Understanding your soul

If you are a Christian, then Jesus promises that your soul will have everlasting life. In John 3:16 the Bible says: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." All that you have to do is believe in Jesus and your soul gets to go to heaven.

But have you ever really thought about your soul? Have you ever thought about how the afterlife would work? Which life forms get an afterlife and which do not?

Start with a bacterium. Does it have a soul and does it get an afterlife? A bacterium is a cell membrane filled with a variety of molecules. These molecules react together in different ways to create what we call life. Although all of these molecules are reacting in fascinating, interlocking ways, they are still nothing more than chemicals reacting. The "miracle of life" is no miracle -- it is a big chemical reaction. When those reactions stop, the cell is dead.

Now here is the question: When the bacterium dies, does it get an afterlife?

There are not many people in the United States who believe that bacteria go to heaven. The Bible does not talk about heaven being filled with all the disease, putrefaction and pestilence that bacteria cause. And what, exactly, would go to heaven? Do all of the bacterium's molecules get transported to another dimension so that they can keep reacting? If that were happening, there would be thousands of tons of chemicals leaving earth every day. Clearly there is no afterlife for bacteria cells.

What about mosquitoes? A mosquito is much more complex than a bacterium cell. For one thing, a mosquito is a multi-cellular insect with amazing capabilities. But if you look at each cell in a mosquito, it is very much like a bacterium in its basic functioning.

Do mosquitoes get an afterlife? Clearly not. Think of how many mosquitoes have lived and died over the course of millions of years. No one imagines heaven being full of septillions of everlasting mosquitoes. There is also the problem that we saw with bacteria -- the only way for a mosquito to go to heaven would be to somehow transport all the chemicals in a mosquito from earth to heaven.

What about mice? They are no different from mosquitoes. Mice are multicellular organisms, but each cell is a little chemical factory very much like a bacterium. Dogs? Ditto. Chimps? Ditto.

So what about humans?

The human body is nothing but a set of chemical reactions. The chemical reactions powering a human life are no different from the reactions powering the life of a bacterium, a mosquito, a mouse, a dog or a chimp. When a human being dies, the chemical reactions stop. There is no "soul" mixed in with the chemicals, just like there is no soul in a bacterium, a mosquito, a mouse, a dog or a chimp. Why would there be an afterlife for the chemicals that make up a human body?

The whole notion of your "soul" is completely imaginary. The concept of a "soul" has been invented by religion because many people have trouble facing their own mortality. It makes people feel better, but the concept is a complete fabrication.

It is when you think about the chemical reactions powering your life and your brain that you realize how completely imaginary your "soul" truly is. And at that point, everything about religion comes unraveled.

Think back to when you were a kid and you realized that Santa was imaginary. As soon as you knew it, it was obvious. Reindeer cannot fly. A man cannot slide down chimneys. There is no way for one little sleigh to carry all the toys for all the kids in the world. Etc. It is obvious that Santa is make believe.

In the same way, it is obvious that human beings are big, walking chemical reactions (see this article for a description of how the reactions work). Your "soul" is make believe just like Santa. When the chemical reactions cease, you die. That is the end of it.

Knowing this, you can see that everything about religion is imaginary. God, the Bible, Jesus, the resurrection, prayer, the Ten Commandments, the creation story, your soul, everlasting life, heaven... every bit of it is the product of human imagination. The same goes for Allah, the Koran and so on. As a species we have believed all of this religious dogma for centuries, and most of us believe it today to some degree. And yet... it is all fiction. Today's "God" is just as fictional as were the gods of the Egyptians, the Romans and the Aztecs.

If you would like to learn more, start reading the book...

Go to Chapter 1 >>>

by Marshall Brain

New York Times Coverage
discussed in a
New York Times piece
by N. D. Kristof.
For a counter-point to Mr. Kristof, please see
Chapter 26.

Recommendation by Sam Harris
Sam Harris recommends WWGHA in his book Letter to a Christian Nation.

Endorsement by Richard Dawkins
In a New York Times Letter, Richard Dawkins calls WWGHA a "splendid Web site."

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