"Do you believe in Heaven?" Lauren asked.
Lauren, Will and I were sat in our newsroom, surfing a website called "Supernatural Hunters" instead of researching our patches, a habit of ours that had led to our tutor labeling us the 'skivers' of the group, despite the fact that the three of us were the most irritatingly enthusiastic newspaper contributors in our year.
"I don't know," I said. "It's nice to think something more happens to you after you die, rather than just you're gone and that's it."
Lauren raised her eyebrows and typed furiously into Google.
"Right," she said, suddenly businesslike. "Come and look at this."
I scooted my chair around the better to see her screen and was greeted with a high-def photograph of intertwined galaxies.
"Now," Lauren said, with the air of a teacher talking to a student whose only talent is pushing Lego bricks up her nose, "This is our Milky Way. Please point out to me where heaven is. Go on, where is it?"
I said, "Umm..."
Will was leaning back in his chair, grinning and shaking his head.
"I think you've really upset her," he said to Lauren sotto voce, whilst tilting his head in my direction. "It's like you've told her souls aren't real."
"What do you mean souls aren't real?" I wailed. "See?"
Lauren said, "The idea of souls existing is based on religious beliefs, the fact that something exists on after you do. Using examples from scientific research, I can tell you that such a thing as a 'soul' does not physically exist. But," she added, as she considered my anxious expression.
"You have thousands of years of religious practice behind you. So in that case, we could both be right."
I posed this question to Alison later that day while we were sat in the kitchen, legs tucked under us and merrily eating peanut butter from the jar with a spoon.
"I think Lauren has a point," Alison said carefully. "But I also think that, non-religiously speaking, yes, something makes you intrinsically different from everyone else, and I suppose that could be your soul. Otherwise, wouldn't we all be the same?"
I agree that we are the influenced by our environment, in the nature vs. nurture debate there have been countless examples of how a person's childhood has shaped their personality, views and opinions in later life. After all, aren't we all guilty at some stage of parroting our parents views as our own, without really considering how we feel about it?
I think genetics also play a huge part in how you are as a person. Despite looking so similar to my Mum that older relatives often double-take when they see me and exclaim loudly, "My God, I thought I was in 1982 again!" my personality is the closest to my Dad. We are both thoughtful, sensitive and like to spend an inordinate amount of time worrying. Yet my upbringing could not be more different than my Dad's.
So does this mean I was born to intrinsically behave a certain way?
My sister and I grew up to have very different personalities, despite being treated the same by our parents, having similar experiences and opportunities.
Whilst I am still undecided about Heaven, I do believe in souls. Everyone has something unique about them and that doesn't have to be linked to a deity.
I have met an astounding number of different, interesting, clever, sometimes downright terrifying people at University. Everyone of them has been colourful and unique in a way that would suggest there is something internally special about them.
Besides, if souls aren't real, then J K Rowling's book, The Prisoner of Azkaban would just be a story about an escaped murderer who got snogged by a hooded demon.
And then where would we be?
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