And if we call to mind any characteristic portrayals of paradise, we see at once that they conform to the familiar earthly life, needs, and desires of the particular people concerned. In the realm beyond, the Egyptians must have their River Nile, the Mohammedans dieir alluring young women, the Scandinavians their warlike Valhalla, the American Indians their Happy Hunting Ground, the Christians their saints and angels.
In China the custom has long existed of burning paper images of horses, houses, rickshas, boats, and other objects of daily existence, in order that the soul of the deceased may surely enjoy the other-worldly counterparts of his this-worldly needs. Today even paper automobiles are sometimes included. This ceremony is a symbolic refinement on the primitive practice of "killing" useful things by breaking or burning them so that their “souls” will be released for the enjoyment of the de- ceased. In the well-known Happy Hunting-Ground of certain American Indian tribes the emphasis is put on deer, buffalo, and fresh-water fish as ever-present accompaniments of the ever-successful chase. According to Burmese notions the spirits of the dead build bungalows in the after-life country and devote themselves to the cultivation of rice. And among certain African tribes the resemblance between this world and the next is so complete that the latter is divided into countries, towns, and villages corresponding to those on earth.
The Eskimos conceive of the hereafter as a place where the sun is never obscured by night and where reindeer, walrus, and other arctic animals abound forever. When missionaries tried to win certain of the Eskimos to belief in the Christian paradise, the latter made what must be considered the retort classic: “And the seals? You say nothing about seals. Have you any seals in your heaven?” “Seals? Certainly not. What would seals do up there? But we have angels and archangels, we have cherubim and seraphim, Dominions and Powers, the twelve Apostles, the four-and-twenty elders.” “That’s all very well, but what animals have you?” “Animals none. Yes, though, we have the Lamb, we have a lion, and eagle, a calf . . . but not your sea calf ; we have — ” “That’s enough ; your heaven has no seals, and a heaven without seals cannot suit us !”
The evolutionary argument for immortality, too, depends to a certain extent on the world’s remaining static. For if the permanent and worthy end towards which the process of evolution has been working is the creation of immortal human souls, then it is implied that nature has reached the peak of its development on this earth. When the great Dinosaurs were the highest form of terrestrial life, they might well, had they possessed the power of thought, have reflected as follows: ‘‘What big and splendid and remarkable creatures we are! The like of us has never been known on land or sea. We rule the earth. We are the climax of creation. Through millions and millions of years evolution has been working to produce us. There is, to be sure, that thing called death. But it is simply inconceivable that nature should now proceed to scrap us. For if death is the end, then ‘the universe seems to be throwing away with utter heedlessness its most precious possessions.’ ‘The manifest trend of the whole creative process is towards the building of’ * — Dinosaurs. And so we can be absolutely sure that our souls, at least, will live on forever in the realm of immortality.”
(The Illusion Of Immortality by Corliss Lamont)