IEET > Rights > Vision > Contributors > FreeThought > CyborgBuddha > Gabriel Rothblatt
Is Transhumanism a Religion?
Gabriel Rothblatt   Jun 7, 2012   Ethical Technology  

Transhumanism is often accused of being a religion. It is rarely clear if this is meant as an insult, a compliment, or merely an observation. Probably all of the above have been used at different points in time, from different perspectives, which only adds to the hysteria.

(Atheism shares this accusation and may share the conclusion too.)

I have yet to hear theism described as a religion, probably because it is clearly not, it is the umbrella philosophy from which religions are born. It is also unclear what is meant by “religion” when the accusation that “transhumanism is a religion” is used. There are multiple definitions of religion, and there are also interchanges between “faith” and “belief” that do not reflect the definition of religion at all. That being said, bringing the entire realm of faith into a logical argument is rarely a fruitful endeavor.

[My advice: before you ever engage in an argument, force your opponent to agree to define terms. Neutral definitions taken directly from a secular academic source are best. You would think that there would be an official dictionary, but there is not. By undergoing this process you will uncover preconceptions from both sides that may lead to a premature conclusion of the argument. Assuming that a clear definition does not end the argument with a mutual understanding or a fit of rage and a damning of the dictionary, you are now clear to proceed with the use of logic.]

Definitions of Transhumanism

Wikipedia: Transhumanism, abbreviated as H+ or h+, is an international intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally transforming the human condition by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.

Oxford: Transhumanism: the belief or theory that the human race can evolve beyond its current physical and mental limitations, especially by means of science and technology.

Definitions of Religion

Wikipedia: Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature.

Oxford: The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods: ideas about the relationship between science and religion.

I selected these two sources because they are the most commonly referenced. As you can see, they are not duplicates of each other and if we to add more options we would find more discrepancies between definitions. There is also the problem of interchange, where one word is used in place of another; by accident or ignorance another level of possible misunderstanding is created by this occurrence. To avoid a digression into etymology and for the purpose of continuing this discussion of “transhumanism as a religion?” we will focus on the commonalities between definitions.

What definitions of transhumanism have in common is the acceptance of an evolving human condition. I say acceptance because belief has implications that weight the argument towards religion and is a point of discrepancy between definitions. What differentiates a transhumanist from an evolutionist is the second commonality, which states that, the transhumanist acceptance of an evolving condition is achieved through technological adaptations.

What definitions of religion have in common is the concept of the existential claim belief. The term belief has many definitions; the interchange of these definitions can often cause confusion. The two main definitions of belief that are most relevant to this discussion are the existential claim belief and the commendatory belief. A commendatory belief is what you place on a person performing a task; an existential belief is something you claim with no scientific evidence. There is another commonality in definitions of religion that links how an existential belief shapes lifestyle choices or culture.

With these definitions in place we can begin to see where an argument had without them can lead to a confused conclusion.

Both religion and transhumanism utilize a belief in the human condition, just not the same one. Transhumanists have a commendatory belief in the human condition; Religionists belief in it is existential. To interchange one belief with another and therefore label transhumanism as a religion is to say that one could just as easily classify religion as a delusion. Some will find this argument tempting, however the same slippery slope could then apply to transhumanism as well. A delusional belief is the third definition of belief after existential and commendatory. This satisfies our primary commonality of religious definitions; next we must discuss the primary commonality of transhumanism definitions.

This existential versus commendatory approach to the human condition is most notably played out in the debate over our creation and evolution. Opponents of the Theory of Evolution often mistake it for being a hypothesis. Religions have largely failed to embrace empirical evidence and incorporate into their existential beliefs, this has led to sects breaking from the mainstream, and cults breaking from sects, for both reform and orthodox reasons. Likewise transhumanists have not exactly brought themselves under one banner, which has made it difficult to defend accusations like “they are promoting eugenics.” The religionists hold the existential belief that God created humans in their existing form, and therefore evolution to or from a new human condition cannot or should not be. Transhumanists observe evolution as a natural process that through scientific understanding and application of technology can be self-guided, and commendatory believe that we are capable of doing such. This satisfies our primary commonality of transhumanist definitions.

Aside from the semantics of the argument there is the legal reality of religions. If there were a litmus test for the compliance of religions with their doctrines, the world would be a much more secular place. Many religious doctrines promote inhumane behavior and intolerance, given there are passages about charity, just because you donate to the State Troopers isn’t doesn’t mean you can kill one for working on Saturday. There is no litmus test in the USA, all you must do is file the proper 501.c.3 forms and not too blatantly and consistently disobey rather vague compliance guidelines around being a non-profit. Literally just about anyone can do it and many have.

The philosophy of transhumanism, as has theism, can cause humans to develop organizations with cultural customs and proposed answers to the existential questions. These are the legal religions, the religions that exist, better known as religious non-profit corporations. Given the legal existence of religions as a tax entity it is completely reasonable that someone may incorporate a transhumanist religion. In fact, such a thing does already exist, the Terasem Movement Transreligion, their charter: “Dedicated to diversity, unity and joyful immortality via geoethical nanotechnology and personal cyber-consciousness.”

Back to semantics Terasem is a transreligion, which means you do not have to let go of your traditional cultural identity to adopt theirs. Their “joiners” come from various religious and non-religious backgrounds and respect their traditional beliefs and maintain them as part of their own unique identities. Spirituality, in their view, is like your fingerprint completely unique and defining of every individual. Terasem can, but was not created to, be the sole source of spiritual and cultural connectivity. It is, to borrow a term, a “rider” for ones cultural and spiritual enhancement. Terasem in it’s own practices incorporates many concepts from all religions, they have Seders but also transcendental meditations.

Even if every transhumanist were a member of Terasem, the legal existence of Terasem as a religion is entirely separate from the philosophy of transhumanism.

It should now be clear that transhumanism is no more a religion than democracy is a nation. It can be understandable how through interchange of definitions this mistake may occur. The secondary commonalities of religious and transhumanist definitions are not necessary to expound; the primary commonalities have been observed to be substantively different. However I will open the question to comments: Is technology itself a cultural system? If so, how does it relate humanity to spirituality?

Gabriel Rothblatt is an Ambassador for the Seasteading Institute, a member of the Board of Directors for Terasem Movement Incorporated and the Lifeboat Foundations Futurist Board of Advisors. He is a former US Congressional Candidate in FL-8, the Space Coast of Florida.



COMMENTS

I would argue that whether or not transhumanism is a religion isn’t nearly as impotant as whether or not it serves the function of one.  Though it may be argued I think most would agree that people join a religion for a relatively few number of reasons: a sense of community; a way to explain phenomena or answer questions they otherwise can’t; a desire to transcend the self through contemplation/worship of something bigger than they are; and out of a hope said religion will lead them to a better life (either this one or the next depending on beliefs).  In this way I feel transhumanism fulfills the obligations of a religion quite well.

I believe that fundamentally, to be a religion, it must have a metaphysical position.

Although many other things are also derived from it, such as a system of morality or law, these things are derived from a fundamental metaphysical position (God/no God, objective reality/solipsism, etc.)

I don’t think there is an overwhelming consensus amongst transhumanists on metaphysics for it to be called a religion, though that does not mean that transhumanists cannot also include religion as part of their transhumanism.

Wiki says:

Transhumanism, abbreviated as H+ or h+, is an international intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally transforming the human condition by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.[1] Transhumanist thinkers study the potential benefits and dangers of emerging technologies that could overcome fundamental human limitations, as well as study the ethical matters involved in developing and using such technologies. They predict that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves into beings with such greatly expanded abilities as to merit the label “posthuman”.

____

Therefore, transhumanists can be either religious, or not religious, but I would not categorize transhumanism itself as inherently religious.

Seriously, people who think radical tech progress (Transhumanism/Singularity) is a religion…

It is a very basic logical fallacy to equate Transhumanism/Singularity with religion.

I know there is a Transhuman Mormon Association but merely because some religious people are drawn to radical future tech this does not mean the thing they are drawn to is automatically religious. I am sure in our big wide world there exists a Religious Marathon organised by athletic Christians, but this doesn’t mean running a marathon or fitness is religious.

Correlation does not equate causation, for example a cheetah is fast and a car is fast but a this does not mean a car is a cheetah despite the speed correlation; the speed of car does not cause a car to have four legs and paws instead of wheels. If a car travels at the same speed as a cheetah this will not cause the car the eat springbok. A better example is regarding how influenza often causes people to sneeze but every time someone sneezes this does not mean the sneeze is caused by influenza because maybe the person who sneezed sniffed some pepper or is allergic to cats.

Radical technology has the potential to make the world a vastly better place; but improving the world via reason, logic, and science is not a religious return to The Garden Of Eden.

Whether or not Transhumanism is a religion, it will become an important aspect of post-secular religions—religions that evolve beyond the challenges of secularization.

Singularity Utopia, reason, logic and science alone never have and never will make the world a better place because “better place” is pre-rational, pre-logical and pre-scientific. They are powerful tools for helping us make the world a better place, they have and will affect out definition of “better place”, they will increasingly permeate every aspect of our world and bodies and minds and relations, but it’s ignorant or dishonest to suppose them sufficient on their own, if for no other reason than that they are not and can never be finished, and life cannot and will not always wait for them. Certainly those who don’t wait on them enough will die, but so will those who wait on them to excess. We are and will remain faithful creatures, hopefully expanding our knowledge without end.

