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The Intersection of Mormonism and Transhumanism
R. Dennis Hansen   Nov 17, 2011   Ethical Technology  

The Mormon vision of the future culminates in a plurality of gods, eternally progressing and creating worlds without end. Some of their ideas are well worth considering by transhumanists.


Of late, as noted in Hank Pellissier’s recent IEET blog article, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon Church) has frequently been in the news.

Two Mormons—Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney—are running for President of the United States. There is a wildly successful musical on Broadway called The Book of Mormon which is a product of the South Park creators. Some Evangelical Christians are generating publicity by referring to Mormons as “zombies” and by calling their religion a “cult.” There was also the negative publicity surrounding the Prop 8 referendum in California.

To take advantage of all this press, the LDS Church has launched a massive counteroffensive, a multi-million-dollar advertising campaign that includes a large electronic billboard in Times Square. In its ads, men and women of various races and backgrounds describe their unique lives or professions and end with the punch line “...and I’m a Mormon.”

(Note to readers: I was raised Mormon in a very liberal environment in East Lansing MI. After serving a Mormon mission in Belgium and France in the 1960s, I slowly evolved into an agnostic.)

Most of the publicity has led to discussions concerning the more sensational aspects of Mormonism (conservative politics, immigration, polygamy, violence, racism, veracity of uniquely Mormon scriptures, gay and women’s rights, etc.). Less has been made about Mormonism’s progressive—some call it “radical adventuresomeness”—view of the future. For example, many traditional Mormon beliefs intersect well with transhumanism and with Alfred North Whitehead’s ‘Process Theology’.
rh1
Five of the “radically adventuresome” Mormon beliefs include:

  • Theosis
  • Eternal Progression
  • A Progressing God
  • Compatibility of Science and Religion
  • Good Works

According to Yale University scholar Harold Bloom:
“Our political satirists delight in describing the apparent weirdness of Mormon cosmology, but they forget the equal strangeness of Christian mythology. Jorge Luis Borges shrewdly classified all theology as fantastic literature, and Joseph Smith’s (the controversial founder of the LDS Church) adventures… are at least refreshingly original.”

Theosis: In the Broadway musical The Book of Mormon, an American LDS missionary serving in modern-day Uganda questions his faith but regains it while performing the song, “I Believe.” He intones, “I believe that God has a plan for all of us. I believe that plan involves me getting my own planet.” These lyrics have caused a small stir in the media.

Mormon historian Richard Bushman, who wrote a widely respected biography of Joseph Smith, responded to the stir: “Mormon scriptures and Church leaders don’t say anything about people getting their own planets… Mormons do believe in the principle of theosis, the doctrine that God wants humans to become like Himself—in effect gods. That belief leads Mormons to speculate about creation. Will beings with god-like qualities have the powers to form earths?”

rh2Eternal Progression: The concept of eternally progressing is fundamental to the LDS worldview. The traditional Christian view about what happens in the afterlife is a little murky. One contemporary Christian view describes Heaven as being a state of eternal inactive bliss, where progression becomes ill-defined.

Mormons, on the other hand, view mortal existence as a training ground for the work that will continue after death. They hold that “the glory of God is intelligence” and place a high value on education. They believe that individuals will take with them into the next life the knowledge and intelligence that they garner during their mortal life.

According to Bloom, “Mormonism’s best inheritance from Joseph Smith was his passion for education, hardly evident in the anti-intellectualism [of some Christians]. I wonder though which is more dangerous, a knowledge-hungry religious zealotry or a proud stupid one.” Bloom’s cynicism here is way over the top.

A Progressing God: Implied in the twin doctrines of theosis and eternal progression is the concept of a progressing God. According to Mormon prophet Brigham Young: “The God that I serve is progressing eternally [in knowledge and power], and so are his children.” Or according to John A. Widtsoe, an early 20th century scientist and LDS church leader: “If the great law of progression is accepted, God must have been engaged, and must now be engaged, in progressive development.” For Mormons, God, mankind, and the universe are in a constant state of flux.

Their vision of the future culminates in a plurality of gods, eternally progressing and creating worlds without end. According to Lincoln Cannon, president of the Mormon Transhumanist Association: “This parallels transhumanists’ common expectation that we will someday be capable of engineering intelligence and worlds.”

