2- History

2- History

All this leads us to conclude that belief in the perpetuity of human soul and life after death is deeply rooted in human history and even in pre-historic man and communities that are now extinct.

So much so, that history and excavations of ancient graveyards show and archeological studies like the pyramids of Egypt and other communities and nations, which have come down to us that most people of the past had belief in perpetuity of soul and life after death. Therefore they buried their dead with their personal effects, belongings and things, which they might need; continued to perform rituals to honor the dead for a long period of time and sending offerings and charities on their behalf.

Regarding this, Will Durant says:

Since Sumerians (524 B.C.) buried with their dead, provisions and objects of their use, we can conclude that they had belief in life after death.[1]

He also writes:

The body, Egyptians believed, was inhabited by a small replica of itself called the ‘ka’, and also by a soul that dwelt in the body like a bird flitting among trees. All of these: body, ka and soul – survived the appearance of death; they could escape mortality for a time in proportion as the flesh was preserved from decay; but if they came to Osiris clean of all sin they would be permitted to live forever in the “Happy Field of Food” – those heavenly gardens where there would always be abundance and security.[2]

Then he writes:

The Mycenaean himself, as well as most of his art, is found in the tombs; for he folded and buried his dead in uncomfortable jars, and seldom cremated them as the Heroic Age would do. Apparently he believed in a future life, for many objects of use and value were placed in the graves.[3]

He further writes:

According to Egyptian belief, these Elysian Fields, however, could be reached only through the services of a ferryman, an Egyptian prototype of Charon; and this old gentleman would receive into his boat only such men and women as had done no evil in their lives. Or Osiris would question the dead, weighing each candidate’s heart in the scale against a feather to test his truthfulness. Those who failed in this final examination would be condemned to lie forever in their tombs, hungering and thirsting, fed upon by hideous crocodiles, and never coming forth to see the sun.[4]

From what is stated above and from hundreds of other examples, we can conclude that belief in life after death is an ancient phenomenon present in the innate nature of man, in such a way that the ancient man even through his simple understanding was able to obtain and have faith in it. Although priests and temple assistants had role in promoting this belief and in order to misuse it, invented nonsense and rumors, but the actual belief in life after death was not their creation; on the contrary they took advantage of the belief present in the innate nature of man. Will Durant writes in this regard as follows:

The priest did not create religion, he merely used it, as a statesman uses the impulses and customs of mankind; religion arises not out of sacerdotal invention or chicanery, but out of the persistent wonder, fear, insecurity, hopefulness and loneliness of men.[5]

Although prophets throughout the history of whom Prophet Adam (`a) was the first; and who is also called as the father of humanity had a role in formation of belief in God and life after death, but they did not invent this belief; on the contrary they only tried to awaken the innate nature of man, to strengthen the beliefs and to purify and train the self. And since their call was based on innate nature they also had divine support.

Therefore it can be said: Since belief in resurrection existed throughout the ages in the nature of human beings, it can be counted as an innate and original belief. It should also be mentioned that we don’t claim that all human beings in all the ages had belief in life after death and acted according to it. On the contrary, throughout the ages and even today there are persons who because of ignorance, rebellion and selfish desires suppress their human nature in their acts; sometimes they almost deny resurrection verbally. As attributed to Assyrians and ancient Babylonians that they had no faith in resurrection, heaven or hell.[6]

But this type of doubts even leading to verbal denial is natural and it does not harm faith in resurrection in any way. Deniers of resurrection have no evidence to support their claim. On the contrary since their reality had not become clear to them and the selfish desires overcame them, they denied resurrection till they became free from following the base desires. And in the terminology it can be said that they preferred immediate joy instead of the promise of future enjoyments.

Will Durant has quoted the statement of a denier of resurrection as follows:

Saddest of all is a poem engraved upon a slab now in the Leyden Museum, and dating back to 2200 B.C. Carpe diem, it sings: None cometh from thence. That he may tell us how they fare; that we may content our hearts; until we too depart to the place whither they have gone.[7]

Will Durant has presented the above statement in his book as an evidence of denial of resurrection while the fact is that it does not at all show any such denial; on the contrary the opening lines say that no one has returned from that side to explain its existence to us; he has expressed doubt about it and has preferred immediate pleasure to the promise of Paradise and said that he wanted instant happiness. Today also we see most deniers of resurrection using the same argumentation.

 

[1] Story of Civilization, Vol. 1, Pg. 155
[2] Story of Civilization, Vol. 1, Pg. 241
[3] Story of Civilization, Vol. 2, Pg. 49
[4] Story of Civilization, Vol. 1, Pg. 241
[5] Story of Civilization, Vol. 1, Pg. 83
[6] Story of Civilization, Vol. 1, Pg. 283
[7] Story of Civilization, Vol. 1, Pg. 234