Upon my soul!
This piece by regular Freethinker contributor DENYS DROWER – who died aged 93 on the Isle of Man in 2011 – appeared in the January, 2009 edition.
“YOU atheist,” they cry, “You have no soul!”
“Quite right,” I return, “It’s not a soul I have but a brain; no insubstantial thing. It holds my memory, evaluates each situation and directs my life. It also fills me with delight when I hear a blackbird sing or a baby laugh, see a tree in blossom or an engine in steam. It fills me with rage when I read of Baby “P”, or contempt when I contemplate the follies of governments.
Over the years it has tried to learn what is right and wrong and thus has acquired a conscience.
“What purpose then has a soul?” I ask the theists, “where and what is it?”
They will concede that a soul has no mass, no dimensions, has no magnetic field, no resistance, neither emits nor reflects light and exerts no motive force. It is invisible and intangible. In fact it has no discernible purpose.
Where then is it? They will look uneasy and, avoiding the foolish trap of suggesting the heart, will presume it is in the brain somewhere. If I then press them further by pointing out that exhaustive research over many years has revealed, stage by stage, the clear function of each part of the brain and that no separate and discrete function that could becalled a soul has been discerned, let alone located, the conversation will lapse into the standard cop-out that:
Science has yet to discover many things.
So let us put the theists right. A person’s “Id” involves the whole of the brain and is the compound of the genes which they inherited together with the environment, experience and influences that have affected them; “nature and nurture” as has often been said.
What the theist thinks of as a soul is a mindset – a conditioned reaction acquired through religious indoctrination over the years. Hence, when any situation arises, say a moral or social problem or a new discovery to be grasped, the theist’s thought process will begin by immediately “switching the points” so that the matter is directed through their developed religious filter.
Inconvenient facts will be ignored, discounted or twisted, to meet the faith requirements.
The theist will probably not accept it, but the fact is that when a person dies this mindset will, like all the cells of his brain, change to nothing but ash in the crematorium or decay to earth in a grave.
Here is the rub: a life hereafter requires a soul and without an afterlife there can be nothing; no “other side”
– no Heaven, no Hell; no resurrection, no “sitting on the right hand”, etc.
In fact the non-existence of the soul demolishes the whole fictional structure on which the Abrahamic religions are founded. I know nothing about Buddhism or other religions, but I would be surprised if the absence of a soul, if acknowledged, would not mortally wound them too.