As is often the case, I feel that I’m something of an oddity when it comes to my personal beliefs. I’m an atheist, in that I don’t believe there is/are a god, gods, or super-powerful conciousness that oversees and controls our existence. It’s not simply that I don’t subscribe to the religious aspects of specific belief systems (which I would call agnosticism), it’s that I don’t think there is a “god”-being out there at all. There may well be races that are more “powerful” or advanced than us elsewhere in the universe, but they’re not gods and they didn’t create us. I do not believe in the religious constructs of “Heaven” or “Hell” or even an “afterlife,” as it is generally thought of in religious circles. This is my belief.
And yet, among other beliefs in what I might call the supernatural (ghosts, etc.), I do believe that human beings each have an individual and unique “soul,” that is, a spiritual form of themselves that exists separately from their physical form, but linked to it. The soul survives the death of the body, and exists on planes other than the physical. However, we can’t perceive those planes while our physical body is alive because our perceptions are linked to our bodies, and can detect the physical plane only. I believe that reincarnation is at least possible, though it’s more up to the individual to decide rather than some overarching judge of a soul’s worth and conduct. I have no real “evidence” for it, but this, also, is my belief.
Most atheists I’ve talked to cannot seem to reconcile the two beliefs. In my experience, atheists I’ve known don’t believe in God or gods or whatever because there is no compelling evidence, and they don’t believe in the soul for the same reason. They believe only in what their senses can tell them is “real,” or in what science can prove. Further, many religious people I’ve talked to (mostly some flavor of Christian, but also some Buddhists and others), seem to believe that a belief in the soul goes hand-in-hand with belief in a higher power. I’ve never heard it stated directly that way, but it certainly does seem to be a general assumption that, if I believe in the soul, I must also believe in a higher power in some form or another.
So, what do the wise Dopers think? Is atheism really at odds with a belief in the soul? Does being an atheist mean that I can’t believe in anything mystical?
And, most importantly, do I have to stop believing in dragons and faeries if I’m an atheist?