Just this morning I finished the book "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho. It is very god centric and speaks a lot about souls. I know this will be a very different approach on the topic, but I hope I can be clear enough so that you can understand my interpretation on things while still considering myself an atheist.
I wrote a blog awhile ago called "Assholes and Atheists" and I really think this is a continuation of that blog. It comes from a very different place brought on by thoughts I had while reading this book over the last few days.
"The Alchemist" is a quick read and is only about 167 pages. It really made me think a lot more than most other books I have read. Without giving away too much of the story it is one person's journey to tune himself with God and The Soul of the Earth.
To me god and a soul are very different things. I don't believe there is a god, but I can still read these types of books and take my own atheistic perception on the subject.
To me god may be science or nature or evolution. It is something that follows a precise path and gives us humans something to study and be in awe of. God is something not fully explained. We don't know everything there is to know about this world. At times God was in the wind or sun or the ocean. He/she then evolved into Zeus, Ra, or Odin; and later to Jehovah, Allah, or Yahweh. Just as we learn more and more about the world we evolve our perception of God(s).
Why does everything have to be so black and white? God or no god? Now again, I don't believe in an almighty being that rules over the universe and watches us to make sure we do good and worship him/her, but there are rules of nature and physics that are to be followed and watch over this universe. The further we delve into science and the more our knowledge and understanding grows of the universe we come closer to what I believe is a perception of god and rules and laws.
The same can be said for a soul. So many books and ideas go in the eternity of a soul, but what is a soul? Does it have to be ghostly image of me that lives in the heavens or the stars for eternity? Can it not be my conscience, my logic, or my example for others?
Because the true legacy that lives on is how others perceive us from our actions and words. Who is to say that some of my actions have not come from Ramses, William Wallace, or Mark Twain?
We each live in this universe for a relatively short time. We each touch others lives in our own ways for good or for worse. Each person then perceives us in their own way and learns and grows from that. They may take part of our "soul" with them and change others in the same way we changed them. And in this way we become eternal.