S.U. while you point out a logical fallacy, which I don’t think anybody was making. It seems clear that Transhumanism is not a religion under the definitions used in the article. The problem is that in pointing out one fallacy you create another, which is to say that we have two things that are not identical under the category of “things that are fast”. 

The nature of the argument as I see is that it is stating Transhumanism and religion are separate non-identical things. That is fine as far as it goes. However the way the question is defined is not really the comparison of two non-identical things, but rather whether this one thing fits into this particular category.

Transhumanism is not a religion in this article because the chosen definitions of transhumanism and religion mean that they don’t fit. However if one choose different definitions, the argument also changes. If religion is belief in a future salvific event based on a given physical/metaphysical understanding of the cosmos, then transhumanism is indeed a religion.

This is why I try to avoid arguments in which people spend much of their time setting up their chosen definitions. It is important to be clear about meaning, but it is also important to not draw the lines so tight that we miss a large part of the discussion.

Transhumanism is really just a guess as to what the future will bring.  I like to believe it will happen, but I’m stuck on the downloading/uploading bit. 

When I think about the possibility of transhumanism (and look forward to it as a possibility), it falls into the flying car category of “hoped for” technology.  I believe flying cars were strongly imagined in the 1950’s that they would definitely be here by now 2012.  While I think that Kurzweil has a fun prediction, I’m thinking that there is much much more that we will have to overcome that is not plugged into his equation. 

I don’t think the singularity is as close as his models may predict, but of course I hope I’m wrong.

@pbamma re “When I think about the possibility of transhumanism (and look forward to it as a possibility), it falls into the flying car category of “hoped for” technology…”

Right.

re “Transhumanism is really just a guess as to what the future will bring.”

This is far too generic I think, and includes dystopian futures. I would say that transhumanism is speculations about a specific type of possible and positive futures, plus an effort to make these futures happen.

Sorry to burst your bubble Lincoln but religions are destined to become obsolete due to our intelligence advancing. We are becoming enlightened contrary to our primitive origins, origins where people believed in superstitions and Gods.

I realise a lot of people are on your religious side Lincoln, for example there was recently a news report about how nearly half of all Americans think the world was created sometime in the last 10,000 years (LOL); but intelligence augmentation will rapidly dispel irrationality thus religions will wither and die.

On the issue of “better”, the concept of something being “good” is highly rational, firmly grounded in “reason and “logic” because a “better world” is more conducive to survival. It is logical to survive, is rational to make our survival very pleasant. Irrational people seek death and pain, a “worse world”, they are happy to hold nonsensical delusions about reality.

Reason, logic and science will make the world a better place, it is all about thinking, and I mean “rational thinking” which for me is the on valid type of thinking. It is our logical human ability to think which makes our world a better place but admittedly in some people “thinking” is flawed, corrupted, subverted, substandard, a parody of true thought.

Regarding “flying cars” why do people focus on one minor aspect of absent futurism when all around us are countless examples of a highly futuristic world? I’ll tell you why, it is because people feel threatened by the future, they cling to their irrationality thus they jump on any cheap trick to deride the massive amount tangible progress. Putting aside the marvel of the internet, yesterday I was reading about tiny robots able to repair hearts, I am also collating a large amount of evidence regarding Stem Cell regeneration where eyes have been healed, liver and bladders grown, synthetic trachea implanted etc. If IBM state they hope to create sugar-cube supercomputer sometime around 2021, their hope is not based on an empty guess, they are making a rational forecast based on evidence, logic.

Pastor Alex, if you change the definition of religion to mean “chair” then a chair is religious. Likewise regarding my point about cars and cheetahs, which was perhaps too convoluted, if you change (or confuse) the definition of car so that a car is defined as something which is fast, then a cheetah becomes a car because a cheetah is fast.

So on the issue of “whether this one thing fits into this particular category.”

If the definition of “religion” is changed to mean anything which makes our world a better place then you will find many things such as “chocolate”, “baseball”, or “Family Guy” could become a religion depending upon what things people find pleasant.

You wrote about Transhumanism being a “salvific” event thus religious, but although Transhumanism will save lives similar to how heart transplantation save lives, this saving of lives is not “religious salvation”, which is why heart transplantation is not a religion, which is the point I was trying to make regarding cars and cheetahs.

Saving lives and making our world a better place is not “religious salvation”, otherwise medical science would be a religion but it is not. Please try not to confuse definitions.

@SU: You seem to be very hung up on the word religion.  No one here mentioned anything about gods or superstitions so I’m not sure why you bring them up.  Religion has never been defined simply as belief in a deity (e.g. Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism) and superstitions can spring from completely secular environments (e.g. homeopathy).  I actually think you’re demonstrating quite nicely the problem outlined in the article; that the nebulous meaning of religion makes debates of this kind rather difficult.  Considering you believe religions will die out once intelligence enhancement becomes common place I wonder what definition of religion you are using exactly.

On a related note, you keeping referring to transhumanism as “based on reason and logic” as if that somehow makes a point.  They way you use them makes me think you don’t really understand what those words mean.

As Gabriel says, transhumanism is no more a religion than democracy is a nation. (very good analogy!)

In the same spirit, as nations can be democratic, religions can be transhumanist.

Matt Brown, I am not hung up on the word “religion”. No more hung up than I am hung up on the word “bigot” or “homophobe”. I don’t like to be called a bigot and I don’t like to be called religious. I vigorously reject religious smearing of the Singularity/Transhumanism. Defining the Singularity/Transhumanism as “religious” is a smear. It is important to counter the slurs.

You say religion has never been defined as simply a belief in a deity, but Google gives this definition of religion: “The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods.”

What actually is a “superhuman controlling power” in the context of religion? Is a “superhuman controlling power” a God?

Yes admittedly a minority of religious people do not on the face of it believe in a God, but in actuality we see how Buddhists worship Buddha (who is clearly superhuman because he can theoretically transcend death by leaving his body to enter the mystical realm of Parinirvana), notably the Mahāyāna Buddhists actually worship Avalokiteśvara who is clearly a God.

I am not overly familiar with Confucianism but I tentatively think you are wrong to say it is a religion, Google defines it as philosophical teachings and ethics. We must note how mere philosophy or ethics do NOT constitute a religion. Confucianism is: “A system of philosophical and ethical teachings founded by Confucius and developed by Mencius.” I will do more research regarding Confucianism.

It seems you are also wrong about Taoism because according to the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/taoism/beliefs/gods.shtml) “Taoists venerate gods”, note also: “...they conventionally revere Lao Tsu both as the first god of Taoism and as the personification of the Tao.” and: “Taoism has many gods, most of them borrowed from other cultures. These deities are within this universe and are themselves subject to the Tao.”

Gods and superstitions (irrationality) are a key aspect regarding religious smearing of the Singularity/Transhumanism.

Apparently before the death of Buddha, Wikipedia states: “...at the age of 80, the Buddha announced that he would soon reach Parinirvana, or the final deathless state, and abandon his earthly body.”

Reincarnation in Buddhism (rebirth) possibly provides an insight into whether God or Gods are behind the mechanics of rebirth.

Wikipedia states regarding rebirth: “...in traditional Buddhist cosmology these lives can be in any of a large number of states of being including the human, any kind of animal and several types of supernatural being.” So it seems supernatural beings exist in Buddhism, are these supernatural beings Gods? I am not sure.

Buddhist cosmology is interesting (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_cosmology). Note the “Śuddhāvāsa deva”, a deva in Buddhism is “one of many different types of non-human beings who share the characteristics of being more powerful, longer-lived, and, in general, living more contentedly than the average human being.”

Note also: “Other words used in Buddhist texts to refer to similar supernatural beings are devatā “deity” and devaputra (Pāli: devaputta) “son of the gods”.”

And: “The presence of a deva can be detected by those humans who have opened the divyacakṣus (Pāli: dibbacakkhu), an extrasensory power by which one can see beings from other planes. Their voices can also be heard by those who have cultivated divyaśrotra, a similar power of the ear.”

I would say all religions have Gods, including Buddhism, even if on the face of it people say otherwise. Sometimes the supernatural beings whom people worship are not blatantly called a God, and the worship can be convoluted, but we see these supernatural beings in Buddhism have all the hallmarks of Gods.

There is no nebulous meaning of religion, the meaning is actually quite clear but similar to the Bush regime redefining torture as enhanced interrogation: people are confused about meanings because religious people want to redefine the meaning of religion so that Transhumanism can be incorporated.

Possibly I am wrong despite the limited corroborating research I’ve done to demonstrate all religions focus upon Gods, thus maybe I should NOT have stated: “Sorry to burst your bubble Lincoln but religions are destined to become obsolete due to our intelligence advancing. We are becoming enlightened contrary to our primitive origins, origins where people believed in superstitions and Gods.” Perhaps I was wrong to state we are evolving beyond our primitive origins regarding antediluvian beliefs, superstitions and Gods (modern or otherwise). Perhaps I was wrong because maybe not all religions have a God or Gods.

My meaning if you misunderstood, which apparently you did, is that Gods are synonymous with religion. Superstitions are also comparable to religions but merely being superstitions is not a form of religion. My point is that we are moving beyond ALL FORMS OF IRRATIONALITY, religious and secular alike. Belief in Gods is a good metaphor for all types of irrationality because Christianity and God have a big influence in our lives, for example the year 2012 relates to the birth of Christ. The concept of God is a key focus of most religions, thus to explain how we are moving beyond our primitive irrational origins I utilized the word “God” metaphorically regarding the looming obsolescence of all religions. 

