CreATiveHippo, on 09 November 2012 - 02:27 PM, said:
In any case,the main religions of the world(Christianity,Hinduism,Buddhism,Jainism,Islam,Judaism,etc.),including a few other sects accept the "soul" idea.The soul is the essence of the person and many consider it to be synonym to "mind".
The problem here is that, though the term "soul" may be used in almost all of these belief systems, that doesn't mean they're actually talking about the same thing.
Take, for instance, one of the differences between the Eastern and Western traditions. In the East (such as in Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism), the soul is not the personality. In Buddhism, there isn't really an independent aspect called the "self" at all. In Hinduism there is the ātman (the true unit of the self), but that unit is not your identity or personality. In fact, it's the Brahman (God, roughly). The soul of Jainism is similar, but relates to the world in a very different manner. Through one's dharma, one attracts karma. In Hinduism, good karma is necessary for transcendence. In Jainism, the secret is to collect no karma at all. As a result, the soul of the Jain ends up being a very basic unit, perhaps comparable to a quark or some other "fundamental" particle.
In the West, the soul is quite a different thing. Rather than being nonexistent (such as in Buddhism), almost nothing at all (like Jainism), or mostly a collection of deeds (Hinduism), the Judeo-Christian-Islamic soul is actually one's personality. Generally, there's not a lot of distinction between the concepts of the soul between Judaism, Catholicism, Protestantism, and Islamic beliefs, yet there are still some notable distinctions between some of the sects in each. Of course, these are too numerous to really go through quickly.
Even then, let's not forget the concepts of the soul that don't fit into these religions, as there are many other religious beliefs that have had almost universal acceptance in the past, and it would be rather biased not to consider them just because they are no longer practiced (many of them were practiced for longer than Christianity, after all). The Egyptians believed that life went on pretty much uninterrupted after death, so the soul wasn't all the much unlike the body. The early Mesopotamians didn't believe in the existence of a soul at all, they were staunch materialists for generations before the early pantheons which would eventually evolve into Judaism first arose. The Zoroastrians believed in a soul very much like the Jews (and was probably the origin of that and other Jewish concepts). The ancient Greeks had a variety of beliefs. Some believed in a singular soul, whereas others believed that the self was actually composed of several souls, each responsible for different capacities (such as rational, appetitive, or vegetative). The Roman soul (the genius), was something shared by natural forces as well, such as rivers or volcanoes. They got this from the Greeks. This sort of animism also existed as far as Japan in the Shinto religion. Animism was also common in indigenous cultures all over the world, and took many different forms. The important thing about animism is that it doesn't distinguish between the fundamental "self" of a person and that of a plant, animal, ocean, mountain, or other aspect of nature.
So, let's not do the concept of the soul a disservice by collapsing it down into one unified idea. It's anything but, and just goes to show how much variety there is among the worlds religious ideas, including the major players today.
Yourself, on 09 November 2012 - 02:46 PM, said:
And I do not have a concept of a soul. I don't know what it is, and I don't understand what people mean when they talk about it. To me the concept of a soul has pretty much only been used by people who don't care to try and understand how humans work.
It's one of the most mysterious of human concepts, like concepts of divinity. Really, it's the concept of divinity as it exists in humans (and sometimes the rest of nature as well).
I don't think these concepts come from laziness or a lack of desire to understand ourselves and the world around us. They just come out of methods which either predate or aren't covered by empiricism.