“If energy cannot be created or destroyed, and we are all essentially made of energy, then doesn’t that mean we can’t actually die? I mean obviously our bodies can, but our souls can’t die if what we are is energy. We must take a new form…”
This was a comment I read on a blog about church going. The context of this statement is that the belief in an afterlife and the need for assurance in the face of death is one of the things that drive religion. This concept was further emphasized while I was watching the movie religulous, and in it there was a point where Bill Maher made a statement along the lines that lack of faith is a luxury. If you have ever wondered about why the poorer and more strife prone a country is the more religious it is, there is your answer. When people are constantly in the shadow of death or in the midst of poverty and suffering, not having some higher power to believe in is a luxury few of these people can afford. As a Nigerian and as an African, I know this. I might not be the poster child for poverty but I know that in my country when you step out of your house, there is quite the possibility of being attacked by armed robbers, getting in a car accident, getting struck by a bolt of lightning sent to you by your enemy who is practicing juju/jazz, getting stabbed by an irate Chelsea fan when watching some football. In some ways, we all live in the constant shadow of death for what is the light of life without the shadow of death it casts.
On a side and sad note, I would like to offer my condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the tragic Dana airline disaster last week in Nigeria that saw over a 100 people die from the plane crash as well as those who were in the building the plane struck. I would also like to offer my condolences to the hundreds that have died as a result of the insurgence in the Northern part of the country. The victims of the shootings, extra judicial killings, bomb blasts and clashes, my heart goes out to you. The surreptitious nature of death in Nigeria is why we cannot neglect as much as we try the solace of an afterlife and the existence of the soul. Indeed we all want to believe our dearly departed ones are in a better place and continue to leave outside the realm of the physical in which we currently reside.
I believe it in the quest to understand what happens after we die we created the concept of the soul. The soul as I understand it is the abstract energy that continues to live on after we die. It is the thing within us that is either soiled or uplifted by our actions while alive. It is the thing almost every religion that preaches an after-life is trying to “save”. In the Christian version of it, the human soul is a unique and special gift given to man. It is our soul that live on after we die and stand in judgment for the sins or good deeds we have performed on earth with the caveat that we believe in Jesus as the guarantee for entrance of our souls into God’s house in heaven where there are many rooms. This version of eternity holds that the souls granted access into heaven are going to be singing for eternity while those who are condemned shall spend their eternity in a lake of fire characterized by darkness, weeping, gnashing of teeth and the company of Lucifer and his minions. Then you have the Muslim version with 40 virgins in a garden of paradise. That’s about it for my knowledge of what awaits the soul in Islamic afterlife. There is also the concept of reincarnation believed by some. Once the body dies, the soul is transferred to another body and this continues until one reaches enlightenment. The soul if it exists is a very important part of our being and as such I bet we would want to have a favorable outcome for the soul.
That being said, I am one of those people that detest attempts to scare me into saving my soul. Last year I was given a book that claimed to chronicle the vision of a person who went to hell and came back. This is not my first time reading such literature. I remember when I was far younger reading a book by a lady who claimed to have seen a vision of hell and came back to warn all of us. The lady also had a book titled, “the divine revelation of heaven” which was also somewhat detailed in its description. The books on hell have one purpose and one purpose only in my opinion that is to scare people into salvation in this particular case, a Christian/evangelical brand of salvation. Give your life to Christ and follow our doctrine or burn in the eternal lake of fire. I think that pretty much summarizes the message. In my times of introspection, I often wonder if this is not some type of walmart aka mass produced brand of soul salvation because if the reason we were created was to serve God and we are given free will to choose to serve God and keep our souls pure for the time of judgment then wouldn’t the almighty creator of the universe know if people are following him just to avoid hell? Wouldn’t he know a genuine love and servitude for and to him from a fake one nurtured by fear of damnation? In some ways, I feel that a salvation of the soul based on fear and guilt is a salvation of you are damned if you do and you are damned if you don’t. Not to heap the cow’s manure on evangelicals alone, I wonder about the radical Islamists who kill infidels and instill fear in people. Perhaps their strategy is somewhat similar to a hell raising preacher the only difference is that one is promising eternal harm while the other seems to feel they are the earthly representatives of Allah’s judgment and do not hesitate to condemn infidels through physical death to everlasting punishment.
In thinking about the soul, I wonder that if there is one way to salvation; what happens to those who follow other ways because except for some of the newer all size fit one religions, many of the older ones believe it is their way or the highway. It makes me think so what if my soul and my being are backing the wrong horse? What if we all get to the afterlife if there is one and like an episode of southpark we find out that the Mormons were right, all 1 million of them have saved their souls and the remaining 7.99 billion of us are doomed? Are we and our souls not subject to our place of birth and circumstances of our upbringing? Had I being born in a different place and brought up differently, surely I would have a different religion and going by the reasoning the destiny of my soul would have been different? In fact, are the destinies of our souls in the afterlife pre-determined? If what will save our souls is religion and not our actions, then who is doomed and who is not? Will there be different versions of the afterlife? Will there be a Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish paradise in the afterlife? Will the atheist not be entitled to an afterlife? Shall he/she sleep and never awaken after death? These are some of the thoughts that buzz around in my mind from time to time.
These days in Nigeria, it seems death surrounds us left and right. It is as though the apocalypse decided to have an early start in our country. As I write this another bomb has gone off in the city of Jos. When surrounded by death, is it an indicator to live better or shall we take solace in the promise of an afterlife? Ladies and gentlemen of the reading public, what does the soul mean to you? Do you believe such a thing exists? Do you believe in the afterlife? What do you think it would be like? Indeed, who will save our souls?