Soul Amigo

One of the things that I spend time wondering about is how the various trappings of religion came about. I mean if you were a priest or a shaman or some such and God didn’t talk to you, and you wanted to keep control of “your flock” and get them to do the right thing, why would you come up with the various things that make up your “beliefs.”

Along that line I was asking God the other day how it is that the notion of “soul” as separate from “person” came about. Was there really a need to come up with a separate term for a part of us that continues on past the death of our bodies?

She told me that it was partially invented as a way to keep us hating people and to help depersonalize interventions. If someone was doing something bad you could say that their soul was still pure to give you a reason to still value them. Then you could go to them and say things like “Look, we want to keep you from damaging your soul.” It’s a variation on when you do something bad and someone says “Hey, you’re better than that.” There’s a trick that some people do to fool themselves into accomplishing things that they think may be beyond them, they “pretend” that they can do the thing and then just go ahead and do it. Sort of fooling themselves into not having fooled themselves, or something like that. The soul gives us a personal, anthropomorphized ideal to live up to, to aspire to.

One of the downsides of this is that it allows us to keep both our love of people and our prejudices intact, without having to do much self-examination, without having to resolve the cognitive dissonance. You see that in such statements as “love the sinner but hate the sin” which is a cheap platitude that keeps many people from having to reevaluate the values that they’ve been taught, as opposed to those that they’ve been able to derive from first principles.

After all, why walk a mile in a man’s shoes if you can just say the problem isn’t with the man but with his shoes. And then maybe you’ll see that “soul” and “sole” have something in common.

RSS feed


No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.