A deity (devatā) is worshipped in many sub-cults of Buddhism, note the meditation deity (Ishta-deva), but how can I highlight the looming obsolescence of religion without mentioning deities?

Perhaps I should have said:

Sorry to burst your bubble Lincoln but religions are destined to become obsolete due to our intelligence advancing. We are becoming enlightened contrary to our primitive origins, origins where people believed in superstitions and religions. All forms of irrationality are becoming obsolete. From racism, to homophobia, to religions and superstitious beliefs, we are evolving, we are learning how to use logic. Transhumanism is based on reason and logic because there is a realisation that magic spells, prayers, incantations, Gods, pixies, angels, supernatural beings, fairies, meditative holy people, celebrities, or religions cannot radically improve our world; there is a realisation that to improve our world we need hard science and technology, not religion or any other mystical nonsense.

It is the support of hard science and technology which makes Transhumanism an ideology based on reason and logic.

The definition of all religions describes mystical unprovable notions about death; religions focus on the lives of individuals leading up to death. All religions focus on death regarding supernatural forces beyond normal human powers. Religions are basically “fear of death cults” thus an ideology is built around human mortality and the associated fears regarding being powerless to significantly alter our natural world, thus a supernatural fantasy-world is created, which we see in the concepts of Parinirvana and Heaven.

Please excuse any typos I may have made in this lengthy comment. I often make typing mistakes.

@ Singularity Utopia

” You wrote about Transhumanism being a “salvific” event thus religious, but although Transhumanism will save lives similar to how heart transplantation save lives, this saving of lives is not “religious salvation”, which is why heart transplantation is not a religion, which is the point I was trying to make regarding cars and cheetahs.

Saving lives and making our world a better place is not “religious salvation”, otherwise medical science would be a religion but it is not. Please try not to confuse definitions.”


Yet in the same manner you are making the mistake of conflating medical science with transhumanism, which it is not? Rather medical science is technology dependant and through technological advancements - is techno-progressive. It is not necessarily Transhumanism? And I suspect that if you question many in the medical profession, including surgeons, they will not label themselves as transhumanist, and may even discard the term as cultist?

The question, as hinted above, should be viewed from a different perspective - can Transhuman-ism, (notice the hyphen position courtesy of Max More), be regarded and embraced as a (new or future) religion? Maybe it can, although I regard philosophy as of greater value, and religious philosophy as of value compared to religious doctrine and ritual.

Christians and other theists can be techno-progressive and are thus more open to spiritual and ethical evolution, (hopefully?) Fundamentalists usually believe that humans are perfect by design, (or at least perfect in spirit but not mind?), so transhumanism to them is blasphemy.

Yet who really can claim to be non techno-progressive in this modern world? Every fundamentalist that uses a computer or cell phone to profess adherence to antiquated doctrine and idea is a hypocrite, every one of these that uses modern medicines to overcome disease etc?

Tribes form cohesion of community, ethics and morality through agreement, (bonding and social contract), contemplate ontological meaning and express spirituality, and speculate reason and motive of/for existence and attempt to resolve answers through metaphysics.

Religion is an expression of spirituality + politics, (inescapably human trait derived from curiosity and questioning). “Religion’s” are thus indoctrinated clubs with member’s rules that require adherence or there would be no consistency to proclaim and differentiate “this” spiritual philosophy from “that” spiritual philosophy?

Therefore anyone that questions or defies the doctrine and rules is deemed as a heretic and must be cast out to preserve dogma and tradition.

So does Transhumanism fit with this dogma? Hmm.. certain Transhuman-ists can be steadfast and dogmatic in their ideas and philosophy, yet there are so many different ideas of possible futures that humans are likely to become divergent species with divergent ideals - so is it not better just to define Transhumanism as a philosophy that is open and available to everyone regardless of faith?

In the end it is up to the “individual”, and this is why antiquated religions and those that do not evolve will eventually disappear, (but not completely). I suspect that even Catholicism will evolve and necessitate acceptance of scientific and trans-human progress to survive rather than wither away?

Great arguments.

@SU/Matt Borwn
I am a member of the MTA and find their position to be transreligious and very analogous to Terasem’s. Sadly all Mormons do not share their position, nor my respect for Lincoln. The take home message that is important here for those still defending h+ as a religion is that just because it looks like a duck doesn’t make it not a mallard. Some people have an existential perception of h+, science can explain many mysteries of the cosmos, but the urge to interchange a similar definition that may seem apt not only degrades the argument but threatens to degrade the quality of discourse between us all. (Analogies are a great way to avoid definition interchange and still get your audience to perceive your conception.)

@pbamma
h+ is more than a guess in the future it is a vote for it. Especially in a ‘day’ when there is so much effort to pull us backwards in time.

@Pastor_Alex
I’m glad you weighed in here, have you found a published definition that does support h+ as a religion? I did look because I value truth over satisfaction but found no source citing religion as being salvific by nature or h+ being that necessarily either.

@ipan
Well put I think you grasped my argument well. Neither h+ nor Terasem or the MTA hold metaphysical beliefs. Everything h+ espouses may not be true but is empirical and dynamic to new information. That is the danger of existential beliefs at some point facts will fly in their face and you must either admit you were wrong or slide into the realm of delusional.

Terasemian, this is where definitions can be misleading. The definition of religion that you will get from a wiki or dictionary will be striving to be as concise as possible. As S.U. points out in his post actual religions may bear only a passing resemblance to any particular definition of religion. A great deal depends on whether you include reference to a supernatural being as an essential aspect of religion. Rather than trying to define religion in a global sense which is problematic at best since there is no singular thing called “religion” just a plurality of institutions, practices and beliefs that we lump together under that label. Rather like calling every stone we pick up “rock” instead of saying, granite, slate, limestone etc.

Let’s look at how religion functions. Most religions as S.U. points out do have some reference to what could be called supernatural, or at least strongly non-materialistic aspects of the cosmos. These beliefs don’t operate in a vacuum but provide motivation for the transformation and transcendence of the human condition.

They use similar “technologies” to achieve this transformation. Prayer/meditation, singing/music, teaching/study, the practice of charity, the practice of pilgrimage, the gathering in community, the sacred meal, working toward a more just and loving world. The understanding of what the transformation might look like will vary, the balance and understanding of the various technologies will vary.

The goal of many religions is salvation, again what that salvation looks like will vary widely. For some it is found in this life, and for others in the next. The main concept is that world needs some radical change and the religion and the faith concepts of that religion are to be agents of that change.

I don’t believe under this system h+ could be considered religious, though there are people who look to the singularity for salvation. The reason I say this is that those who look to the singularity to save the world don’t use the technologies of religion to further their goal. Some of those technologies might be transferable and even useful, but they aren’t an integral part of h+ or the singularity.

Pastor Alex, when you refer to “supernatural, or at least strongly non-materialistic aspects of the cosmos”, would substrate independent minds count?

I haven’t weighed in on is one before now because fundamentally I don’t think I really care whether transhumanism comes out as a religion or not, provided that, as S.U and Terasemian exhort, we try to keep our definitions clear and consistent - and in particular consistent with common usage, so we avoid creating more obscurantist jargon - and then just follow where they lead.

I do want to make a comment about the word “salvation”, though. While I agree with most of what Alex writes in his latest post (MINUS the implication that being clear about definitions might actually be a bad thing!), on the whole I prefer words like “empowerment” and “improvement” compared to “salvation”. The term “salvation” still, to me, reeks of the threat of hell-fire and damnation with which organised religion has oppressed so many people for so long, and still does today. You put up some unachievable moral code (say The Sermon On The Mount), decry the inadequacies of the human condition, tell people that God cannot look on evil and thus we are damned, and then present our favoured religious faith as the “path to salvation”.

It all adds up to a false sense of urgency in my view. Perhaps a lot of transhumanists ARE looking for salvation, in some way, but I don’t think I want to be one of them. I prefer to take Sam Harris’s advice (see his talk Death and the Present Moment, posted here recently) and find satisfaction in the here and now, and the near future. I support transhumanist aspirations because I think we are at our best when pursuing ambitious long-term visions, and technology is progressing to a point where it is not immediately obvious that they are unachievable, a fact that I find incredibly exciting and exhilarating. But I am not looking for salvation. I accept the human condition as it is, including the possibility of failure, sickness, and death, and I look for ways to improve on it…not least by pursuing transhumanist aspirations.

Does that make me religious? Don’t know, and don’t really care. It certainly doesn’t make me theistic, but that’s a different issue. It certainly DOES make me a believer, as well as a sceptic, but then - as I keep pointing out - we are all believers in something or other. No-one can live without some kind of faith, such as (for example) faith in reason,  causality and the scientific method.

Peter, I didn’t say that definitions were bad, just that they were limited. It is easy to pick and choose. Sometimes talking about what something does is more useful than arguing about what it is. It depends on the nature of the argument.

Dear CygnusX1,

I fully realise medical science is not Transhumanism. You misunderstood my point.

My point was an analogy regarding how Transhumanism is similar to medical science because it is about making the world a better place, improving our lives via TECHNOLOGY.  Technology was the similarity.

The point was that technological improvement of the world and our lives is not religion. Whether we are considering Transhumanism, medical science, electricity, plumbing and sanitation, or modern ubiquitous www communications, the point is all these aspects of technology make our world better via tangible utilization of human intellect, no magical Godly miracles, no prayers.

