What I am getting at here will take some explanation.
I once had this conversation with my grandmother (a very religious person) about the nature of the soul. I tried to pin her down on a place where the soul resided.
And this conversation:
What happens when you die? Ans: You see God.
For her, heaven required no continuance, no activity, just stare (without thought) at a bright white light as opposed to staring forever at an undifferentiated blackness.
Liebniz once stated that if one could observe the inner workings of the mind it would look like "a mill". Meaning that all we could ever see (if we could magnify cells etc. enough) woud be the action of "cold machinery".
And who would doubt this?
The quality of sensations are simply the necessary congruents of physical action (as explored in Natex.htm and Naman.htm elsewhere on this site). They may appear entirely different to each observer so long as the difference is one of quality and not quantity, i.e. you may see three different primary colors but we will both call them by the same name having been conditioned to do so. But they may not generate quantifiable contradictions.
These qualities do not occupy physical dimensions. "Redness" has no "where". It is a pure quality having no quantifiable relationship to any measurement. Yes, "red" is associated with a certain wavelength of light (a quantity) ... but who's sensation of "red" ... your's, mine, someone else's? We only assume that everyone sees the same colors as ourself.
The actions of matter have, attendant with them, qualities which we cannot reserve only for conscious entities as we know them.
If one could spread the brain out over an extremely large surface area, then replace each cell with an equivalent straightforward mechanical contraption (not terribly sophisticated) connected to the others in the logical manner, we should then be able to communicate with that person as before and trace the paths taken by his thoughts in this a system of string/wire connectors/mechanical contraptions.
What then can we say about a "vending machine"?
How about the Earth as a whole? Or for that matter ... the universe?
My personal view is that all matter exhibits a consciousness of a degree corresponding to the quantity of matter involved and its degree of integration. Thus, the sun might have thoughts but not of a type like our own. And certainly no one could discern such thought anyway so the point is objectively moot.
But the point is not moot from the religious perspective.