Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Soul: converting to religious skepticism

My mother suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. She reached a stage where her caregivers could no longer successfully spoon-feed her. This led to weight loss and susceptibility to disease. She eventually caught a chest cold and died from it in less than 24 hours. We did not try to put her on a life support system since she had a living will requesting not to.

My mother was a serious Christian. I spent most of life as a Christian, although a fallen one. However, about the time we admitted my mother to a care facility I became skeptical of religious claims. The conversion has not caused me any distress.

One reason why I am a religious skeptic has to do with the nature of the soul. It would seem that to believe in the immortal soul one is committed to mind/body dualism. As I watched my mother’s mental faculties deteriorate it refuted mind/body dualism. The brain is the soul. When it goes sour, so does the soul.

I believe in Darwinian evolution. Because of that, I believe our brains evolved just as the other parts of our bodies. This does not leave room for the disembodied soul.

You can be religious, I suppose, without believing in the immortal disembodied soul. Yet not many religious people hold that belief. One of the defining characteristics of religion is the belief in immaterial spirits.

The immortal disembodied soul denies what we commonly observe when there is trauma to or disease in the brain. I cannot force myself to deny this basic observation and evidence.

To be religious one has to take certain philosophical positions even if one does not rationally reflect upon them. Such is the case with mind/body dualism and immortality. Turning pragmatic, I like my belief in the evolved completely embodied mind, which is the origin of the belief in the soul. It fits well with my other beliefs. I prize a consistent set of beliefs.

Watch the death of the brain and you will watch the death of the soul. Live everyday as if it is your last, for one day you will surely be right.

Try to balance altruism and selfishness as best you can. That is, if value your fellow beings.

2 Comments:

At 11:21 AM, Blogger Anvilcloud said...

I suspect that you are correct.

 
At 5:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As you say,

I believe in Darwinian evolution. Because of that, I believe our brains evolved just as the other parts of our bodies. This does not leave room for the disembodied soul.

Of course not. This whole religious hocus-pocus is a disgrace to the human mind. And the false dichotomy of body-soul etc only adds to the brainwashing by religion.

As you write,

Try to balance altruism and selfishness as best you can.

Yes, a good sensible atheist morality. What more do we need?

Orla Schantz

 

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