Religion (Christianity) is about making our lives better via ultimately entering heaven upon death or at the point of Rapture.

Technology makes our lives better now via practical application of human ingenuity to invent labour-saving devices, easing pain, extending our lives, etc.

The commonality between medical science and Transhumanism is TECHNOLOGY. It is technology which makes medical science and Transhumanism similar BUT definitely not the same.

My point is that MEDICAL SCIENCE IS NOT RELIGIOUS therefore Transhumanism due to the technological similarity of improving our lives and making the world a better place is also not religious, similar to how plumbing, the internet, or computers are not religious.

Technology in whatever shape or form is not religious.

On the one hand you have provable technological progress and on the other hand you have supernatural miraculous unprovable heaven.

Medical science and Transhumanism are both aspects of technology, neither are aspects of religion.

The Religious Plumbers Association.

Consider it.

Consider plumbing being a religion. Is plumbing religious?

Making a religion out of plumbing is as ridiculous similar to how making a religion out of Transhumanism is ridiculous.

Oh holy water pipe, I plumb you, I connect a system of pipes to a sanitation-plant. My holy pipe-wrench is my rod and my staff, comforting me and I walk through the dark sewers looking for a leak. The leaks overflows but surely my PTFE tape can fix it.

Holy plumber in the sky, plumber or all plumbers, we lift up our hearts to the Lord Plumber. We will dwell forever in the superbly plumbed house of the Lord.

Religious people are very welcome to support the idea of Transhumanism but this does not make Transhumanism a religion any more then plumbing is a religion.

Transhumanism could be compared to the battle to eradicate Malaria, except instead of only eradicating Malaria, Transhumaism wants to eradicate all disease and improve lour live in many other ways. The battle to eradicate Malaria is not a religion (we utilize science and technology not prayers) but religious people are welcome to join the battle. I think the mistake many people make regarding Transhumanism is that they can’t believe we could ever eradicate all disease; thus if we think radical technology is very possible the cynics will say we are part of a cult entertaining magical fantasies because curing cancer, putting a man on the Moon, or stopping the ageing process are all impossible.

Putting a man on the Moon was impossible in the year 1918.

The impossibility of doing something depends upon your point in history, thus if you lived in the year 1212 people would probably have labelled you a witch or insane if you attempted to explain Bluetooth, the ISS, or mechanical hearts (yes mechanical hearts actually exist today and have been transplanted successfully).

The problem with Singularity/Transhuman cynics and castigators is that they are not aware of all the technological evidence available, the evidence which demonstrates a truly radical explosion of technology in the not too distant future, thus the tangible path of science seems like a fantasy or a religion, but the Singularity/Transhuman is merely plumbing.

Is plumbing a religion?

Alex, you can’t have a coherent discussion about what something does unless you first agree on a coherent definition of what it is.

If anyone wants to share my plumbing analogy I have transubstantiated the comment into a blog-post, minus typos:

http://singularity-utopia.blogspot.com/2012/06/religious-plumbers-association.html

@SU You call the word religion a smear and a slur and try to tell me you don’t have a bias against that word?

I’m going to respond in the shortest manner I can since as I mentioned in my first post I don’t actually think whether transhumanism is a religion is an interesting question. 

Some Daoists venerate gods largely because Daoism has spent several thousand years subsuming traditional Chinese folk beliefs to make conversion easier.  Daoism as preached in the Tao Te Ching does not make reference to a deity but rather to the Dao which, though by nature unexplainable, can be thought of as the underlying true nature of reality (similar in some sense to Platonic forms).  In regards to Buddhism the bodhisatvas (of which Avalokiteshvara is one) and buddha’s (e.g. Amida) are indeed seen by some as actual beings whom can be prayed to.  However this is not the view of all (some Pure Land Buddhists see Amida as the personification of Nirvana) and in the actual suttras the existence of a creator deity was one of the questions Shakyamuni famously refused to answer since he did not view it as important. 

As for Confucianism since we’re obviously allowing wikipedia citations as evidence “Ever since Europeans first encountered Confucianism, the issue of how Confucianism should be classified has been subject to debate…Scholars recognize that classification ultimately depends on how one defines religion. Using stricter definitions of religion, Confucianism has been described as a moral science or philosophy.[36] But using a broader definition, such as Frederick Streng’s characterization of religion as “a means of ultimate transformation”,[37] Confucianism could be described as a “sociopolitical doctrine having religious qualities.”[5] With the latter definition, Confucianism is religious, even if non-theistic.”

Finally some modern day examples of religions generally considered non-theistic are Scientology and Raelianism.

As far as your analogies frankly I think they fall flat.  Your plumbing analogy actually kind of proves my point about definitions.  As a modern profession plumbing is quite clearly not a religion.  But as you’ve satirically constructed it as a belief structure with a concept of the divine, rituals, relics and the like I would say yes it is a religion (a ridiculous one I agree but a religion nonetheless.) 

I guess that in the end is what I’m getting at.  If transhumanism is just a collection of enhancement technologies, as you defined it in your other analogy, then no it is not a religion (or philosophy, world view, whatever).  But that’s not all it is or at least it shouldn’t be.

Technology can make you smarter but it can’t tell you why you should be.  Technology can make you live longer but it can’t tell you why that’s a good thing.  To answer those questions requires value judgments which by their nature are subjective and therefore something which science and logic are incapable of answering.  If transhumanists want people to use emerging technologies in ways we think they should then we must give them reasons to do so.  In short we need to tell people how they should behave (i.e. ethics).  This will by default bring us into conflict with the current biggest purveyors of ethics, traditional religion.

@Alex: “Sometimes talking about what something does is more useful than arguing about what it is. It depends on the nature of the argument.”

This would be relevant to the present discussion if the question at hand were “does transhumanism share some similar characteristics with religion?” It’s not.

Everyone - a few comments here.

1. It is my vacation right now. I am not enjoying it as much as I should.
2. Regarding this debate etc., my opinion is that I have handled it very poorly, I have done a lousy job in dealing with it.
3. I have “moderated” the two Singularity Utopia comments Giulio mentioned
4. If I have to moderate many more comments, I won’t be able to get any other work done, I don’t have time to be doing this, my length of time devoted to this is detrimental to IEET
5. Yes, iPan is trashing me on KurzweilAI, he has moved the debate over there, this is also detrimental to IEET.
6. I haven’t read what he said, if it is really wretched, I will appeal to KurzweilAI to take it down.
7. There is serious discussion right now to end all comments at IEET. Initially I didn’t favor it, but if the rancor comments causes ruins my ability to do other work, and damages IEET via extension of gossip to KurzweilAI etc, I think ending comments might indeed be the best option.
8. This is all quite surreal to me. In my “real” life, I am not an atheist militant at all. I am just a very ordinary person with freelance jobs, like this IEET position. I am primarily a “family man” who devotes far more time to his children than he does to anything like atheism or transhumanism.
9. Again, I haven’t handled this well. Sorry. Again, this can’t go on like this. If I am required to put this much work into comments, I will have no time left for posting articles.

@Hank, what exactly was “moderated” regarding my comments and where did Giulio mention he wanted my comments moderated?

“3. I have “moderated” the two Singularity Utopia comments Giulio mentioned”

Matt Brown I am currently formulating my reply to your latest comment, which I will post soonish.

In the meantime on a humorous note: a 24hour plumber followed me on Twitter in response to my plumbing analogy blog - LMFAO, Lulz, LOL

Hank, it’s OK, I have found the “moderated” comments in the Google cache. I don’t think they needed to be removed but I don’t really have a big problem with them being removed.

I can understand not having comments on IEET due to time constraints but if time is the only issue then I would say just let all comments be posted with the only moderation-exception regarding blatant lies and spam. Overstated personal opinions should be allowed in all cases.

@Singularity Utopia - I must apologize to you.

Yes, I told Hank to remove some passages in your comments: The request is here:
http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/deathandpresentmoment20120607

The reason is that I cannot accept a partisan moderation policy. Since Hank removed some mildly offensive anti-atheist comments, I told him to remove some mildly offensive anti-religious comments, and yours were the first I found. I don’t think mildly offensive posts should be moderated at all—- moderation should be reserved for extremely offensive posts.

re “let all comments be posted with the only moderation-exception regarding blatant lies and spam. Overstated personal opinions should be allowed in all cases.”

I agree.

I think that we all radicalized our own perspectives lately, probably as a form autoimmune intellectual reaction. If we find the content of a certain comment particularly irritating - maybe we should think twice before posting a comment. Irritating each other with increasingly factious lines does not elevate the debate.  Verbal unpleasantnesses escalate quickly, and the conversational atmosphere worsen even quicker. Cui prodest?

I have a couple of small suggestions to avoid these unproductive conflicts - and to save Hank a few headaches.
(1) Inhibit comments - if the author of the article does not tolerate well criticism (or does not SEEM to tolerate criticism, regardless of what he or she declares).
(2) Allow registered users to vote all comments once - with “I like”, “I don’t like”. Once a comment has reached a particularly negative score, a bot can intervene with an automatic first warning. If more negative scores appear, the moderator himself can intervene, to censor quickly the transgressor. Like this, Hank would not have to waste his time reviewing comments and editing out parts. He could do better things, and intervene only when IEET readers have autonomously identified a censurable subject. Crowd sourcing of police services.

@André

Yes, we do tend to hide behind rigid intellectual positions when feeling attacked, and as you say verbal unpleasantness can escalate quickly. We need to take this as a learning experience, inter alia.