Compatibility of Science and Religion: Widtsoe had a life-long appreciation for the scientific process. His interest in organic evolution was driven by his respect for Joseph Smith and the doctrine of eternal progression. He viewed this as an example of how science and Mormon theology are in lockstep. To quote Widtsoe: “Latter-day Saints are the foremost evolutionists in the world. They believe that the immortal spirit of man may eternally approach the likeness of God himself.”

Good Works: One of Mormonism’s major tenets is that “faith without works is dead.” Works are an important feature of reaching toward perfection. Service is seen as an underlying condition for developing spirituality. According to Mormonism, God has provided humanity with the means (technological and otherwise) to progress, and we must avail ourselves of these means instead of merely supposing God will save us without any effort on our part.

Commenting on Mormon cosmology, Bloom writes, “Imaginatively liberating as this may be, its political implications are troublesome. The Mormon patriarch… is promised by his faith a final ascension to godhood… From the perspective of the White House, how would the nation and the world appear to President Romney?”


The problem for me with Mormon cosmology is not so much with the five general concepts listed above as it is with the details, too many to discuss in this brief article. But here are two of my specific concerns.

A) Mormons, as part of their worldview (known as the ‘Plan of Salvation’), believe in a long state of ‘pre-existence’ for humans as ‘spirit children’, and this belief has historically been used to explain a variety of worldly inequities. For example, those who are less valiant in the pre-existence are somehow punished with a poorer station here on Earth. This Mormon belief seems more like a bad metaphor than doctrine I can relate to.

B) There is also the issue of equality of opportunity. It’s one thing to have noble views about earthly existence and post-mortality; it’s another thing to try and understand how this works in a world where opportunities are so unequal. Obviously, I have different opportunities than an individual living hand-to-mouth in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, or Mexico City, or Mumbai, India. In patriarchal Mormonism, I, being male, have different participation opportunities than my female counterparts. And this secondary role for women continues in the afterlife.

One of my favorite quotes is from an article written by members of the Mormon Transhumanist Association: “Whether tomorrow is wonderful or horrible may depend on the extent to which persons with good minds and loving hearts become actively involved in shaping the future.” I would replace the “may” in this quote with a “will.”

It is my personal opinion that what Mormons add to discussions about the future, despite some of my personal doubts, is well worth consideration by transhumanists, process theologians, and other Christian groups. Of particular note are the LDS Church’s strong emphasis on education and good works, which historically have lifted poorer members, converts, and nonmembers to better lives.

When Jon Huntsman was asked about his Mormon beliefs, he stated: “I get satisfaction from many different types of religions and philosophies.” In the eyes of most Mormons, this makes him a “Jack Mormon” (an inactive member, who despite his personal religious viewpoints, maintains good relations with the church). I guess I’m one also.

R. Dennis Hansen is currently employed as a planner for a federal resource management agency in Utah. He enjoys traveling and has lived in and/or visited and/or worked in over 40 countries on five continents. Hansen is a member of the Mormon Transhumanist Association and Engineers without Borders.



COMMENTS

Roger, some of the best Mormons I’ve known or read about are or were jack Mormons. Enjoyed the article! I’m biased, of course, but I agree that Mormonism offers value to Transhumanism, which continues to needs an improved esthetic - a more inspiring spirit, if you will.

“ye shall be as gods”...seems i heard that one somewhere else.

Fundamentalists think they’ve inerrantly interpreted an inerrent Bible. Does that make themselves their God? Does that make the Bible their God? In any case, consider the referenced passage:

The Bible, Genesis 3
4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

Consider also a preceding passage:

The Bible, Genesis 1
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

The serpent repeated the message of God, and added “Ye shall not surely die”. Which has turned out to be the lie, the repeated message of God, or the proposition that humanity would not die?

Accordingly, I trust the God described by Paul here:

The Bible, Romans 8
16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

In contrast, fundamentalists appear to worship the God described by Paul here:

The Bible, 2 Thessalonians 2
3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

Can someone be an Agnostic or a Jack Mormon?  Can you be both?  Do you have a flicker of hope that the LDS Church is true, because you have a chance to become a “God”?  Is it worth it to “hang in there” because of that hope?

