Wednesday, September 09, 2009
[God creating Adam; by Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel ceiling , the Vatican]
Far more important and remarkable than the body, is another, invisible gift, which God has given to us: the eternal soul. The soul is a non-physical, non-material part of us which will live after the death of the body.
The creation of man’s soul is described in Genesis:
Then the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7)
We know that we have a soul even though we cannot see it, similar to the way that we know that radio waves exist even though we cannot see them. The brain perceives the soul just as a radio perceives radio waves. And just like the functioning of the radio’s parts will affect the radio reception, but not the radio signals themselves, likewise injury to the brain affects our thinking and ability to function, however it does not affect the soul.
The soul is apparent in two ways:
The feeling that you are not your body. We see ourselves as inhabiting our bodies but we don't identify ourselves by it. This feeling begins with the smallest children and is universal culturally.
The feeling of free will. We all feel the freedom to make choices that are not determined by prior causes. Therefore, we hold people responsible for their behavior and either reward or punish them accordingly.
No machine, no matter how complex, has any sense of these feelings. (HAL from "2001: A Space Odyssey" is still fictional.)
To claim that our belief in the soul is merely a delusion seems absurd. One may as well claim that our belief in anything is a delusion. In addition, without a soul, there would be no rational reason to punish criminals. No sane person says "I'm going to punish my car because the brakes failed and caused a fatal crash." One either fixes the car or throws it away.
Each morning every devout Jew fervently thanks God for his soul with this prayer:
My God, the soul which Thou hast placed in me is pure. Thou hast fashioned it in me, Thou didst breathe it into me, and Thou preservest it within me and Thou wilt one day take it from me and restore it to me in the time to come. So long as the soul is within me I give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, my God, and the God of my fathers, Sovereign of all worlds, Lord of all souls. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who restorest souls to dead corpses. (Talmud Brochos 60b)
Posted by jewish philosopher at 3:15 PM