IEET > Rights > HealthLongevity > Vision > Bioculture > Contributors > Lincoln Cannon > Innovation
Resuscitation, by Cryonics or Otherwise, Is a Religious Mandate
Lincoln Cannon   Aug 11, 2014  

A well known and atheist-minded Transhumanist, Zoltan Istvan blames religion for an anti-cryonics law in Canada. Basically, Transhumanism is the ethical use of technology to extend human abilities, and cryonics is low-temperature preservation of a legally-dead body for resuscitation when new technology might cure the cause of death. Zoltan’s concern is that the religious views of Canadian lawmakers may have informed the law, and that this may influence other lawmakers around the world to inhibit access to cryonics likewise.

However, it may be premature to blame religion for this particular law, and it’s certainly not the case that religion is generally incompatible with cryonics.

While I’m sure there are religious people who have reasons for opposing cryonics, I’m equally sure there are religious people who have reasons for supporting cryonics. How is that? Well, Zoltan and I are both Transhumanists. We share the aspiration of using technology to restore and improve the vitality of our bodies and minds indefinitely, as well as the expectation that some of us may benefit from techniques like cryonics.
However, unlike Zoltan, I’m a religious person, and although the religious are a minority among self-identifying Transhumanists, I’m not alone, as evidenced by the existence of organizations like the Mormon Transhumanist Association, anddemographic surveys from the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technology.
In his article, Zoltan blames religion for a couple reasons. First, he writes, the “former President of the Cryonics Society of Canada … made dozens of phone calls in the 1990s and publicized his conversations in a document that suggests … religious opposition to cryonics.” However, the document to which he links mentions religion only once, encouraging its constituency to view the anti-cryonics law as “practically a restriction on freedom of religion”. In other words, the document actually advocates a positive view of religion, to be used as grounds for supporting cryonics. This reflects the views of some other non-religious Transhumanists, such as lawyer John Niman, who points out the possibility of advancing Transhumanist legal causes on religious grounds.
As his second reason for blaming religion, Zoltan writes, “the very nature of cryonics … flies in the face of every major Abrahamic religion, including Christianity.” However, that’s an exaggeration. My own religion, Mormonism, is an Abrahamic and Christian religion – almost all of us consider both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament to be inspired of God.
There are also about the same number of Mormons as Jews in the world, which seems to qualify Mormonism as a major Abrahamic religion. Yet the largest Mormon denomination, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has no official position on cryonics. A former president of Alcor (the largest cryonics provider), Joe Waynick, was an Adventist.
Adventism has more adherents than Judaism, and theSeventh-day Adventist Church has no official position on cryonics. Even beyond these two examples, I’m not aware of any major institution of the Abrahamic tradition that has an official position on cryonics, and of course the Bible itself says nothing about cryonics – the thought of freezing dead bodies to facilitate resuscitation probably never even crossed the minds of its authors (unless you count God among them).
‚ÄčThe Bible does, however, have some things to say about resuscitation, and they’re glowingly positive. In the Hebrew Bible, Elijah resuscitates a widow’s son, and Elisha resuscitates a Shunammite’s son. In the New Testament, Peter resuscitates TabithaPaul resuscitates Eutychus, and Jesus resuscitates Jairus’ daughter, a widow’s son, and Lazarus.
In the Hebrew Bible, Job describes resurrection in the “flesh”. In the New Testament, although Paul claims “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God”Paul also claims “the body that is sown … is raised imperishable”, and Jesus describes resurrection in “flesh and bones” (note “bones” instead of “blood”). Some interpret these descriptions to mean that even the prophesied resurrection to immortality is a form of resuscitation with improvements to the body. To top things off, Paul claims some of us will change to immortality without dying, and Jesus charges his disciples to “raise the dead”. In light of these things, we might even conclude (and we wouldn’t be the first) that resuscitation is a religious mandate!
Toward the end of his article, Zoltan continues, “in a world where over 90 percent of the people hold religious views of the afterlife, cryonics could become a noteworthy global civil rights issue.” In a sense, I hope he’s right. I hope many other religious people, like other religious Transhumanists and me, will make resuscitation (whether via cryonics or other means) a civil rights issue. I hope we’ll decide together not only to use all the means with which God has graced us to work toward universal resuscitation, but also to do so with a conviction that reflects a heartfelt religious mandate.
Of course that’s not what Zoltan has in mind, and of course not all religious people will agree, but maybe they with Zoltan are overlooking an opportunity – and a responsibility.
All Images:
Lincoln Cannon is a technologist and philosopher, and leading advocate of technological evolution and postsecular religion. He is a founder, board member, and former president of the Mormon Transhumanist Association. He is a founder and advisor of the Christian Transhumanist Association. And he formulated the New God Argument, a logical argument for faith in God that is popular among religious Transhumanists.


