Your Soul, Your Free Will And Your Afterlife

Your Soul, Your Free Will And Your Afterlife

The Concept of a Soul: The trouble here is that ‘the soul’ has so many diverse definitions that it can mean just about anything you want it to mean. Probably no two people would describe the concept in the exact same way. However, I think we can agree that an egg cell has no soul – however you define it. A sperm cell has no soul – however you define it. Therefore, at conception, you have no soul. So when did you get a soul (assuming there is such a thing and that it has some degree of tangibility)? Did you get your soul at birth? Perhaps it was on your first birthday? Perhaps you received you soul when you became of age, say 21. Perhaps it’s just as likely that you don’t receive a soul at all – there is no such separate and apart physical thing you get from any higher authority. Perhaps your soul just develops or evolves naturally as part and parcel of your growing maturity over the years, in which case it can’t be totally separate and apart from the body. In other words, if you develop a soul akin to your developing a sense of morality or spirituality, then it can not ‘leave’ the body after death. Translated, your soul (however you define it) isn’t your ticket to an afterlife. It resides somewhere in that brain-thingy of yours, locked somewhere within that maze of biochemistry that collectively makes up your grey matter. As an aside, if you were to clone yourself, would your clone have a soul?

The Concept of Free Will:  To start will let’s examine the paradox of free will. Here’s one of many contradictions. You insist that you have free will. Therefore, God has no control over your actions. Therefore, God is not an all-powerful being. A God who isn’t all-powerful isn’t the most perfect being that can be conceived of. God has to be the most perfect being anyone can imagine. Therefore, there is no God. Now if God is all-powerful, even though God has granted you free will, your free will is ultimately an illusion living on somewhat borrowed time in that God can revoke that free will gift at any time He choses and thus have His wicked way with you!

Another take is that if God exists, all His attributes must be compatible. If all God’s attributes are not compatible, God must not exist. For example, God can not have His own personal free will and be all-knowing. If God is all knowing, then God knows in advance what He will and will not do. If God knows in advance that He will not do something, then He has no free will of His own. He has no options available to Him but to not do what He knows he won’t do.

Anyway, God has apparently granted humanity, including you, a concept called ‘free will’. That is, you are free to pick and choose between various alternatives, including making choices or decisions that can be described as good, or as evil; moral or immoral; ethical or otherwise. However, regarding such a free will, I would argue that you can never be 100% sure that any choice or decision that you make wasn’t due to the universal laws, principles and relations part and parcel of physical causality that started operating from Day One (the Big Bang event) and thus forever and ever predetermined. You might be 99.999% sure you have free will, and that it was God given, but I can’t figure out any way you could absolutely prove it to any outsider, or to yourself for that matter if you are honest with yourself..

If you accept free will, then you must of necessity admit that causality does not always operate. Just as you, dear reader might refuse to believe in pre-determinism, I absolutely refuse to abandon 100% causality, an absolute cause-and-affect principle, which then forces me to reject free will, even though I do so reluctantly. It gives me no joy to think that what I’m doing right now is the ultimate outcome of the set of conditions that existed at the time of the Big Bang event and that I therefore have no choice since that’s the nature of a clockwork Universe, but it’s the lesser of two philosophical evils for me!

I assume that anytime you, dear reader, make a voluntary choice, that there must have been some causality chain of cause-and-effect happenings that led to that choice vis-a-vis some other choice. Your decision didn’t happen for lack of any reason at all. Put another way, your choice has a foundation. Now I just extend that foundation, that causality chain, back to the initial set of conditions present at the origin of the Universe in much the same way as you can trace your (extremely improbable) existence via the chain of existences of (extremely improbable) ancestors, going right back through the unbroken chain to the first proto-cell some four billions years ago, (a proto-cell which in turn may have come from the depths of space and has an ancestry (your ancestry) extending back untold billions of years before Planet Earth ever formed).  You certainly can’t deny that ancestral causality chain, so why deny a causality chain that ultimately extends back to the Big Bang event and the pre-determined chain of happenings and whichleads you to whatever choices you are currently contemplating?

And so ‘yes’, using that logic, you aren’t responsible for your decisions and resulting actions (though I’ll bet legal eagles everywhere would have something to say about that, for that undercuts our entire legal system). But from the point of view of the Universe, it might ask, ‘so what?’ It matters not at all to the cosmos (and to 99.9999% of all life forms, including humanity – past, present and future) whether you deposit money in a bank, or rob that bank!