I like your idea of like/dislike buttons. Something to consider…

Matt Brown I am continuing to formulate my response to the points you made but in the meantime can you or anyone else answer the following questions.

If something such as plumbing, or copying, or cheese becomes a religion or a key part of a religion, does this mean all occasions of plumbing, copying, or cheese are religious?

For example the Missionary Church of Kopimism believes copying is a key part of their religion. They believe the act of copying is sacred, the search of knowledge is sacred, and the sharing of knowledge is sacred.

Does this mean copying and searching for knowledge is now a religion even for non-religious people? Who has the power to determine the core absolute meaning of something? If people say science is a religion does their say-so mean all scientists are religious practising a religion? Or are ideological interpretations of copying only apply to the bias of the interpreter thus the original definition of science, copying, Transhumanism, and cheese remains dominate?

Perhaps it is like someone whom finds trees erotically stimulating, does this mean trees are defined as a erotic item for all people?

@SU   Those activities are practices or just things. A religious belief could create any of those as it influenced lifestyle and therefore cultural, but they are only religious as they are spoken of in context to that religion. Circumcision can be a religious practice or a hygienically one. (not open for debate in this forum)

@Terasemian   Copying is perhaps different from circumcision because there is no circumcision religion; whereas copying is the fundamental aspect of the Kopimism religion, copying is the religion.

Or maybe copying is is just an activity, a cultural practice, thus not in essence religious.

Religious Transhumanists are co-opting, appropriating, hijacking Transhumanism, thus in the way copying is not fundamentally religious Transhumanism is also not fundamentally religious?

My answer to Singularity Utopia: no.

Something “becomes a religion or a key part of a religion” only for those persons of groups who choose to adopt it as a religion, or a key part of a religion.

For example, some religious transhumanists have convergent interpretations of both transhumanism and religion, and, _for them_ transhumanist becomes a religion or a key part thereof. But this does not mean that other transhumanists must adopt the same interpretation.

If h+ is a religion, it’s less commercialized (which is ironic) than organized religion. What angers me is preachermen (women cannot be blamed since they don’t own the store so to speak) discussing spirituality one minute, then driving off in their fancy cars saying in effect:

“I’m crying all the way to the bank—he who has, gets”.

Thumbing their noses by saying in effect that’s the nature of the beast. Not to judge them, however the Bible itself says let no man deceive you; it doesn’t say let a man—even a preacherman—make a monkey of you. So if h+ is religion, so be it. Do we have much to lose anymore? does climate change for instance signify that hanging on to our humanity is ultimately futile no matter what? then there’s asteroids, WMDs, and other existential concerns. I became optimistic in 1989 realizing the Cold War was ending, then simultaneously hearing of h+; the year appeared fleetingly as annus mirablis. But it contained the seeds of rapture of the future, and diminished expectations follow such hubris. What interests me most now is ‘bots, as it seems humans are simply not compatible beings; therefore ‘bots can be the genuine companions—along with pets.

@Giulio If Transhumanism is not fundamentally a religion similar to how copying is not fundamentally a religion (copying is only a religion for Kopimists), then why to religious Transhumanists fail to make clear the distinction that Transhumanism is not absolutely religious?

Religious Transhumanists should make clear the distinction that in the religious aspect of Transhumanism is purely their interpretation, an interpretation not present at the initial definition.

I object to religious Transhumanists because of they way they are co-opting, appropriating, hijacking Transhumanism without consideration for the facts or what Transhumanism is, or the initial definition of Transhumanism.

In a secular world people should have the freedom to abstain from religion but there is a tendency for religious people to co-opt everything thus formerly innocuous things (non-religious things) can become religious, thus copying is religious and Transhumanism is religious.

Despite the historic struggles for people to freely have an atheist way of life we are not there yet, there is also a danger churches will resurge to dominate, via force, our thoughts.

Transhumanism is an intellectual moment and religions from my viewpoint are anti-intellectual but I am happy to let religious Transhumanists hold their beliefs unchallenged if only they were not intent upon proselyting, thus due to the proselyting I am forced to counter the religious interpretation of Transhumanism because it encroaches in my intellectualism, for example by way of analogy: every time I copy something I don’t want people to think I am being religious, sacred, or holy, merely because I have copying and shared some information in an manner Kopimists would deem religious but to normal everyday people it is merely copying and pasting.

I just want the be free from religion without people imposing their religious views onto me. Can you respect my secular freedom?

Can religious Transhumanists clearly make the distinction that Transhumanism is not absolutely religious? Transhumanism is only religious based on the interpretation of religious Transhumanists similar to how Kopimists interpret copying.

@Singularity Utopia re “Religious Transhumanists should make clear the distinction that in the religious aspect of Transhumanism is purely their interpretation, an interpretation not present at the initial definition.”

I make this distinction three comments above this.

“I just want the be free from religion without people imposing their religious views onto me. Can you respect my secular freedom?”

Nobody forces you to read my writings. Please feel free to ignore them if you don’t like them.

“Transhumanism is only religious based on the interpretation of religious Transhumanists…”


Unfortunately the religious have us outnumbered, and they’ve been the way they are for several thousand years (I compromise by saying—just for example—to Christians if “the spirit of the living Jesus” means Christ’s legacy, then no argument—otherwise what is there to communicate with them about on these matters?)
Again, I couldn’t care less whether transhumanism is a religion, or a meme transported via time travel from the future. What we might completely agree on is we don’t want the religious to get their hooks into us any more.. which means of course continual vigilance.

@Intomorrw

I can’t see the religious agreeing that “we don’t want the religious to get their hooks I to us any more”, can you?

Let’s be careful. Hank instituted, with James Hughes’ enthusiastic encouragement, our new commenting policy for several good reasons: to avoid the mostly excellent debates we have here overheating in ways that undermine IEET’s reputation and foul up consume unwarranted attention from IEET staff (notably Hank himself), and also to serve as a beacon for other sites.

So let’s rise to the challenge here. I find the debate between SU and Giulio quite interesting, if still a tad too personal and defensive. I think Giulio is basically correct in pointing out that nobody forces anyone to read his writings (or, I might add, writings from other transhumanists of a more religious bent). At the same time I think it’s perfectly legitimate for SU to make comments about how he would like religious transhumanists to behave. They can also ignore his requests, if they don’t find them especially irrelevant in terms of their life goals.

Sorry if the above comes across as somewhat pompous or judgemental, but I really want this new policy to work.

Note to self: it might also help if I start actually proof-reading my comments before posting! The words “foul up” should have been deleted. (The entire phrase that I intended to delete was “foul up Hank’s vacations”.)

Yes, Giulio, I know you have made the distinction via IEET comments but the distinction is NOT made clearly in your main promulgation of your ideology, for example on your Turing Church site. Neither does the MTA make the distinction in their official communiques.

My point: “I just want the be free from religion without people imposing their religious views onto me. Can you respect my secular freedom?”... is that people can assume I am religious due to the failure by religious Transhumanists to clearly articulate how Transhumanism is NOT fundamentally religious, thus religious statements on your site and blogs do impact upon my freedom to be secular even if I don’t read your religious views.

The point is that religious Transhumanists are proselyting thus they fail to make the distinction that Transhumanism is not fundamentally religious because your proselyting is improved if you fail to make the distinction, but this limits the freedom of non-religious people because our ideologies are thus seen through your religious filter.

For example if Kopimists became more popular there is a danger all copying could be deemed religious, but people should be free to copy things without it being deemed a religious act.

If religious people are truly moral, truly interested in being compassion to fellow humans regarding a Christian type love for fellow humans, then surely you and other religious Transhumanists should be doing more to protect my atheist-freedom?

The absent freedom, or diminishing freedom, where I am often not allowed to have a secular/atheist view regarding Transhumanism/Singularity is deeply hurtful. I find religions extremely offensive but I don’t try to stop people being religious, I simply want the freedom to do things and be seen in a non-religious way. I don’t want everything I do to be viewed through a filter of religion. When I copy a piece of text I don’t want people to think I am doing something holy and when I write about Transhumanism I don’t want people to think I am writing about religion.

What I am asking for is some compassion regarding all the many Transhumanists who are not religious; we don’t want to be deemed religious but in part via the failure of religious Transhumanists to clearly make the distinction that Transhumanism is not fundamentally religious this is causing harm to atheist-Transhumanists.

@Singularity Utopia re “the distinction is NOT made clearly in your main promulgation of your ideology, for example on your Turing Church site”

The word Transhumanism is not used much on the Turing Church site, and not even mentioned in the About page. I prefer to use the term “Cosmism.”

I conclude my essay Transcendent Engineering with the following words:

“I prefer not to define transhumanism as a religion; first because it wouldn’t be correct, and second because I don’t want to lose all my transhumanist friends. What all transhumanists have in common is the conviction that using advanced technologies to radically change the human condition is both feasible and desirable. Within this broad definition there are many possible interpretations of transhumanism, and one of these interpretations is the Turing Church mythology”

I believe this distinction is clear.

re “you and other religious Transhumanists should be doing more to protect my atheist-freedom?”

Not at the cost of giving up my own freedom. You are free to write about and promote your own interpretation of transhumanism, and so am I.

So, just to recap Giulio. It doesn’t matter if I don’t read your blogs and websites just as it didn’t matter during the Inquisition if atheists hadn’t read the Bible, atheists would nevertheless suffer even if they were unaware of Christian-based Inquisition views.

