The essence of self in our minds and psyche appears when the neurons of our brain formulate and process our first thought. These thoughts are recorded as memories that continue to feed our growing identities. What happens to our essence of self when our brains no longer function? I’ve known people that have died and everything I’ve seen has shown me they cease to exist. My own experience is that I don’t know of anything before I was born. Everything I know of our physical universe tells me that I don’t exist without my brain.
Religions teach us that there’s an eternal soul. The fear of death and the desire to live forever makes the idea of the soul a very appealing fiction. I have memories of loved ones that have passed away and it is through human imagination and these memories that I can project their persona into the present and imagine what they may think if they were still alive. Our imaginations have a powerful ability to trick and confuse the reality in our minds. Combining imagination with the vision of someone that actually existed can make their soul and essence of their existence appear to be real and eternal. Early humans and their ancestor worship led to the development of the eternal soul concept in later religions along with a heaven to hold our souls.
I have no sense of my personality or thoughts before I was born. The growth of our persona over the course of our lives leads me to believe there isn’t an eternal aspect to our essence of self. There should be some signs of our mental abilities and growth starting well before our physical human lives if we did have souls. Each person starts as a blank slate and a sponge that learns from everything around them instead of bringing with them an eternal knowledge or wisdom that a soul should possess.
If there really was an eternal soul then our human lives exist in such a small blip of time that these lives are meaningless compared to eternity. This very moment that you read this and contemplate this thought would literally have no meaning or value compared to the eternal time that we aren’t human beings. An eternal soul devalues human life and makes it insignificant and unimportant compared to the importance of an eternal soul. This is a dangerous viewpoint because unknowable beliefs about these imagined souls could be argued to be more important than the human lives we know.
The importance of agnosticism is the acknowledgement that we don’t really know about these supernatural or spiritual concepts. We shouldn’t put our faith in what we don’t know regardless of how much we might imagine or believe such things could be true. What we do know about our very real human lives should always be the most important concept that guides us.
I know I’m definitely a human being and not an immortal soul momentarily possessing this body. Every fiber of my being tells me I really do need this body to exist and my death will be the end of me. It doesn’t make sense to make the giant leap of faith to believe in my soul since it conflicts with that feeling of life inside my physical body and mind.