Religion

Nigeria: Where Are The Sustainable Solutions?

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There is a lack of sustainable solutions in Nigeria. It seems we always like to tackle problems from a myopic view and by we I mean our political class, policy makers and leaders. Politicians come out and criticize one another and seem only adept at trying to solve problems from the surface. We are a country in dire need of think tanks and policy makers who would listen and reason with the recommendations of such think tanks to offer lasting solutions to the many problems that beset our nation. We are a nation of brilliant, intelligent, hard working and creative men and women so it behooves me why we keep giving temporary and short term solutions to long term and recurring problems.
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The Nigerian Immunity to Suffering

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“Doesn’t being Nigerian make you immune to human suffering?” These being the words of Right Honorable Sir Farouk that were spoken once upon a chat. Now let us go into Nigerian movie mode and indulge me and take a flashback to an earlier point in time, circa when I first went to the US. Well maybe not exactly the first time but around the first charity event I could vividly remember going to in college. It was something or the other about Ugandan child soldiers and it was a documentary screening followed by a talk about the situation at the time and how we could get involved or donate to help these former Ugandan child soldiers get the rehabilitation they needed. Now while the documentary was going on, I looked left and right and noticed that the oyibo people were shedding tears or at least a tear dropped while they were watching the sad story. I maintained a pretty (or handsome) straight face, I was more of trying to figure out what the documentary was about and although it did make me a bit sad, I wasn’t filled the urge to adopt a million former child soldiers and no I did not shed a tear. Was something wrong with me? Of course there is the role that being brought up a man in Nigeria/Africa plays. You are supposed to be all strong and stoic, the perfect Robocop with little or no emotions. But that is not the crux of it, recently I realized that part of the reason that the suffering of these other people did not bother me was because I was brought up in Nigeria…

Yes, yes I went there. Shoot me or sue me. I m bullet and lawyer proof! So I have a theory to support my assertion that immunity to the suffering and plight of others can be linked to being brought up in Nigeria. In summary, my theory is that majority of Nigerians even those who live in the bubble of the upper class are witness to the suffering that goes on in our society and ignore this suffering so much so that they become numb to suffering. For example, in a lot of cities in Nigeria there are beggars on the streets, a lot of them with all sorts of physical challenges and so on and yes people do give them alms/donations but there is something detached about even doing that which prevents majority of Nigerians from truly empathizing with the plights of these less fortunate ones in our society. And of course you have stories of people disappearing once they hand one of these beggars money, stories how some of these beggars have mansions somewhere and were told by the babalawo to come beg or something, or the religious or tribal sentiment (I call this the “why should I give money to these dirty mallams who won’t hesitate to slit my throat if given a chance”) that prevent certain people from giving to these people. Of course there are those of us that feel these people are a nuisance and applaud attempts by government to get them removed from the cities.
I would be amiss to mention the also equally Nigerian syndrome of “I don’t care unless it directly affects me, my family or someone I know”. This attitude is not outright said but it plays out in the way we react to tragedy was a nation. The typical cycle is that some form of tragedy happens, people who are somewhat directly affected or know someone who is affected get sad and react, others feign sympathy and thank God that they or anyone they know did not suffer from the tragedy and soon enough they forget about the initial tragedy and move on their regular business, why? Because that’s the Nigerian way. This also plays a part in why we are numb to suffering.

I would remiss to not mention how once upon a time we were the happiest people on earth according to some poll or whatever. Well I think its not so much that we are happy despite all the poor conditions in our country, it is a case of the rich and middle class routinely ignore the poor unless of course the poor are related to them. The rich are too busy taking care of their constituency (their immediate and extended family, their village, local government, ethnic group or people from their state) to genuinely care about other poor people, the sense of duty to this constituency prevents them from empathizing with their suffering. They help them out and hence their poor relations and constituency pray for them to succeed while hoping to strike it rich themselves. The poor on their own end don’t have time to pay attention to the suffering of others poorer or on their level because they are hustling to make it and are probably highly invested in religion because of course our society glorifies the attainment of wealth through supernatural means (blog topic?) without necessary doing what the rich do to get rich. You see ask any rich Nigerian how he/she got their wealth and the popular refrain is “Na God o”. You would think God came down from heaven with a bag of dollars and gave it to them while the poor man must have been sleeping on the said day. So the poor pray to get rich and are not empathic to the plight of others.

Its my generalization to which of course there are exceptions that Nigerians (I included) are great and all round good people but we are set up to be immuned to the suffering of our fellow countrymen. For some reason we brush off death, suffering, poverty and the likes as part of God’s will. They probably are but damn, a lot of people act like life is continuation of the sperm race where we all hustled and pushed to get to the ovary first without any care for the plight of our fellow sperms to be born. Personally, I think I am numb to suffering because I live in a society where suffering has become a part of our daily life.