When discussing the potential of becoming a “God” in the Mormon sense, I struggle with how some can embrace certain beliefs of the church, yet not others. It seems to me that if we grasp Mormonism as being a way to become a “God”, then it doesn’t become a cafeteria-style approach.  If I were a fully-practicing Mormon, and believe in everything about the pre-existence or after-life, including becoming a “God”, then I don’t think you or I have the choice of picking and choosing.  To become a “God” strictly in the Mormonism sense of the word, means fully understanding and embracing Mormonism…all of it.

To me, this appears that it is acceptable to live our lives “flying on the coattails of the church” as an optimist who can become a God through the church.  Pick and chose, or throw out all of the other stuff, but hang on to the hope of becoming a God.

Susan, here are a couple thoughts:

First, unlike some other religions, Mormonism does not require inerrancy, infallibility, finality or immutability. To the contrary, at its beginnings with Joseph Smith, Mormonism was a rejection of dogmatism. Of course, many Mormons (including Joseph) have been and are sometimes dogmatic, but that behavior is a deviation from our Mormonism. Of course, this is at least as much a prescription as it is a description of Mormonism, but we’re better forthtellers than foretellers.

Second, there are at least two kinds of persons that aspire to Godhood: those who aspire egotistically, and those who aspire altruistically. To the extent the aspiration is egotistical, it is not consistent with Mormonism. As Jesus taught, we are called together as one in Christ. As Joseph Smith taught, we cannot be perfected without each other. Those who hope to become God independent of the rest of us are our oppressors.

Good article. Thank you for your well written and meaningful explanations of Mormon beliefs. Please allow me to address your concerns.

Yes, Mormons believe in a “pre-existence” where we (all beings) each lived with God as spirits before coming to this earth to gain a physical body and experience mortality. We are here to learn to love God and one another the way God loves us, Jesus Christ being our perfect example. I believe God places each of us on this earth in certain stations and exposes us to certain experiences in order to best help us achieve our full potential, individually and collectively. I believe He is fully engaged in providing each of us, His children (whom I believe He loves with a presently incomprehensibly great love), with the best possible opportunities to learn and practice His love, regardless of how they may superficially appear to us.

You may have heard speculation from some that “those who are less valiant in the pre-existence are somehow punished with a poorer station here on Earth.” This belief runs counter to established LDS Church doctrine. You will certainly not find such teachings in the Standard Works (our scriptures). We all know of many very valiant people who had been born into extreme poverty. Indeed, Jesus was born among animals in a manger.

To help dispel the notion that the rich are somehow privileged, the Book of Mormon teaches the following: “But wo unto the rich, who are rich as to the things of the world. For because they are rich they despise the poor, and they persecute the meek, and their hearts are upon their treasures; wherefore, their treasure is their god. And behold, their treasure shall perish with them also.” (2 Nephi 9:30) There are many other such admonitions in our scriptures.

Material poverty may sometimes be a consequence of poor choices, ours or those of our parents, or of the oppressive evil-doing of others – which God freely allows. It can also be a consequence of the nature of mortality. We do live in a world where things break. Material poverty can even be a test from God, both for the poor and for those who look upon them, as described in the story of Job.

I see poverty as a growth opportunity, in myself and in others. I don’t let my material poverty (of which I have endured much) create within me a “spiritual poverty.” And in the material poverty of others I see an opportunity to lovingly reach out with assistance, to be and gain a friend.

I lived about 7 years in northeastern Brazil. I had friends that lived in the slums, where raw sewage ran through shallow open channels along narrow muddy roads in front of cardboard houses. I got to really know the people well. They are wonderful. I would often see in them greater happiness than I see in the lives of some of my neighbors in California. Money ultimately means nothing. Spiritual poverty is much more damaging and the inequalities there should be the primary focus of our concerns. Spiritual poverty brings misery into the lives of the rich and poor alike.

