The soul, as an entity separate from the body, does not exist. It is not some ethereal anthropomorphic being which resides inside of a physical vehicle. It’s not a real entity.
At least, that is my firm position as an atheist. I do not believe in the supernatural.
However, I believe that soul is a useful term – and I want it back. I want to appropriate it from religion.
I think it can be framed it this way: the soul is merely an amalgamation of all the little things that make up a single person. However, it is not just their experiences, their personality, or their inner thoughts – it is also something more like that little sense of self that exists in all of us.
And it’s not just self-hood, either – it’s a little something beyond that. It’s that penchant to absorb and embrace the sublime. It is sublime. It is also the sum total of the deepest, darkest, brightest, most engrossing feelings that we have – feelings which, taken in their most literal sense, are nothing more than hormonal injections in response to stimuli. Those hormones are real, though, and make up our experience as conscious humans.
“Soul” is a good, succinct word. Just because I don’t believe in a distinct, ethereal spirit entity that constitutes my consciousness apart from my physical body, it doesn’t mean I can’t use the word to portray the underlying essence of what it is referring to.
So, there you have it. I’m an atheist who believes in the idea of a soul.