So is the cure for suffering being Nigerian? Does me theory hold water? When last did you cry for Nigeria and not because someone you know died of the Nigerian condition (accident, BH, etc)? Why are we so numb as a people? Are we truly the happiest people on earth? Or do we just ignore our problems?

Aboki Shine my Shoe!

A Fool’s Guide to Natural Disasters

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Noah's ark and the flood

So Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy came and went and somewhat fortunately I guess for me that I am in Nigeria. Up until May this year, I lived in the tri-state area (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) and where I live was heavily flooded by Sandy. Pardon my language but she was such a wet bish. Given that my apartment was a basement apartment, It would have definitely been damaged by Sandy. Alas fate, destiny, God made it that I am in Africa. *Cue Testimony music and raise hands to heaven speaking in tongues*, I’m sure there is a testimony in the church mode of thinking somewhere in there. That being said, my heart goes out to all the people who lost their lives and were affected by Sandy.

So I was merrily browsing le internet last week and I came across a synopsis (right word?) of reactions from other parts of the world to Sandy on Global voices: It was titled: “Arab World: Sandy unleashes wrath of God on infidel America”

Trust me, I made a comment and it went thus:

“It is absolutely ridiculous to believe that a natural disaster is God’s punishment on a nation. Evil people exist everywhere whether it is in America or the Middle East. It is sheer ignorance to latch on one’s hatred for a country and use that to justify a callous and dismissive approach to the vicitims of the disaster.
As for the lack of coverage of the massacre in Syria, it is a case of who pays the piper dictates the tune. American and Western media outlets are predominant the world over so it is natural that they cover the events that affect them directly. Human nature is selfish. If the Arab world needs more coverage perhaps we need more stations like Al-Jazeera whose constituency is the Arab world and its citizens.” – HRH Prince Farouk I

Like the comment says, I find it preposterous that there are people who think any natural disaster is God’s way of punishing people. News flash, Natural disasters happen. There is no selective process involved. There are scientific and logical explanations for every natural disaster that occurs. There isn’t a big man in the sky that throws thunder bolts at nations or people that piss him off based on his whims or evil.

Bringing this back home, I have heard a few people describe the flooding that has occurred in various parts of Nigeria as God’s punishment for our increasing decadence as a society. Apparently our fornication, terrorism, adultery, corruption, ashawo tendencies have increased and as a result God decided to reward us with floods. Um, No. The floods are a results of undredged waters, climate change resulting in higher rainfall and the fact that Cameroon let open one of their dams doesn’t help the matter as well.

Like I said in my comment, If God rewards evil with natural disasters upon nations then wouldn’t that be sort of unfair? Arent there evil and sinful men and women all over the world? I believe whatever religion you believe, Natural disasters should not be seen as a punishment from God but an opportunity to reflect on the transient nature of life and how we need to make sure we are right with our maker (or lack thereof for the atheists), make peace with ourselves and recognize that death is no respecter of persons. We should also condole with those who have lost people in disasters, not sit around and castigate them for what they clearly had no control over. Lets leave the story of Noah and the flood in Genesis where it belongs.

Also there are people that believe AIDS is God’s punishment for homosexuality, poverty means that you have done something to offend God, babies born with disabilities are God’s punishment for abortion, etc. The list goes on…smh.

So what do you think? Are Natural Disasters messages from God? Should be afraid that I might be struck by lightening while I fornicate? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do intelligent people leave their brains at the door when it comes to religion? Speak your piece ladies and gentlemen…

Bad Religion and the Audacity of Idiocy

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protest

I have half followed the controversy surrounding the anti-muslim video (the youtube comments are smh worthy) that was released on the internet that depicted the prophet of Islam as a sadistic nymphomaniac with erratic tendencies. I believe it was meant to be a comedy or something of that nature. Its actually poorly executed though. On the one hand, I was appalled that the people behind this video were “Christians”. I put that in quote because I am sure that the video was certainly un-christlike and did little to promote peace in our strife-prone world. On the other hand, the wanton violence and threatened violence that followed the release of the video from a section of the muslim ummah (community) was certainly disheartening and seems to be a continuation of a cycle of reactionary and retaliatory actions that underscore what can only be poor PR for the muslim faith.

Of course in situations like this, I am fairly sure that there is moderate, intellectual section of the muslim population that have reacted with outrage and disgust but not on a physical level of assault and vandalism. These are people that recognize the video for what it is, a provocation. These people probably also recognize that Allah is the ultimate and they need not fight for author and finisher of all things. They know the truth about their prophet and no work of poor cinematic quality will tell them otherwise. The outrage comes from the level of close mindedness and disrespect on display in the video.