Transhuman atheists suffer even if they are unaware of religious-Transhuman views because Transhuman-atheists are losing their atheist-freedom regarding secular Transhuman views. This is similar to how a potential increase in Kopimism could mean all copying is deemed religious, which would entail a loss of freedom regarding people who are atheist-copiers.

If religious people are truly moral, truly interested in being compassionate to fellow humans regarding a Christian-type-love for fellow humans, then surely you and other religious Transhumanists should be doing more to protect my atheist-freedom?

Transhumanism is not fundamentally religious thus, once you are clearly aware atheists are suffering diminished freedom regarding an inability to be viewed as atheists, it seems fair and rational for religious Tranhumanists to make the distinction that Transhumanism is not fundamentally religious via their official communiques.

As an atheist I really do find religions very offensive but I also respect the liberty of people to hold different views then mine. I find it incredibly hurtful that when I write about Transhumanism my views are often deemed religious. I think religious Tranhumanists are partly to blame for the hurt I suffer.

I am asking you to officially try and correct the hurt, and asking you to officially try and preserve my atheist freedom.

Atheists do try to protect freedom for all, they champion the right to freedom of thought and freedom of speech regardless of what is being thought or spoken, but are religious people willing to likewise protect freedom in a balanced way for everyone, or is the priority of religious people to covert people to religion thus the freedom to be an viewed as an atheist is trampled on?

@Singularity Utopia - I think our last comments crossed. Please read my last comment.

Re “It doesn’t matter if I don’t read your blogs and websites just as it didn’t matter during the Inquisition if atheists hadn’t read the Bible, atheists would nevertheless suffer even if they were unaware of Christian-based Inquisition views.”

I think this analogy is, um, [thinking…] not entirely correct.

Giulio perhaps you do make the distinction between atheists and religious Transhumanists, although it is less pronounced than I would prefer.

As far as I am aware the MTA does not make the distinction. Although I have been predominantly addressing my comments to you on this public forum I also intended my comments to apply to other religious Transhumanists.

In varying degrees I feel all religious Transhumanists could be doing more to explain how Transhumanism is not fundamentally religious. Such explanations would help significantly avoid the problem addressed in this article we are commenting on.

I see that I am dangerously close to violating our new Buddhist Right Speech policy, so I will not reply to further comments from Singularity Utopia.

Addendum: the last two comments crossed. I don’t have any problem with the part of the last one addressed to me.

“I see that I am dangerously close to violating our new Buddhist Right Speech policy, so I will not reply to further comments from Singularity Utopia.”

Good call, Giulio…seriously, I really appreciate this.

I actually think this discussion is potentially very promising, because it is (at least arguably) getting to the heart of the mutual anxiety that the religious and non-religious cause each other (in particular within the transhumanist/technoprogressive community).

But there’s no hurry: we don’t need to resolve all issues immediately.

Here is an example from the Mormon Transhumanist Association:

“Increasingly, persons are recognizing parallels and complements between Mormon and Transhumanist views.”

I think this view tramples of the freedom of atheist Transhumans.

Notably atheists have not found the need to proselyte thus there is no Atheist Transhumanist Association, but maybe there needs to be one.

My point is that initially I did not feel the need to equate my atheism with Transhumanism, but because my secular freedom has been under attack I have subsequently aligned Transhumanism with atheism.

So why is there no Atheist Transhumanist Association? I suspect atheists are less inclined to “convert” non-believers, and this is precisely the problem atheist-Transhumanists are now facing, the religious Transhumanists have got a head-start. Instead of Transhumanism at the outset only focusing on intellectualism, augmentation, improvement of the human condition, there should have been a focus on how Transhumanism is atheist thus the religious views would have been less likely to dominate, a dominance which entails extinguishing the freedom of atheists to be secular-Transhumanists.

I don’t want to go through the hassle of creating an Atheist Transhumanist Association website, but if religious Transhumanists are unwilling to protect the distinction that Transhumanism is NOT fundamentally religious then maybe someone does need to create the Atheist Transhumanist Association?

@SU

I doubt Giulio or anyone else who regularly comments here would be against anyone setting up such an organisation. You may be right that atheists are less inclined to “convert” not-believers than vice versa, but we need to be cautious about making such claims, even phrased tentatively (“I suspect…”). Such can be perceived as divisive, and/or liable to cause offence.

The point about your secular freedom being under attack is essentially a case of “my freedom to swing my arm ends where your nose begins”. The point of that saying being that obviously people vigourously swinging their arms are likely to bump into each other from time to time, but we should at least avoid hitting each other’s noses. The question, to pursue the analogy further, is whether religious transhumanists are really hitting your nose, or rather just restricting the possibility you have to swing your arm because they are swinging theirs.

Personally I find this all rather fascinating, but I still worry (as Giulio does) that we are in danger of infringing our new commenting policy here at IEET in a way that could undermine the purposes for which it was decided on the first place. This is what I am mainly trying to avoid by intervening in this discussion now.

Or maybe I was just showing off. In reality, of course, everything we do is the result of a jumble of conflicting motivations, some noble, some less so.

@Peter re “I doubt Giulio or anyone else who regularly comments here would be against anyone setting up [an Atheist Transhumanist Organisation]”

Of course I wouldn’t be against this. I wouldn’t consider it as my business. Why should I be against people who choose their worldview and form an association to promote it? I am never against promoting one’s worldview, only against preventing others from doing the same.

@Peter To answer you question: “The question, to pursue the analogy further, is whether religious transhumanists are really hitting your nose, or rather just restricting the possibility you have to swing your arm because they are swinging theirs.”

I ask: have atheists deemed it necessary to create an Atheist Transhumanist Association? Atheists have not deemed it necessary thus it seems clear religious Transhumanists are doing a lot more swinging than is necessary. Athetists have not been swinging their arms regarding Transhumanism but religious people have entered the Transhuman platform swinging and hitting noses. Atheists are suffering in part due to religious attempts to dominate Transhumanism.

Religions are notorious for seeking to convert or eliminate non-believers. From Reformation to counter-Reformation we see an intolerance of beliefs contrary to orthodoxy. Note also the Christian Missionaries in more recent times. I understand a key aspect of Mormonism is that we are nearing the final days thus it is the duty of Mormons to rescue, convert, as many souls as possible to the way of the Lord. It is logical to assume this is the case with the Mormon Transhumanist Association. There are many examples of religious proselyting but atheists attempting to convert people to atheism is a very recent response to the ongoing attempts by Churches to dominate and convert people to a religious outlook.

Regarding the new commenting policy I don’t see how anything we have recently stated contravenes the policy because we are being polite. If the the purpose of the policy is to stop contentious views being expressed then we should all give up commenting because, as I previously stated, religious views offend me period. So does this mean no religious views are allowed? The point is that everything is likely to offend at least someone therefore the test should be politeness. Providing the discourse is polite I cannot see any objections to controversy or disagreement, or does Right Speech entail not speaking if your speech may be deemed impolite, and are ideas fundamentally opposed to one person’s ideology fundamentally impolite no matter how politely the ideas are expressed? If all contentious ideas are deemed impolite (in a manner contravening the commenting policy) then, as I say, we should all give-up commenting because it will be impossible to say anything without someone being offended.

@ Giulio—I, too, immensely appreciate your comment that you don’t want to violate the new Buddhist Right Speech policy.

SU - the way you are discussing this is indeed divisive and the new moderators are discussing giving you a warning. I am sure it might be difficult for you, but you need to learn how to express yourself in way that is not so confrontational. Consider this a warning that you might get a warning.

I personally have learned a lot from the recent exchanges. I am throwing my militant atheism out the window from now on. I welcome anyone to join us in pursuit of common goals. Lets joyously focus on what we have in common and seek mutual achievements with our friends of differing belief systems.

I am much happier with my new POV - !  Let us go forward together and do something grand and beautiful.

Ah… say no more Hank, I will never comment on IEET again. I will happily remove myself voluntarily.

An idea of ethics which prohibits fair-minded freedom of expression is not ethical in my opinion, but you are welcome to enforce your idea of “ethics” as you see fit.

Sorry for being divisive, it wasn’t my intention to cause offence or divisions. From my viewpoint the divisions already exist. It doesn’t help anyone’s intellectual refinement to ignore truths.

S.U.  the intention is neither to silence you, nor to remove the possibility of ethical expression. We are new at this too and it will take a while for the kinks to get worked out. You just happened to be the first, our brave guinea pig of moderation. If you have questions about moderation, or wish to discuss what you don’t think is fair, my email in is the announcement about Right Speech. I would be glad to hear from you.

Kopimism:
I had thought SU was making a rhetorical point about kopimism, but have found that they actually exist. This is a great example of the legal versus semantic definitions of religion I spoke of. There are many of these types of organizations popping up that are not religions, but legal religious corporations. Christianity is a religion, 1st Southern Baptist is a religious corporation, a legal tax entity with more relation to the IRS than to God.
To be a true religion in the semantic definition, your beliefs about existence shape your lifestyle. In the case of Kopimism there lifestyle is being justified by the creation of a legal entity that grants them special privilege otherwise not approved of by law. It’s a backwards flow of logic that does not address questions of existence but justifications of a selected activity. As a consultant I could offer them some advise as to how to link there activities into an existential world view, but I doubt they care to see how that necessary world view may affect other aspects of their lives.

Atheist Transhuman Association
Not a bad, nor necessary, idea. I’d argue most h+ organizations already exist as such. Atheists generally do not incorporate religious organizations because by definition a religion is a prescribed lifestyle and atheists are by definition don’t believe in telling people what to think or how to live.

