It is often notice by those who study the various tribes and
nations of mankind that certain themes recur. For example, the idea
that this life is an anteroom to eternity, a chapter not the entire
book. The Greenlanders had such a conception, to judge from
"Q: What becomes of it [the soul] after death?
"A: Then it goes to the happy place at the bottom of the
sea. Torngarsuck and his mother live there. There it is always
summer, bright sunshine, and no night; and there, too, is good
water, with plenty of birds, fishes, seals, and reindeer, all of
which may be caught without any trouble, or taken out of a great
kettle ready boiled.
"Q: And do all men go thither?
"A: No, only good people who were useful workmen, have
done great actions, caught many whales and seals, endured much, or
been drowned at sea, died in the birth, etc."
(von Herder, Johann. Outlines of a
Philosophy of the History of Man (Kindle Locations 4193-4200).
This author is rather imaginative, and I'm not sure how credible his
sources are, but certainly many people tell stories of an Isle of the Blessed,
beyond the sunset. While immortality is not a universal human belief, it
is very widespread. If we apply the atheist rubric, we discover, that
since very many people believe in immortality, therefore it is false!
One might wonder, why? If God has so programmed us that this need is
felt in our hearts, "He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also
He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the
work that God does from beginning to end." (Ecclesiastes 3:11), how does
that in and of itself prove the need must ever be unmet? Certainly if
people have nothing to do on but information extrapolated from the need
itself plus their own active imaginations, their testimony may be futile
and second-hand. If they have heard, "I am the resurrection and the
life," they are getting down to the source, the same who implanted the
longing in their heart in the first place.
Not all 'mythical' stories are false. Many people groups tell tales of a world-wide flood, which killed
off humanity except for a few survivors left to re-people the world.
For reasons beyond my ability to understand, detractors offer these
stories as proof there was no flood bottleneck through which
humanity passed. Of course stories told by pagan peoples will have
pagan features and improvements. It's not clear why, if there really
was a world flood, only one small group of people would be likely to
recall it. While some of the tales told by the pagan seem to have been
excerpted from a nightmare diary, others remind the reader of the
The stories are usually far from identical with their scriptural
archetypes, but sometimes a real
resemblance can be seen. Scripture teaches that paganism is, not the
original religion of mankind, but a devolution from the original
monotheistic worship of the true God. Some of these stories may be
distant recollections of once-common doctrine:
"Here, moreover, we meet for the first time with that
strange resemblance to revealed religion which makes heathenism so
like and yet so unlike the religion of the Old Testament. As in the
soul of man we see the ruins of what he had been before the fall, so
in the legends and traditions of the various religions of antiquity
we recognize the echoes of what men had originally heard from the
mouth of God. Not only one race, but almost all nations, have in
their traditions preserved some dim remembrance alike of an
originally happy and holy state, - a so-called golden age - in which
the intercourse between heaven and earth was unbroken, and of a
subsequent sin and fall of mankind. And all nations also have
cherished a faint belief in some future return of this happy state,
that is, in some kind of coming redemption, just as in their inmost
hearts all men have at least a faint longing for a Redeemer."
(Edersheim, Alfred. Bible History: Old
Testament: Books One Through Four (The Works of Alfred Edersheim
Book 4) (Kindle Locations 869-875).
Or, stories may be elicited and produced by the longing itself. Some go so far as to look to these universal longings as proof
they will ultimately be fulfilled. Has God implanted any need in the
human heart that looks to nothing but futility and inutility?
Certainly parents are justified in scolding their children for
stuffing dirt and other inert objects into the mouths, which cannot
nourish. But what would a world be like in which there was hunger,
but no food? Why should there be such a world?:
"To my mind this is the great proof of immortality: the
fact that it is written in human nature; written there so plain that
the rudest nations have not failed to find it, to know it; written
just as much as form is written on the circle, and extension on
matter in general. It comes to our consciousness as naturally as the
notions of time and space. We feel it as a desire; we feel it as a
fact. What is thus in man is writ there of God who writes no lies.
To suppose that this universal desire has no corresponding
gratification, is to represent Him, not as the father of all but as
only a deceiver."
(Parker, Theodore. Works of
Theodore Parker (Kindle Locations 5653-5657). The Perfect Library.)
It may be the atheists reply, not the non-existent God, but the
selfish gene, has deceived them into accepting a belief that
enhances social cooperation, while imparting no benefit to the
individual believer, who is tricked into leading a life more
pro-social than need be. Certainly it is true that, if God had
created man, we would see just what we do see: that there is a key
to fit the lock, the longed-for redeemer is not just a fable. He has
pre-programmed us to hear His voice, so much so that we jump the gun
and hear before He has spoken. How well competing theories work,
I'll leave to the reader to judge.
Pearl of Great Price
Christianity is a controversial religion with some people because
it knows of only one way to heaven:
"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
There are not 'many paths;' that's it. Why should there be many
paths? We should thank God for opening the one, knowing what it cost. If
there are many paths that lead nowhere, the responsible thing would be
to warn those embarked upon these nowhere journeys to turn around.