Before you christen my defender of the muslim faith, I will reiterate that I am a Christian and I was equally appalled by the video. I really wish these nuts who hide under the guise of Christianity to do these things will quit. Neither religion can really claim the moral high ground in its centuries old history. People have committed all sorts of atrocities in the name of Christianity and Islam, it is ridiculous. It takes someone who is really ignorant of the other religion or a poor student of history to stand and condemn the main figure of a religion. Of course, I have grown to a conclusion that all religion might be likened to a drug, too much of it might lead to addiction to the point of fanaticism or overdose leading to the death of the mind. And like any drug whose original aim is to cure a disease, in this case human immorality and lead to better health which I will liken to greater spirituality and adoration of God.

Of course there is a bigger context of a clash of cultures, of political power and subjugation to a world hegemony presumably representing a judeo-christian agenda versus a section of the world that feels backed into a corner and has resorted to violence but alas that is way above my pay grade and the scope of my musings. Of course I often wonder where free speech ends and the infringement upon the right of others to practice their religion in peace starts.

Clearly because you have the right to say whatever you like does not mean you say what can incite or denigrate others. Fundamentalism aside, the Qur’an does allude to Christians being the more friendly of the “People of the book” in Sura 8:52. That said, I do question the motives of the makers of the video. Were they trying to evangelize? If so, how exactly does pissing people off convince them that yours is the right religion? I wonder in ancient Sumerian.

I was listening to the song below, the title is catchy but the song is not really about the same thing as the topic though.

Disclaimer: I may not fully understand the intricacies of the controversy

What do you think of the controversy surrounding the video? Yay, Nay or don’t give a shay? Use the comment box below. Why do people resort to violence in defense of their religion? Does the creator of the universe not have the tools to defend himself? Speak you piece, peace or pieces s’il vous plait.

Brainstorming Terrorism in Nigeria: How can we defeat Boko Haram?

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Jack Bauer Flies in to destroy Boko Haram

In the two years since I started this blog and while living in Nigeria and shuttling in and out of the country occasionally, It would be silly for me to deny that terrorism has become part and parcel of the Nigerian discourse, reality and life. It has changed the way of life of many especially in my beloved arewa (Northern Nigeria). The entire region as defined by the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello that stretches from the middle belt states of Kwara, Niger, Benue up to the tip of Katsina and as far east as Borno and west as Sokoto is under threat. Even the federal capital is not safe it seems from the scourge of these overzealous religious bigots who seek to further entrench anarchy in the Nigerian psyche (Nigeria from as far back as I can remember is a place that typifies the working principle behind chaos theory, seemingly random mathematical systems and models which are unpredictable yet serve a function in nature), promote a climate of fear (title of a series of BBC lectures by Wole Soyinka, I m yet to finish reading) and challenge the fundamental right of every Nigerian to live life, live it freely and without encumbrance. The aim of this group of terrorists and insurgents in its essence is unclear. Their very existence in my opinion is a product of corruption, a seemingly purposeful retrogression of the masses of northern Nigeria and Nigeria as a whole, a vacuum left by a mostly bloodless independence struggle and the failure of the people to organize a popular revolution for positive change in Nigeria after over 50 years of independence. All in all, it is a continuation/culmination of the multifaceted dynamic of religious, ethnic and class struggles often underpinned by the products of colonial intrigue, neo-colonial machinations and imperialistic cravings that define the core of what it means to be Nigerian and by extrapolation African.

This group who whether we like it or not have proven themselves Nigerian perhaps not by ideology but by birth at least and citizenship has undertaken a campaign of destruction and left in its wake the blood and bodies of many Nigerians. Series of bomb blasts, gun fights and gun attacks have occurred time without number and currently it seems that every day there is an attack or an attempted attack by the group, affiliates or nameless assailants who have taken cover under the umbrella of Boko Haram. You see in a nation where security of lives and property was never fully assured, it is sometimes hard to discern the boko haram attacks from assassinations or armed robberies undertaken by gun men who attack markets and cart away money while leaving many dead. So far the scourge of the terrorists has affected the states of Yobe, Borno, Adamawa, Bauchi, Pleateau, Kano, Kaduna, Niger and Abuja. It seems the group is in cooperation with other terrorist groups in Africa, AQIM and Al-Shabbab. They share training and funding with the said groups that is in addition to funding they get from other sources.

The question that has been addressed in many a write-up is, what is government doing about it? It is essential to note that the main function of government is to ensure the security of lives and property. All other things are secondary to this primary function. In ancient societies, empires were built by conquest as well as by the consent of smaller towns and principalities that submitted to the higher military power for protection and hence became a protectorate and part of the empire. I am no expert in Weberian concepts of power and the legitimacy of power but I daresay that even today, any government that is unable to protect its own people is by implication illegitimate and does not deserve the backing of the people. Max Weber, of which I speak, once defined the state as an entity which has a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. In our nation, it would seem the use of violence has been deregulated and exposed to the forces of demand of supply at the mercy of him or her who has the capacity to unleash said violence. This makes each and every Nigerian a quasi-state unto themselves complete with their own power company, water supply agency and so on. That being said, it would seem from an outside view that the government is helpless against the group and is engaging them in a structured war when the terrorists are engaging in guerrilla warfare which calls for a very different strategy.

