Re: [asa] consciousness, ASA article feedback

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Wed Sep 23 2009 - 00:09:25 EDT

Heya Jim,

I think there are a few issues at work here. One is that it's possible for
God to exist, even if there is no eternal soul, or even if Christianity is
wrong. The second one in particular always amazes me, in that it's a point
which seems to be missed again and again. One only need look as far as
Anthony Flew, who became a deist while continuing to believe and hope (hope:
that should be stressed) that there is no life beyond death.

The second would be that I have to disagree with Jack, or at least with what
I take him to be saying. I wouldn't count universalism as being
'non-Christian' - he didn't come right out and say this, but I think it's
strongly implied. Second, I'm not sure the belief that the forever fallen
are annihilated, rather than hellbound, is non-Christian either. And third,
I'm not sure hell is the same thing as 'eternal torture' - indeed, I think
even if the existence of eternal souls was assumed as certain, the
particularities of hell and heaven are very foggy. Mind you, I come from a
catholic background where this subject can get pretty speculative.

That said, I agree that there's nothing in science to cast doubt on the
eternal soul (though I stress that what comprises the 'soul' is a question
that has been historically debated - there's no singular view. Even people
who enter a state of 'sleep' at death, until resurrection whereupon they are
restored, I personally would see as having a soul.) And I'd agree that if
death meant utter and eternal annihilation, then Christianity would be
meaningless. I think Pascal's Wager is valuable and should be discussed far
more, even expanded on. But arguing that Christianity is true even if we're
all destined for annihilation seems very similar to affirming that
Christianity is still true even if God (even a God unlike the traditional
conception) doesn't exist. Imagine a buddhist saying, "Well, there's no
transcending desire, pain, and self - but I think buddhism is still true."
Or better yet, "Alright, the universe has a creator, an intelligent being
that made our world and has plans for us. But atheism is still true."

On Tue, Sep 22, 2009 at 11:14 PM, Jim Armstrong <> wrote:

> Re: "Personally, I agree with your position that without an eternal
> soul, Christianity is meaningless."
> Isn't this rather like the "house of cards" premise that has been argued
> against when dealing with the evolution vs God argument?
> Granted, this is central part of the belief system for most
> Christians....but not all (though you may take issue with this broader
> application of the label, Christian - though the apparent origin of the term
> evinces a sufficiently large contextual umbrella).
> "Meaningless" would suggest that there is nothing of value, no possibility
> of God's expression of intent, ...etc. ... and no meaningful obligation to
> the present, should this belief prove false. I think we should seriously ask
> test questions like this. In fact, one thoughtful soul on this list flat out
> asked me "what is left?" should there be no resurrection (to mention another
> belief indispensable to most - but not all - Christians).
> To be honest, one of the issues that grew in me in my denominational
> setting for so many years was precisely the heavy-duty focus on evangelism
> (the hope of souls in heaven) at the expense of a well manifested balance
> between hope for the future and stewardship of the present. [Though this
> denomination is well-known for missionary endeavor, still I found myself
> troubled that the widespread sense within the church body that missionary
> outreach is motivated by evangelism, and not simply because the needs
> existed.]
> With that bias, I wrestled/wrestle with many "what if" questions, including
> the "What if there is no soul?" question, and including exploration of some
> of the specific arguments Bernie spoke of. It's good to do so, because for
> most, it is hard to otherwise differentiate strong tradition from some form
> of absolute truth in refining our own belief systems. And we are not alone
> in such ponderings because there is historical and even traditional
> precedent. And, there remains a diversity of opinion among Christians even
> on beliefs as central as this, the existence of a soul. Pascal's wager
> applied more widely provides some interesting illumination.
> BTW, Jack, I do recognize that you did say that you personally *agreed
> with* the position, not taking the position to be absolute. But I
> personally do not find any more that the essential Christianity collapses,
> becomes meaningless, even if one of its central tenets proves ... uh ...
> misunderstood.
> I personally list toward the agnostic on this matter of "soul" - with many
> unresolved questions. The inability to resolve these questions
> satisfactorily has had the practical consequence of the "now" and its
> needs/stewardship becoming more compelling, an understanding which I have
> found most satisfyingly in harmony with the core teachings and example of
> Jesus. I am constantly awed at every turn by the near-spectacular and
> unassuming Christ-likeness embodied in many of those brothers and sisters
> who labor tirelessly in work that was slightly disparagingly categorized in
> my former church life as "social ministries".
> JimA [Friend of ASA]
> Jack wrote:
> "I think the main point of the argument was that neuroscience experts and
> many modern theologians now see the soul as emergence, as in a form of
> monism. "
> Obviously there has to be more to your concern than just this article, but
> what makes you think that the author of this article is correct?
> Personally, I agree with your position that without an eternal soul,
> Christianity is meaningless. Monism, defined as a Christian philosophy
> where there is no mind/body dualism that nevertheless allows eternal
> salvation, leads to two possible outcomes, annihilationism, or universalism.
> Either all unbelievers cease to exist after death and God "recreates" and
> resurrects believers, or everyone is recreated and saved. (I have a theodicy
> problem with God creating a body/mind just for the purpose of eternal
> torture.) So, monism is not consistent with Christianity.
> But there is nothing in modern science or philosophy, in my opinion that
> convinces me that the traditional concept of an eternal soul is incorrect.
> You have to keep in mind that we see, hear, understand, and reason within
> our brain, so our seeing hearing and understanding are limited to those
> functions that our brain can sustain. Which is not to say that there are
> not experiences beyond our understanding, i.e. beyond our brains ability to
> process it.
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Received on Wed Sep 23 00:10:11 2009

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