Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Thoughts About the Soul...

So I was graced by another e-mail from Adam, who just simply wanted to let me know, in case I was unaware, that I was going to hell...

Huh.

I guess that's fine if he believes that. I mean, what are the chances that his beliefs will affect my afterlife? Two words: Not good.

If I were to go to hell, that would require my having a soul, or a spirit, that would live on after my passing. Now, I'm not here to say that we do or do not have a soul, per se. But I remember reading a blog somewhere (I think I linked to it through the blog Out of Christianity) that wondered, Where does the idea of a soul come from? From whence do we derive an immaterial part of our material worlds and senses?

I am also reminded of a quote of Mark Twain's:

"One of the proofs of the immortality of the soul is that myriads have believed it--they also believed the world was flat."
--Mark Twain
He may have a point.

The idea of a soul, or that there is an afterlife, is an ancient, if not immortal thought in and of itself, throughout the history of mankind. As archaeologists and other scientists peruse our past through artifacts and writings and buildings, religion and the afterlife have been recurring themes in almost every, if not every, culture. Ideas that there were gods, goddesses, and deity's that watched over us, showed pleasure or displeasure of our actions, sending harvests and plagues at a whim... and that one day, after our bodies perished, our soul would either be sent back to another earthly body, or be face-to-face with the god(s) to either be rewarded or punished.

So... where does that leave us? Why, again, do we derive a part of ourselves to be immortal when all our senses tell us all things pass away?

One of the most fundamental immaterial things about us, as people, is the ability to think. The ability to construct complex "thoughts" are quite immeasurable (despite what proponents of standardized testing would have you believe). They cannot be weighed, touched, smelled, heard, or seen. We can try to gauge how well our mind can process certain types of thought, but thought itself? Completely immaterial.

So the marriage of our physical selves with our nonphysical abilities and proof's of existence is certainly something that has been around for quite some time. But, while we can "think," and certainly our physical world shows proof of our abilities to do so, what cannot be shown, or has yet to be proven, is the "proof" or "ability" to live on past our physical bodies...

And beyond that... what would be the function of the soul or spirit? Recent brain analysis and studies have shown that a great deal of our personality is actually a function of the brain... (You can also see here and here). Your brain is your personality, molded and shaped by not only your emotional and physical world in which you were raised, but your brain chemistry, and how your brain processes information and the signals it sends flying across your cells...

Most people, when they think of "I," or themselves, identify themselves through personality traits (i.e., I am caring, I am funny, I am shy...). People are their personalities. And your personality is your brain. But most people think of their brain as part of the mortal, or material, world. Not as their soul. And the soul is always intrinsically defined as that part of you, or you yourself, which will continue to live on after death, which in default includes your shyness, your funny bone, your dry wit. But if your brain is actually in control of these parts of ourselves which we deem as immortal, what is left for the soul to actually do or be?

There was an episode of Grey's Anatomy in which a man had to have brain surgery, and when he came out of the surgery, instead of being the kind and patient man he was before, was quick to anger and very non-social. And while the TV show may be mere fiction, this storyline is actually quite well documented in medical fields. People change, their lives and personalities change when the brain is messed with...

Ergo once mentioned that the idea of afterlife only exists because, being as we cannot comprehend not existing, we therefore imagine a life for afterward, because we cannot fathom not thinking, not feeling, not existing. We cannot fathom not existing, and therefore, we must continue to exist even when all we know and all we see disappears or goes away...

Hence, the idea of a soul. Because, we know our bodies fail us. (Mine is failing me right now with a mid-summer cold!!) So we needed something separate from that, something that didn't depend on our bodies to carry us over to the great afterlife, the eternal bliss we imagine must be...

Now, I'll get into the specifics of why I don't believe there could possibly be an actual heaven or hell later, but for now, we are dealing with something that doesn't exist (at least, according to standard scientific and medical knowledge...), so heaven and hell become moot until we can decide if soul is actually what we are, or if we are simply mere creatures of chemical reactions that cease to occur when the body does die...

It is kind of scary, to know there is an end, a finite wall of which we will all run into. But it also makes life seem even more precious, doesn't it? To want to make the most out of this time, this unasked for existence, this unneeded path we all share in...

This will require further thought on my part, this is simply a random group of thoughts floating across my neurons right now, but if you have any thoughts or comments, please feel free to share!

2 comments:

The_Gay_Dude said...

Someone needs to tell Adam to follow scripture, "God does the judging".....but that's if ya believe what ya read....and if ya do believe it.....well....he's not being a proper Christian. :)

FCSuper said...

Your blog entry is very well stated. But I find that this topic cannot be a matter for reason. I used to devotely believe that the soul did not exist, and there was not life outside of the flesh and blood of our Earthly existance.
However, talking directly to loved ones who have left this world without seeking it out ...well, it tends to change one's perspective one thangs. I'm speaking from my experience . I'm not out to prove anything.
On the topic of hell, yeah, there's not such place. In my mind, that is one concept that just has no foundation in reality.