Tag Archives: Soul

Heavenly Soul Bank & Right Belief

Soul_BankLots of religions believe that a person’s soul exists before that person is born (“the pre-existence of souls”). This Heavenly Soul Bank idea is held by many Jews, Muslims, Hindus and even Christians.

In the Soul Belief course I’m taking, the professor interviews the students and asks what they were taught as children about the soul. Many of the young students had naive, confused stories. Their confusion reminded me of what I have written many times: most lay folks have sloppy theology. Mind you, I don’t blame them — leave it to the religious professionals to argue theology.

But much of Christianity is founded on “right belief”.  So it seems odd to me that it is OK for a believer to have sloppy soul beliefs, but the believer has got to believe the right Jesus story or they burn in hell.

Even the Jesus story comes in many variants with lay believers often holding very weird mixes that their religious professionals would just shake their heads at.  But who cares if they get their soul theology wrong, their communion theology wrong, their end-times theology wrong, their trinity theology wrong, or even their resurrection theology wrong?  Do you really think their god cares?  If so, everyone in that class may very well burn in hell for eternity.

Questions to readers: Do you agree that my example of various soul beliefs, helps illustrate the bizarre nature of Christianity’s “right-belief-is-essential-for-salvation” concept.

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Autistic Souls

Autism SpectrumAdam” is an excellent movie about the emotional life of a young man with Asperger syndrome (an Autism variant).  The movie blessed me with a warm, joyful smile for almost an hour and a half.  The ending is not what I expected.  If you saw the movie, tell me what you thought in the comments.  If you don’t want spoilers, don’t read the comments (just make them). 🙂

I have a good buddy who I hesitantly approached 3 years ago suggesting his child may possibly have Aspberger’s Syndrome.  I thought it was important to discuss.  But I failed.  I think it angered my friend and I think he avoided me for a long time after that.  But a year later, over a beer while re-cementing our relationship he wondered out-loud if indeed his son did fall close to the Aspberger classification.  That is one of my reasons for watching the movie.  The previews looked hopeful and I wanted to feel hopeful about my friend and his son.  He reads here occasionally, so this is an indirect recommendation — I don’t want to piss him off again.  For like Asperger adults, sometimes I can be a bit dull about how my words affect others.

Temple Grandin

Temple Grandin

But psychiatric classifications have an obvious artificial, limiting, medicalizing and social/political huge tainting to them that requires us to question them at all times. My friend was right to question them and to try a see his child as unique, well before viewing him as a simple “syndrome”.  I understand.

I am also reading “Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism” by Temple Grandin which is excellent to help me understand more of this variant of a mental life.  Her writing is refreshingly blunt — much like “Adam” was in the movie.  These help people see that we should not take for granted the inner life of others.  A deeply valuable lesson.  The bravery of these two people is amazing and inspiring.  Yes, yes, Temple Grandin is real and Adam is fictional — but then this site is about religion where fictional lives can still be inspiring! 😉

Cold SoulsLastly, I also just watched “Cold Souls” which is about a company which extracts peoples’ souls (leaving them, oddly enough, largely intact but different).  The company then markets these souls.  I thoroughly enjoyed the film.  First, the main character, Paul Giamatti, was superb.  He was in the mini-series John Adams where he was also excellent.  I am a Thomas Jefferson fan and never really liked John Adams, but the mini-series made John Adams fascinatingly alive — I felt his soul.  And “Adam” tells us that Jefferson was possibly an Aspie (a term Adam uses to describe fellow Aspergers as opposed to NTs [neurotypicals].

Cold Soul is reviewed as a comedy but oddly enough I did not laugh once.  It didn’t feel like a comedy to me but like a philosophical movie — I loved how it made me think.  I do not recommend this film for natural atheists but for those of us with active religious defects (said affectionately), you may enjoy the explorations of this film like I did.  I don’t think it is profound, but it left a residual healthy hum in my mind — as if I had borrowed a soul for a while.  (The movie will make this last sentence make sense)

Souls are viewed in many ways in religious traditions. Eternal vs. Transient; Existent vs. Non-Existent; Pre-birth vs. Post-birth creations;  Self-made vs. Other-made; Personality-equivalent vs. Beyond-personality;  and more.

I still use the word “Soul” no matter what religious connotations it has.  I like reclaiming religious words from the religious.  My version of “soul” has lots of thought-out qualifiers, of course.  Do any of my non-believer readers use the word?  What does it mean to you?

Hopefully, if you’ve read this far, you can see how all these movies and books tie together.  They did for me.  But then over-estimating connectedness is a classic symptom for the religiously-inclined.  That aside, for me, we are all different creatures — some of us are raccoons (an allusion to the film “Adam”) and some of us are cows (an allusion to Grandin’s book).  The word “person” or “human” disguises the uniqueness of our souls by making us often assume we have more in common with each other than we should.  Perhaps it is a good exercise to visualize each others as weird animals more than as people.  Ooops, there goes my delusional religious mind again ! 😉

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How to kill a soul

Today I did my part-time gig at a Army base where I screened Army vets back from Iraq – soldiers who return home with far more than just physical problems. I then drove home in time to take a long fun bike ride with my son to join his cub scout troop at a campfire. Then late tonight, my family sleeping safely, I stayed up late watching “In the Valley of Elah” (2007).  It was a superb movie about how to destroy a soul.  The montage of this day sits deeply in me tonight.

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