There are many different beliefs about what the soul is and whether we even have one. Atheists deny its existence since it can’t be discovered through our five senses or scientific experiments.
With the growing popularity of atheism, it’s a good idea to rationally examine your belief in an immortal soul to answer objections that may come your way.
The good news is that you don’t even need religion to demonstrate its existence! You simply need reason. That makes it much easier to debate an atheist who would otherwise dismiss your arguments as religious dogma.
Here’s how you know that you have an immortal soul.
First, what actually is the soul?
Consider a deer leaping through a field. Now think of that same deer dead on the side of the road. It’s the same collection of matter.
What’s the difference?
According to Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, the main difference is that the living deer has a soul and the dead deer does not. Aristotle sees the soul as the thing which unifies a bunch of matter, forms it into a living thing, and then serves as a springboard for all other acts. In the deer’s case, this means walking, running, leaping, and eating.
In other words, it’s the form that takes matter and makes it into a plant, animal, or person and directs the unfolding of their nature to a higher level of realization.
There are different kinds of souls.
All living things have souls, but not the same kind. Plants have vegetative souls. Animals have vegetative and sensory souls. Humans have vegetative, sensory, and rational souls.
Plants and animals don’t have immaterial, immortal souls. We know this because we don’t observe any sort of immaterial activity in these living beings. They show no evidence of rational thought or free will. They act on instinct based on sensory stimuli.
Since they don’t have immortal souls, plants and animals don’t continue to exist after they die. There’s no dog and cat heaven.
This is how you know you have an immortal soul.
You perform actions that transcend the material realm. Your soul has an intellect and will that are capable of reasoning and loving. While these activities make use of the body, they are fundamentally immaterial actions.
Think about a flower. While that concept relies on your previous sense experience of flowers, it’s universal and immaterial, abstracted from the particulars of many individual flowers. You may have an image of a small blue flower in your head, but your understanding of “flower” goes beyond it. Otherwise, you would think all flowers are small and blue.
Or, consider a triangle. You can form a concept of a perfect triangle, but how many people have actually seen perfect triangles in the world? While the imperfect triangles you encounter help you form the concept, that concept is an immaterial reality distinct from these sensible objects.
Since your soul is immaterial, it follows that it’s immortal. Death involves matter. Immaterial entities can only be destroyed by annihilation. We don’t have any way to annihilate souls and God has promised that He won’t erase us from existence.
Therefore, it seems we will persist forever. Better make the most of it!