The power of story

by Barry Newton

The ancient Aztecs told the story about Tonatiuh, the fifth sun god. Their tale illustrates how powerfully story can shape culture and behavior. The Aztecs believed the earth had passed through four eras with four different suns, each of which suffered a cataclysmic destruction.

According to their tradition, this fifth sun god, Tonatiuh, required daily assistance or a new catastrophe would wipe out humanity. To ensure sunrise, Tonatiuh’s daily birth, and the sun traversing the sky, human hearts had to be cut out from their bodies.

It is not hard to imagine their intensity in guaranteeing a steady supply of human sacrifice to Tonatiuh. This story influenced their culture and thinking. It seems even the Aztec’s sporting events involved competing for the privilege to be sacrificed!

Americans can easily perceive how this tale dominated their society. But how adept are we in recognizing how our society’s official origin’s story shapes our culture?

As students return to school this fall, they will be taught a sanctioned story something like this.

A very, very, very long time ago the ingredients necessary for life began to be synthesized and concentrated upon the earth. Finally, the right chemical combination occurred, and life sprang into existence.

Through natural selection and other completely physical processes some of these early life forms adopted advantages over their sibling rivalries. Eventually, this process produced various new life forms. Humanity owes its existence to a long line of successful, but gradual, evolutionary steps.

What happens when a society embraces such a story? This narrative of the survival of the fittest will shape science, government, business, education, religion, and so forth.

Furthermore, unless an irrational sentimentality inhabits someone’s mind, it will be obvious that if animals are not subject to morality neither is the human animal. Just as the Aztec’s myth shaped their daily lives, so too the consequences of this naturalist story will ripple through beliefs, values and behavior.

All of this is quite straightforward. However, it is ironic that some of the same Americans who readily identify the Tonatiuh story as myth, since it fails the test of verification, will nevertheless embrace the unverified story of macro evolution.

In view of the growing body of knowledge challenging the plausibility of a naturalistic origin for life and species, this becomes especially ironic. Reject Tonatiuh, but accept man from amoeba?

Stories provide direction and shape human life. We need them. But how sensible is it to embrace a story that requires naturalistic principles incapable of producing the final product?

It would seem much more reasonable to accept a story, where the Source is capable of producing the world in which we live.

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Barry Newton

Married to his wonderful wife Sofia and a former missionary in Brazil, Barry enjoys trying to express old truths in fresh ways. They have two boys attending university.

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