Hey all, this is kind of my foundation of atheism so I thought i'd post it as my introduction. First post! I've mostly been an agnostic throughout my life but I came to find that I don't even believe in the soul. There is just as little evidence in a soul as there is in evidence of a god. That is what made start calling myself an atheist. In fact I find it hard to understand how an atheist could believe in souls and if one does i'd like to know their reasoning behind it. Anyway, this is my take on it...
I believe consciousness is an emergent property of our incredibly complex biology. This belief does not make me any less in awe of life.
I believe the soul is something humans invented to ease man's natural fear of death. A fear shared by all life. The idea of the soul came before their respective religions. Tribes of early man wanted to understand this thing called death and wanted to give hope and understanding to those mourning lost loved ones. So they implanted the idea that when one dies they are merely shifting onto another plain of existence. They could again see their loved ones. They would again be able to experience life in another form.
This idea then needed to evolve with man. It needed a "backstory" or mythology, if you will an explanation or religion. So man, governments, those in power began inventing them. Most incarnations of these mythologies (religions) if you think about it are nothing more than explanations for where your soul goes when you die. But noone stops to think about WHY they actually believe they have a soul to begin with.
I believe when we die we will once again experience that which we experienced before we were born. Nothingness. Remember that time? Before you were born. There was nothing. That is what we will be returned to in death. Can this not be beautiful?
To have a soul, you have to have a 'self' that is independent of biology.
Self-consciousness-decision making.. your personality has to be independent of neurology.
Unfortunately, we have a whole slew of proof that concludes everything we do -both consciously and unconsciously- is linked to biology/neurology.
It isn't just a matter of it ceasing all together, either. Yet easily we accept that being brain dead is to be dead-dead. Even most religions are ok with that.
Let's take out the complexities of death all together. (Because seriously. The human body is freaking amazing, and quite frankly? Even the best doctor in the world cannot always accurately predict death. There is no distinct line. It isn't black and white. )
Let's go easy on ourselves.
Even if you just alter the biology/neurology (not necessarily destroy it, just damage it.) there will still be an identifiable change in the personality or 'self.' We see this with brain-damage patients every day. It's a medical fact.
Religious apologists might argue that the soul is something deeper, something less defined.
After all, I know Christians that believe they will still be not only content, but even in BLISS when they die and go to heaven... even when confronted with their own belief that some of their loved ones will be in eternal agony, burning in Hell. While they admit that the idea of it troubles them now, Heaven is supposed to be free of worries or cares, so obviously god will transition them into acceptance or understanding or...something. (This is where they start getting a little vague to me.)
But let me point out that a transition of that magnitude would actually render the idea of self obsolete, and without the idea of self, who the fuck cares? If the soul is not me, -is not my essence,- then I have about as much attachment to it as I do a kidney or liver or heart. Necessary while alive, but afterwards? It's tissue. It's not me.
I guess the idea of a soul is a little like Creationism.
A hell of a lot easier than learning anything at all about human anatomy and biology. Simple. Comforting.
Totally. And most people don't question it. Even the non-religious. They feel so proud that they are not attached to religion and unreason... but THEY ARE. It is socially unacceptable to DISBELIEVE in the soul. It's true. There is a stigma attached to not believing in the soul not that you will "go to hell", as in religion but that you "have no soul". You're a robot, you're heartless, you don't care, you're a piece of meat. (refer back to Cloudy's response on page 2)
To me, If people were realistic about this the world would be a better place. At least on an ethical level. People would realize that what is HERE and NOW is all that there is. They would care more about what is left behind and perhaps not only about their children who live on after them but their children's children, humanity in general and the Earth's particular incarnation of life in general.
a transition of that magnitude would actually render the idea of self obsolete, and without the idea of self, who the fuck cares?
Exactly! Once you remove personal connections, start erasing memories and identities, how can anyone claim that the 'self' remains. To this end I like to extend Descartes, "I think, therefore I am," and go on to say that in terms of such an impersonalized 'soul', "I forgot, therefore I'm not."
share one critical element with religious people: they believe in something to believe without evidence
Like the efficacy of torture?
I know this is an overstated cliche, but the impact you have in life can influence those you know after death. If you have children, not only do they gain a portion of your personality biologically, but what was taught in life can pass as well.
That stated, in a manner, your consiousness can exist outside of a physical body. Maby not in an literal Charles Dickens kind of way, but that can define a soul as well wouldn't you say? You still have existing factors relating to your personality and to some extent your conciousness after death.
EXACTLY. Many people DON'T believe in God in the traditional sense, in the literal meaning but if you ask them if they believe in God they just say yes because the word has been mushed around throughout the centuries and taken so many meanings. Same thing with the soul.
However, despite all the different meanings I can quite easily and wholeheartedly say. I do not believe in God and I do not believe in souls. If you have wishy-washy meaning of the word it is difficult for people to wholeheartedly say that.