The Ghost Town of Atheism

The town was dying, trapped beneath the weight of poverty and hopelessness. The people were turning on each other, desperate to grab enough money to buy that day's food and maybe a little extra for a blanket. The last big factory had closed, stores were leaving, and the people were desperate.

Then Josh ran into town, waving a wrinkled paper.

"I can hardly believe it!" he exclaimed. "I found a big pot of gold up on the mountain. It's more than enough for everybody. See these new clothes I'm wearing? I'm on my way to pay off my bills and buy enough food for the whole month! You should come with me when I go back up there. Get some for yourself."

The people scratched their heads and looked at each other.

Then Professor Proveit stepped forward. "Young man, there is no gold on that mountain. Explorers have gone over every inch of that place for centuries. You're lying to us. You stole those things."

He turned to the crowd. "This is preposterous. He has not proven to anyone that there is indeed gold up there. It's a good 3 days' hike and I'm no fool. Until I see a geologists report indicating gold, a sample for testing, and irrefutable scientific evidence that this is even possible, I refuse to listen to this nonsense. And you should too."

Dr. Bootstraps cleared his throat. "Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a nice little story and if Josh wants to play with his fool's gold, that's his business. What I resent is his implication that the rest of us need help from some anonymous gold pot. We're doing fine just like we are. We may be poor, but we're proud and we intend to stay that way. I find it degrading for this kid to imply that we are not sufficient just as we are."

Many in the crowd nodded and frowned at Josh. "Yeah, what are you trying to imply? What do you know? The doctor and the professor would certainly know if there was that much gold anywhere around here."

A burly wrestler shouldered his way to the front of the group and folded massive arms. "Yeah, this is a trick. You want us to go running after your fictional gold while you and your gang plunder our homes! Why, we ought to have you arrested!"

Josh took a step back and his face paled. "No. Really. I-I just found a wonderful thing and wanted to share it with you."

He held out the wrinkled paper. "Look, I have a map. It shows you right where to find the gold. It's beautiful! More than I've ever seen in my life! You're all poor like I was. You need this just as much as I do and I want to show you where it is. Won't anyone come with me? I'm going back tomorrow. Come see for yourself."

The wrestler spit on the ground. "That's a lie, jerk. That ain't no map. Anybody could've wrote that up. How stupid do you think we are to fall for something like that. I was just up there on that mountain last summer and there weren't no gold! I'm tellin' ya, you're up to something!"

The crowd murmured and moved toward him."Yeah, what are you up to?"

"What right do you have to tell us something like that! Get our hopes up for nothing..."

A man in a turban held up a hand and the crowd grew still. "Listen everyone. I think I can settle this. I'm Mohammad Ishmael from the town across the river. I too found the map he is holding and followed it. 
"There is a pot there, but it is full of rust and rocks. An understandable mistake. I too thought it contained gold, but I later realized my mistake. No one would leave that much gold lying about for anyone to take. There's a catch somewhere. Here, however, I have the real map to treasure. There are clearcut steps to follow, a few dues to pay, but it's worth it. The path is much easier and guarantees success. Now, if you'll follow me..."

He turned to go and several in the crowd followed him.

"Wait!" cried Josh. "That's not true! There is gold. I took some and bought myself these things. I'm telling you, it's real! You've got to see for yourself. Don't take this guy's word for it, you don't even know him!"

The wrestler grabbed Josh by the arm and shoved him against the wall. "Lay off, idiot! Nobody's buying your gold story and we resent you getting us all stirred up! We've been fooled before, but not again. You knock it off or we're gonna run you out of town."

The crowd turned away, waving their hands at him in disgust. Some followed Ishmael, but most trudged back to their dark homes to endure another day without hope.

Josh glanced down at his wrinkled map, then at the new clothes he had bought with the gold. He shook his head. "I don't understand. All I wanted to do was share the good news. Why are they so angry? It feels wrong to keep it all to myself, but if they won't listen, there's nothing more I can do. As sad as it is, my job here is done."

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:17-19

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