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Physical Immortality and Religion

You are worthy of physical immortality now

Part of the reluctance to speak out for physical immortality while promoting "indefinite life extension" is a desire to not alienate the religious. The argument being, I presume, that leaving the inevitability of death intact - just putting it off for a few hundred or thousand years - still leaves the power over life and death in "God's" hands - and keeps an afterlife available. However, physical immortality will never be acceptable to the religious community because it gives human life the value that the religious can only give to God.

This attachment to God is so widely promulgated that I have to keep reminding myself that God is merely an unproven theory, and it's up to each one of us to take responsibility for valuing our own life and the lives of others. If we don't think we deserve to live, we're not going to be too concerned about whether anyone else lives either. This is why many people have no issue with sending soldiers to die, but resist the attempt of science to improve life through stem cell research. They're quite happy for people to "play God" when it comes to promoting death, yet are outraged that anyone should even consider "playing God" when it comes to promoting life.

It is this pervasive undervaluing of human life - the continuing belief that we as human beings are expendable, that we are of less value than our gods or our beliefs - that is the real stumbling block to not only achieving physical immortality, but to pursuing it.

I am not ignoring the efforts being made in the area of longevity, but I am saying that, with so little value placed on human life, and with such a strong resistance to the idea of not dying, there is very little incentive to really find a way to stop aging and death - and relatively few resources are actually being allocated to it. While large numbers profess enormous interest in longevity and life-extension, very few express an interest in seeing people, including themselves, live forever - because very few are willing to see themselves, let alone others, as actually worthy of it. And this all stems from the beliefs that death is inevitable and that human beings are too imperfect, and therefore unworthy, to live forever.

The best we tend to be considered worthy of is eternal life - somewhere, sometime, in another "dimension" - a spiritual version of immortality. Instances of so-called "out-of-body" experiences and visions of the afterlife are cited to support the belief in a "spirit" separate from the body, but none of the participants have ever been without a body in the process - they may have given all the signs of being dead, but not one of them has ever reappeared somewhere other than in the body they started from. Just about all religions and faiths offer some form of "eternal life" based on this view of a separate spirit inhabiting the flesh, reinforcing the tendency to treat the body as a disposable vessel. It's as if we have to "earn" immortality by dying - another example of the lack of value placed on each other.

By accepting the separation of mind/body in this way, we perpetuate the myth of a division between physical and spiritual - and there is no such division. You are you. There is no "mind you", separate from a "body you", there is just you. You are indivisible. Separation of the mind/body is death, and even when you die, there is no actual separation, all of you is dead. This glorification of the mind/body separation is the duality that keeps us from feeling the power of ourselves as whole, and it's this duality that makes our belief that we are unworthy, real. As long as we are split in ourselves we will never see ourselves as worthy of physical immortality.

This isn't to say that the mind doesn't lead the body, but it's able to do so only because there is no separation. You might say that the body is mind all-over, that each cell contributes to consciousness in its own way, providing its own feedback. Just as the "mind" acts as a clearing house for this feedback, transforming feelings into thoughts, so the "body" responds chemically in accordance with the "mind's" suggestions, transforming thoughts into feelings. The quality of our thoughts is just as important to the functioning of our body, as the wellness of our body is important to the functioning of our mind.

Everything we take in, affects everything we give out - both physically and mentally. In a culture where death is, at best, accepted as inevitable, and at worst, promoted as preferrable to living, it is not surprising that we are hesitant to question it. The most we are encouraged to do is to die healthy. All the healthy activity we can engage in will not keep us alive or make us physically immortal. And if we really think the power of our mind is what will make the difference between life and death, wouldn't it make sense to use it to prevent disease, to take the death out of our lives day-by-day now, rather than relying on its possible continuance after death?

This programming to accept death is such an integral part of our developed personalities that isolating it or eliminating it on our own may be impossible. The negative thoughts we become aware of are just the tip of this iceberg of death. It's the vast body of the programming around death that doesn't get into our conscious mind that has to be dealt with.

But changing our beliefs will not be enough to end death either. It doesn't matter how much faith we have, how honest, healthy, enlightened, mentally powerful or intelligent we might become, we won't be able to stop death for ourselves by ourselves. This is why, up till now, there haven't been any physical immortals. Everyone wants to do it by themselves. And it seems highly unlikely that any one person by themself is ever going to reverse entropy, the weight of human history, and eliminate the program of death in their own body, to become physically immortal alone.

This is an integral part of the illusion of scientific life extension: That someone, somewhere will find a solution to ending death and that that solution will be made readily available to everyone on the planet - or at least the people who want it. That suddenly we will be considered valuable enough to be given the right to live forever, and will be able to do so while continuing our existing way of life.

This is also the flaw in the cryonics concept. That not only will the process of defreezing be perfected and the cure for diseases be found, but they will be made available for the reconstitution of frozen humans and their healing. This by a society which resists life-extension, has an almost paranoid fear of overpopulation and cares so little about the living?

Of course attitudes will change, but judging by the last 2000 years, the prospects for such a valuing of human life is further away than a scientific answer to "indefinite life extension". If we are to be physically immortal, we have to make ourselves valuable enough NOW. Unless we do value ourselves enough to claim our physical immortality now, we may never live long enough to do so - indefinite life extension or not. Unless we claim each other as valuable enough now to live forever, unless we make all human life indispensable now, then scientific advances in life extension will make no difference to the death toll - they may even add to it, as the pursuit of religion has. This is why creating a human environment in which people are encouraged and supported to be physically immortal now is a primary requirement.

Regardless of our differences, we have to end the separation between each other as well as within ourselves, in order to make living forever not only possible but worthwhile.

The links to the left take you to articles that consider physical immortality in relation to religion, beliefs and the bible.

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