If I only didn’t have a brain

A Christian recently responded to a question of whether hell is a place of eternal torment by reflecting:

I sometimes imagine hell as being pure isolation of one’s own thoughts.. no sounds, no movements, nothing except ones own thoughts in darkness on full knowledge that God exists yet was denied or defied whilst here on earth. I think that would be more torment than any human could bear but it being eternal there is no escape. – Christian Apologist

Why do some theists – many many theists, actually – so want there to be such a thing as this? Let’s take a look at the merits of this person’s thoughts. First off, he is not the average Christian. The person who wrote this is very well-versed in philosophy and most of us wouldn’t understand much of what he says. He is very serious about proper arguments and such. With that said, how can he contemplate such a thing if he truly were serious about study?

Any mental torment we bear as humans is only possible by being a human. A human is not an invisible nothingness. We are made of stuff. Even our thoughts are made of stuff. I can use chemicals to stop all pain in my body and to alter my thoughts and bring about euphoria. I can remove parts of my brain and suddenly I do not know who I am; I have no memory or experience to draw from and I will have forgotten everyone I once knew and think of them as complete strangers. If I remove enough of the brain, I can lose consciousness completely. This doesn’t mean I am sleeping, it means I am “turned off” and I have no thoughts. I am essentially a lump of living tissue with no way to control my body or to think. I would die if not fed and without machines to make me breath and pump my heart.

So how then, with my brain dead and rotting upon my death, do I suddenly have memory and sensory and awareness? If I could really have all of this without a brain, why do I have a brain at all? People could live brain trauma-free and chemical imbalance-free. Everyone’s minds would work perfectly; No strange behaviors that cause deviant behavior, etc. The most fortified structure in by body – my skull which is there to protect my brain- would have no purpose. With perfect brains, it would be a perfect world.

Free will would no longer be needed by the God of monotheism to test the weaker-minded people because all brains would be equal. We’d all be using our flawless perfect invisible brains. Without trauma and chemical imbalances and food allergies and other genetic and externally caused maladies that currently plague the human brain and cause malfunction – most often completely undiagnosed – people would not make poor decisions or display bad behavior. They would just do the things they learned to do… Perfectly! And memory would be perfect. Imagine all the mistakes people make just from relying on the memory stored in that mass of troubled flesh. The body would function so much better without the brain sending signals to make the heart beat irrationally over mere thoughts or anxiety attacks. Things like hives or many of the ailments which are the direct result of emotional states caused by thoughts which are tied to the rest of the body through electro-chemical activity in the brain and nervous system would not exist.

If we really did have a way to think without a brain, I can only wonder why we have one. Think of how many people would never die from brain trauma. Think of all the children who would never be born with mental defects. If there is a way to think without a brain, the whole idea of God creating people the way he did makes him far more devious than originally contemplated.

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SC Rowland is a secularist, activist, and founder of Secular Press.

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