Found an interesting piece in the Sunday Times Mag yesterday [naturally not yet on the website] by a scientist whose work I much admire.
Nicholas Humphrey (prime mover of the Social Intelligence hypothesis – that our minds are made for a world of others) muses on what the non-believer can make of the reassuring idea of the soul and its immortality
"The soul is a biological invention that long predates religion. The human mind evolved by natural selection to have a conscious self at its centreL a self that, while a product of the material brain thinks of tiself as something else – an immaterial soul. My atheist soul is up there with the best of them. And the souls of atheists, no less than those of religious believers, aspire to live on indefinitely and fear oblivion. That's a main part of the job for which natural selection has designed them
…[the] remarkable trick for persuading individual [human] survival machines to fulfil their less-than-glorious role… was to endow each individual with the mental programmes for developing a a conscious self that grows to see itself existing as very much an end in its own right: a self that, besides doing all it can to ensure its own basic comfort and security, typically strives for self-development…to make more of itself through learning, creativity, love, spiritual growth, social influence symbolic expression and so on. …Such "selfish souls" do indeed make wonderful agents for "selfish genes".