23
   

Can An Atheist Have A Soul?

 
 
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 04:51 pm
I would like to hear from atheist that reject all forms of spiritual ideas. Most Atheist I encounter are very comfortable debating or disproving Judaic-Christian mythology as well as Muslim belief etc I do not belong to any religion or have any theological beliefs myself.

So to make my question clear I want to know what philosophical reasoning leads most atheist to reject all spirituality even when the spiritual ideas presented are stripped of religion or theology? If atheist applied the same type of reasoning to quantum physics that they typically apply to the idea of a soul or reincarnation the exploration of physics beyond Newton would come to a screeching halt.

In fact quantum physics seems to point to awareness (The Observer) as the cause behind random events overthrowing determinism much to the chagrin of atheist and theological determinist alike. Most atheist like predetermined behaviorism just as theologians like predetermined design to prove their God concepts. And for the same reason. So that those in power can dominate the sheep who give up their freewill to appease the psychology of "the norm" so as to fit in or to appease the church they belong to that they are obedient so they can get the benefit of the group.

So my question remains why reject all metaphysical questions relating to spiritual ideas just because religion is obviously blind and misguided? Why agree to be an unquestioning cog in the behaviorist machine to avoid being one of the religious sheep? What is wrong with replacing Descartes meditations on "I think therefor I am" With "I am aware therefor I have freewill"? For me I can doubt that I think.

Maybe thoughts simply occur because my brain is wired for language. My brain could be generating random words and I am simply rejecting what I have been programmed to believe by society as nonsensical or non adaptive etc and accepting the thoughts that my brain generates randomly that seem to benefit me... as my own... not because I created these thoughts... but simply because this has been the type of thinking that has benefited me in the past.

This would explain consensus or conformist thinking such as religious thinking when the benefits of "belonging" outweigh the disadvantages of nonsensical reasoning. So I can doubt that I think. And I can believe thoughts just "happen" to me no different than me tuning into a radio station over other stations because that type of music appeals to me. My thoughts are not me. I have experienced a sense of self without any thoughts occurring whatsoever but I have never had any experience where I had no awareness.

I can not blame this on my senses receiving input. Even in sensory deprivation there is awareness. Sometimes I am awake before my body wakes. I can not sense my body at all yet I exist and I am aware. So if I am not my thoughts and I am not my senses and I am not my body...then I must be my awareness because there is nothing left for me to be unless I do not exist at all.

But if that were the case then somebody must be imagining me. Unless you are a nihilist or solipsist you must admit that my argument that the only thing I can not doubt if my awareness and from my awareness I can infer that I exist. If observation creates reality then quantum physics can be used to prove together with the premise that I am my awareness to prove that I not only exist but that I am free in a way that is relevant to the argument for freewill. This does not prove I have a soul but I moves the question out of the domain of pure speculation.

This does not automatically open the door for religion or religious concepts of God. Yet the atheist will argue against the soul usually without even considering the points I just made because religion has all but demanded that the soul can only be discussed in a religious context. Why do atheist give them this? Why do atheist just give religion this power so that if an atheist were ever to decide on any basis that maybe they did have a soul they would have to convert by default to some nonsensical faith or religion? Do I need to choose between accepting an invisible man in the sky that controls me like a puppet or being the end result of a chemical bath of my brain? Isn't this the fallacy of the false alternative?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 23 • Views: 26,721 • Replies: 326

 
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 05:09 pm
@spiritual anrkst,
Welcome to A2K !

In the past we have debated the difference between "spirituality" and "religiosity". I term myself an "atheist" as a reaction to "theism", i.e. what I don't believe, not implying that I am therefore "a materialist".
When it comes to the word "soul" however, this has so many established religious connotations, that my atheistic mode tends to reject it automatically. Yet if we could extend the concept to encompass what some call "holistic consciousness" (an impersonal concept rather than an individualistic one) I could give it some consideration.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 05:14 pm
Why can't you allow one to be an atheist with no ulterior motive?
0 Replies
 
rosborne979
 
  3  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 05:20 pm
@spiritual anrkst,
spiritual anrkst wrote:

I would like to hear from atheist Can An Atheist Have A Soul?

