duty of all to assist, both by precept and example, to elevate the human family. A writer in the London Echo of August 22 last answers the question why we should do good apart from theological considerations in the following peculiar language: Because "certain actions are followed by more happiness to the actor than other actions, and because those actions which give him the most happiness are such as are helpful to others. The most highly- developed men have discovered this to be true, and the 'average' man will ultimately discover it and act on it. Just in proportion as we become helpful to others we find our own happiness increasing. And as all our actions inevitably spring from the desire of our own happiness, it follows that we must go on becoming more helpful to each other as we develop. Even those foolish persons who now injure others know this to a certain extent. Ask a burglar which gives him the more happiness, to steal or to spend the money he steals with the woman he lives with? He will tell you that his highest happiness is in giving pleasure to his Kate. Ask Andrew Carnegie which gives him the more pleasure, to cut his workmen's wages down or to spend the money in building a public library? He will tell you he finds more pleasure in spending the money for others than in wrenching it from his workmen."

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