3/13/2016 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Carl S ~
There are millions of hucksters selling products promising eternal life to "souls." Christian salesmen are the worst, because they tell people eternal life is granted through the "grace of God," and "grace" means "given free." But it's not, since they keep asking for money to pay for "it." (Some buyers most sincerely believe their products are "to die for.") What they're selling is an escape plan out of death, by saying everyone has a "soul" surviving death. My sister was a buyer. She was what I'd call syncretic Catholic; she lived in poverty, and regularly sent money to those salesmen. She would tell me about heaven, and how Mary would let you in the window of heaven if St. Peter wouldn't let you in through the pearly gates!
With religions, it's what their hucksters are not saying that lays at the heart of "soul." They cannot conceive the thought of how brain/mind/personality/body interdependent connectedness creates the illusion of a soul in the ﬁrst place. The reality is this: We are all, in popular terms, "all-natural," whether we like it or not. There is no "Save" button for the all-natural, material mind/brain/personality, function after it's shut off. It's easy to ﬁnd evidence supporting this. Start exploring how mind/body/personality are interdependent vs. the fantasy of "soul," by reading "Urge," by Oliver Sacks, and go on to read more by him.
There's this weird sense humans have; the belief that their minds are separate from their brains. People look for conﬁrmation for this, gobbling up "out-of-body” testimonials like they're eating popcorn during an adventure movie. Ghost stories are perennial entertainments, including those of traditional god-men who resurrect from the dead after out-of-body- vacations. When these myths originated, the tellers believed bodies could be "re-inhabited;" although they'd be brain-dead after they were "dis-inhabited!" Well, it's really all about hope. It's said that, "where there's life, there's hope." (Religious people believe this: in fact, when I posited the possibility of a non-believer changing his mind after death, when they claimed he/she would be faced with real "evidence," they said it would be too late to be "saved!" (They ought to know, right?) I do believe in hope while there's life; otherwise I wouldn't keep trying to introduce reality into their thick skulls. Hope. Does the rabbit hope for heaven when in the jaws of the fox? None of them have weighed in on this subject yet.
There is no "reset" button after death. Without an operating brain, there's no mind or personality, and the tales of an independent "soul" manipulating a mind/brain are themselves delusional mind tricks. Yet adult people are willing to believe their minds are separate from their bodies, which makes no sense. You can prove this; just try lifting any object, however light, using your mind alone. Obviously this doesn’t work. If it did, you wouldn't need to lift a fork or spoon to eat.
For many years, my wife and I visited friends and others who've descended into Alzheimer’s or dementia. We've watched "souls" fade away before our eyes. Their personalities do seem to remain somewhat, more out of habit than awareness, as memories become mottled and vacate. Their material minds are fading and dispersing along with their brains. This is what is known as "reality." I've asked myself how anyone would judge them as they go through these stages. Because, you see, they're not the same persons we knew. What if they even led not -so- virtuous lives, unknown to us? Now look at them: they’re innocent and harmless, existing in a biblical "before the Fall" state of not knowing good and evil; the “perfect" condition desired by their creator. I keep thinking, aren't God, Jesus, Satan and salvation meaningless words to them at that point?
There's this weird sense humans have; the belief that their minds are separate from their brains.At the ﬁnale of "The Godfather" movie, Don Corleone dies a private, non-violent death while tending his garden; not the sort of death we might expect for a man who spent so much of his life violently ending the lives of others. Believers will tell us, "His soul will go to hell to pay for his crimes." This they maintain despite their other belief: "Whoever is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned," which tells them differently. Belief itself will grant him exemption from hell. As a Catholic, he sure did believe. He was a believer who godfather- sponsored the baptisms of children. Without those facts, consider "him" as an actual person after death. How can his God judge and punish his eventual mind-less shell? This God itself, like every other god, only exists as a human mind conception, tailored to each individual's fantasies. But when an individual's consciousness ceases to be, so God the judge also dies at the same time as the individual's mind dies. If you become an atheist, God dies before you do.
Reality just is. Unless something is done to stop or catch them, people will get away with murder. Sometimes the innocent are incarcerated for the crimes of the guilty. And in the pursuit of an ideal, men will destroy other men. What is likewise unfortunate is living in preparation for a supernatural after-death, for even if there was "something else," there would still be no "you" to experience it. The Universe itself existed before you were born, and will exist for billions of years after you die. You will not miss it before or after, and for the same reason. And what a ghastly idea, to live forever with no end, ever! I'd much rather go to sleep and never wake up. Life is too precious to waste a moment of it on religions promising escape from death. There is profundity in maturely facing the eventual ending of one’s life honestly, without the magical thinking of immortality. There is a freedom in living with our senses open, experiencing goodness, joys and tragedies of all shades and varieties while living as long as we live, and so we understand: The shallowness of religion cannot begin to approach this freedom.
From "The Fire Next Time," by James Baldwin: "Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacriﬁce all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, crosses, blood sacriﬁces, steeples, mosques, races, armies, ﬂags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have."