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Is There a Life Beyond the Grave?

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Author Topic: Is There a Life Beyond the Grave?  (Read 255 times)
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« on: February 10, 2009, 10:53:51 pm »

The doctor's proposition, although put in the positive form, is really an assumption, based on the fact of the continuity of life on our globe. But what is understood by such continuity? Simply a succession of animated forms of existence, beings who continue to possess the attributes of life, in whom the living principle appears in a series of individual representations. But a life beyond the grave involves much more than this; it assumes a continuity of life in the same individual, a condition of which we know nothing. Man exists generation after generation, but every succeeding one is new. Life on this globe ceases in the individual man when his organism becomes disintegrated and when its functions are unable to continue their operations. Death is a condition the very opposite to that of life; both therefore cannot be conceived as being one, as the doctor's contention requires. A living dead man is a contradiction, for it is a self-evident fact that if man always lived he Would never die. Death occurs every moment, but we have no instance of the perpetual continuation of one living individual. A body in action must be present, somewhere, but. when it has disappeared in the grave and gone to ashes, it is no longer in organized body. In other words, a body must act where it is, or where it is not. It cannot act where it is, in the grave, for there its functions have ceased; it cannot act elsewhere because it is not there to act; This appears as self-evident as that the whole is greater than the part. The denial, that a future state has been proved is held to be the converse of the proposition that there is one, and therefore it is equally unphilosophical and presumptuous. People fail to discriminate between the thing itself and what is said about it, although there is a manifest difference between the two cases. What we deny is the validity of the evidence, the conclusiveness of the reasons given in support of the theory of a future life.

The doctor relies much upon what great men have said and written on the subject. Of course the opinions of eminent men are entitled to respect, but they are also open to dispute, inasmuch as all men are fallible. Great men have entertained the most erroneous and childish ideas. We must not confound Newton and the apple with Newton and the Bible, nor Faraday the chemist with Faraday the Muggletonian. Our estimate of great men is based upon what they do or what, they prove. When they defend the abominations of slavery and witchcraft, or when they give their support to miracles and orthodox doctrines, because they are sanctioned by the Bible, we change our estimate of them. Great men have held mistaken views about creation, the laws of motion, and the possessible disappearance of all existing things, but that is no reason why the humblest of their fellow men should endorse their mistakes. Professor Wallace's views on development may be, accepted, if the facts he submits prove his case, and so also may his other views be accepted for the same reason. But in our opinion his contentions in reference to a future life cannot be proved by candid investigation and sound reasoning.

The alleged universality of opinion is quoted by Dr. Westbrook as a proof of the reality of a future life. The fact is the belief in all kinds of error has been general in all ages and in all nations. Because the multitude once believed in the moving sun, in the stationary earth and in the existence of angels and devils, it is no conclusive proof to us that their belief was correct. Have we then the audacity to reject the verdict of ages, and to declare that the majority of men have been mistaken? On certain matters we do so most decidedly, for the reason that nothing is clearer to-day than that our forefathers were wrong upon many things which were objects of "universal belief." The notion that the stars were drawn by the gods or guided by spirits, has had to give way before the discoveries of attraction and gravitation, and the creation theory is refuted by the facts of evolution. Those who base their faith in a future life on the common beliefs are like the man who is said to have built his house upon the sand. The flood of science will sweep all false beliefs away, as surely as the morning sun disperses the vapors of the night.

The doctor fires off his syllogistic cannon and he supposes that we are fatally wounded. But it is not so, for we would remind the doctor that the value of a syllogism depends mostly upon the first premiss. For instance, take the following: "The future will be a continuance of the present, the present is manifest and undisputable, therefore, so is the future." Now if the first premiss were proved, the conclusion may follow, but as it is only an assumption, based on general belief and on great men's opinions, the conclusion is also of the same nature, and is a part of the assumption. Dr. Westbrook ought to know that the greatest absurdity might be made to appear feasible to the uneducated mind by the syllogistic mode of pleading. For instance, "Nothing is better than heaven, a chop is better than nothing, therefore a chop is better than heaven."

It is commonly held that any conception formed by man must have a corresponding reality somewhere. Yet the conception which was formed as to the origin of things has been shown by modern researches to be absolutely groundless in reality, Modern investigation has exploded the old theories of the genesis of things. Men have had to unlearn much that the dame schools taught and that the Sunday-school endorsed. Take the illustration of the general conception of the dragon. We may be able to trace the idea to some extinct animal but that does not prove the existence of the dragon or attest the truth of the belief that such an animal ever existed. If an artist paints a picture of the Devil it is perfectly certain that his Satanic Majesty never sat for the portrait.

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