Richard Dawkins, a famous atheist philosopher stated that “There is no body that out lasts the soul.” He is a famous monist who believes that the soul is not real but if it was, it would not be immortal as it is connected to the body. He self classifies himself as an atheist and states in the opening chapter of “The God Delusion”: “God is a delusion. … Human thoughts and emotions emerge from exceedingly complex interconnections of physical entities within the brain. An atheist who believes there is nothing beyond the natural, physical world, no supernatural creative intelligence lurking behind the observable universe, no soul that outlasts the body and no miracles – except in the sense of natural phenomena that we don’t yet understand.” There are many people that hold this view.
Many people believe that there is no soul because if there is no God there cannot be a soul. They believe that a near death experience it may be your brain being starved of blood. When you’re dying, your brain only uses its most vital functions (keep breathing, keep the heart pumping, etc.) which is in the brain stem near the occipital lobe of the brain. So in near-death experiences, blood goes straight to the back of the brain where the brain stem is attached and, if there’s enough blood left over, the occipital lobe. So your brain will see something, but your brain doesn’t have enough blood to tell you what it is you see. Therefore your brain only recognises a white light. This is what will allow atheists to deny the soul as science is able to prove it wrong. However it does not explain how in near death experiences people can retell and see everything that is going on.
In the society we live in today there are many religions that can be contradictorily to each other due to their belief about God and the soul which is another reason people do not believe in a soul. Another popular view is that consciousness is an emergent property of our incredibly complex mind and body. This belief does not make people in any less awe of life. People believe the soul is something humans invented to ease man’s natural fear of death. A fear shared by all life as the fear of death and what happens to us after it is natural. However not all people share this thought and belief.
The unmistakable teaching of the Bible is that all people, whether they are saved or lost, will exist eternally, in either heaven or hell. True life or spiritual life does not cease when our fleshly bodies pass away in death. Our souls will live forever, either in the presence of God in heaven if we are saved, or in punishment in hell if we reject God’s gift of salvation. The promise of the Bible is that not only will our souls live forever, but also that our bodies will be resurrected. This hope of a bodily resurrection is at the very heart of the Christian faith.
However Christianity is not the only religion that believes in an immortal soul. Many other religions do as well such as Islam, Judaism, Jainism, Shamanism, Taoism and Hinduism. In Hinduism the soul is called the Atman. It reincarnates again and again on earth until it becomes perfect and reunites with Brahman. During this process Hindu’s believe that the soul passes through many bodies and goes through many births and death. In the end the soul will return to Brahman. This happens to the soul so that no mistakes redone and the soul will return to Brahman perfect. This is stated in the Bhagavard Gita: “Just as a man discards worn out clothes and puts on new clothes, the soul discards worn out bodies and wears new ones.”
Another view, though not as popular as the previous two is that of Rene Descartes. Descartes believes that the mind and body are really different. This is a thesis called mind-body dualism. He reached this conclusion by arguing that the nature of the mind (a thinking, non-extended thing) is completely different from that of the body (an extended, non-thinking thing), and therefore it is possible for one to exist without the other.
I believe that everyone has a soul but it is called a different thing to each individual person. People may call it a conscience, personality or as my sister calls it ‘the little voice in your head’. I think the soul is made for many reasons. I believe it is there from God to tell you what is right or wrong or help you out of hard situations. I believe it is there to show you a glimmer of hope when you want to die. I believe it is like a snow drop, completely different to every person but also quite similar. I believe many of these things but I mainly believe them for comfort. By believing in a soul I know that there is no reason to be scared of death or be afraid to die as it is not the end as there is an eternity with people who love me waiting for me.
In conclusion I believe that as there is no proof that the soul does or does not exist, there is nothing to lose by believing in one. I think that it is perfectly valid to believe in one or not to believe in one. However I don’t think it is valid to say that dualism or monism is wrong as it is unfair as no one knows if either are right. I think for the time being it will be one of life’s mysteries along with the question ‘Is there a God or not?’ or ‘Is there a heaven or hell?’