The Belief in God and Immortality

The Belief in God and Immortality

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The Belief in God and Immortality

The Belief in God and Immortality

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Excerpt

God, the soul, and immortality constitute, according to general opinion, the great framework of religion. In an earlier book I have considered the origin, the nature, the function, and the future of the belief in what I have called "personal" gods. The present volume is a similar study of the belief in personal immortality. Chapters one to four treat of the origin, the nature, and the function of this belief. They show in particular that two quite different conceptions of personal immortality have been successively elaborated; and that the modern conception is not a growth from the primary belief, but an independent creation, differing radically from it in point of origin, in nature, and in function. Whereas the primary belief was forced upon men irrespective of their wishes as an unavoidable interpretation of certain patent facts (chiefly the apparition of deceased persons in dreams and in visions), the modern belief was born of a desire for the realization of ideals. The first came to point to an exclusively wretched existence, and prompted men merely to guard against the possible danger to them arising from ghosts; the second contemplated from the first endless continuation in a state of completed or increased perfection, and incited the living to ceaseless efforts in order to make themselves fit for that blessed consummation.

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