The legend of Cain and Abel tells us that early in human experience the possibility of unbrotherliness in the family was discovered and recorded. And yet in all ages, the great cry of human souls has been for unity and brotherhood. The great central principle of all religion, has been unity for common worship and mutual helpfulness.
In early times the tribes adopted local gods, and brotherhood did not extend beyond the tribe. Gradually as the tribes grew into nations, the brotherly idea expanded to national boundaries. To the Jew, all outside Israel were Gentiles; to the Greek, all beyond Greece were barbarians. This limited aspect of brotherhood has come down to modern times in our sectarianisms, the "Church " or churches make it imperative that men should agree in their submission to authority and belief in dogma before admission to the charmed circle of ritualistic brotherhood. Many ages of suspicion and jealousy and warfare, with unbounded deeds of violence and cruelty had to pass away before the thought was possible, "that God had made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on the face of the earth," and even now that sublime idea is regarded by many as "Utopian." Nevertheless, we are slowly but surely progressing. The old narrow modes of thought and action are giving place to a wider outlook and a higher life. Beyond the family, or the tribe, or the nation, we are learning to speak of "the race." With the brotherhood of narrower limits we have begun to associate that broader but more perfect brotherhood of souls, which includes all who have thought wisely and lived nobly, in all ages and among all peoples. A more real unity of aim, and an increasing purpose of benevolent action is spreading among the people of nations far apart. And the highest souls in all lands agree that the Fatherhood of God and the consequent brotherhood of mankind, is closer bond than the ties of family, tribe or nation.
Selfishness divides families and induces knaves of every nationality to defraud their own people, but the brotherhood of the "Sons of God" is felt to be the one real thing in the world. A wider, holier, and more precious inheritance than national patriotism, or unity in church life, or any external and temporary organization, inasmuch as it embraces and includes those belonging to all nations, all churches, and all bodies uniting for mutual help. The great crying need of our race, everywhere today, is for universal mutual brotherhood, an actual reciprocity of love and kindness, and tender, thoughtful care. We feel a thrill of joy as we read the great thoughts of those who have lived in ages past, and a joyful sympathy as we hear noble thoughts expressed, or see good deeds done by those who live today. Thus we are led to the realization of a wider brotherhood than any sect can offer, and to a more complete soul sympathy than dogma or creed can supply, and this fact of a real unity, beyond the mere externals of races, or nations, or sects, gives hope that as the years pass, mankind may enjoy a more complete and practical unity of soul, whereby the selfishness of individual aims and the narrowing effects of selfish worldly organizations will be exchanged for that universal sympathy and practical helpfulness which has hitherto been limited to a few of the highest and most self-sacrificing souls, by whom the deep inner life of holy thought has been fully expressed in loving deeds.
—N. V. Bowater