With the progression of life, we have come to learn that a modern and enlightened morality, grounded on rational and empirical considerations, is ultimately far more enduring and meaningful, than one essentially grounded upon superstition or artificial fiat. What is needed is a consistent rational understanding and application of publically acknowledged empirical values, which reflect concern for the well-being of humanity in all aspects of life. It seeks the promotion of health, peace, trade and justice, not subject to the fractious, inconsistent and fear inspired authority of organized religion, nor to the latter’s impotent and atavistic rewards-punishment moral underpinnings. The secular pursuit of normative values additionally avoids the self-interested basis of political and xenophobic impulses.
In past writings we have offered the following fictional anecdote to illustrate and express our view on the ineffectiveness and minimal impact of the popular system of rewards and punishments (secular and religious) as compared with a rational and enduring concept of teaching virtue, as an end product of a constructed and stable moral self-image.
[Anecdote] In a moment of wanton thought, X wrongfully takes Y’s wallet which was left on a nearby table. That evening X experiences severe pangs of conscience and incessant feelings of remorse. Consequently, the following morning he returns the wallet to Y, accompanied by sincere apologies and pitiful expressions of remorse. Y, a kind and empathic person, then informs X that he completely forgives him and generously suggests that they mutually forget what happened. X is relieved, but for only a moment. His next painful realization was that, despite the sincere forgiveness by Y, he is not effectively relieved from guilt; he has yet to suffer with the ego- disturbing issue, “What kind of a person am I, to have taken Y’s wallet in the first place?”
The above fictional account is offered in simple illustration of our consistent declaration, that morality, like other notable judgments in man is internal; here, obviously having impact on X’s self-image and cherished personal identification. A sincere and full apology was given by Y as well as a guarantee of secrecy. The painful dilemma, spontaneously arising in X is an illustration that essentially, morality and moral choices are chosen by the inner person, either ratifying a previously held personal view of himself or inconsistent with it. An individual who performs a deed in private, eternally has himself as a judgmental witness. A good deed, by analogy, is akin to making a deposit in one’s personal savings account of self-image, an immoral one effects a withdrawal.
Using a secular, empirical approach to teaching and understanding acceptable societal ethics and morality, with reference to the maintenance of inner respect for one’s chosen moral persona, is lifelong and humanistically praiseworthy. The attempt to teach good action by the fear of punishment or conceptions of after-life retribution, is not based upon characterological or moral choice, but by fear of being caught by someone or observed by some heavenly prosecuting attorney.
An individual has the standing to consider himself moral and righteous, whose action are grounded upon self-respecting choices instructed by comparison with his previously established standards of rectitude, as bearing on his desired personal identity and self-image. This is the only standard of evaluation that is rational and utilitarian.
We can apply this useful secular and rational approach to an entire universe of subjects, wherever there appears to be an ethical dilemma relative to rectitude or propriety. Society should recognize that solutions to questions of right and wrong, from every point of view, are rationally, objectively and wisely assignable to reason and actual empirical experience. Values including the care of elderly adults and offspring, social reasoning, birth control and woman’s right to choose abortion, keeping the peace, defense, trade, distribution of national resources, sanctity of elections, equality of rights, and issues of civil and criminal justice can best be determined by the pursuit of objectively fair standards of secular and empirically rational justice. The exercise of secular and rational standards of morality is the exercise of a utilitarian system which is equitable for everyone; a matter of exigent importance to our multi-ethnic and multi-racial Nation.