The idea of an immortal soul – For Socrates this meant something in you that is indestructible. For St. Paul the immortality of the soul meant your non-physical soul would be re-united with a new physical body at judgment day [The idea that you die and then go to a paradise or punishment is a Greek idea; it is not Christian orthodoxy.]
Problems – Doctrines of immortal souls are difficult to accept in the 21st century because: 1) the idea of soul is useless in science; and 2) consciousness depends on brains. You could just have faith in an immortal soul, or try to find reasons to believe in immortality, or you just give up on the idea altogether. For evidence of immorality you might turn to:
- near-death experiences – PROBLEM – NDE, to the extent they occur, provide very little reason to believe in life after death, and are easily explained scientifically.
- Reincarnation – PROBLEM – the evidence for R is weak or non-existent.
- Psychics who communicate with dead. PROBLEM – anyone who claims to do this is a charlatan. The tricks by which supposed psychics fool people are well-known.
It would be miraculous if our consciousness could survive without our bodies. Perhaps we should just believe in miracles. But David Hume advanced a powerful argument that it is never rational to believe in miracles, it is one of the most famous in all of philosophy. Hume asks, What is more likely?
- that someone in the past actually walked on water, rose from the dead, etc., or
- that those who tell such stories are exaggerating, lying, or have themselves been deceived.
Of course #2 is more likely. Lying, exaggerating, or being credulous are common; walking on water or rising from the dead or not. Thus it is never rational to believe in miracles—defined as actions violating laws of nature—because #2 is always more likely than #1.
While immortality is possible, it is easy to see that it is highly unlikely.