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One argument is that the modern world has done away with the Soul and has replaced it with the Self. That’s a quick way of describing a conviction I’ve held for a long time. A soul is an individual connected to God and the rest of the universe, striving to find harmony with all of it. A self has no such connection; it’s just a command center (with little control) over a sea of conflicting and confusing interior psychic currents. Or, as Bloom suggests, a soul is on the roof pondering the mysteries of the heavens, but a self is in the basement snooping around in the dark for Freudian rats.
Bloom describes the modern self who scorns religion and yet seeks salvation in psychology; but that’s a circle that can’t be squared. You can’t have both. I could understand an atheist who believes that life was a cosmic accident and has no meaning. On the other hand, I could understand a believer who believes that we were created, and therefore we have whatever purpose our creator intended (that’s my view). If you were created, it only seems logical that your purpose is anchored in the creator’s intention. What cannot square is being both an atheist and also seeking meaning to life. And yet, that would be a working description of a mere “self.”
Bloom portrays the American culture as being increasingly driven and shaped by an education system which is nihilist, relativist, functionally atheist, and therefore a disaster for the American soul. A soul, in the Christian understanding, is oriented to God and a higher purpose; if you dismiss that dimension of life, all you have remaining is an unremarkable and uninteresting self. Our educational system, and eventually our culture as a whole, is producing just such uninteresting “selves.”
Lately there has been some concern about what would happen if robots took over. Would soulless machines abandon any concern for humanity and pursue their own interests at the expense of human souls?
Well, hell, isn’t that what’s happening now?