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.
I think it's a little more psychological than the way you've phrased it. I mean, one doesn't just "decide" to believe one has a soul because one is afraid of death. Maybe subconsciously. I think that the idea of the soul is a meme that gave substance (if you will) to these kind of subconscious feelings. It's easy to see why one might think that the person "left their body" when they died, as their body is no longer animated and their personality is suddenly absent from the room. So psychologically, it's as if they dead person is just not there anymore (even though their body is), and one way to make sense of it is to think that they have gone away to another realm in spiritual form.
I don't exactly think that the religions are fully based on the idea of the soul, however. We can't forget the psychological explanations having to do with how we attribute agency to inanimate objects. We innately assume that things happen because some agent caused them to happen, instead of recognizing that they were simply natural phenomena. Early humans probably saw spirits in the rocks and trees and animals all around them. As we learned and grew as a species, our spirits became more complex, and this led to gods, which ultimately led to God. At the same time, the soul idea developed into ancestor worship. And a final component was early methods of feeling "ecstatic" such as dancing, hallucinogens, meditation, etc. that can put people in trance-like states and make them feel what we might call spiritual feelings. So you put all that together and I think the combination of gods, ancestor spirits, and ecstatic practices were the mishmash that became our early religious beliefs.
The organized religions themselves I think grew more organically instead of being some nefarious conspiracy to control people. There were probably always shamans and such who people thought had special communion with the gods and spirits and who organized the spiritual practices. There's your early church, if you ask me.
In effect, these religions are promising you an afterlife in exchange for your membership in their society, a prescribed set of sometimes evil behaviors and support. Remove the soul and there is no afterlife, nor religion. It's the crux of religion.
As for not being a "nefarious conspiracy to control people", An eternity in hell, a murderous, omnipotent, authoritarian, plague-causing god, human sacrifice, and genocide seem like fairly nefarious methods of control to me.
The intentional suppression of human knowledge seals the deal.
There's nothing nice about it, you'll get no argument from me there. I just don't think it's wise to approach the topic of the origin of religions by assuming that they were invented by conspirators trying to take over the world, Pinky-and-The-Brain-style. It wasn't a group of men in a smoky room, scotch in hand, hatching a plan to unleash a bunch of bullshit stories on the general public for the purpose of controlling them and soliciting donations. I have no doubt that nefarious people have used and manipulated religious beliefs for exactly those purposes, however, throughout history. The Catholic Church, for example, probably was started just like I've described. :-)
scientifically speaking .. first we have to define what a soul is then try to prove its existence otherwise any results obtained could be attributed as a proof of that called soul.
speaking of Islam which is my background .. there is no definition of "soul" in it .
Yes, it's often quite vague what the soul is. Some aspects of a soul is ...
However, it seems the most important and common factors of the soul is that it is a part of us that lives on after our bodies die and it accounts for a facet of our personality or consciousness.
One of these I can imagine us disproving (and there could be others) is that our personality or consciousness is not made up entirely of our brain, body and experiences since conception. That there is something else affecting who we are. We already know that damage to the brain can drastically change ones personality. So therefore who we are is at least in part attributed to our brains. But how much of it is? And will we one day be able to prove it is entirely? Say... if our consciousness was to be transplanted over to a new synthetic brain for example.
And will we one day be able to prove it is entirely? Say... if our consciousness was to be transplanted over to a new synthetic brain for example.
Disproving that soul is or is not a separate entity seems unlikely to me, even though I already feel confident (without "proof") that there's no such thing as a non-physical mind/soul/spirit. More significantly (to me), there is strong evidence that people make stuff up and believe in things they want to believe in, in spite of good science to the contrary. I'm pretty sure that science (and life itself) will continue to become more and more complicated and hard for the masses to fathom (without more extensive education and improved critical thinking).
Just a side note about science. It often doesn't prove or disprove something, but makes it more understandable and predictable. Being able to reproduce an experimental result is called a "proof", but it's still never considered final or the last word. Newton got gravity right in theory and "proof", and it was good science for centuries. Then came Einstein, who added even more refined explanations to observations that Newton never dreamed of.
What I'm trying to get at is that we don't even call it science, unless its theory can be tested and results reproduced, whether the results are what were predicted, or not. As long as we cannot disprove the existence of soul, or God, then science is stuck not being able to make a claim about such things.
Now I hate to pose this idea to people, but I'm also confident that understanding the power of religion is unfortunately, integral to the understanding of both the success and failure of civilization. Humans (whether intentionally or not) used divine inspirations to bring aggressive armies together, and give them good excuses to kill and rape and pillage. This happened (e.g.) in the name of Jesus, not Buddha. I don't like to call such successful religious hegemony "successful", but it was, for better and for worse. Likewise, I feel confident that civilization is paying dearly for an excess of testosterone, and patriarchy. Genghis Khan genes are detectable in a significant percentage of the world's population, because he and his clan were so aggressive and prolific.
So yeah, selling the idea of eternal soul to people is/was a huge factor in the success of religion. But I think (in the big picture), it's just as important to acknowledge that man's aggressiveness is/was the primary, originating and perpetuating cause of the virulence of religion.