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Atheist Bake Sale

The UWA Atheist & Skeptic Society is having a Bake Sale on the UWA Oak Lawn this Wednesday (21 Sep 2011) at 1 pm. There’s an unusual twist: Rather than accept money for the baked goods, the club simply requests… your soul.

It’s an interesting experiment in superstition metaphysics. I don’t know if people will gratefully accept a cookie, get angry, or shy away. I told a Christian guy about it, and he said, no, he wouldn’t be interested in a cookie. But why not? Does he really think he has a soul, and if so, what is it? Can it be traded in a Faustian bargain? Does it hit uncomfortably close to C.S. Lewis’s witch, who offers you Turkish Delight but instead only gives you pages and pages of turgid allegory? (Or something. I always was a little fuzzy on Lewis.)

Here’s a blurb I’m working on, to hand out at the event.

Do people have souls?

If by ‘soul’ you mean, a part of you that survives your death, then no, there’s no evidence to suggest that anyone has a soul. But that’s okay. You have a brain, and it does all the things that people commonly attribute to souls.

What happens after we die?

Religions of the world have made up a lot of contradicting stories to answer this question, and some people are happy to believe (and pay) whoever tells them the biggest story. But religions offer no evidence for their claims about any sort of afterlife.

The most likely scenario is that your brain (which is the organ responsible for perception) dies, and your perception stops.

Well, that’s depressing!

It doesn’t have to be. Mark Twain once said, “I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

Having a limited existence means you have to do all the good you can while you’re here. You need to make the most of this life, the only one we’re sure of having. You don’t get a second chance to learn, to love, to create, to make things better on this planet. So do it now.

If you’re on campus, come on down and say hi. If nothing else, we have cookies. And there’s even a guarantee: If you’re not 100% satisfied, you can have your soul back.

5 Comments

  1. Ha, reminds me of my college days. Before phones were smart enough to solve integrals, we were always carrying (or borrowing) graphing calculators. Mine had a sticker on it: "Our Price: Your Soul".

    It was always great to watch the range of reactions when I explained the price for loaning the calculator.

  2. Wow, and that was just to borrow it for a while.

    Was it like a deposit?

  3. More of a lifetime contract – there was no additional charge if they needed to borrow it again.

    The most interesting responses were those of atheists who inexplicably tried to weasel out of signing the soul contract.

  4. Hm.

    I think I'm going to try three levels of commitment. One is verbal — you get the cookie if you simply agree to the soul transfer.

    For the traditionalists, there will be a Contract that they can sign.

    And finally: breathe into this Ziploc baggie and write your name on it with a Sharpie.

    Which will cause normal educated people to quail the most inexplicably?

  5. Ha! Clever idea.

    I'd actually been wondering lately if there were any people out there who would be willing to exchange things for my 'soul'. As a student, I had been hoping for cash, but a cookie is always acceptable. Any chance there will be some vegan-friendly goodies there? If not, I suppose I'll just go offer it up on ebay 😉

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