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Deathists, Immortalists, and the Future of Religion

Posted: Sat, April 20, 2013 | By: Religion / Atheism

by Gennady Stolyarov II

On a recent Immortal Life debate/discussion thread, I was asked to participate in a conversation about whether advocates of indefinite life extension should call their opponents “deathists” or whether such a label is counterproductive. Another question on that thread concerned the use of the designation “immortalist” to refer to an advocate of indefinite longevity. On a different thread, I was asked to address the question of whether religions would become obsolete in an era of indefinite human life extension.


My view on this matter is a nuanced one. It is crucial to make a distinction between (i) people who simply hold the common “tragic worldview” – who accept their mortality as inevitable and try to “make peace” with it and (ii) people who actively work to stop life-extension technologies. 

The former are simply mistaken and can be reasoned with, persuaded, or at least led to gradually become more comfortable with life extension as it becomes ever more real. The latter, however, might not be open to persuasion and might pursue legislative action (or worse) to stop life-extension research. Every person’s arguments should be addressed civilly and intelligently. The label “deathist” is not uncivil per se, however, and has its place with regard to people who cannot be swayed by argument or evidence from a position that is actively hostile to life extension. 

These are not your rank-and-file skeptics of radical life extension, but rather people such as Leon Kass, Sherwin Nuland, Daniel Callahan, John Gray, and Nassim Taleb, who will not be shifted from their anti-life-extension views and who have made considerable amounts of money out of attacking pro-longevity ideas. Calling these people “deathists” is not aimed at persuading them, but rather at alerting possibly more objective third parties of the dangers of their views. If there is still the opportunity to persuade someone, then labels of this sort should not be directed at that person.


As for positive labels, I can proudly attribute the term “immortalist” to myself – not because I think that indefinite life extension will by itself bring immortality (it will not), but rather because I think that any condition that more closely approaches immortality is a desirable one. Thus, I support not only the lifting of upper limits on lifespans, but also major improvements in protection against asteroids, earthquakes, weather events, vehicle accidents, infectious diseases, and manmade conflicts. I oppose anything that can destroy an innocent human life. This approach should be part of the war on ruin we all need to fight in the furtherance of our civilization.

Obsolescence of Religion?

The future of religion is a topic on which I created a video in early 2012: “Religion and Indefinite Life Extension”.

To summarize, in my (atheistic) view, religions are generally not animating forces of societal change. Rather, they tend to be barometers of prevailing attitudes approximately one generation in the past. Often, religions get dragged along into making progress by intellectual developments outside religion – in the same way that, as a result of the 18th-century Enlightenment, various Christian denominations gradually transitioned away from providing Biblical justifications for slavery and toward denouncing slavery on Christian grounds. The impetus for this transformation was the rise of ideas of reason, individualism, and natural rights – not the doctrines of the Christian religion.

Dinner of the Philosophes - Jean Huber
Dinner of the Philosophes - Jean Huber

I suspect that there will be a broad spectrum of responses among various religious denominations and their followers to the prospect of indefinite life extension, once most people begin to see it as within their individual grasp. In Christianity, on the cutting edge will be those Christians who interpret the message of the resurrection (a literal resurrection in the flesh, according to actual Christian doctrine) to be compatible with transhumanist technologies. (We already see the beginnings of forward-thinking interpretations of religion with the Mormon Transhumanists.) 

On the other hand, the more staid, dogmatic, ossified religious denominations and sects will try to resist technological change vigorously, and will not be above attempting to hold the entire world’s progress back, merely to make their own creeds more convincing to their followers. Historically, religions have served two primary societal roles: (1) to form a justification for the existing social order and (2) to assuage people’s fears of death. The first role has atrophied over time in societies with religious freedom. 

The second role will also diminish as radical life extension in this world becomes a reality. Religions do evolve, though, and the interpretations of religion that ultimately prevail will (I hope) be the more peaceful, humane, and progress-friendly ones. At the same time, proportions of non-religious people in all populations will rise, as has been the trend already.


