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soul beliefs

  • Mar 13, 2014 · 7:00 PM

*** Please note that this meeting is on Thursday ***

The first definition of "soul" in the OED is: "the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal." Most people all over the world believe that they have a soul (they might differ on what that means); even many atheists and agnostics profess to have one. In Western thought, since at least the ancient Greeks, a person's soul after death goes to some other place (heaven, hell, etc) while in some Eastern thought it is reincarnated in another person, and on and on until it becomes perfected and thus escapes into a "nirvana," a rough analog of heaven. But in both variants, the soul belief is that of the OED definition: it's immaterial and it's immortal.

Do you believe that you have a soul? It it similar to the OED definition or does it differ in some important respect(s)? Why do so many people believe in souls, in spite of a complete lack of any respectable evidence for the existence of such an entity?

Unlike religions, the meme of the soul has been remarkably stable over time. Religions have been appearing, disappearing, and evolving at a dizzying pace relative to the unchanging nature of the soul meme. Why?

Disclaimer: I'm inspired to suggest this topic by a MOOC I'm currently enrolled in, "Soul Beliefs" on Coursera. I don't recommend it; I think it is on an interesting topic but is very poorly done. However, anyone can look at it.

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  • A former member
    A former member

    I was so looking forward to this but unfortunately now can't make it!

    March 12, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      Hope to see you next time

      March 18, 2014

  • John W

    Here is an article on Near Death Experience as it relates to culture: www.horizonresearch.org/main_page.php?cat_id=66

    March 13, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      Read this and not sure what it means. Wouldn't we all describe an experience in terms of our culture/language/prior knowledge? Why would NDE be any different?

      1 · March 18, 2014

  • Carolyn

    Nice to get to spin my wheels occasionally along with the rest of you. Now back to what I can actually do something about. Maybe.

    March 14, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    I'll rate the actual meetup as good because the people seem nice and the comments I've seen have been uniformly positive, even though I never actually made it.

    March 14, 2014

  • Joel B.

    great attendance, great discussion

    March 13, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Sorry folks. This place is IMPOSSIBLE To find. Like a Nav-Bermuda Triangle. Giving up, going home.

    March 13, 2014

  • Carolyn

    so ASSUMING MacDonalds' soul weight findings of 1907 left no other explanation that we might currently explain away, I see yet another possible example of big things found in very little packages.

    March 13, 2014

  • Larry

    Known facts about the soul? It weighs between 0.5 to 1.5 ounces and is located in the pineal gland of the brain. Or not.

    What do we know about the soul?
    Aristotle [masked]BC) equated the soul with the mind and said that man is born with a blank slate on which things are written to form the mind.
    Where is the soul:
    Hippocrates said that madness originated in the brain
    Plato felt that madness was a disease of the soul.
    Leonardo da Vinci [masked]) placed the soul above the optic chiasm in the brain.
    Descartes [masked]) equated the mind and the soul in the pineal gland in the brain.
    Dr. Duncan MacDonald , 1907, decided to weigh the soul by weighing (before and after death) a human in the act of death. His first person’s soul weighed three-fourths of an ounce. He found the soul, in six patients to weigh between 0.5 to 1.5 ounces.

    March 12, 2014

  • Carolyn

    merry old souls, kindred souls, innocent souls, soul mates....,living souls, dead souls, resurrected souls.....energy in, energy out.....passed on?.....absorbed?....transmitted or transformed?
    Possibly individualized personal virtual reality (a new tongue twister) IS it's reality.... or I think therefore I assume. LOL.

    March 12, 2014

  • Joel B.

    part III and last: The Jewish and Hellenistic worlds came into intimate contact during the Hellenistic period and the Roman period that immediately followed. Christianity, which arose during those times, invented the concepts of heaven or hell, eternal happiness or eternal pain, and embellished the concept of the soul as the entity that experienced these rewards or punishments after death of the material individual. From Christianity these concepts were adopted by Islam, and to some limited extent by later Judaism.

    Might this powerful carrot/stick be one of the reasons that Christianity and Islam have been so widely adopted all over the world?

