Upton Sinclair: The Profits of Religion

Book Seven - The Church of the Social Revolution

The New Morality

Life is a process of expansion, of the unfoldment of new powers; driven by that inner impulse which the philosophers of Pragmatism call the 'elan vital.' Whenever this impulse has its way, there is an emotion of joy; whenever it is balked, there is one of distress. So pleasure and pain are the guides of life, and the final goal is a condition of free and constantly accelerating growth, in which joy is enduring.

That man will ever reach such a state is more than we can say. It is a perfectly conceivable thing that tomorrow a comet may fall upon the earth and wipe out all man's labors. But on the other hand, it is a conceivable thing that man may some day learn to control the movements of comets, and even of starry systems. It seems certain that if he is given time, he will make himself master of the forces of his immediate environment -

The untamed giants of nature shall bow down -
The tides, the tempest and the lightning cease
From mockery and destruction, and he turned
Unto the making of the soul of man.

It is a conceivable thing that man may learn to create his food from the elements without the slow processes of agriculture; it is conceivable that he may master the bacteria which at present prey upon his body, and so put an end to death. It is certain that he will ascertain the laws of heredity, and create human qualities as he has created the spurs of the fighting-cocks and the legs of the greyhound. He will find out what genius is, and the laws of its being, and the tests whereby it may be recognized. In the new science of psycho-analysis he has already begun the work of bringing an infinity of subconsciousness into the light of day; it may be that in the evidence of telepathy which the psychic researchers are accumulating, he is beginning to grope his way into a universal consciousness, which may come to include the joys and griefs of the inhabitants of Mars, and of the dark stars which the spectroscope and the telescope are disclosing.

All these are fascinating possibilities. What stands in the way of their realization? Ignorance and superstition, fear and submission, the old habits of repine and hatred which man has brought with him from his animal past. These make him a slave, a victim of himself and of others; to root them out of the garden of the soul is the task of the modern thinker.

The new morality is thus a morality of freedom. It teaches that man is the master, or shall become so; that there is no law, save the law of his own being, no cheek upon his will save that which he himself imposes.

The new morality is a morality of joy. It teaches that true pleasure is the end of being, and the test of all righteousness.

The new morality is a morality of reason. It teaches that there is no authority above reason; no possibility of such authority, because if such were to appear, reason would have to judge it, and accept or reject it.

The new morality is a morality of development. It teaches that there can no more be an immutable law of conduct, than there can be an immutable position for the steering-wheel of an airplane. The business of an airplane is to keep his machine aloft amid shifting currents of wind. The business of a moralist is to adjust life to a constantly changing environment. An action which was suicide yesterday becomes heroism today, and futility or hypocrisy tomorrow.

The new morality, like all things in a world of strife, is fighting for existence, using its own weapons, which are reason and love. Obviously it can use no others, without self- destruction; yet it has to meet enemies who fight with the old weapons of force and fraud. Whether it will prevail is more than any prophet can say. Perhaps it is too much to ask that it should succeed - this insolent effort of the pygmy man to leap upon the back of his master and fit a bridle into his mouth. Perhaps it is nothing but a dream in the minds of a few, the scientists and poets and inventors, the dreamers of the race. Perhaps the nerve of the pygmy will fail him at the critical moment, and he will fall from the back of his master, and under his master's hoofs.

The hour of the decision is now; for this we can see plainly, and as scientists we can proclaim it - the human race is in a swift current of degeneration, which a new morality alone can check. The struggle is at its height in our time; if it fails, if the fiber of the race continues to deteriorate, the soul of the race to be eaten out by poverty and luxury, by insanity and disease, by prostitution. crime and war - then mankind will slip back into the abyss, the untamed giants of Nature will resume their ancient sway, and the tides, the tempest and the lightning will sweep the earth clean again. I do not believe that this calamity will befall us. I know that in the diseased social body the forces of resistance are gathering - the Socialist movement, in the broad sense - the activities of all who believe in the possibility of reconstructing society upon a bases of reason, justice and love. To such people this book goes out: to the truly religious people, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness here and now, who believe in brotherhood as a reality, and are willing to bear the pain and ridicule and privation for the sake of its ultimate achievement.

From the edge of harsh derision,
From discord and defeat,
From doubt and lame division,
We pluck the fruit and eat;
And the mouth finds it bitter, and the spirit sweet. ...
O sorrowing hearts of slaves,
We heard you beat from far!
We bring the light that saves,
We bring the morning star;
Freedom's good things we bring you, whence all good things are....

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