As I was researching my great-grandfather’s religious history, I found again a speech Dr. Blaine presented on the Evolution of Ethics at the Ohio Universalist Convention in Attica in 1899. I had glossed over it before; the 19th century prose is unwieldy. But this time through a more careful reading, I found something that still speaks volumes to us more than a century later.
To set it in context, the 1880s and 1890s were called the Gilded Age in America. So many new inventions transformed all aspects of living and brought with them an unfailing faith in the forward progress of humankind. It is no wonder, then, that Dr. Blaine’s presentation echoed that same belief in the ability of the human race to continue evolving.
I’d like to share the conclusion to his speech. It’s a little long and, as I warned, the writing style is stilted, but in the throes of our present turmoil, we need to hear again his reminder that our civilization has gone through great trials before and yet remains optimistic about the future.
Dr. Blaine: Throughout the history of man, progress toward moral/ethical behavior (justice, honor, virtue and fidelity) has always been upward. Despite wars, corruption, natural disasters, greed, poverty, and all the other ills of humanity, “the world of today marks the highest point of civilization ever achieved…. In the aggregate, never in its history has the human race had so much cause to be thankful for its creation, preservation, and all the blessings of life as at the present time. And despite all the woes and miseries which are indicated by pessimistic writers, I take my stand, that above the individualism there is humanity, which lives and develops as any organized being lives and develops; and in full confidence that all these evils, wrongs, privations and perturbations represent but a minimum of life–the turbulence of the breaking waves only–not the silent, vital, redeeming forces of the great ocean of humanity; that the world is not faithless, but believing; that most of the happenings of life are good; that we are moving forward….and that a higher evolved order of Ethics in which the collectivity of the race will be more distinctly manifested, and its individualism modified in the interest of all, is as certain to come as that the marvelous progress of the past centuries is an accomplished fact.”
Even though the horrors of war and other manifestations of evil still surround us in the 21st century, we can continue to put our faith in that “great ocean of humanity” and look to the future with hope.