I’ve researched this topic and I haven’t found any evidence online that the Catholic Church - the largest religious organization in the world - has a position on cryonics.

so… I agree with Lincoln.

I would like to see atheist transhumanists be more accepting of religious transhumanists. This schism, IMO, is unnecessary.



Thanks, Hank. I agree that, whether religious or not, Transhumanists have much of value in common. I trust in our capacity to become a radically creative and compassionate posthumanity. For me, that’s an aspect of faith in God, even if my atheist friends prefer not to call that “God”.

Here’s how the cryonics organization Alcor answers the question:

“Is Cryonics illegal in Canada?”

“In 1990 the Canadian province of British Columbia enacted a law that specifically banned the sale of cryonics services in that province. In 2002 the Solicitor General (Canadian equivalent of a state Attorney General) issued a written clarification stating that the law only prohibited funeral homes from selling cryonics arrangements. Cryonics could still be performed in the province, even with the paid assistance of funeral homes, provided they were not involved in the direct sale of cryonics. This position is affirmed by the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority of British Columbia. Despite these assurances, anxiety about the law remains.”

It seems it’s more a law to prevent funeral homes from marketing snake oil or utilizing unsafe practices than a “civil rights violation” as it is present in Zoltan’s article:

As for cryonics being a “religious mandate” this assumes that there is one right religion or even one right attitude towards death- which there is not.

Should we focus so much on cryonics, Lincoln? It sounds like a terrific idea, if and only if w can see strong biological evidence of revival. View this technology as successful only if we can put critically, ill, patients into frozen snooze mode, or send a research team out to Proxima, to be revived and do research, and then snooze the heck back to Earth. Here, we are talking real medicine, because the actual research, so far, seems sparse.

I tend to side more, with, the Humpty-Dumpty concept, where as, human persons/personalities/memories, get re-constituted, at some far future date, perhaps as persons inside a virtual reality existence (guaranteed not to drive up real estate prices!). You know the drill, from Tipler, Moravec, Guilio Prisco, maybe Kurzweil?

Here’s what your organization may do (a suggestion, not a command!) is to locate scientists of your theological persuasion, to actually write papers, on the future of a post mortem re-existence. A tall order, I realize, but as Guilio Prisco has observed, that scientists, especially physicists, will ruin each others careers, if they write openly, of this proposal.

My view is the there must be someone at university level, that might write such a paper, and, whose doesn’t care what the hob-goblins in the American Physical Society, or the AIP would criticize them about. Funding is always tricky, so its safer no to incur the wrath of MIT. Maybe some academic from Utah or Nevada, might tread, where secular scientists dare not go! We’d all have to take up a collection and pass the plate for such a scientist, in order to protect their career and livelihood.

So what is the advantage of such a venture? Well, number 1, it’d be true, as in based on accepted physics. Two, the media, once this “paper” gets promoted, would gobble it up. You can look at Lanza and Berman’s Nov 13th, UK Daily Mail treatment on Biocentrism, which is a nice hypothesis, but looks to be sort of under-developed. This, hit hundreds of papers, thousands of blogs.

What do you say, feasible or stupid (my suggestion) that is. Should it never see the light of day? I say it would boost Transhumanism, and any religious institution that affirms this ‘magic’ paper.


Thanks for the comments.

Rick, the title over-generalizes the case for a Christian mandate.

Spud100, I don’t think we should focus on cryonics at the expense of alternatives, and I do like the idea of encouraging authorship of academic papers on post mortem re-existence.


Fair enough, I have a way of letting titles get the best of me myself.

YOUR COMMENT Login or Register to post a comment.

Next entry: The Radical Plan To Phase Out Earth’s Predatory Species

Previous entry: An Interview with: Professor George Slusser – Eaton science fiction collection’s Curator