Posted: Wed, May 29, 2013 | By: Immortality / Radical Life Extension
by Franco Cortese
This article is currently in 3rd place for most views in the lifetime of Immortal Life. It was adapted from a response to the debate forum Will Religions promising “Heaven” just Vanish, when Superlongevity on Earth is attained?. An expanded version first published on Transhumanity, more essay than article, can be found here.
“Our hope of immortality does not come from any religions, but nearly all religions come from that hope” - Robert Green Ingersoll
Belief in Heaven may be the biggest problem impacting support for life-extension. The majority of the world believes in some form of an afterlife (some recent polls show 80% of Americans and a little more than 50% of global citizens) and it stops all those people from seeing the real benefit of life extension.
The majority of the world doesn’t believe in death! This is the surprising truth. They think they will continue living in an afterlife, and thus this should not be called death; it doesn’t matter that it’s metaphysical, because if they try to legitimate the belief via mind-body dualism then the mind is metaphysical too and so it might as well be physical for this particular concern.
That is, it relates to heaven as physical objects relate to physicality - namely operate according to its rules, and is causally connected to it. So claiming that it is metaphysical, and so different than physical death, is not a legitimate counterpoint in this case.
We need to convince people that death is real before they will be amenable to even seeing the benefit of indefinite longevity!
The belief in life after death in religion is the strongest historical antecedent of immortalism we have, and historical antecedents are advantageous in legitimizing things to most of the world. The widespread belief in life after death across history and culture affirms not only that immorality is one of humanity’s most deep rooted and important desire and ideal(i.e. life-shaping and life-defining), but perhaps its very oldest!
Thus while belief in heaven, and by consequence all religions that include the afterlife as a belief, constitute a massive deterrent to the widespread popularity of immortalism, it is also, in utmost irony, one of its strongest potential legitimators because it evidences immortality to be a deep-rooted human desire that transcends culture and historical time.
Thus we should neither be precisely denouncing or promoting religion, yet neither should we ignore it and let it be. Rather we should be heralding religions for their keen insight into the true values and desires of humanity, but taking care to show them that life-extension is but the modern embodiment of the immortalist gestalt they exemplified via conceptualizing an afterlife, and that belief in heaven today goes against the very motivation and utility that their belief (in heaven) was trying to maintain and instill all along!
By believing in heaven they are going against all it was ever meant for, and what it really represents. This is not only the truest state of affairs, but the most advantageous as well. It allows us to at once work to ameliorate the problems caused by widespread belief in heaven, utilize the widespread and long-running belief in afterlife as legitimizing immortalism as perhaps the most deep-rooted human longing and value (in both terms of historical time and of importance, or a measure of how much it shapes our lives, our selves and our culture) while at the same time avoid insulting people who believe in heaven (i.e. the majority of the world) which risks having them ignore our cause not from reasoned conclusion but from seasoned spite.
We should be painting every religious crusade and mission to spread the word of god as a pilgrimage to bring immortality to the world! If one thinks that a specific moral, metaphysical or cosmological (i.e. religious) system is required to attain life after death (i.e. immortality), what else is their pilgrimage to spread god’s word but a quest to bring methodological means of immortality to the world.
Let’s at once show believers in an afterlife why they are wrong, commend them for their insight into deep rooted and historically-extensive human values, beliefs and eternal longings, and win them over to our side!
Let’s immanentize the eschaton and forge heaven into flesh, here on earth!
We are Man, and we know no bounds here.