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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, 10:55:16 pm »

As to how the belief in a future life originated, the statement of Professor Graham is a pertinent explanation. He says A strange and extravagant fancy that arose one day in the breast of one more aspiring than the rest, became soon afterwards a wish; the wish became a fixed idea that drew around itself vain and spurious arguments in its favor; and at length the fancy, the wish, the idea, was erected into an established doctrine of belief. Such, in sum, is the natural history of the famous dogma of a future life. Not by any means, however, was it a primitive and universal belief of all nations. Arising probably at first with the Egyptians, it was only after a long time taken up by the Jews, then, or possibly earlier. by the Greeks, with whom, however, the life held out, thin and unsubstantial even at best, was far from being desirable. It was only in the Christian and Mohammedan religions that the notion of a future and an eternal life was fully developed, and that the doctrine was erected into a central and an essential article of belief.

We now come to the third query -- Is the Secular position a safe one? Our answer is, Yes; for by making the best of this life, physically, morally, and intellectually, we are pursuing the wisest course, whatever the issues in reference to a future life may be. If there should be another life, the Secularist must share it with his opponent. Our opinions do not affect the reality in the slightest degree. If we are to sleep forever, we shall so sleep despite the belief in immortality: and if we are to live for ever, we shall so live despite the belief that possibly, death ends all. It must also be remembered that if man possesses a soul, that soul will be the better through being in a body that has been properly trained; and if there is to be a future life, that life will be the better if the higher duties of the present one have been fully and honestly performed Secularists are, therefore, safe so far, inasmuch as they recognize it to be their first duty to cultivate a healthy body, and to endeavor to make the best, in its highest sense, of the present existence. Now, in reference to the supposition that we may be punished in case we are wrong. Our position is, that if there be a just God, before whom we are to appear to be judged, he will never punish those to whom he has not vouchsafed the faculty of seeing beyond the grave because they honestly avowed that their mental vision was limited to this side of the tomb. Thus the Secularists feel quite safe as regards any futurity that may be worth having. If the present be the only life, then it will be all the more valuable if we give it our undivided attention. If, on the other hand, there is to be another life, then, in that case, we have won the right to its advantage, through having been faithful to our convictions, just to our fellows, and in having striven to leave the world purer and nobler than we found it. As to the feeling of consolation, which is said to be derived from the belief in a future life, we are safe upon this point also. For if there be a life, beyond the grave, we have the conviction that our Secular conduct on earth will entitle us to the realization of its fullest pleasure. Moreover, this conviction is not marred by the belief that the majority of the human race will be condemned to a fate "which humanity cannot conceive without terror, nor contemplate without dismay."

Finally, Secularism asserts that, if we are to have an immortality it ought to be one in which we can mingle with the purest of the earth, for the anticipation of it would fill our minds with delight and would afford us the assurance that in quitting this stage of life it would only be an exchange for one, purer and loftier. But, pleasing as this ideal may be, consolatory as it would undoubtedly prove, it is useless to forget that our present knowledge teaches us that such hopes are only poetical, such anticipations only imaginary. We therefore sternly face the truth, and as some of us cannot believe in a future life, we seek to realize the worth of this one by striving to correct its many errors. And in so doing we are achieving the safest of all rewards -- the consciousness that while here on earth we are working with sincerity and fidelity to secure that heaven of humanity, the comfort, happiness and welfare of the human race.

Through the lack of careful study, many errors obtain and strange misconceptions exist as to what the terms "matter" and "spirit" signify. We desire, therefore, to endeavor to explain what they really mean, and how far, and in what they have any relation to human conduct. For instance, are they both existences of which we have any knowledge? and if so, do they exist separately, or are they in any way related? When we affirm an existence, we mean an entity, that is something that can be recognized by the senses. Whatever we are incapable of recognizing, is to us non-existent. If attributes only are affirmed, they must belong to some entities, without which they are to us inconceivable; for in the absence of entities we can have no conception of attributes. Our entire knowledge consists of entities and their properties, qualities or attributes, these latter being the marks by which we distinguish one thing from another. It may be said that this position affirms that we cannot form a conception of anything apart from matter and force. It certainly does affirm this, which is precisely what we insist upon, for whatever the nature of the subject thought of may be, we cannot entertain any proposition unless the terms employed are capable of being defined and understood. conception of our minds implies not only a form of thought, but an idea of the something thought of. When we formulate a thought, it may be said that we at the same time define it, that is, we lay down a boundary, for to think of a thing is to limit it. If a man owns an estate it must be separated in some manner from all other estates, or he would be unable to identify his own from that of others. This consideration lies at the foundation of all clear reasoning, and however elementary it may appear to superior minds, it cannot be dispensed with when we are forming a judgment concerning any proposition as to alleged existences in the universe. If "there are many things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy they will never be apprehended in any other way than by the one here indicated. If we giant that matter and spirit are only symbols, as some people contend they are, we see no necessity in using both terms. If, as it is affirmed, spirit is separate from an entity, or its attribute or function, and yet exercises an influence over any or all of the three, it must follow that this spirit must be some force that can operate without any medium connecting things that have no affinity or relation to each other. This is equivalent to saying that we can transmit a message to America, not only without a cable, but without any conductor at all. To postulate spirit as the unknown is ignorance of what that cause is. But we submit that these assumptions amount to a clear contradiction, because they imply that after we have eliminated from the totally of existence, all entities, and their attributes and functions, there yet remains spirit. To think of something apart from everything is beyond our power, and to think of spirit in relation to anything, is to make it an entity or an attribute.

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