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Reflection 22 (p6 - cont)
Why Do Right? A Secularist's Answer

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The Secular method of establishing a true conception of right is to continually augment our experiences with the acquirement of additional knowledge. Although instances may be quoted of greater fidelity being found in some of the lower animals than is perceptible in many men, the power of foreseeing events in the case of the most intelligent of "the brute creation" is not very strongly marked. The Secular idea of right is that the best judgment possible should be exercised upon all occasions for the purpose of discovering what is most calculated to promote individual and general happiness. Moralists dilate upon the varying rules of conduct that obtain in different nations and under different governments. Now, while it is quite true that various conflicting ideas of right and wrong exist in different countries, that fact does not exempt people from performing the duty of considering, in every case, what is the right course to adopt to secure the welfare of the nation in which they live. The principle of improvement applies to all conditions and to all races of men. Take the important feature of family life; on this point opinions are entertained of the most opposite character. In one country men believe in one god and in having many wives, while in another country men believe in three gods and having only one wife. And yet both beliefs are deemed right. The Secular idea is that we should study what is right for us to do under the conditions in which we live. In this country there is no doubt that the development of the affections, and of a due regard to the rights and enjoyment of others, points to the conclusion that the union of one man with one woman is the best solution of the marriage problem. True, the Bible sanctions polygamy, but with that we are not now concerned; monogamy is accepted as the best matrimonial arrangement for us under present conditions.

It is supposed by some persons that it is too late to discover anything new in morality. This, however, is a mistake, because the acquirements of modern life impose upon us duties that were unknown to the ancients, and which require, upon our part, an intelligent apprehension to enable us to perform them with credit to ourselves and for the benefit of others. Science and learning are valuable in proportion as they tend to make better men and women, and inspire within them a desire to promote general happiness. The endeavor to advance human felicity is the best evidence of the existence of a living, active morality, and of a proper sense of right. Let us, then,

Rest not! life is passing by,
Do and dare before you die.
Something mighty and sublime
Leave behind to conquer time.
Glorious 'tis to live for aye
When these forms have passed away.

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