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soul searching

When my dad passed away many people told me that now he is in heaven. I really desperately wanted to believe but I simply couldn't. Ususally I say I believe in God but during that time I simply couldn't believe. Now that time has passed I am still not sure about the after life. Is it as the church is saying that our soul is going to heaven?
(No, just for the record, I don't believe in hell. I believe that everyone is loved by at least one person and so if she or he had to go to hell that other person would be very unhappy. But heaven is quite the opposite of unhappiness, so I think hell doesn't exist.)
I must admit that I don't even know what the soul is. Is it the same as consciousness and mind ? Is the soul a separate entity that will go on living after our body has crumbled ? Or is it just that when those atoms and molecules combine to form our body and brain the whole becomes bigger than the single parts and therefore consciousness comes into existence and then ends again when the different parts stop working?

Have you ever seen people that have a form of dementia ? Then you also inevitely have to asked where is the soul? Their personality changes so much, it seems not much is left of them. Where is the soul? Has it already left? But why? What brings the soul into existence and what makes it disappear?
There are of course those reports of people with near death experiences who swear that they saw the beauty of the other side. Is this just a trick our consciousness / soul / mind is playing on us ? Or is there really something afterwards?
Could you really argue that in the case of a demented person the soul already left the body? Why doesn't it wait until the whole body stops working? And then sometimes they have clear moments when they remember everything again and seem to be their "old" self. What is happening then? Is the sould back just for a few fleeting moments?

The question is if there is really such a big difference between body and mind or if they are much more interconnected. I mean if your body gets sick that affects our mind, often when someone feels depressed they also get physically sick, so they definitively influence each other a lot if there are really 2 entities and not just really one...

So is it that if we as creatures get complex enough, this complexity suddenly lets a soul or consciousness appear seemingly out of nowhere and when this complexity breaks down it suddenly disappears. Something in the brain goes wrong and poof the soul is gone. Something happens that restores this, if even for a short moment and again poof, everything is back even though just for a short moment in time?

Questions over questions.

Why are we here? What is the meaning of life?

Everyone will die at one point. Some time ago in a book I read the author suggested that people and animals must die because the environment changes and with all of our experiences of the past we would become too slow to adapt to the new situations which of course is necessary for the survival of the species.
Evolution. That made sense to me.
I think even though we have made big progress we still don't understand the brain and the universe well enough to know why we are here and if there is life after death. Many cultures have that believe of a soul and especially in Asia they believe in rebirth. I remember that many years ago I heard about cases of people who nearly drowned and who reported seeing strange but wonderful lights. There was also an article in the nationalpost recently talking about the subject: https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/life-after-life-does-consciousness-continue-after-our-brain-dies
A friend of mine asked why all the mystery about life after death if there is really something? Is heaven just something humans came up with to console themselves, to make death more bearable? Or is our life here on earth just a phase and a step towards a higher consciousness ? But then what came before and how many steps will follow? And is there even a final stage or does it all go in endless after endless circles?
I don't agree with the church and academics on the question of whether animals have a soul / consciousness. My answer to this is clearly yes. I know that most religions deny this but if it is all just a complex connection of atoms and molecules and the consciousness etc. comes into existence at one point when everything is complex enough then it would be logical to assume that animals also have a soul. I mean according to evolution all life on earth is connected somehow. We share most of our genes with other animals. And humans are animals too. I know that according to religion and some philosophers we are different but in my view this is causing a lot of problems in our life. We are part of nature and we are not special. We are one expression of life and other animals and plants are other expressions. Most life for example has some form of eyes. Evolution made eyes different. So maybe there exist also different forms of souls / minds / consciousness?
And what really is life in the first place?
Too many questions, not enough answers.

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