Arguments to the future and are barred in philosophy as unprovable. This bars futurism and most religions.

H+ seems religion maturing and the mysticism is replaced by sci-fi.& speculation.80% of people have deep capacity for complex irrational belief, and we could need to satisfy this or descend into mental illness.


(I’m old I dont want to resurrect)

Unbiased judgement is only possible in a state of well-being, on the whole. But the mind in the body-suffering, deludes itself of its impartiality.

A surprising number of people dont want resurrection unaware of this delusion. I have found only two reasons for this:

1. When young they realized death was inevitable and so have programmed themselves to accept death. Challenging it causes revolution in the psyche which is stressful;

2. They are unaware of the body’s effect on their reasoning.  They haven’t read Time Enough For Love by Robert Heinlein. Lazarus Long is centuries old and commits suicide. Before complete, police bots find and rejuvenate him. He feels great and wants to live again. This must happen to everyone I believe because we are beings bonded by biological urges that filter into us as our mind.

Nature has built us with a progressive death wish as we age to make degeneracy into death bearable. Some Freudians call it Thanatos.

Libido, the opposite is what you see in young animals bouncing around. When you resurrected (to youth) your body will be full of libido and you will want to live.

People confuse death with the cessation of suffering. You cant need to die to stop suffering: to stop suffering:- you have to get to full health and peace.

The only honest way to test it is to try both states:

Try being dead and try being young again - and see which you prefer!

I’m not kidding. That should be possible in systems well within quantum archaeology’s skills.

Some people are locked in ego and may find it hard to believe their essential tastes and drives are products of biology, biology of chemistry and chemistry of physics.

Some organized groups centuries old will challenge this, but my experience of studying them is they change where they have, to in order to survive.  They are already doing it. When people are resurrected in front of your eyes, false assumptions will crumble and the groups change or membership will ebb away.

The profound change in our psyche is that death can’t exist, since science is likely to resurrect us in an infinite multiverse, where anything that can happen, DOES happen.Soon ageing and ill health as we know it wont exist, and everything we have accepted as immutable facts will be laughed at: “In those days you know, people used to DIE”

The word DEATH will have to take on a new meaning.

Life-ism is not a challenge to morality, it is one of the most moral attempts so far using man’s technology.


Seneca, the early humanist, was forced to commit suicide by Emperor Nero in 65 CE.. Romans and Early Greeks believed suicide was acceptable sometimes.

1. Because suffering is going to be reversed. You wont have had it. the present you is not the final judge of reality. Like winding a film of history back, history is likely to be changed and the suffering taken out, without any loss of identity. This is a hard area in philosophy and outside the scope of this essay.

2. Because you wont have any say in what the world will become.

3. Because suicide doesn’t give you rest, or relief: you think you’ll just cease to exist: actually you’ll be resurrected:( I haven’‘t found a logical refutation of this)

If you die, you will probably be resurrected, but the world in which you surface will be built by other people using artificially intelligent machines.

Your return is unlikely to be unconditional at first: you may have to obey the laws that have evolved while you where not there.

The maximum game strategy is to survive as long as you can.

Many will not have to die but just get rejuvenation. They will be able to control investments and some may influence policy.

Suiciding out might only be useful as last resort but attempting it is illegal in many nations. Feeling you dont want to live is a normal part of the spectrum of human emotions.

Depressed we have the Lazarus Long delusion -.that life isn’t worth it, but undepressed we dont feel that at all. If depression persists you could have a treatable illness and should seek help. Over the counter anti-depressants can lift someone out of suffering quickly.

There is a cost/benefit judgement of living/not living, but life-ism certainly could be part of that process.

Logically, there is no longer a terminal illness.

We are immortal whether we like it or not!

John Ellis
Quantum Archaeologist



By eldras on Apr 22, 2013 at 9:26am

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