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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, 10:54:42 pm »

The Secularist accepts this Freethought view of death. He is not sufficiently dogmatic to assert there is an existence beyond the present one, neither is he presumptuous enough to say there is not. Knowing only of one existence, Secularists content themselves therewith, feeling assured that the best credentials to secure any possible immortality is the wisest and most intellectual use of the life we now have. They further allege that, to the man who is sincere and true to his conscience through life, "hereafter" has no terrors. The man who has lived well has made the best preparation to die well, and he will find that the principles which supported him in health can sustain him in sickness. When the last grand scene arrives, the Secularist, having done his duty, lies down quietly to rest, and sleeps the long sleep from which, so far as we know, there is no waking. What has he to fear? He knows that death is the consequence of life, that nothing possesses immortality. The plant that blooms in the garden, the bird that flutters in the summer sun, the bee that flies from flower to flower, and the lower animals of every kind, all pass into a state of unconsciousness when their part is played and their work is done. Why should man be an exception to the universal law? His body is built up on the same principle as that of everything else that breathes, and his mental faculties differ in degree, but not in character, from theirs. He is subject to the same law as the rest of existence, and to repine at death is as absurd as it would be to weep because he did not live in some other planet or at some other time. Nature is imperative in her decrees, and must be obeyed. Death is the common lot of all. The atoms of matter of which one organism is made up are required for the construction of another, so they must be given up for that purpose, and to repine at it argues an ill-tutored mind. The work is done, and if it has been done well there is nothing to fear, either in this or any other life. Such are the views of Secularists as to death, and, holding such views, they can die without fear, as they have lived without hypocrisy.

Now as to the second query -- Is there sufficient reason to justify this Agnostic position? It must be understood that this position not only admits the "don't know," but it goes further, and alleges that as we are at present constituted, we cannot know of anything beyond the present life. Moreover, be it observed, our position is still more comprehensive than this; for we contend that the facts of existence do not substantiate the positive statement that there is a life beyond the grave. Professor Graham, in his "Creeds of Science," in giving a summary of modern scientific opinion on this subject, observes: "And now what is the scientific doctrine of the great theme of immortality? Is there any hope for man? In one word, No. For any such hope, if men must continue to indulge in it after hearing the scientific arguments, they must go elsewhere -- to the theologian, the metaphysician, the mystic, the poet. These men, habitually dwelling in their several spheres of illusion and unreality, may find suggestions of the phantasy, which they persuade themselves are arguments in favor of a future life; the man of science, for his part, and the positive thinker, building on science, consider no proposition more certain than that the soul is mortal as well as the body which supported it, and of which it was merely the final flower and product. ... Our modern physiologist has ascertained that thought is but a function of the brain and nerves. Why should it not perish with these? ... Way should it not collapse with the general break-up of the machinery? Why should it not cease when no longer supported by the various physical energies whose transformations within the bodily machine alone made its existence possible? ... But science, for her part, finds no grounds for the beliefs of theology or metaphysics in a future life -- beliefs, moreover, which she regards as little comforting at the best. ... Science, we think, has made out the dependence of our mind and present consciousness on bodily conditions, so far as to justify the conclusion that the dissolution of the body carries with it the dissolution of our present consciousness and memory, which are reared on the bodily basis. At least, it raises apprehension in the highest degree that this will be the case. Again, Science -- partly by what Darwin has established, partly by other evidence only recently accessible, respecting the low state of the primitive man -- has brought the human species into the general circle of the animal kingdom in a sense for more deep and essential than was formerly dreamed of; and she has thereby deepened the belief, though without producing absolute conviction, that the arguments proving a possible future life for man hold likewise for the lower animals; so that if man be judged immortal, they should be also, and if they be mortal, so also is man. Thirdly, Science has called attention to the fact that there is something like a general law discoverable in the history of Species, that they all have their term of years, though the term is usually a long one, and that probably, therefore, the human Species itself, as well is all other existing Species, will disappear, giving place to wholly different, though derivative types of life. And all these things taken together undoubtedly tend strongly to produce the conviction that death closes the career of the existing individual." In support of the conclusions here arrived at, Professor J.P. Lesley says Science cannot possibly either teach or deny immortality." professor Lester F. Ward observes that, "So far as science can speak on the subject, consciousness persists as long as the organized brain, and no longer." And Professor E.S. Morse writes I have never yet seen anything in the discoveries of science which would in the slightest degree support or strengthen a belief in immorality."

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