Pursuit of Happiness

The children of this world are sometimes accounted wiser than the children of light. It was a secular and not an ecclesiastical body which placed before the world the profound truth that man has the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness, as well as to life and liberty. Indeed, the right to life and liberty necessarily leads not only to the pursuit of happiness but to the overtaking and possessing of happiness. The scholasticism of the cross alone presents no prospect of the crown. The old theologies offered perpetual crucifixion as a reward for right thinking, and explained the resurrection and ascension as the isolated exceptional experience of one man. They offered the lives of martyrs as the normal outcome of spiritual progress. They provided no choice to humanity between the way of suffering and that of Science. They represented sin, sickness, and death as the expression of divine law, of unescapable necessity.

Such teaching could only be maintained by fear. Human reasoning might well say, If religion has nothing better to offer than suffering, it pays no better wages than sin, for of the latter it is said, "The wages of sin is death." Therefore systems of religion which preach pain as the reward for right doing can never win adherents through divine attraction, but are forced to rely upon an appeal to fear or to the material senses, both appeals being fundamentally the same, as Mrs. Eddy has pointed out when she says in "Miscellaneous Writings" (p. 93): "Fear is a belief of sensation in matter: this belief is neither maintained by Science nor supported by facts, and exists only as fable." We have Scriptural authority for recognizing that love casteth out fear, and therefore that love alone vanquishes the fear which as physical sensation constitutes the hold that false religion maintains upon the masses of men.

Not otherwise can we explain the persistence with which humanity submits to doctrines and dogmas that exclude the lawful pursuit of happiness and the just expectation of the kingdom of heaven on earth. The prospect of constant suffering as the reward for religious progress can never allure the sinner into the paths of virtue unless the whip of ecclesiastical tyranny is cracked over his head. The sinner has before him the certainty of suffering as long as he remains a sinner. He is very apt to ask himself whether the promise of suffering as a saint would be worth the cost of reformation from sin.

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Among the Churches
November 2, 1918

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