I generally regard "Soul" as a religious concept, so as an atheist, I would answer, "Souls don't exist, so nobody can have one." But it all depends on how you define Soul I guess.
0 Replies
 
littlek
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 05:22 pm
From another atheistic point of view - I don't think I have a soul. I don't care if i don't have a soul. I find it (sometimes irritatingly) fascinating that theists get uncomfortable about that.
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 05:29 pm
@littlek,
The point is that "theists" generally define "self" vis-a-vis an external perpetual "God", and this eternal aspect allows "self" to transcend death as "soul". Atheists have no such requirement for the maintenance of "self-integrity".
0 Replies
 
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 05:32 pm
@spiritual anrkst,
Quote:
If atheist applied the same type of reasoning to quantum physics that they typically apply to the idea of a soul or reincarnation the exploration of physics beyond Newton would come to a screeching halt.

In fact quantum physics seems to point to awareness (The Observer) as the cause behind random events overthrowing determinism much to the chagrin of atheist and theological determinist alike. Most atheist like predetermined behaviorism just as theologians like predetermined design to prove their God concepts. And for the same reason. So that those in power can dominate the sheep who give up their freewill to appease the psychology of "the norm" so as to fit in or to appease the church they belong to that they are obedient so they can get the benefit of the group.


I must object. This is a gross misunderstanding of Physics. Quantum Physics (as is any Physics) is the exact opposite of the Spirituality-- and thus the findings of Quantum Physics have nothing to do with the soul.

Quantum Physics is rigorously tested and supported by quantitative experiment. Any ideas about Quantum Physics that people take seriously as real have been used to make predictions that are tested. Theories that don't match experimental observation are rejected.

There are no experiments supporting the existence of a soul. There is no experimental way to measure a soul. There are no quantitative predictions that can be based on the existence of a soul and then tested. There are no mathematical models defining a soul, or even an empirical definition of the word "soul".
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 05:42 pm
@ebrown p,
Quote:
I must object. This is a gross misunderstanding of Physics. Quantum Physics (as is any Physics) is the exact opposite of the Spirituality-- and thus the findings of Quantum Physics have nothing to do with the soul.


They may indeed have nothing to do with "soul" but it is interesting, nevertheless, that Niels Bohr adopted the Yin-Yang symbol as his coat of arms when he was knighted by the Danish Court. This, together with his paradoxical quotations suggests to me a healthy scepticism towards naive realism.
0 Replies
 
jeeprs
 
  2  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 06:36 pm
you sure packed a lot into that post. Really there are about half a dozen book-length arguments there. So off the top of my head, a few responses.

Atheism, like religious belief, comes in all kinds of forms. So the following is not suggested as a one-size-fits-all description of atheism but is I think still relevant to the debate.

I think a great deal of modern atheism is Protestant in origin. The reasons for this are very complex and it requires a lot of study of European cultural history to really see how it has developed. But a few stand-out points are as follows. When Luther rebelled against the Catholic Church, he devised a new style of religiosity which was extremely individualistic and highly puritanical. The believer had a direct relationship with God through faith in the Word of God in place of the whole machinery of the devotional calendar, the saints, and the many practices and religious forms (many of which had been absorbed from the prior pagan cultures by the Catholic church). Meanwhile the printing press and the rise of literacy made it possible for everyone to read the bible and seek God in the privacy of their own conscience rather than through priestly intercession and ritual.

At this time also the separation of Church and State drew a divide between the secular and the sacred. The sacred retreated from public view, concealed by the austere minimalism of Protestantism which discarded many of the traditional symbols of religious culture. Also Lutheranism, on the whole, discouraged interest in religious experience, outside that which was strictly in conformity with models found in the Gospels themselves (as is still the case with the charismatic evangelicals). Lutheranism also looked very skeptically at the Platonist elements that had been absorbed into Catholicism, which closed down another route of spiritual expression and experience.