Respect and fallacy
It is important to remember that we are all more alike than different. I sometimes savagely attack the preconceptions of others, but no matter how much I disagree with your politics, I will sacrifice my hand to save your life. What I believe causes so much anger over religion debates is the assumption that one answer is absolutely right. If you are not willing to entertain the possibility you are wrong, you have no place in a discussion. The universe is dynamic and static positions may be correct in one window of space-time but not throughout it all. I enjoy being found in error, I call it learning.

Does transhumanism prescribe a lifestyle based on a belief about existence? NO
Do religions prescribe transhumanism as part of their prescribed lifestyle? Yes, it’s called redemption or godliness; the continual process of attaining a higher state of being. On a generational level we darwinists call this evolution. Perfect timing Hank.

@Terasemian
I don’t agree that atheists by definition don’t believe in telling people what to think or how to live. Atheists by definition don’t believe in God; whether they believe in telling people what to think or how to live is a different question. Some do, some don’t, just like theists.

By contrast I strongly agree with the following: “If you are not willing to entertain the possibility you are wrong, you have no place in a discussion.” That’s part of Right Speech.

But it’s not all of it. “Savagely attack[ing] the preconceptions of others” is an important activity in my view, but only in extremis. Part of the reason why these debates have got overheated recently is that too many of us have been doing that too much. And part of the reason we do this is that we have a false sense of urgency. Since we don’t need to urgently convert anyone to our point of view here on the IEET blog, we don’t need to savagely attack anyone’s preconceptions.

@SU It’s not about ignoring truths or sweeping pre-existing divisions under the carpet. Think of it rather as an experiment: to see what happens when we put ourselves under this discipline that is called (by Buddhists) Right Speech.

@Terasemian re “What I believe causes so much anger over religion debates is the assumption that one answer is absolutely right. If you are not willing to entertain the possibility you are wrong, you have no place in a discussion.”

I would slightly reword this.

Rightness and validity are subjective things. Different answers can be right for different persons. You can be persuaded that your answers are absolutely right for you, yet accept that others’ answers can be equally right for them. Accepting that others’ answers can be equally right for them does not mean that your answers are wrong.

@all
Peter caught me in an error, corrected me, I agree I was misaligned and now everything is much more clear. Isn’t that great? And I don’t even have to stamp my feet and cry.
@Peter
Yes I agree, patience in bringing people to reason is best. The mere act of rushing convince can (1) cause a defensive reaction and (2) cause you to oversimplify or generalize and in neither case is the debate benefitted.
@Giulio
Well said.

“I can’t see the religious agreeing that ‘we don’t want the religious to get their hooks I to us any more’, can you?”


You are correct, but the wiggle room up until your comment was we agreed to Buddhist Right Speech 😉
At any rate, we still have to walk a tightrope between pablum and invective. Pendula wrote in another thread we ought to only ascribe a characteristic to a group if such defines the group; but then we run the risk of excess platitudes:
‘you have the right to your opinion and though I don’t agree with it we can find a common ground to agree to disagree on finding a common ground…’
That wont work. However you are right above,
thus we have to negotiate the straits between Scylla and Charybdis, writing something substantial without offending—and when we can’t avoid being offensive what we want to write is better off not being written.
When Stefan asked why I thought the religious have ulterior motives, I did not reply.

I feel the need to point out something that has not been mentioned in the conversation yet (so far as I can tell): transhumanism, while currently dominated by secular concerns and atheists/agnostics, had its genesis in russian orthodox theology. The russian cosmist movement in philosophy originated many of the ideas now associated with transhumanism, and they were popularized outside of russia by the french catholic theologian Teilhard de Chardin.

In other words, it’s clear that not only did religious views play a key part in forming the worldview of transhumanism, but prior to the secular transhumanist boom of the 90s, religious views were important to the spread of the meme.

This is not to say that transhumanism is incompatible with agnosticism or even ‘strong atheism’. Indeed, the cosmists and de Chardin were accused of undermining the concept of a personal god in favour of a kind of anthropogenic pantheism (which is indistinguishable from ecstatic atheism).

But, it’s important to realize that when people point out that transhumanist ideas like the singularity are similar to religious ideas, they are right, and when they suggest that the similarities arise from one being a rationalization of the other, they are (historically speaking) also probably right: de Chardin considered what we now call the technological singularity to be a synthesis of traditional eschatology and modern science such that the idea of literal eternal life in heaven could be shown not to conflict with known physical laws, and this was the way in which he promoted it.

It’s also, of course, important to note that people who promote the idea of the singularity do not necessarily promote it in order to make christian eschatology of various stripes align with known scientific laws, just as not all pot-smoking anarchoprimitivists are Rastafarians, and not all people who dislike bacon are jewish. This is, of course, less of a problem for transhumanists (who generally realize that some transhumanists are religious and some aren’t).

Full disclosure: I do not in fact really have a stake in this issue either way. As a Discordian, I am religious but lack both a personal god and an eschatology, barring knock-knock jokes.

Enki, thanks for pointing out some of the religious origins of Transhumanism. I contend that the religious origins are even broader and more ancient. Mormonism, particularly as articulated by its founder Joseph Smith toward the end of his life, has always been a Transhumanism; early Christians included many Transhumanists; and the idea of human works (primitive technology) leading to Godhood (posthumanity) is found in the most ancient of religious texts. I’d even go so far as to argue that religion as a phenomenon is at least implicitly Transhumanist. Religion is provocation of a strenuous mood toward posthuman projections, extending and negating human categories.

I have found the discussions about religion most interesting.
First, let me clarify something. I didn’t come to being atheist by a simple path. It came after 20+ years of religious pursuit in various attempts to find proof of any form of supernatural influence in the workings of the universe.  This, of course, comes from my definition of religion which is the idea that some form of supernatural object has influence in the world. The path from Southern Baptist to atheist was a long one and involved a lot of wasted effort. A complete lack of 20+ years of research to find any evidence of any such entity. I just wanted to post this to clear something first because I frequently find the reply to be some version of “you just didn’t try hard enough.”

Is Transhumanism a religion? I really hope not because that would make it a waste of time. A waste of time because it would rely on presuppositions which cannot be proven and that is no way to create a future. If you want to rework the universe then you have to accept the rules of that universe whether you like them or not. There is absolutely no evidence of any supernatural force acting on the universe and to continue looking for it distracts from actual work.

The thing I do find troubling is the continued use of the failed reasoning that only religion brings meaning to life and that only religion can provide ethical guidelines. There are many other ways. All I need is Kant’s Categorical Imperative and I have all the ethical guidelines I need and no need to rely on religion to do so.

I have no problem with religion as long as that religion stays with you. You can sit and contemplate your navel, or the godhood, as long as you want. This is simple to understand since religious experience is a personal and subjective experience which has no meaning outside “your” head. It has no place in scientific discussions. It has no place in technological discussions. It has no place in legal discussions. We waste too much time already in trying to argue for it, prove it and make it the basis of reality for all.
When I think of all the time I wasted on pursuing religious/spiritual nonsense it makes me sad. The year I spent in a Zen monastery alone put me years behind in my education. I would prefer to save future generations that.

@Stefan: Not wishing to speak for Facilitator DaNee here, but…how about, “The earth is round.”

I like the idea of understanding science as “the conscious quest for the realization of an ever closer approximation of that which is true and unchanging about the universe we exist in”. However I’m not so convinced of the idea that it posits tautologies. On the contrary, as Asimov notes, the theories that science posits (“the earth is flat”; “the earth is spherical”) are always WRONG. It’s the first thing one needs to know when one does science: that one’s theories are always going to be WRONG. E=mc^2 is not a tautology, it is a claim about nature which is eminently falsifiable that will doubtless turn out to be WRONG. The seeds of its demise are already present in quantum theory, another WRONG theory, that nevertheless has tremendous predictive power and thus allows us to reach correspondingly tremendous feats of technological development.

I agree, though, that alongside the scientific urge to understand, there is also a need for the urge to create, and more than anything else, I think “Julia is the sun”-type statements are both objects of creation themselves (like all prose and poetry) and help to stimulate further creativity. The problem - and this is my gripe with religion - is when such statements get mistaken for the truth. Of course scientific theories can also be mistaken for the truth, and this is perhaps more pernicious since they are less obviously wrong, but any emotional attachment to beliefs can be dangerous, and it becomes more so the more detached from reality those beliefs become.

I have no problem with religious mythology when clearly recognised, and valued, as fiction. I have a problem with it when it gets mistaken for the truth. Of course we ALL mistake our beliefs for the truth - that is the nature of belief, and it is necessary in order to live - but David Eubanks is right: our beliefs will serve us better in the long term if they are accompanied, and guided, by a strong motivation not to be fooled. In my view science does the best job at facilitating this, without resorting to the trivial (and debilitating) option of believing nothing.

@Peter re “I have no problem with religious mythology when clearly recognised, and valued, as fiction. I have a problem with it when it gets mistaken for the truth.”

I have a problem with “truth.”

I don’t believe in one big, capitalized, global “Truth.” I think there are many, local, individual, personal, limited, lowercase “truths.” The challenge is how to choose one, on a case by case basis.

@ Stefan Rhetorical or Logical?

I reject religion because it has a proven track record of failing every test as a reliable explanation for existence. Evidently you agree with me. Your statement to Peter, “Religion/spirituality is about useful fictions”, pretty much covers it.
If you accept that religion is composed of fictions then why continue to promote it.
I do ask for an explanation of how you determine as religion having meaning.

