I've struggled with a number of theological issues over the years, trying to apply reason to an area of life where a lack thereof seems most beneficial. Today while cooking some ravioli in the microwave, the pieces fell together in the back of my mind, and I might have officially wrecked my ability to be a believer.
Memory and the Afterlife
They say when you cross over and go to...wherever, you'll see friends and relatives who've passed before you, welcoming you and all that. This of course depends on your ability to retain any knowledge of who these people are.
If memory is stored biologically — that is, within the physical space of the brain by some organic means — when moving to a spiritual plane and shedding the physical form, you're dumping your memories along with it. So how would you know who these people are, where you are going, or how you got there? Without any recollection of your own commitment toward sin or purity, how would you benefit from reward or punishment if you haven't a clue what you did to get there?
Accepting this as given (and I'm sure many of you don't), every indication is that acquired sensory information is stored within the brain, which would imply that the soul isn't even sentient and depends on what it can derive via the body; if it were sentient, what would be the basis for its awareness? How would we be cognizant of anything happening in the afterlife? The common descriptions of what to expect seem fairly vivid, but are also written in language seemingly based off of sensory experience. Did someone see it with mortal eyes? If so, doesn't that sort of screw up the idea of it existing on an entirely different plane of being?
If memory is stored ethereally — that is, within the "soul" as it were — then why is it so drastically affected by physiological disorders like Alzheimer's, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, or mental retardation? Do you get all your memories and brain function back when you die and/or cross over? The concept of Tabula Rasa (blank slate) explains why we don't know anything at birth, but sheds no light on the demise of cerebral function during or toward the end of life.