The belief in some degree of immortality has been practically universal, and is still a last infirmity of noble mind; some form of worship, fear of the ghost or actual veneration of the deified ancestor, has accompanied the belief in the case of the majority of peoples. If for example we discover that doctrines which we had accepted with implicit faith from tradition have their close analogies in the barbarous superstitions of ignorant savages we can hardly help suspecting that our own cherished doctrines may have originated in the similar superstitions of our rude forefathers; and the suspicion inevitably shakes the confidence with which we had hitherto regarded these articles of our faith. The doubt thus cast on our old creed is perhaps illogical since even if we should discover that the creed did originate in mere superstition in other words that the grounds on which it was first adopted were false and absurd this discovery would not really disprove the beliefs themselves for it is perfectly possible that a belief may be true though the reasons alleged in favour of it are false and absurd: indeed we may affirm with great probability that a multitude of human beliefs true in themselves have been accepted and defended by millions of people on grounds which cannot bear exact investigation for a moment.

 

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Belief In Immortality - Worship of the Dead - J Frazer

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