Subsequent developments in philosophy reinforced the separation between spiritual and secular, God and man, not least Cartesian philosophy, which declared a stark divide between Spirit and Matter. With the huge strides made in the scientific understanding of the Cosmos, it was not too long until God was made 'a ghost in his own machine'. Science had taken the place of revelation, and the secular prophets, the place of Jesus.

Welcome to modernity.

As for quantum mechanics, I think it is indisputable that QM and relativity between them have completely destroyed old-fashioned scientific materialism. But many strange beliefs have rushed in to fill the vacuum that has been left by this collapse, not all of them real alternatives. Most people have no choice but to retreat to a kind of 'secular agnosticism', and I think this is where many of us remain.
spiritual anrkst
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 07:28 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:

Quote:
If atheist applied the same type of reasoning to quantum physics that they typically apply to the idea of a soul or reincarnation the exploration of physics beyond Newton would come to a screeching halt.

In fact quantum physics seems to point to awareness (The Observer) as the cause behind random events overthrowing determinism much to the chagrin of atheist and theological determinist alike. Most atheist like predetermined behaviorism just as theologians like predetermined design to prove their God concepts. And for the same reason. So that those in power can dominate the sheep who give up their freewill to appease the psychology of "the norm" so as to fit in or to appease the church they belong to that they are obedient so they can get the benefit of the group.


I must object. This is a gross misunderstanding of Physics. Quantum Physics (as is any Physics) is the exact opposite of the Spirituality-- and thus the findings of Quantum Physics have nothing to do with the soul.

Quantum Physics is rigorously tested and supported by quantitative experiment. Any ideas about Quantum Physics that people take seriously as real have been used to make predictions that are tested. Theories that don't match experimental observation are rejected.

There are no experiments supporting the existence of a soul. There is no experimental way to measure a soul. There are no quantitative predictions that can be based on the existence of a soul and then tested. There are no mathematical models defining a soul, or even an empirical definition of the word "soul".

spiritual anrkst
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 08:13 pm
Anyway I was never arguing that I personally could prove I have a soul. I was just arguing that the soul seems more reasonable as something that could be proved scientifically when compared to the God concept. But most atheist I meet seem to thinking that a God and my hypothetical soul carrying the same ontological weight. Theologians tend to define God in metaphysical absolutes such as omniscient, omnibenevolent, etc .

I am not arguing that the soul is provable in our present state of scientific knowledge but more reasonable to what we do know then abstract God concepts based on absolutes. As for quantum physics and consciousness there are reputable physicist that argue a connection and possible spiritual implications of that connection. Fred Alan Wolf and Jeffery Satinover come to mind.

In fact I use to belong the a news group called The Quantum Mind Group that claimed that quantum physics couldn't affect the brain that way and ignored my philosophical arguments because I didn't have the math. When I got in a conversation with Fred Alan Wolf himself he joined The Quantum Mind group and stirred the debate with the same ideas I was ignored on.

The end result was a lot of papers on microtubules and quantum consciousness that led to articles in Scientific American . With no training in Quantum Physics on the mathematical level but armed only with my philosophical understanding of what was and wasn't possible scientifically on this level I actually affected in a small way the direction of science. Even if I had zero impact on this debate and I am just misinterpreting what if any influence I had the net result is the same. Science can not find what it isn't looking for even if it is there right in front of them.
0 Replies
 
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 10:44 pm
One of the synonyms for soul is "actuating principle," meaning that which gives things life. Supposedly, the sum of a being is really greater than its parts. Anyway, one of the first 'adult' books I read was The Weigher of Souls by Andre Maurois. It had a profound influence upon me. . . to say nothing of having gone to Catholic school.
0 Replies
 
spiritual anrkst
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 11:41 pm
Just to be clear. There is only one atheist argument I find to be illogical. And it as follows.

