I've found it interesting that many people disagree on this subject.
To me the idea of the soul MUST have predated the big 4 religions (Buddhism (Hinduism), Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) because those religions all are answers to what happens to your SOUL upon death.
So to me all of these religions are BASED on and dependent on the idea of the soul. And if that is so then if we can disprove the idea of the soul. We suddenly have disproved all of these religions.
If this is the case wouldn't it be important and rationally responsible to attempt to prove that we have no soul. Is it possible to do so? I think that one day there could very well be a way to prove this through science. It seems an easier thing to prove. (even though I for one find the lack of evidence to be actual evidence against)
This is how it went down for me...
At some point a primitive version of ourselves feared death... to ease that fear he decided to believe that when one dies they live on in another realm. This was either because he himself was dying or someone he cared for... I believe this process probably occurred in many instances. Not just one. This idea was spread in various ways as well until it became necessary to have an explanation for it. At which point someone had to deceitfully devise the story of "god". And various versions of this story arose in different places on different occasions as well. This story of god and heaven was devised to support the idea of the soul. A MYTHOLOGY for the soul if you will. A way to let people grasp the ideas... with the added bonus of controlling the behavior of people.
Proving that something does not exist is very difficult or impossible, any negative proof could be seen as a proof that our technology cannot detect it. I personally don't believe in a soul of course, but proving non-existence is as far as I can see not possible. To my mind the religions disprove themselves by being internally inconsistent. Disproof by reductio ad absurdum was enough in maths class, should work in theology as well, as far as I'm concerned, but I don't suppose I'll get many theologians to agree with me
I agree with you that you can't prove a negative. That's kinda my point. I believe, however, it will be possible to prove that the entirety of our consciousness is an emergent property of the human brain and physical bodies... Thereby negating the necessity to prove a negative.
I find this argument to be more effective than arguing any facets regarding "god". I find myself rarely debating any details of god and simply focusing on details of the soul. As it is the BASIS in my eyes.
I find people often responding with... "I like to believe that there is something else after death." And my response is... "but did you hear what you just said there? You said 'I LIKE to believe'. You didn't say you believe."
Proof, even positive proof outside mathematics and formal logic is very difficult, possibly impossible. You can't prove that when you drop a tennis ball, it will fall towards the ground. You can set a probability for it, approaching p=1.0, but you can never prove that the next time you do it it won't fall upwards, and the same is true for the nature of consciousness.
Even if strong AI manages to win the Turing test, all that shows is that a computer can simulate consciousness, but that is not proof. Proof is far more elusive than that, and I don't think it can ever be achieved. And religious people will always grasp on to that last sliver of probability that remains as p approaches 0
Honestly though, in my experience, religious people don't leave any room for doubt with phrases like "I like to believe". The ones I talk to are all completely certain of their nonsense. The people I hear saying they like to believe there is something else after death are mostly agnostics, fence-sitters who are more into new-age crystals and things than religion
Yes, I meant to imply one can be proven with more certainty than the other. I don't believe much if anything can be proven ultimately.
And again you're right. Where i'm from, Vancouver, Canada. Most people I encounter are not "religious". It's rare that I do. I mostly encounter "spiritual" people. However, because I still find this way of thinking highly irrational, not to mention indirectly supportive of religion I can't help but to refute it. In doing so i've found that this belief in souls, in fact is the primary fuel for religion.
So to ask the question again... "can we agree that the big 4 religions are based on the idea of the soul?"
The big 4 religions are based upon control, using the concept of the soul as a means to that end.
People who are brought to the end of their rope can be influenced to give their own lives fairly readily (I believe there was a thread where people mentioned giving their lives to save their children or their loved ones) but threaten their eternal life, or offer them comfort in the afterlife and you can get them to do just about anything you want.(i.e. suicide bombers and all manner of religious themed dysfunction).
So you believe that religions were invented as a means to control...
I believe that is possible and fairly common in Atheists. What i'm suggesting is that the belief in a SOUL came FIRST. And then religion was designed to EXPLAIN this idea of the soul. Yes, perhaps the sole :P purpose of creating the religions was to TAKE control of the people. But it couldn't have existed without the idea of the soul. Therefore.. the idea of the soul is the BASIS or FOUNDATION for religion.
Somewhat in line with what Melvinotis wrote, religions' explanations for "soul" are not the only successful memes. Giving one's life to a larger purpose (whether by choice or by social or other coercion) is easier when one believes they're going to a nice place after dying for the purpose. And it all ties in with moralistic declarations of what's "right", good vs. evil, and so on.
So yeah, I agree that religious beliefs can boil down to wishful beliefs in personal soul, but largely because of how it also melds with wishful beliefs in purpose and serving society, or at least a wishful belief that God makes everything "right", in the end, if you only submit to "the purpose", however the current culture has currently defined it.
People often say "You can't prove a negative." No, there are things the negation of which isn't 100% certain or even possible, but some things are. If I say "There were no antlers on Barack Obama's head during his 2012 acceptance speech," how to prove that is as easy as replaying a tape of his speech or asking some witnesses. There comes a point where when someone continues to disbelieve something, it isn't real skepticism, it's ;pathology and it's reasonable to dismiss their views.
Is this not the foundation of "innocent until proven guilty"?
We don't believe someone did something... UNTIL we have substantial evidence.
So could that imply that anyone who believes in something without evidence might as well disagree with the judicial system's "innocent until proven guilty"?
From what I've read, Buddhists don't really believe in a soul. I don't really understand the difference, but it is not a soul. I would say it is more like energy. I believe Hindus believe in a soul.
Yeah.. yet somehow they believe in reincarnation... to me it is enough to think of it as a soul. Even if they reject the word, soul. Essentially they believe that even after death one can live on.
ReinCarnation: when you come back as a flower!