I'm one of the older members of the Listserv. I'm 68. My mother lived to be 96 and I'm in better shape than she was at this age so I could make it to 100. I retired from work in USA at the end of 2005 and have spent three years since then teaching English in out-of-the-way places in China. It's not really work unless you consider talking to students 12 hours a week to be work. And those are 50-minute hours.
I have lived most of my life in the South. Virginia and North Carolina. Many of my work-mates and friends have been and still are fundamentalist Christians. 6,000 year-old earth and all of that. They knew that I did not share their belief but we have always been respectful. Every day at work I ate lunch in the company cafeteria with a group of these friends.
One day at lunch my friend Randy asked me outright what I thought happened to my soul after I died. I asked for some time to think about how to phrase my response and by the time I was ready the whole table was listening.
I told him: I do not use the word "soul" very often but when I do I am referring to that part of me that experiences love ... and hatred, beauty ... and revulsion, hope ... and despair.
They all nodded in agreement.
But I also know that those are things that are happening within the little grey cells in my brain, little electro-chemical neurological interactions that I don't really understand. But I believe that when I die and my brain ceases to function, that my soul as I have described it ceases to experience those things and effectively no longer exists.
They were less enthusiastic about this, but kept listening.
Likewise, I do not use the word "God" very often, but when I do I am referring to that sense of connection that I feel, that we all feel, to all other living things, indeed to the earth itself. It is a connection that transcends time and space, which is why I can be moved reading about the death of Socrates over 2,000 years ago; why I care about how I leave the planet to generations that will not be born until long after I die; and why I am touched by an earthquake in Asia or a famine in Africa. This sense of connection is real, it can move me to act, and it will continue to exist long after I die and as long as people continue to care about such things.
Silence. It is not their definition but it helps them to understand that I am a decent, caring person with reasonable beliefs. In one respect it feels as if I have cheated, I have come up with a new definition of God that removes the supernatural powers. But it brings us closer together and I get to keep the integrity of my beliefs. And I believe what I said.
Cary, North Carolina