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On Faith: 'Faith in the soul' is dangerous for society

July 09, 2011|By Bruce Gleason
  • Stem cell research remains a controversial subject.
Stem cell research remains a controversial subject. (Daily Pilot )

I'm all in favor of people believing anything they want — except when their behavior affects others in a negative way.

To believe in any of the "big three" Abrahamic religions, you have to accept several tenets. You have to believe in supernatural miracles; that God can't make any mistakes; that God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent; and that God gave us a "soul" to name a few.

Exactly when the soul enters the body — if it exists at all — is up for grabs. And if you ask any of the 36,000 Christian sects in America, you'll find different ideas on not only what a soul is, but when believers think it enters their body.

Some abide by the verse in Genesis 2:7: "God breathes life into thee," which means the soul enters at birth.

More conservative sects believe it enters at conception, never explaining what happens to the soul when the cell divides and become twins, or in the rare event when two cells combine to make one iconoclast, or getting upset when two-thirds of all "souls" (impregnated eggs) are flushed down the toilet.

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Since nothing scientifically happens when the soul enters the body, this event must be defined as a supernatural act — and one that can never be empirically proven or disproved. It's an "act of faith." This might seem like a simple acceptance of a religious belief, but it goes so much farther — to the point where it actually is deadly for thousands of people and the suffering of millions.

This "faith in the soul" is incredibly dangerous when it comes to voting and constructing laws that impede scientific research. The reason that it is hard to see is that it inhibits stem cell research to help relieve suffering for people in the future — but this concept is far from our view. We can't see any results now or possibly for many decades. It's this indirect viewpoint that is harming our great-grandchildren.

We will never see in our lifetime the discovery involving stem cells to cure or reduce the affects of Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease — it's too far away.

But our future generations will see these breakthroughs. They will look back and see this act of postponing the suffering as barbaric and injurious. And why?

Because half of Americans care more in a supernatural soul than they do in improving the human condition. Before you vote, think of the result your vote will have on impeding the science of limiting the suffering for those "far away."

BRUCE GLEASON is the director of the Freethought Alliance, an atheistic group.

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