As to whether these strategies are already on the ground, I do not know. I am no security expert; In fact my only qualification is perhaps an above average IQ and comprehensive watching of shows and movies such as 24 starring the indestructible Jack Bauer, an American anti-terrorism agent of seemingly German heritage going by the last name who destroys terrorists with the efficiency of a German engineered automobile (Evidently, I m a big fan of German engineering go figure). With my meagre credentials in this field, I believe the best was to tackle a guerrilla insurgency is by infiltration, isolation, starvation and ultimately decimation. In the following paragraphs I will explain what I mean by these.

To tackle the insurgency and terrorism it is important that intelligence is given a priority. The government should focus on intelligence gathering, counter intelligence and smart interrogation or assassination of key members. If the security agencies haven’t done this already, I suggest a secret group of well paid undercover operatives be created. I am talking about recruiting intelligent young men and women of the muslim faith who are able to blend into the group, they should be able to speak hausa/kanuri/fulani and be conversant with some Arabic. They should undergo serious training and be willing to disappear from public limelight for a few months. They should be able to cut off contact with friends and family. No one will know where they went and no one will know they are part of the group unlike nowadays where if you go to a neighbourhood people can point out to you who is an SSS officer in the area. These people will case out known hangouts of the group and win their trust. They shall stay with them and report their information directly to the leader of the stealth group. It is their information that will be used to capture key members of the group and also gain information on the source of their funds, weapons and training. Also it is these undercover operatives that will engage in stealth assassination such as poisoning of the leaders or well executed killing. These people shall be given a license to kill. This is not farfetched in a country where killing squads and letter bombs were the tools of oppression of past military juntas.

Apart from undercover operatives, a softening of the posture of the security agencies by better public relations will help them to canvass for information from the people. Anonymous information centres shall be established and rewards shall be given for information that eventually pans out. We shall become a country of snitches to help halt terrorism. In line with gathering information from the public it is important that a huge sensitization programme be undertaken. Also there should be greater vigilance in neighbourhoods, people should return to the days of being their neighbours keeper because it would seem that as we modernize we have slowly become a nation of I pass my neighbour and mind your own business. Suspect activity should be reported. A network of citizen vigilance and intelligence should be created to help halt crime and terrorism.

Another key tactic is to isolate the group. By isolating and starving the group, I am referring to preventing their collaboration with foreign terrorist groups. To isolate the group, the Nigerian immigration will have to actually do their jobs of protecting and patrolling the nation’s border as well as making sure every resident of this country has the right to be here. This prevents the inflow of weapons and foreign personnel for the terrorist group. Also on a financial angle, the flow of money within the country as well as in and out of the country should be seriously monitored. The country should cooperate with foreign nations from which some of these funds come to freeze the accounts as well as get intelligence on the money trail. If the money trail of the terrorist is found and the trail blocked, it will be akin to a financial isolation of the group. Since Nigeria is a federation, perhaps it is time that movement of people from one state of the nation to another be properly monitored and prevent a spread of hostilities.

The concept of dialogue in my opinion is a non issue, it is my opinion these sort of people are very different from the MEND militants. These are people that see their mission as one sanctioned by God, ladies and gentlemen let me put this into perspective they believe that the maker and creator of all things has ordained for them to kill people and believe me many of them are absolutely obstinate in their convictions they won’t be swayed by money and scholarships to study abroad.

My people, what say you, how can we stop boko haram?

Kumbaya Existence

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Since I had earlier promised on twitter to put up a new post and as my ridiculous nature would have it, I forgot the storage device where I had saved the post at home meaning I ll probably have a post up tomorrow. Enjoy this post I wrote a while back when I was on The Young and Disenchanted. Boy does that sound like a soap opera name though.

The Young and Disenchanted

Kumbaya

Imagine a world of no conflicts, a world where everyone believes in the oneness of the human race. A world where people of all races sit down together and share equally in the wonderful resources the earth has to give. Africa and the Middle East are peaceful regions. The distinction between the third and first world, the developed and the developing, no longer exist. Racism, tribalism, xenophobia are all things of the past. The human race respects nature and the environment is safe. On that day, human beings shall hold hands together and we shall sing “Kumbaya” in unison.
Now to the realists/cynics amongst us, this vision of the world is unattainable. For such a world to exist we would have to give up the selfishness which marks us individuals, part of what defines us. While I do generally agree that this Kumbaya existence in unattainable, I do however feel…

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Life, Death and the Aftermath: Who will Save our Souls?

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judgement of the soul

“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?