Just as we have computer simulations (such as ‘Life’, a computer software package) that allow for no free will, that is, everything is pre-determined given the initial set of programmed conditions, could we in turn be part of a simulated ‘Planet Earth’ computer ‘game’ or simulation of someone (something) somewhere out there? Do the characters in a typical video game have free will, or do they dance to the tune of their programmer and player? Can you, dear reader, prove to me (or anyone) by some chain of logic that you or we are not the product of or existing in a simulated and therefore no free will, computer generated, virtual universe?  If not, then you have to admit, however remote the odds, that that possibility exists.

If the ‘many worlds’ interpretation of reality is correct, free will is an academic or moot point since all choices or decisions are enabled. To explain the ‘many worlds’ concept, it boils down to the interpretation that whenever you (or anything else – animate or inanimate) are forced to choose, to make a decision, all possibilities are entered into. So, you have this free will decision to do X or to do Y or to do Z. You actually end up doing all three, and thus there’s a new universe Y, and a new universe Z, which splits and branches off from universe X because you choose via your free will (or so you think) to choice X. In reality, you also choose Y and Z. Therefore, no free will was ultimately exhibited.

However, if I were a betting man, I’d bet that humanity does have free will, although that in no way actually proves the existence of God. Ultimately however, does it make any real difference whether you, dear reader, have free will, or the illusion of free will, as long as you actually believe you’re your own boss?

By the way, can you have free will in Heaven? I mean can you, of your own free will, commit a sin in Heaven? If you can, well you shouldn’t be in Heaven at all and God has stuffed up, being all-knowing, in letting you in, in the first place. If you can’t commit a sin in Heaven, then God has revoked your free will!

The Concept of an Afterlife: Heaven, Hell or Other:  It should come as no surprise that we have some sort of internally hard-wired need to believe in an afterlife, especially one which is pleasant (like Heaven – that of course doesn’t make it of necessity a given). The only experience we’ve ever had has been as a living being. Since we haven’t yet experienced death, it’s in the realm of the totally unknown, and unknowable (until we cross that boundary). At best we are nervous about the unknown, even scared, perhaps terrified – even more so when the unknown is also unknowable. No one has yet be proved beyond reasonable doubt to have come back from the grave and tell us about death, which, is the biggest, most important unknowable of the lot. So, it’s no wonder that believing in an afterlife (or Heaven) helps us overcome our unease.  Despite that, we still fight like the dickens to postpone death, no matter how convinced we are that Heaven awaits! Anyway, let’s look at some specific questions that suggest that the concept of Heaven is, as Star Trek’s Mr. Spock would say, ‘Illogical’.

Firstly, I have to assume that Heaven is an actual physical place with a defined location. That is, if it’s to accommodate humans (and animals?), and presumably the humans are physical (in order to see, hear, touch, etc.), then you need a physical location – the exact place and size are immaterial. So, we have a third dimensional Heaven, that experiences the passage of time (not everyone arrives at Heaven’s Gate at the exact same moment), and allows an existence of physical objects that can be touched, seen, heard, tasted and smelled. Translated, Heaven has a physical location within our Universe and has the properties central to mass, energy, space and time. That said, the ultimate fate of Heaven, and therefore ultimately your ultimate fate, rests with whatever the ultimate fate of the Universe will be. Either prospect is bleak. If our Universe, of which Heaven is but one suburb, ceases its expansion and begins to contract, then it ultimately comes together in a Big Crunch, the mother of all Black Holes and presumably goes ‘poof’. On the other hand, if it continues to expand for all eternity, then ultimately the suburb of Heaven will be totally isolated from the rest of the diluted Universe; dark, freezing cold, and absolutely boring! The idea of spending eternity – absolute infinity – in one place, no matter how heavenly, must ultimately prove to be depressing. In fact, such an existence one could argue would be pure Hell! Lastly, there’s this scenario that as space ever expands, more and more ‘dark energy’ is created (because ‘dark energy’ is a property of space itself), and ‘dark energy’ is a repulsing push-apart force. It is postulated that there will be ultimately enough ‘dark energy’ in the Universe to firstly rip apart clusters of galaxies, then individual galaxies, then their stars, right down to the level of molecules and atoms. This Big Rip (obviously) scenario ultimately has the fate of the cosmos having a Universe composed of nothing but the absolute un-rip-able elementary particles. Presumably, Heaven and all it contains will be ripped to shreds as well.

