Common Sense: Theism and Atheism. A Story.

In 1942 in an unspoiled village in a remote backwater of the Amazon, one man and nine of his friends stood at the end of a hunting trail which was at the bottom of a ridge.  Men had hunted the side of the ridge for generations, but as far as anyone knew, no one had ever gone over to the other side.  No one knew if anyone had ever even seen the other side.

Some 50 years earlier, just before the turn of the century, that village was visited by a western medical missionary.  The missionary did not stay long, but it was long enough to leave an impression on the mind of the elder generation, to be passed down in story.  The last of that generation having recently died, at least one brave soul decided to see for himself if there was any truth in the stories become legend.  He stood now, a bag of food on one hip and a skin of water on the other, ready to go over the ridge and paused only to say farewell to his friends.

The first friend said, “Are you sure I can’t come with you?  You might need help along the way.”

“No, friend.  One loss to the village is enough, but I will come back to you.”  And they shook the hand of fellowship.

The second friend said, “I will continually think good thoughts for you so my thoughts can reach out and find you and encourage you on the trail.”

“And I will think good thoughts in return and remember my family and friends forever.”  And they hugged.

The third friend said, “You know I would come and you would not be able to stop me, but with all of my children I am afraid my wife would never speak to me again.”

“And you were the one who wanted all of those children.”  And they laughed.

The fourth friend said, “I believe in you and your quest.  I know you will come to a good end.”

“Your faith means more to me than you know.”  And he placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder.

The fifth friend said, “I am worried for you.  What will you eat and where will you sleep?”

“Do not fear for me.  I have the sun to light my way and the stars to be my blanket in the night.”

The sixth friend interrupted.  “But I am afraid for you.  We all are.  I think the monsters on the other side of the ridge will find you and poison you and tear your flesh and eat you.  This is like I dream in the night.”

“Friend, do not be afraid for me.  I also dream in the night, but of buildings that reach to the sky and a village that is many, many more people than our own village.”

“But they will be strangers.”

“Then I will make them friends.”

The seventh friend said.  “I do not fear monsters.  I do not know what you will find, if anything, but I have good hope that you will find everything you desire.”

“Thank you, my friend.”

The eighth friend said, “I also do not know what you may find, but I doubt it will be more than what is already ours.  I fear only that your journey may not be worth taking.”

“But this is what we shall see, isn’t it?”  And they both nodded.

The ninth friend said, “Someone should hit you on the head with a rock and keep you in a hut until you come to your senses.  There is nothing on the other side of the ridge.  Nothing.  I do not believe the old wives tales.  I believe one man dreamed of huts standing on top of each other and called it a building and he dreamed of a village with many more people than our own and called it a city.  But it was only a dream.  And the fact that he told his dream to others so they dreamed it for themselves means nothing.”

“Farewell friend.”  And they hugged, too, because they had always been friends.

So it is that a person steps out in faith and immediately one friend wishes to follow.  A second prays. 

A third believes fully but is too preoccupied with this life to go.  A fourth expresses faith.  A fifth expresses practical concern.  A sixth expresses fear.  Friends three, four, five and six do not doubt the stories and that there is something out there, but in the last case, faith has fallen down the ladder to fear. 

A seventh doubts, but holds to hope.  An eighth also doubts but can only see what he already knows.  Only the last expresses unbelief.  Only the last.

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