- Published on Friday, 01 June 2012 06:30
- Written by John Draper
- Hits: 1092
Despite strong scientific evidence that all the functions of our mind come from our brain, a fundamental concept of religions is that a person's identity or "self" is embodied in a separate soul. Since it is self-evident that a person's body is still here after he/she dies, to continue in an after-life, there must be an invisible mystical part of us that doesn't die. For us to be aware that we still exist - although changed to a mystical body-less form - there must be a soul. But someone did not think it through when this idea was invented. Of course we don't think of it as "invented" - when we think, we feel somehow as if our "self" is separate. It's not hard to convince us that our mind/soul is separate from our brain. So what are the problems with the soul concept?
- Although people of faith don't accept science when it disproves a favourite religious idea, it has to be the first on the list. Neuroscientist Patricia Churchland explains it well in this article.
- When exactly do souls get created? Is it at the moment of conception? Many opponents of abortion claim this although there is no evidence that life as a separate entity is possible immediately. Or is a soul added when the fetus has a chance of surviving independently? After all, God would know when it's viable. Or is it when the baby/person can think for himself - perhaps at the "age of reason"? Again God would know when this is. So God has to spend a part of his power constantly monitoring when people are having sex and/or a child is growing and at the right time, presto, he creates a soul. To me this is a tricky situation.
- Does God create souls at our command? He's not the one having sex although he's supposed to have created this wonderful activity! In effect, humans are saying "OK God, we did our part, now it's time to add a soul". It seems he never screws up on this - every single human has a soul - no exceptions. So we add to his powers that he never makes a mistake or fails to notice that a new human is conceived (or born or whatever). But the idea that in this respect, God does what we command, is somehow bizarre.
- If we accept the idea that God adds the soul at conception, then are sperm and female ova also sacred? Kind of half a soul each. Onan got into trouble for spilling his sperm (Genesis 38:8-10) so at least the sperm is a little bit sacred - losing sperm is like half-murder! But I guess women can't be blamed for menstruating and losing an ovum every month.
- If a soul is pure spirit - just the mind, the thinking part, the part that is our "self" - then the idea of heaven with virgins and enjoyment with a body cannot apply. Also a hell with fire and bodily pain cannot apply. At least not until the "resurrection of the body" (per the Apostles' and Nicene creeds) when a version of your body is re-created to merge with your soul. So another possibility is that the soul just hangs in there until the end of the world when it gets reunited. This raises another raft of questions such as where do all these billions of bodies go? (A short discussion here) But the soul idea is no longer really needed if it doesn't do anything until it's reunited with its new body. After all, in an after-life of infinite years, waiting for the end of the world is no time at all to wait!
You have to think that a learned theologian somewhere also came upon these questions. I guess his answer would be, as always, "We humans cannot know the mind of God". A neat bullshit answer to unanswerable questions.