My mother once defined death as that moment when the soul is ready to depart this world.
There are probably millions who would agree with this, but do you know how ridiculous that idea is? Let's run down the top 10 causes of death (in the U.S.):
1. Diseases of heart.
2. Malignant neoplasms (cancer, tumors, growths).
3. Chronic lower respiratory diseases.
4. Cerebrovascular diseases (limited or no blood flow to the brain, such as a stroke).
5. Accidents (unintentional injuries).
6. Alzheimer’s disease.
7. Diabetes mellitus.
8. Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis (disorders of the kidneys).
9. Influenza and pneumonia.
10. Intentional self-harm (suicide).
This is from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), published January 11, 2012 of the 2010 National Vital Statistics Reports.
Do you notice a pattern? In all instances of death, to explain it very broadly, there is a dysfunction or cessation of a biological process. If these biological causes are in fact results from the soul choosing to "meet its Maker", then why are not all the causes the same? Wouldn't it make more sense that only one cause would happen, over and over? But I think it would make the most sense that there were no biological causes at all, and death was spontaneous, random and without an external effect. What care would the soul have if it left the body because of heart disease, or because of kidney failure? There is no purpose for a spiritual entity to have any concern with a biological cause of death. That would be like my houseplant caring about what kind of car I drove!
If death is a result of the soul leaving the body, then we can easily conclude that the soul or its departure has some kind of connection to biological processes, since 100% of the time, a biological process failure also occurs at death. The goal then becomes to establish the connection between the soul and the body. How does one do that? This is where we find the problem. There is no evidence, no footprint, residue or trace elements left behind to examine. The soul can't be touched, smelled, seen, tasted or heard. It can't be examined, tested, observed. Why? Because we cannot find it! It is nowhere. It is invisible, intangible, inaudible. There is no essence or substance that we can grab onto. We are assured very much of its existence, but we have to take it on faith. Conveniently, the only experience we will have with being just a soul won't happen until after we die, after we are gone, and only when it is no longer possible to communicate with those still living a physical existence.
Theists don't see this as a problem. Of course the soul is intangible and invisible! The spiritual plane is a separate (but parallel) universe to our visible, physical plane. Just like God. We have to take it on faith that all these claims are true, because the tradition of the religion, the church elders and doctrines, and the religious texts say so--human expressions, all of them. If God and the soul are these invisible puppeteers behind the scenes, how can I possibly distinguish between their completely invisible/intangible/inaudible existence, and their non-existence? I can't! There's no possible way, except for "faith". Faith is poetically defined as hope in things unseen, but I define it as belief in things without any reason.
If you are a reader of this blog, you know where I am going with this. If I can't distinguish between a thing's non-existence and a thing's invisible/intangible/inaudible existence, then that thing is completely meaningless. It is completely pointless. It is a belief that exists only in our heads--oh, it's not? Show me. I don't insist on physical proof because I am short-sighted. I insist on physical proof because it is the only measure of reality that we have.
Physical proof is the only thing that is logical. If you want to believe in things that you understand are illogical, that's fine, but don't insist that anyone else do so, don't judge them if they don't, and don't have a double standard. If you believe in illogical, unproved things in one aspect of your life, be open to illogical, unproven things in all aspects of your life. Why don't you believe in the tooth fairy, Santa Clause, leprechauns, paganism, buddhism, Zeus, or whatever it is you don't believe? What is your process for determining what's correct, and what's not? What idea wins out over another and why? How? How did you establish the reality of one, and the fantasy of another? Why are Christians wrong, and Muslims right?
And why, oh why, does God (whoever he is) not come down from the heavens, right now, in modern times with video cameras, Facebook, Twitter and instant photography, and prove to us all that he is real and what [insert religion] teaches is true? It would be a bit like this scene from the tv show called V (2009), in this clip, where Anna turns the sky red over the entire earth and her spaceships are seen all over the world. She communicates with earthlings in all their languages, everyone can see (and visit!) the spaceships, and it is covered on the news. And guess what! Not a single person earth can ever deny the existence of aliens.
Again, if we are to rely on faith, or believe things solely because of faith, how can you compare and contrast two faiths (or more) against one another? If you cannot demonstrate that one is more correct than the other, how can you demonstrate that one is correct at all? There is nothing to hold onto, to show, to illustrate, to compare.
The soul, in any definition, is a nice idea, but one that has no substance. We are but temporal, temporary beings, and there is nothing wrong with that. There is still morality and immorality, justice and injustice--but all the battles are fought here. All of love, laughter, learning and exploration happens here and now. Enjoy this life! If there is an afterlife--and there could be--we have to be honest and accept that there is no evidence for it, and stop fighting each other, insisting that our story is true, and everyone else has it wrong.