Because we love them, we certainly want to help others overcome their poverty. I believe that our loving desires to help others comes from God – the expression of His will in our hearts. All people feel it to some degree, regardless of their religion or lack thereof.  And working hard at helping others will bring us closer to God, to learn even more about love. The poor and needy give us opportunities for service. And upon receiving that service in a spirit of love they glorify God and are blessed.

God will not judge us based on wealth or material poverty. These conditions are very temporary. They end when we die. The consequences of our choices between good and evil, however, will be eternal. Unless we repent and faithfully follow Jesus Christ, believing in Him and in all His warnings against sin, we will experience a very sad and eternal poverty from which there will be no escape. On the other hand, if we serve God by doing good to our fellow beings, helping lift them from their material and spiritual poverty, and if we seek to know God, love Him and keep His commands, we are promised an eternal life of riches and happiness beyond comprehension, even the inheritance of His kingdom.

As to “patriarchal Mormonism” creating a “secondary role for women [that] continues in the afterlife,” that is an opinion which has no support in LDS Church doctrine. I have been sealed in a temple to my wife by one having the same authority that Jesus conferred upon the Apostle Peter in Matthew 16:19. We have an eternal marriage. We are equal partners for eternity. In that that temple ordinance I was not favored with a primary role and my wife was not relegated to a secondary role. You might argue that women are second class because they don’t get the priesthood. Well, men don’t get to bear and nurse children. God made us different and gives us differing responsibilities. Only in our limited imaginations is there anything unfair about that. Furthermore, I have reason to believe through what I’ve learned in the church that women will receive the priesthood in the afterlife.

Let us not create in our imaginations an imperfect God and then turn away from Him because of those supposed imperfections. Let us instead see Him as He really is, perfectly good, just, merciful, kind and loving, as exemplified by the Master, Jesus Christ, and humbly submit ourselves to doing His will and keeping His commandments, and be happy forever. When I find myself tending to disagree with God, I quickly realize that it must be my understanding that is at fault. I humbly accept that I cannot yet understand all the things of God. I go on cheerfully continuing to seek to serve Him and do His will. 

Those sincerely wishing to do better should seek to emulate Jesus Christ. One can start by studying His life and teachings in the Bible and Book of Mormon. Pray to know Him and have His Spirit of love to teach and guide you always.

Hi Peter. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

I agree with you that there’s no Mormon doctrinal basis for attributing good or bad conditions in life to premortal choices. Of course, that hasn’t stopped some of us from expressing such ideas anyway, going even so far as to blame banning the priesthood from blacks on such nonsense. We’ve improved in this area, and I expect we’ll continue to do so.

On the other hand, I disagree somewhat with your marginalization of Rogers’s concern with sexism in our culture. We’ve improved here, too, but it’s clearly not gone. I don’t attribute the sexism to God, but rather to us as individuals. When and as we decide to overcome it and heal the wounds it causes, we’ll do so.

I love my religion. It inspires me to change for the better, and it promotes relationships I would not otherwise enjoy. It also moves us as a people to important works that would not otherwise be done. However, we are not perfect. Acknowledging that actually makes us better.

Peter Marlow is either “lying for the Lord” or has forgotten an inconvenient truth about the mormon “religion” which has always taught that blacks are people that offended God in the preexistence. When Cain killed Abel his skin was cast dark as punishment and his (black) descendants are those who offended God in the spirit world before coming here to earth.

Peter is apparently only privy to today’s slightly more sanitized “public” version of the church which keeps the tithing payers (10% of all gross earnings given to “the church”) coming in.

I grew up in “the church” and we were indeed promised Godhood, our own planets and unlimited wives to bear our spirit children. All we had to do is pay, pray and obey…..and keep on our magic underwear.

Thankfully, years of therapy has repaired the damage done to me growing up in what is clearly a spiritually abusive cult.

Hi Bo.

I sympathize with your concerns, although I disagree with your narrow focus on Mormonism. Clearly Mormons have participated in the racism that has plagued humanity, but that racism has never been essential to Mormonism, and contemporary Mormons are doing at least as well as non-Mormons at overcoming inclinations toward racism.

I’m also sorry to hear you had such a traumatic experience growing up in the LDS Church. My experience hasn’t been easy either. Too often religion is misused. Too often we don’t live the principles we advocate, and too often we advocate the wrong principles. Sometimes religion makes demons. There is, though, the other side to the story: I’ve seen religion make angels.

