X-Message-Number: 10356
Date: Sun, 30 Aug 1998 19:19:17 EDT
Subject: cryonics as religion


Endless volumes have been written about the material vs. the spiritual
outlook, science vs. religion, and both cryonics vs. religion and cryonics as
religion. Here's another attempt to review a portion of the discussion, and
possibly improve our outreach.

It's necessary always to touch a few bases first. (1) We don't want to offend
religious people gratuitously, in part because a substantial minority of
immortalists are religious, and also for the obvious reason that we don't want
to antagonize the national and world majority, who are at least nominally
religious. (2) We recognize with due humility that large numbers of religious
people are at least equal to the best of immortalists/cryonicists in general
intelligence and in most of the human virtues. (3) We deny the existence of a
necessary dichotomy between immortalism and the major religions, and note that
in fact representatives of most of the major religions and denominations have
expressed tolerance for cryonics, as well as for medical technology generally.

That said, I believe that nevertheless, without hypocrisy, we can offer--to
those who need or want it--an immortalist/cryonicist viewpoint that might
allow substitution of immortalism for conventional religion.


Some immortalists/cryonicists/self-centrists have decided to construct their
own religion, and the Church of Venturism (now called the Society for
Venturism) has that formal status. Can they really steal the thunder of
conventional religions? What they need to do is supply fellowship, dedication
(ultimate concern), and some form of symbolism/liturgy.	

The latter isn't too difficult, in principle. We don't have to use potentially
embarrassing language. All kinds of political and social organizations use
formal occasions with pomp and ceremony to set the tone and lift the spirits.
There was an emotional or "spiritual" quality in the ceremony dedicating a new
building in 1992 for Trans Time Inc., a cryonics firm. We need only do this
kind of thing with more regularity and deliberation. This would, to a large
extent, constitute the emotional motivation that David Pizer and Mike Perry
have proposed to supply.

A religion is free to make dogmatic assertions without objective evidence. But
in fact all religions try to have it both ways: they offer slogans, symbols,
and total assurance, along with a few alleged "proofs" (such as the miracles
of Mahmud), while their intellectuals grind out endless weighty tomes of fine-
spun philosophy for those who like to chew on air.

In almost a mirror-image way, political and social movements may claim to base
themselves on logic and evidence, but the effective motivators for the
membership are the comradeship, the zealotry, the chants and marches and
gatherings and flag-waving, the snake-dancing and hymn-singing. It's just
something to do, and something to share, and something to feel good about.
None of this demands any nominal reference to religion.

All the foregoing is simplified, of course, and does not do justice to the
intricate variety of banners and religions and the web of emotions to which
they appeal. But it is useful, and we are leading up to key comparisons
between immortalism/cryonics and conventional religion.

The awesome power of Christianity seems to derive largely from the concepts of
absolution, redemption, and the hereafter.

In Roman Catholicism, if I understand it correctly, the priest confers
absolution--forgiving the wicked even on the death-bed, even a Mafioso after a
lifetime of vicious sins. In some of the Protestant denominations, the
individual simply accepts Jesus with a whole heart and true repentance, and is
transformed by God's grace into a state of purity.

"Redemption" is a complex concept, overlapping that of absolution but with the
emphasis more on salvation or rescue in a general sense. (A key part is the
fairly strange notion of the "blood of the lamb"--God himself, as the Son,
washes away the sins of Christians with His own blood, i.e. redemption of the
guilty by the sacrifice of the innocent.)

The "hereafter" of course is often seen as a divided highway, one branch
leading to the Celestial City and another elsewhere (carrot and stick).

These are powerful pressures and inducements, for some--yet immortalism &
cryonics can come close to matching them, and for some people can do so with
much more credibility.

For cryonic suspension resuscitees, we offer (although without guarantees) the
heart-swelling prospect of absolution, redemption, and a hereafter in a unique
and materialist way. For with endless time and limitless growth, we see that,
if our vision is realized--

                              NO ERROR IS IRREDEEMABLE.

                            EVERY AFFLICTION CAN BE CURED.

                           EVERY FAILURE CAN BE CORRECTED.


We will no longer be the victims of our heredity; our minds and bodies will be
improved, over and over again, while retaining our continuity and

Every mistake will be corrected, if not by literal reversal, then by changes
in conditions, or perspective, or substitution of new goals.

Cripples will throw away their crutches (or their hearing aids or bifocals or
pacemakers or insulin needles or wheelchairs); the blind will see and the deaf
will hear and the dumb will speak and the retarded will mature and the
withered or bent will stand tall. And all of us will come to terms with our
past failures and leave them behind, going on to shared glories.

Is not such a vision religion enough?

Immortalism welcomes you. Whatever your past, whatever your sins, whatever
your afflictions, whatever your failures, whatever your shortcomings, whatever
your despair--we offer absolution, redemption, and new life--life without

Now all we need is some golden-glottis preachers.

Robert Ettinger
Cryonics Institute
Immortalist Society

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