    March 11, 2014

  • Joel B.

    Part II: The Greek and Roman concept of life after death, as far back as thousands of years earlier in the Greek classical period, was little different. The descriptions of the Underworld in Homer (Odyssey Book 11) and Virgil (Aeneid Book 6) are dark, cheerless places but do contain what can be seen as the souls of the dead – the personalities, thoughts, and memories of the individuals whom they animated while alive. This persistence of the personality after death seems to be the main difference from the older Jewish concept. But there is no heaven or hell; only a cheerless, immaterial, shadowy existence with neither joy nor pain.

    March 11, 2014

  • Joel B.

    some history part I: The original Jewish concept of the afterlife was a dark shadowy existence in a place called Sheol. It means "grave" or "pit" or "abode of the dead" -- a place of darkness to which all the dead go, both the righteous and the unrighteous, a place of stillness and darkness. The inhabitants of Sheol were "shades" (rephaim), entities without personality, cut off from God. Beliefs in eternal life, salvation or damnation were not present in Judaism prior to Greek influence during the Hellenistic period [masked] BC), a few hundred years before Christ.

    March 11, 2014

  • Joel B.

    I'm excited that we're expecting something like 15 amateur philosophers for next Thursday's meetup. If you haven't already done it, pls take a look at the references suggested by me and Carolyn, as well as any others you might dig up. Remember, "why do we think that?" is a more interesting question than "what do we think?"

    See y'all next week!

    March 7, 2014

  • Lydia

    I may not be able to make it. Depends on how late I have to work that night.

    February 16, 2014

  • Carolyn

    OOPS! closertotruth.com/episodes, is much closer to the truth.

    February 10, 2014

  • Carolyn

    Ok.....here's the site for for sore minds if you dare to cram your head on this ++++++++more
    closertotruth/episodes

    February 10, 2014

  • Angela

    I might come for the first time. I am kind of an introvert, so can I just listen at first? Interesting idea on the subject in this link...

    http://beforeitsnews.com/beyond-science/2014/01/quantum-theory-proves-consciousness-moves-to-another-universe-at-death-2445122.html

    February 8, 2014

    • Joel B.

      Angela, let me support John's reply. You don't have to say anything.

      February 8, 2014

    • Joel B.

      oops. but if you have the time and the interest, do a little research of the topic, on your own, and even if you say nothing, you will get more out of the session.

      February 8, 2014

  • Joel B.

    On the lighter side, for a sci-fi take on what happens when God is a pissed-off scientist who fabricates souls and puts a good one (male btw) and a bad one (female; hey, not my fault) into otherwise-near-human androids, see the “Unbound” episode of Fox series “Almost Human” at http://www.fox.com/almost-human/ And likely the following episode, due to air on Monday, 8PM (I think...)

    February 6, 2014

  • Carolyn

    With the exclusion of religion/faith & the like, and with only the impact of souls lost to death that I have known, there seems to be something in the recall itself. A lingering essence,it appears, absorbed, so to speak, by those via legacy and/or association, a passing on vs a passing away. With that in mind, one's own donation is often contemplated.

    February 6, 2014

  • Joel B.

    Here's another goodie, from the NYTimes seven years ago. It's mostly about religion but is relevant for soul beliefs as well:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/04/magazine/04evolution.t.html?pagewanted=all

    If you read it, you may notice that it ignores the POV of soul belief as a meme, which can survive and prosper even if it does NOT enhance the fitness of its carriers.

    February 5, 2014

  • Joel B.

    Hope that many of you can attend this seminar. One of the concepts that will underlie the discussion is "memes." If you're not familiar with it, the Wiki entry is a good start: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme. If you have access to Richard Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene," his chapter on the subject is well worth reading. The value of understanding this concept goes waaaaay beyond our little upcoming seminar.

    February 5, 2014

  • Denis Murray S.

    Sorry I am out of town. love the topic.

    February 5, 2014

  • John W

    Please note the change of day to Thurs. We are going to test Thurs as our meeting day to see if that is more convenient for members than Wed. Thank you.

    February 5, 2014

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