Dialogue with an atheist - Part 8 - Tree of death

Dialogue with an atheist - Part 8 - The tree of death - by P.K.Odendaal
January 2013
Note added by the narrator 13 March 2013.

GLC:        Hi Atheist, why do you look so intoxicated today - have you had some drink of drugs?
Atheist:   I will have you know that I do not drink and I don't do drugs - and I am very sober as I stand here. My behaviour conforms to the highest moral standards of society - much higher than most of you Christians.
GLC:        I was talking of your intoxication by the drugs which come from the fruit of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, because I see you have had too much it. It intoxicates the soul with temporary pleasure and vainglory, takes away hope and faith, sells you as a slave and in the end kills you - like all other drugs. It burns you from the inside until there are only ashes left in your soul.

               Let me quote you from the poem 'Song by Mr. Cypress' by Thomas Love Peacock:
There is a fever in the spirit,
The brand of Cain's un-resting doom,
Which in the lone dark souls that bear it
Glows like the lamp in Tulla's tomb.
Unlike the lamp, its subtle fire
Burns, blasts, consumes its cell, the heart.
Till, one by one, hope, joy, desire,
Like dreams of shadowy smoke depart. 

Atheist:   Are you talking of that bible myth of Eden, where this tree stood in the middle of the garden?
GLC:        Exactly, except, that this tree did not stand in the middle of Paradise, and was not planted by God. Satan only said so to deceive Adam and Eve. It was really the Tree of Life which stood in the middle of the garden, but Adam and Eve were so beguiled and lost that they did not realise that they were not in the middle of the garden anymore.
Mat 13:24  Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: v:25  But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. v:26  But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. v:27  So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? v:28  He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? v:29  But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. v:30  Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn. 

Note by the narrator 13 March 2013.

In writing this I was still under the belief that the Satan planted the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in Eden. However, during a rereading of the scripture, I saw that God has planted all the trees in Eden - and therefore also this one. It then dawned on me that the scripture which I have quoted refers to the seduction and deception which the Satan plants in our hearts and which leads onto sin and death, and not the Tree of Death.

On reflection I realised that the Tree of Death which God planted was indeed the symbol and opportunity of free will. If there was only one tree to choose from - the Tree of Life - then we would have had no choices, and therefore the free will which God has given us would have been useless to us. If there is only one dish on the menu, what use is an appetite for?

I am sorry for this incorrect previous interpretation, and I hope that I have given you a new perspective on free will, which of course immediately destroys all the ideas of determinism.

Atheist:   What proof do you have that this tree kills people?
GLC:        The main proof is that heaven and earth is presently suffering because Adam and Eve left the tree of Life alone, and ate from the tree of Death, a custom we still have today. Do you not see people dying all around you, physically and spiritually?
Atheist:   This dying you are talking about is just the way of life. It's the circle of life.
GLC:        I am sure glad my life does not go in circles. 
               I am however going to take you down the circular garden path of Eden, pun not intended, to show you what happened to a learned man who ate too much of that fruit - and I am not even going to talk about the three gentlemen whom we spoke about last week - they were also taken down that garden part - pun intended. There were also others like Nietzsche and company who did the same.
Atheist:   I hope it was a man of renown.
GLC:        Oh, yes - we still study his books of philosophy, and fortunately I can do it with fear, trepidation and circumspection, having first ate from the Tree of Life.
Atheist:   Ok, tell me.
GLC:        I will just touch on his folly, as his biography contains many books, which, when read, might help Christians see the way of death to warn them against the Tree of Death. It is the place where the adder or serpent lives. Adam and Eve were the first to find it there.
               His name was David Hume. He had a brilliant mind and was an excellent philosopher, in my view, in that he clearly saw the shortcomings, lies and fallacies of the philosophies of old, and formulated the philosophy of death, which I do not admire, coming from such a learned man - the sharpest in the history of British philosophy. He mounted a devastating attack against your heroes who believed in the truth and progress of science in the Age of Enlightenment.
               I quote from the book: 'From Socrates to Sartre :The philosophical quest', by T.Z.Lavine :
                Is it any wonder that after the first flush of excitement, ... slaying the Goliath of all science, philosophy and theology - that he panicked, that he was overcome by anxiety, that the bottom of everything dropped out for him? In the fall of 1729 he had a nervous breakdown, which lasted for the next five years, manifested in physical symptoms and in feelings of depression and weakness. "My disease", he wrote in one of his letters, "was a cruel encumbrance to me". His physician told him that he had the "disease of the learned".
               Hume tried to get a professorship at the University of Edinburgh, but was turned down on religious grounds, because of his scepticism and his atheistic, mocking contempt for religious belief. As a mature man, Hume was described in this way: "His face was broad and fat, his mouth wide, and without any other expression than that of imbecility. His eyes vacant and spiritless and the corpulence of his whole person was far better fitted to communicate the idea of a turtle-eating alderman than a refined philosopher."
               Do you see the death of his soul being (un)radiated by his face and eyes? He lost life one day at a time, like our hero in another story, The Sunset Limited : You give up the world line by line. Stoically. And then one day you realise that your courage is farcical. It doesn't mean anything. You've become an accomplice in your own annihilation (nihilism) and there is nothing you can do about it. Everything you do closes a door somewhere ahead of you. And finally there is only one door left.
Atheist:   But that was not due to him being an atheist. Many atheists I know lead normal lives. I do not believe your explanation - especially about that tree - it does not exist.
GLC:        It is much like the poem by Oscar Wilde (from the Ballad of Reading Goal) where he describes the gallows as a tree - the tree of Death:
For oak and elm have pleasant leaves
That in the spring-time shoot;
But grim to see is the gallows-tree,
With its adder-bitten root,
And, green or dry, a man must die
Before it bears its fruit.
Atheist:   You really scared me now. I think I must bury my head in the sand. Good-bye.