Sample text for: GOD.COM A Deity for the New Millennium (2nd edition)
MAN AND THE SOUL
Webster’s dictionary defines soul as “the moral or spiritual part of man, as related to God, considered as surviving death and liable to joy or misery in a future state.”
The concept that man has a soul that can survive completely separate from the body and the brain has been wrought out of thin air. Ancient man believed that the body went to heaven, and thus the body was carefully preserved and buried with pottery, money, and servants. It was then observed that those bodies never left the grave but simply rotted and deteriorated. Even today, some religions believe our bodies are going to heaven.
The religious leaders then had to come up with something a little more believable. Ergo, they created the soul. If you are going to heaven, you must have something that can go there. Obviously the body does not go to heaven. The religious leaders then reasoned that since the body does not leave the grave, there must be a spirit or soul that does. (However, Enoch, Elijah, Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and Muhammad are said to have ascended bodily into heaven.) The wonderful thing about the concept of the soul is that we can live forever. The desire to live forever is enticing to most of us.
I have wondered about the soul. Where is it when you sleep or when you are unconscious? Does the soul change and mature as the body ages and changes? Is it believable that man has a soul or spirit that is capable of joy, sorrow, and pain? In this world, we need the brain and nerve cells of the body to feel and experience joy, sorrow, and pain. How can the soul experience these feelings without the help of the body and the brain?
The religious people who are waiting for the second coming of Christ to take them to heaven must believe the soul is going to wait until that time. The soul must have pain receptors if we are to feel the intense pain of burning for eternity. Does the soul wait patiently under six feet of sod or in an urn of ashes, or does it fly away and wait somewhere else?
It is interesting to study the various religious beliefs concerning death and the disposition of bodies after death. There does seem to be a correlation of beliefs with economics. In some cultures, religion has decreed that burning is the proper way of disposing of the body. In others, where land is more plentiful, burial is the preferred method. In some cultures, the dead body has no significance. In others, the dead bodies are sacred and the land in which they are buried is hallowed ground. The question of whether the soul or spirit stays with the dead body and is bothered, or whether the soul or spirit goes to the happy hunting ground and is disturbed, has never been answered. There is little reason to believe that a soul will show up after death when it hasn’t made an appearance during life.
The religious mores on death are changing. The belief that the body and all of its parts must be preserved for future use is disappearing. (Although we still have an occasional patient who insists his amputated leg or other extremity be preserved and buried for the future.) Today the religious taboo on cremation seems to be decreasing as people consider not only the economics of death, but also the poor usage of land, which may be put out of use forever. The reverence and awe of the dead body remains as if paying homage to the dead is the same as paying homage to the living.
If you want to believe that the soul exists, fine. But insisting on rights in perpetuity for dead bodies and their resting places ignores economical and practical considerations.
There is not one shred of evidence that man has a soul or spirit separate from his bodily self. Some animal lovers have now convinced themselves that animals also have a soul, as they cannot conceive of a heaven without their beloved dog or cat.
We occasionally read of people who have had a “near death” experience. They relate that they saw a bright light, saw a religious figure such as Jesus, or experienced a serene quietude. Most of those who relate such experiences are trying to prove to themselves and to others that man has a soul and that there is an afterlife. These near death experiences are no more proof of a soul than is a dream or any other activity of the brain. They simply prove that although the heart may have temporarily stopped, the brain was never dead.
The believer will ask, “What happens to you after you die?” That question implies that life must go on forever. The answer is, “Nothing happens, except the body disintegrates.” The dead person may live on in the memories of the people he or she left behind. You return to the same place you were before you were born. Perhaps it would be better to answer a question with a question, “Where were you before you were born?”
Man has always conceived of heaven as a place where he can have and do the things he enjoyed during life. If that is true, you can be sure heaven is a swinging place with orgies of food, sex, booze, dancing, and drugs all over the place. It may be nice to fantasize, but it’s not very realistic.
Albert Einstein wrote, “I do not believe in immortality of the individual and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it.”
Aristotle wrote, “The soul, as the sum of the powers of the body, cannot exist without it; the two are as form and wax, separable only in thought but in reality one organic whole.”
And as Lucretius, the Roman poet/philosopher wrote, “The soul perishes without body.”