Anyway, before the end of the Universe as we know it, okay, so you arrive in Heaven. What do you do? Apart from the wings and the haloes and harps bit that is, I would assume that Heaven would be a pretty boring with eternity stretching out in front of you. If they don’t have your favourite beer on tap in Heaven, are you really in Paradise? What do you do in that great cosmic eternal waiting (for Armageddon presumably) room after you’ve read all the National Geographic’s or Woman’s Weekly or Reader’s Digests from cover-to-cover for dozens of times? Do you have hobbies in Heaven? Do you have some kind of nine-to-five job? Are there cultural events and libraries and dining out available? Do you form new relationships, or are you stuck with the old ones? What about shopping – supermarkets presumably are necessary to feed a body that still has a physical essence. Presumably you also need water and air. If so, where do they come from?

Let’s start with one obvious question, what do you look like in Heaven? Presumably you must have some sort of appearance so that others can recognize you (I can’t imagine you go around wearing a nametag). Do you look the same as that you that died? That could be tricky if you died all mangled up in a car/plane/train wreck, or had your atoms scattered to the four winds at ground zero at Hiroshima or Nagasaki. What if you died as a six month old foetus? What if you died with some body parts of someone else or had plastic surgery – is your appearance that of before or after? We could assume that everybody in Heaven is given their appearance that reflects what they did, or would have, looked like at age (pick a number, say) 21. But how would Mum recognize her six month old foetus, or a child recognize their father when the child wasn’t born say until daddy was already 55 years old?

Let’s say you died with essential artificial body parts. What’s the status of your health in Heaven? Presumably you are restored to perfect health, so if you have an artificial heart I gather you get your old organic heart back, even if it ‘died’ decades before you and had long since decayed away. If you were mute, or deaf, or blind all your life, can you now speak, hear or see? If you were old and senile, presumably you’ll have your memory fully restored and razor sharp in Heaven.

How do you communicate? Is there one universal language in Heaven which you instantly master the moment you get there, no matter what your previous languages or language skills or in fact if you died before ever learning a language?

How do you get on with people in Heaven who you didn’t get along with when living, like maybe your neighbour, or boss, or ex-spouse, or that bully who pushed you around in school? Is everybody lovey-dovey with everyone else?

Do you have any natural sexual desires in Heaven? What about sex? I take it as given that you’re not allowed to, or can’t, reproduce (despite the edict to ‘be fruitful and multiply’). But is a Heaven without heavenly pleasures really Heaven?

So, a physical Heaven appears to be a somewhat difficult can-of-worms to deal with.

On the other hand, maybe Heaven doesn’t have any actual physical reality (there’s no matter, no energy, no time, and no space) and it just houses nebulous non-physical souls that exist in total isolation. That’s a rather depressing concept.

Either way, Heaven is illogical. Oh, the same sorts of arguments apply equally to Hell.

Forgetting Heaven for a moment, could there be an afterlife but no God? Yes, of course, but (there’s always got to be a ‘but’).  The ‘but’ in this case is that it’s possible, providing that you can provide a natural, as opposed to a supernatural ways and means of transcending life to life-after-death, and that I doubt you can do. Since I reject a supernatural explanation, and since you can’t come up with a plausible natural one, then I conclude that there is as likely as not, no supernatural God (or gods) that can provide this afterlife service. A natural afterlife would be akin to being a citizen of a country that has no government; an afterlife without any infrastructure. But (there’s that ‘but’ again), maybe there is a natural, well naturally artificial anyway, explanation for an afterlife after all.

I refer to the idea noted above that we might exist in a computer software simulated cosmos. If our life is simulated, so too may we, after being deleted from the alive-and-well, full-of-life software, reappear in another software program called Heaven or Hell (or maybe Spirit World). Now I know nearly all of you gentle readers will reject the idea that you are just a simulated being in a computer generated universe. However, I conclude that you take the idea seriously, since it just may well prove to be your one and only ticket to an afterlife!

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