1. If there is no God then there can be no soul
2. There is no God
3. Therefor there can be no soul

I could debate and see both sides in any other argument that an athiest could make. Heck since I do not believe in God by the definition of any religion technically I agree with premise 2. There is no God

It is premise 1. If there is no God then there can be no soul that baffles me
So my point is if you are ever going to convince me the obviousness of the conclusion 3. Therefor there can be no soul then you will have to come up with a better premise than 1. If there is no God then there can be no soul because to me it just doesn't follow.

Yes I know that atheist of the soul have other arguments besides this one What bothers me about this one is it seems to me no better than someone who picks their political party by what race they are. Some African Americans seem to choose to be democrat so as not to be traitors in the eyes of their fellow man. To me it is irrelevant which party better represents . minorities. Making your choice this way is like deciding whether to believe in Jesus or not based on whether your parents were Christian or Jewish.

Again most people do this too. And I see most people that give up religion because they can not believe in the biblical God do not even look at other nonreligious views of God such as some forms of pantheism. But more importantly if no concept of God makes sense to you it doesn't directly follow you have no soul.

Again Im sure that a lot of atheist don't believe in the soul for various reasons but I have found my encounters the above argument is so widely accepted that most atheist can not accept me as an atheist because I do believe I have a soul. In other words an atheist who believes in a soul can't be an atheist. The only 2 definitions of atheism I can accept is 1. without a belief in any God or Gods or 2. without any system of beliefs about God So 2. could include agnostics Buddhist pantheist etc. To me if the majority of atheist have no reason to believe in a soul that is fine.

But it should be a separate issue and therefor should be investigated separately. I believe that belief in a soul is both more beneficial justified by both science and philosophy then God concepts are. Even if I turn out to be wrong about the soul existing I think it is intellectually and spiritually lazy to not investigate the issue separately from theistic thinking. If I do have a soul I do not think religion does me or my soul any good. I feel like as atheist we give in too easily to religion by agreeing we can not even entertain the idea of a soul let alone investigate the truth of the matter because religion owns the concept. Whether I have a soul or not I refuse to agree to that.

I have a different form of pascals wager. If I do have a soul why should I give up the benefits of a soul because I do not buy into religion or God concepts? If I would benefit from having a soul why not fully investigate the possibility philosophically and scientifically independent of religious dogma before giving into any form of existential nihilism? I mean if nihilism doesn't bother you fine but just because religion is bullshit doesn't prove nihilism is the only way to look at things.

If at some point the atheist nihilism convinces me through reasoning ad science that my soul doesn't exist at at least I know I didn't give up something that seems reasonable to me and makes me suffer less in life simply because someone I disagree with (religion) also believes in a soul. By the way I do not believe in heaven or hell any more than a I do in an anthropomorphic God. I believe the soul reincarnates though to me that is beyond the scope of this discussion. Even without reincarnation I would believe in my soul because I believe I have freewill and that I am more than a chemical brain bath.

That is am not a "process" of the brain but an aware being. To me awareness by nature is immortal and playing a game of hide and seek with selective amnesia not only in death but in dreaming where you can not always remember dreaming yet you wake up still you even though you don't remember the night before. Gain beyond the scope of this discussion. Freewill and awareness is all that I am defending against the argument. ..
1. If there is no God then there can be no soul
2. There is no God
3. Therefor there can be no soul

And I'm not starting this thread to defend the soul against any other argument
not because I do not think I could win any other argument but because I find this particular argument so weak yet so prevalent in atheism.
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 11:54 pm
@spiritual anrkst,
Logicality is a "straw man" when discussing issues of the perpetuation of consciousness.
0 Replies
 
plainoldme
 
  2  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 11:59 pm
@jeeprs,
Excellent post. One of the religious formations that followed in the wake of Luther and the printing press was the Anabaptist movement wherein everyone was to read and interpret the Bible according to their own feelings, experience, intellect and faith. We often think of the Baptists as conservatives while their founding was in the spirit of liberalism.

What you post said to me was the simply to step away from the established western church, which was the Church of Rome, opened the possibility for atheism. Prior to the Reformation, God was a given.
jeeprs
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 04:02 am
@plainoldme,
Quote:
What you post said to me was the simply to step away from the established western church, which was the Church of Rome, opened the possibility for atheism.


