Here is a famous thought experiment. Imagine a teleport machine that reads the precise make-up of your body and then beams the information to another machine on Mars which reassembles a perfect copy of you. Unfortunately, the original you is destroyed by the reading process although you don't feel this happen. Would you be happy to step into the teleporter? Neurologist Paul Broks says almost all his colleagues would have no problem. They are materialists and as we are only an arrangement of matter, we remain the same person even if the matter is arranged somewhere else. Certainly, they say, the new you on Mars would not realise anything had happened beyond their appearing in a different place.
But this means something else. Materialists can also have no logical problem with an afterlife. We Christians believe we will be resurrected after death in new bodies. This is done by God who, we presume, will have no problem remembering how to fit the bits together (the advantage of omniscience). He can even make the necessary adjustments to maintain our personalities while also curing them of Alzheimer's or any other mental illness. While the new me will not have any direct link to the old me, the new me will feel they are the same person. So as far as Brok and his colleagues are concerned, a purely material mind can be resurrected without problem. If God exists, all the discoveries of neuroscience interpreted in a materialistic way, have no impact on the doctrine of the afterlife.
For us Christians there is something slightly dodgy about this. We do think there is some sort of continuity between our earthly selves and the resurrected self after death. But then, we are not the ones saying that science makes life after death absurd. Clearly, it does not.
Of course, my thoughts and attention are directed towards Rome this morning. I find myself praying that the Pope is comfortable and without fear. He, at least, has no reason to be afraid.