Do you have a soul?

Perhaps as a result of many years of church (or should that be CHURCH?), I have since early childhood had some concept of my own soul. It is a difficult thing to define exactly. To say it is synonymous with your personality would be close, but not strictly accurate. It is not the same as the physical body, but to say this undermines the importance of the physical person and the temporal realm. This is, after all, the theatre where all our moral performances and auditions are played out. Having said that, your physical body is not hugely important to who you essentially are, otherwise you would “lose a part of yourself” every time you cut your fingernails. The soul, to me, is some kind of definition of who we are. No cell in your body is older than about ten years, as your physical body is constantly renewing itself. But you are still who you are. Similarly, your intellect changes over time. Many of the ideas that were in your head are pushed out and replaced by new ones. I no longer believe in the Tooth Fairy, but I do now know about Micro-Economics. My mind has changed drastically, but I am still the same person, so it would be inaccurate to directly equate the soul with the mind.

I think the soul has some connection with ethics. In many branches of Christianity, there is a notion that your soul is an intact object (albeit a metaphysical one) which can be damaged by your ill deeds. There is a suggestion in many Christian sermons and writings that each time you commit an immoral deed, your soul is somehow marked or damaged (it is often left unclear as to whether this is permanent or not). What is not as widely discussed, is the issue of how to grow or enhance our soul, or the repairing of a damaged soul.

Forgiveness is a huge theme in Christianity, so why do many (admittedly old fashioned) Christians carry the idea of a permanently damaged soul? Why do we label people according to their sins?

Is it possible for someone to commit a horrendous, hateful crime, and still at some point in the future have a “clean soul”? Without giving too much away, Bram Stoker’s short story A Dream of Red Hands does explore this idea. I found it really moving, and would recommend it to anyone struggling with the idea that their soul is beyond repair.

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