Well, thanks, but beware of generalizations here. It is a very big topic. What I am getting at is that Protestantism gave us a very particular form of religious consciousness. Much modern atheism is often a denial of that particular form, because that is what it grew out of, and that is what it is a reaction against.

If you study comparative religion and the anthropology of religion, you begin to see that religious experience and expression takes an infinite variety of forms. So does atheism deny all of them? Theravada Buddhism, for example, is completely non-theistic, but deeply spiritual. Do atheists deny that also? Can you be atheist in regard to a non-theistic religion? And what then is it denying? Anything whatever spiritual?

Have a look at this critique of the Protestant Atheism of Richard Dawkins. http://www.bytrentplus.co.uk/dawkins00.html
0 Replies
 
ebrown p
 
  2  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 09:39 am
@jeeprs,
Quote:

As for quantum mechanics, I think it is indisputable that QM and relativity between them have completely destroyed old-fashioned scientific materialism. But many strange beliefs have rushed in to fill the vacuum that has been left by this collapse, not all of them real alternatives. Most people have no choice but to retreat to a kind of 'secular agnosticism', and I think this is where many of us remain.


I am sorry, but I think this is ridiculous. I don't have the slightest idea what "scientific materialism" means. In my years of studying, teaching and doing science, I have never heard the term). I would appreciate if you could explain what you mean by this term.

Anyway, nothing has been "destroyed" by Quantum Mechanics or Relativity (I find it interesting that you put these very different fields in the same little box).

Science remains science even after the advances of QM and Relativity. Every scientific fact is scientifically proven, meaning that it is tested. Before any belief in science is accepted, people carefully define it... then they devise careful quantitative tests to show their assumptions match the real world.

If you could devise some scientific test to prove their is a soul, then a soul would be part of real science (after, of course, the results of the experiment match the predictions) .

What science has to say about QM an Relativity is carefully tested by experiment and has been proven... meaning that the ideas have been used to make measurable predictions that match reality.
ebrown p
 
  2  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 09:48 am
@spiritual anrkst,
Spiritual Anrkst....

I don't think you understand the article you are reading.

The authors talk are clearly basing their ideas about evolution (the say as much in the article). Everyone understands that evolution is about chemistry. They are only suggesting that QM phenomena are part of the chemical mechanisms that microbes evolved to use.

There is nothing particularly mystical here. Life on earth evolved to use all sorts of chemical phenomena... from protein chaining to the electrochemical properties of ionic solutions.

This is kind of cool... but it doesn't say anything mystical about either consciousness or Quantum Mechanics. (other then that the chemistry in the decision making cells of these microbes relies on a certain set of scientifically accepted chemical processes).

The point is that science is a unique field in before something is accepted is fact, it must be well-defined in a way that can be tested and/or can make predictions. In this way any scientific facts are verified with reality.

Ideas about souls are not science.
plainoldme
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 11:20 am
The traditional Christian viewpoint is the soul is the actuating principle, so this thread seems to posit one of, if not all, of several things:

1. That some people have souls and some do not.

2. That perhaps God creates different people in different ways. Perhaps, God likes variety or else atheists exist (this is a statement extrapolated from the Bible) to test believers.

3. Perhaps, different gods create different people.


Furthermore, it is the soul and not the body that is re-incarnated, so this thread might posit:

1. That some people can never be re-incarnated.

2. Perhaps, then a person without a soul is at the end of the cycle of re-incarnation.

However, a soul is an intellectual construct. Perhaps this thread simply points out that some people have formulated this construct and others have not.
0 Replies
 
HexHammer
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 11:27 am
@spiritual anrkst,
?
The missionaries would back in the days convert people, and excatly where in the process should the sould appear? ..what about all those pedo priests, does they have a soul? Does the soul disappear only because thee pedo priest is caught in the act, or..?

Imo everybody has a soul, some weaker, some stronger than other.
0 Replies
 
 

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