I've only got 34 years to live! Where will my soul go? Do I even have one?

"To explain the unknown by the known is a logical procedure; to explain the known by the unknown is a form of theological lunacy." David Brooks, The Necessity of Atheism.
I'm 36 next week and that feels old to me. Thirty-five was the middle of life from the perspective of the Bible's 'three score and ten', and now I'm feeling wrinkly. No grey hairs yet, but I've got frown lines and laugh lines on my face. I like Robbie William's lyric, "I don't wanna die, but I ain't keen on living either". I'm not sure I could take a whole lot more of this planet, fun as it is, I like it in 70 year spurts rather than eternal harp playing sessions. I'm not scared of death... I wouldn't mind another go at life though. Maybe if I get born again, again. Reincarnate again?

Reincarnation is a fun idea, but it's just so whacked on so many levels. There are a lot more souls on the planet now than there were a few thousand years ago. There's probably a reason they have to explain this though. Sigh, I'm fairly sure if it were true then I'm coming back as a cane toad, or was a cane toad. I read that before the Christian concept of Heaven and Hell developed there evolved a belief in "transmigration", the idea that after death the spirit would return in another body. It's just another way of 'hoping' we'll escape into a new life when this body wears out in our desperate desire to keep on living.
Christopher Hitchens: "what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence".
There's some research that suggests that memories, along with personality traits and various behaviours are passed along in our DNA to our offspring, so it wouldn't surprise me if some dreams I have are actually ghost remnants from my father or his father etc. Perhaps that's why the sins of the father are passed on. These studies have also suggested that memories are not only stored in the brain, but are seeded in our genes. I've read some of the latest brain research presented by John Joseph. Stored consciousness... interesting.

What is a soul? I would have thought that life was just the response to stimuli as our brains developed in the womb and that personality was just a mixture of gene passing and environmental conditioning. When we take our last breath, the neutrons stop firing in much the same way a computer stops storing data on its ROM at shutdown. I wouldn't have thought consciousness to be a form of energy, so I wouldn't have been surprised at the idea of it simply stopping - I think that is the brain and mind. Soul and spirit on the other hand... I have to think in terms of... i dunno, it'd have to exist outside of physics and biology. I'm not entirely sure that anything does.


Unknown said...

As a naturalistic atheist, I still sometimes have trouble conceiving of material things like the brain causing something as seemingly immaterial as consciousness, the "I" or "self" that I know I have and assume that other humans have.

Maybe it's just my biological imperative, but I'm not really keen on not existing. For that reason I like to study up on transhumanism and singularitarianism in hopes that technology can, in my lifetime, reach the point that I can upload my mind or augment my biology or the like.

Anonymous said...

What if the beliefs that you are so politely and silently keeping to yourself are slamming the breaks on Stem Cell research progress is being halted because people's religious beliefs teach that there's an actual human ghost inside each one of these cells which float at the end of a needle in a petre dish. It's the solution to spinal cord injuries, and replacing skin on burn victims! and the belief in everlasting spirits has stopped government funding in this research here in the United States of America, Jimmy. All because of the belief that a human cell can have an everlasting soul.

Eek said...


I believe (not a phrase I say often lol) that each person has an "essence" that is the inner self... an essence derived from the depths of the rational-emotive mind... and that the most commonly understand english word we have to refer to this deep essence of the self is the "soul".

You say a word like soul and most people have at least an idea of what you mean.

But in no way shape or form do I or have I ever ever thought that there was some form of spiritual soul in each individual cell in the human body. Thats not just stupid its, like, STUPID.

Do I think we have an essence, an energy, something deep within our personas and our selves, something that combines rationality and emotionality together into one... yes. Something that is so deep within us it feels as if its in the pit of our stomachs.

But MY version of the "soul" is a byproduct of the mind/brain. Fuck the christian concept.

Eek said...

Me, though... I'm heartless and soulless. Just thought I should point that out. Satan's spawn and all.

I'm like Angel or Spike.. a vampire with a soul... but I'm the opposite. A human WITHOUT a soul lol.

Makes life much easier to live. :P

Souls... pfft.