Transhumanism & Religion: A Body Of Faith No More

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The funny thing about your body is how it should exist in the first place. And that, all things considered, it doesn’t fully belong to you. Your body is a biome. It is an environment home to a plethora of organisms, parasitic bacteria of huge quantities, the symbiotic and parasitic, as well as the largely indifferent: fifty percent of the DNA in your body is not even human DNA.

Most of the organisms living inside your body have to be healthy and properly functioning in order for the system as a whole to function in its turn. And, as you know, this often breaks down: you get sick.

Eventually, you will die. One of life’s great paradoxes: to live means you must, at some point, stop living.

This is where religion comes in. Once upon a time, you would put your faith in a god, or gods, and a genesis story that they created the world in which you live, and that once you died your soul (or spirit) would transcend this earthly realm and enter a heavenly post-embodied afterlife, and that this world would be unshackled from the finite biological realm. It would be eternal.

Today, faith for some people means a belief in the power of technology to do all of this. And even more than that - there are quite a few people who would like technology to stop this great injustice.

Transhumanism means different things to different people. But, one way of thinking about it is to see it as the belief that we can overcome many, if not eventually all, of the restrictions placed upon us by our organic bodies. It covers the areas of biotechnology and brain emulation, of cybergenetics and body prosthetics and implants.

There are many actors today in the transhumanist movement, if you can call it a movement. I suppose you can - it’s got its fair share of high priests and prophets. From Ray Kurzweil who we’ve talked about before, to Aubrey de Grey who does actually look somewhat biblical with his druidic beard, leading the SENS Research Foundation (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence Research Foundation). Basically, de Grey is a biogerontologist - concerned with bodily processes to do with aging.

It’s a pretty convincing argument in one sense, but it does require some ‘outside the box’ thinking. The box being what de Grey calls a ‘pro-aging trance’ that you are all stuck in, not seeing the truth of your situation and are pretty much happy to go around waiting for a death that isn’t inevitable. The parallels between the eschatology of the religion Christianity and its idea of The Rapture and something like the Singularity are fairly clear to me.

There is an actual religion called Terasem whose ‘mission is to build a collective consciousness consisting of joyful immortal extensions of each of its joiners.’ It is based on the fictional religion Earthseed that Octavia Butler created in her novels. It has four core beliefs:

I. LIFE IS PURPOSEFUL.
II. DEATH IS OPTIONAL.
III. GOD IS TECHNOLOGICAL.
IV. LOVE IS ESSENTIAL.

Terasem basically envisions a situation whereby we upload our minds into a kind of seed bank, a practice called ‘mind-filing’, like prayer in a way, a techno-spiritual observance that sees us upload a video or who knows, a favourite cat meme, and then in the future at some point in time this data will be reconstructed and you will in fact be free of your flesh and exist in bliss.  

Whether this is prayer or not is unclear. For now, we do have the Terrasem anthem, which I encourage everyone to check out.

- Adam, Seed Industries