We’ll consider these three popular theories, the first one in this chapter and the other two in the next. The idea that death is the end of one’s existence is founded upon materialism: the theory that nothing exists but matter. Therefore, there is no soul or spirit to survive the death of the body; nor do God, Satan, angels, devils, or anything else that isn’t physical exist. This atheistic theory is appealing, and many would like to believe it because there would be no future judgment to face for one’s misdeeds. Such a belief can be easily dismissed, however, on the basis of much evidence to the contrary.
One of the major products of materialism is the theory of evolution (which we will consider later). If all we are is the material of our bodies, then evolution might have some validity. But if there is a nonphysical part of man that animals don’t have (for which there is abundant proof), then evolution of the physical body could never explain the development of humans. Furthermore, that difference would constitute an impassable chasm preventing any evolutionary ancestral relationship between animals and man. This was pointed out clearly by Mortimer J. Adler, Chicago University philosophy professor, co-founder of the Great Books of the Western World, and an editor of The Encyclopedia Britannica, in his important 1967 book, The Difference of Man and the Difference it Makes.
That we are each more than our physical bodies is evident from the fact that we hold ideas and thoughts that are not physical and therefore cannot be part of the physical brain. Our thoughts are not the result of stimuli from the physical world around us. A common misconception is the idea that we think in pictures: in our mind we see a cow, or a tree, or a car, etc. But this last sentence has a number of words for which there is no physical object to picture. What is the picture of “common,” or “misconception,” or “idea,” or “think,” or “mind”?
To the ancient assertion, “I think, therefore I am,” must be added, “My thoughts are nonmaterial; therefore, so am I.” That being the case, where do these thoughts reside, what form do they take, and what is their origin? These questions, for which materialism has no answer, must be seriously and honestly faced if we are to understand ourselves.