There is no truth…and yet, some of us indeed like to strive for “an ever closer approximation of that which is true and unchanging in the universe”. And you can’t really do that if you don’t believe there is any such thing.

Perhaps what this debate really hangs on is what we kind of fictions we consider most “useful”. Science and religion are both fictional. It’s not really that there is no truth, nor even that there are only localised truths rather than one big, capitalised, global Truth. It’s rather that said Truth is vastly more complicated than our theories can ever capture. We need those theories, and we also need ideas, concepts and stories that are based less on a desire to understand and more on a desire to imagine. Less on a desire to discern what is most unchanging in our universe (and this make predictions), and more on a desire to find explanations that inspire us to great things. The two are not always the same.

Math is tautology: agreed. Application of math to reality is false: agreed. Science is, to a large extent, the application of math to reality, and it is therefore false. Not tautology. It is a “useful fiction”. Religious stories are examples of another kind of useful fiction, yet often they are believed as if they provided an accurate basis for prediction. No need to care about climate change, because God has told us to dominate nature. He wouldn’t have put those fossil fuels there if He didn’t intend us to use them. For example. Whereas scientists know that, according to the balance of evidence currently, this is a serious threat, and just continuing to merrily burn fossil fuels is making the matter worse. Science can tell us that. Religion can’t. What religion can do, though, at its best, is to inspire us to take action to deal with such threats, and to pursue positive visions.

Again, I see no problem with religion in that role. In fact, I don’t really have a problem with seeing transhumanism as a religion if that is taken to mean that it should be and is playing that role. Whether that IS what most people are likely to understand by labelling transhumanism as a religion is another matter, of course.

By the way, the idea that science is looking for unchanging truths about the universe presents a special challenge with regard to the way we regard social sciences. One theory that I think hasn’t received the attention it deserves is Soros’s theory of reflexivity. Soros made the point (following Popper, of course) that social science, much more directly than natural science, changes the thing it is trying to explain. Yet there are truths that, while not fundamentally unchangeable, are sufficiently slowly evolving to be usefully regarded as fixed. So for example, when religion makes theories about human nature those theories can be self-fulfilling to a degree, but they can also run up against the fundamental constraints of our genetic make-up. That make-up can be changed only by technology, not by make-believe. So there is still room for application of the scientific method to the study of social interactions…including, of course, the influence of religion.

@Peter “It’s not really that there is no truth, nor even that there are only localised truths rather than one big, capitalised, global Truth. It’s rather that said Truth is vastly more complicated than our theories can ever capture.”

This is also a good formulation, similar to the old elephant story:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_men_and_an_elephant

Different persons, all of them honest seekers of truth, can see very different truths (and wage bloody wars to defend their truth). This is enough for me to stay far from it. I don’t need a Global Truth.

If your formulation is correct, then I think Wittgenstein has a point: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”

The funny thing is, that’s precisely what atheists (or especially agnostics) tend to say about God!

The problem with Wittgenstein’s claim is that, if our condition for speech is perfect accuracy, we cannot speak about ANYTHING. And just how silent do we want to be?

In fact, one of the reasons I do not consider myself to be a particularly committed atheist is that the word God might after all turn out to be useful to express that nameless, ineffable Truth that will always be more complex than we can ever describe. And the more people that know that, and reflect on it, meditate on it, the less likely we will be to wage bloody wars to defend our lesser truths.

@Peter re “that’s precisely what atheists (or especially agnostics) tend to say about God!”

See? Not only a dialogue between believers and atheists is possible, but they actually say similar things!

I never talk of a Big Global God, only of smaller local Gods.

@Stefan - What is wrong with fictions?

If you are looking for entertainment there is absolutely nothing wrong with fiction/s. If you are looking for frameworks for understanding the universe there is plenty wrong.

- Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity is the best explanation out there IMHO.

There are several problems with this as a defense.
1. Just because something was useful in the past does not mean it is useful in the present or the future. Especially when the underlying belief is false. For example, Astrology was useful in the past and it was crucial to our development of astronomy. However, the underlying idea that the positions of the planets against arbitrarily determined constellations had influence on the lives of human beings is completely false. Which is why only the superstitious still rely on astrology and smart people have moved on to astronomy.
This is actually a very common logical fallacy and gets used a lot.
2. It makes the mistake of equating ritual with religion. They may be interconnected, but they aren’t mutually dependent.

I won’t say that religion had no use in the past, but when you outgrow something you need to let it go.

I will state plainly that I did not read the book and instead relied on reviews which revealed the central premises of the book. It sounds like de Bolton took most of his recent proclamations from the book. I also have no intention of going back to read it because, as I plainly stated, I wasted enough time on studying religion already.

“It’s not really that there is no truth, nor even that there are only localised truths rather than one big, capitalised, global Truth. It’s rather that said Truth is vastly more complicated than our theories can ever capture.”
@ Giullo
This is where the problem starts with religion and my biggest complaint against all the connected concepts. The “we don’t know so we can never know” is the death of knowledge. It’s nothing, but a rephrasing of the “god did it” answer to questions. Things more complicated than we can ever capture is really just saying we can never understand them. It places limitations on our understanding for no justifiable reason other than the assumption that some things are just out of our reach. I disagree. I think there is nothing we can’t understand given sufficient effort and evolutionary progress.

@Facilitator DaNee re “I think there is nothing we can’t understand given sufficient effort and evolutionary progress.”

So do I, but this does not contradict the statement “Truth is vastly more complicated than our theories can ever capture.”

We can count up to any given number, but there will be more numbers after that. Similarly, the laws of physics could be infinitely complex in the sense that, no matter understanding we achieve, there will be something that we don’t understand yet.

Or as somebody else said: a universe simple enough for us to understand would be too simple to contain the minds doing the understanding.

@Stefan

I have some pretty serious concerns with the extract that you quoted. In common usage, the word “true” is usually (not always, but usually) taken to mean something like “empirically accurate”. Not “adaptively useful”. The latter sense is exactly what we have expressions like “useful fictions” for.

I don’t have a problem with the author being “concerned with the consequences of the actions to which…understandings lead”. As a utilitarian, I too am concerned, primarily ,AI the consequences of our understandings. But that doesn’t mean we should adopt a use of language that conflates truth with usefulness. They are two different things.

So I think DaNee’s comment stands. Where I disagree with him is in his dismissal of the idea that the truth is more complicated than we can ever know as some kind of excuse for not even trying to understand. Giulio’s comment is pertinent in that context: there may be an infinite number of numbers, but we don’t have to let that stop us counting if that’s what we want to do. Just we need to be aware that we will never reach the end. Which for a curious person, of course, is a godsend.

It’s an important discussion, anyway. I’ve come at this more via the American self-help tradition, and statements like this from Tony Robbins: “the important thing is not whether a belief is true, but whether it’s helpful”. In this vocabulary, “adaptive truths” become “helpful beliefs” and “empirical truths” become “true” or (perhaps better) “accurate beliefs”. I think Robbins’ usage is more in line with common usage, and therefore more “helpful” (adaptive?) in the context of communicating with the general public, and making sure we don’t go off at too much an academic tangent.

Of course, whichever vocabulary we use we need to consider carefully the relationship better accuracy (“empirical truth”) and utility (“adaptive truth”). Knowingly deluding ourselves in our search for adaptive truth seems counter-productive to me. On the other hand, something like Giulio’s “soft rationality” seems more promising. This is one reason why I take issue with DaNee’s dismissal of the “Truth is complicated” argument. Since we know we can never be 100% accurate we has better not strive to be. Let’s strive to ensure that our beliefs are as helpful as possible, while bearing in mind that empirically true beliefs are, other things being equal, more likely to be helpful than empirically false ones. And also that if a belief appears to be empirically true but unhelpful, that doesn’t mean we should believe the opposite. Better to search for a belief that is empirically true AND helpful.

For example, an empirically true but unhelpful belief might be, “So-and-so just told me she thinks you’re really ugly.” This is clearly likely to be unhelpful, but that doesn’t mean we need to tell that person that so-and-so was actually blown away by that person’s beauty. Probably best just to talk about something else.

For me, fiction is always at its best when there is no danger of mistaking it for the truth.

@Stefan Adaptive truth. An interesting idea, but really strange when you think about it. Especially when you look at the evolutionary idea of adaptation. An adaptation is only useful for specific environmental conditions. Once those conditions change then that adaptation is no longer useful. As I said I have no problem agreeing that religion and associated concepts may have proven useful at certain times in our evolution. However, that has no bearing on truth. We know now that the explanations for the universe are wrong. Why keep using them? It is absolutely no longer adaptive because if you keep those beliefs in direct contradiction to the evidence then you aren’t being adaptive. You are being non-adaptive.

I have extreme issues with the idea of religion being useful as a way to help with the “age of ever-increasing human capacity to destroy the world.” All religion does is create ever increasing divisions among humanity. How many religions and religious sects are there competing for human resources and trying to make the other into the enemy? I know that within 10 miles of my physical location there are over 75.

You are correct on the discussion of the book itself. I have much better things to do than read another religion book so we aren’t going to be able to discuss it. If you want to bring up points like the above then we can, but that is about it.

@Peter

Yes, I do have trouble with the idea of not striving to understand because the solution may be too complicated. Its a crap answer to the beauty of the universe.  Lets not do it because we aren’t going to be right anyway. I say nuts to that and I am glad that scientist do too.

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