Susan, yes, someone can be both Mormon and agnostic.  I would argue that no two Mormons have identical beliefs.  We are all to some extent “cafeteria” Mormons.  For example, some Mormons believe in a micromanaging “omni-“God, and others believe in the God described in my blog entry (hands off and eternally progressing).  This is a pretty major bifurcation.

I hope my religion is a little like Jon Huntsman’s in that I can find good wherever it is found.  But I would also like to emulate Mother Teresa by reserving the right to doubt.

The goal of becoming a god is by nature egotistical.  This is a problem that Bloom mentions in his NYT’s op-ed piece.  I think the beauty of Mormonism lies in its concept of eternal progression.  If I were to write my blog piece today, I would put eternal progression first and theosis farther down the list.  But the progression must relate not so much to ourselves as it does to our relationships with the rest humanity and the earth.

I personally don’t relate to a Heaven where we live in eternal bliss.  I don’t want to sing in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for eternity.  If there is an afterlife, I hope it involves some sort of progress.  Godhood is simply one possible goal.

“Some of their ideas are well worth considering by transhumanists.”

Why?

Mormonism is almost certainly incorrect—in other words, it does not describe the universe as it actually is. Considering its ideas is pointless then to transhumanists with an interest in the workings of the universe.

Should transhumanists consider Mormon ideas that they might come to understand Mormon notions as not entirely incompatible with transhumanist thinking? I’m guessing that’s rather low on most transhumanist’s list of priorities—especially those transhumanists (I suspect the majority of them) who consider Mormonism to be nonsense.

I suppose one might usefully mine some elements of (superficially transhumanism-compatible) Mormon thought in order to sex up the transhumanism memeplex a bit—but in my estimation, transhumanism is dismissed to the extent that it is not because it’s boring and under-ambitious, but because people find it implausible and inadequately sober.

Mistakes by men can be excused but not while they claim to be the one and only mouthpiece of God on the earth. Mormons believe that their “Prophet” has a special room in the Temple where he speaks face to face with God, that he has meetings in the Temple with Jesus Christ sitting at the head of the table conducting the affairs of the church. They believe via scripture that the prophets and apostles are perfect in that they can not be deceived. How then is it that there are so many examples of them being so very incorrect?

Cacarr, in what ways is Mormonism almost certainly incorrect? Beyond that, the notion that Transhumanism is dismissed primarily because it is overly-ambitious is incorrect. The main problem with Transhumanism is something like its cold esthetic. Otherwise, the demographics of adherents would be much different.

Bo, Mormons are hardly so monolithic in their assessments of how our leaders interact with God, and almost no Mormons believe our leaders are perfect (although there’s certainly a strong culture of obedience, which is sometimes positive and sometimes negative). You’re seriously confused regarding Mormonism.

Peter, According to lds.org, the sprits in the pre-existence “were not all equally valiant, there being every degree of devotion to Christ and the Father among them.  The most diligent were chosen to be rulers in the kingdom (Abr. 3:22-23).  To me, this implies a continued belief in a relationship between the pre-existence and life here on earth.

I fail to see that many opportunities with poverty.  If you are selling pencils in the street just to survive, you have little chance other than to live hand-to-mouth.  Clearly the opportunities for the poor are drastically different from mine.

I think the LDS Church views women as “separate but equal.”  This didn’t work for the USA in the 60s for blacks, and I don’t think it works for LDS women today.

Hi Lincoln, Thank you. I agree with you 100%. There is a hideous unrighteous sexism among some Mormon men, as there is among men in all cultures. It is unjustifiable that a man should somehow think it right to make demands of a woman because she is a woman or attempt to control or dominate her because he has the priesthood and she doesn’t. I am reminded of the teaching of Christ, “But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 23:11) One of the most important things the priesthood gives us is a responsibility for service. I am repulsed by the idea that any man should see in it a right to be served.

Our scriptures likewise teach that priesthood authority does not justify control or compulsion. In Doctrine and Covenants 121:37, given to the Prophet Joseph Smith during his many months in a cold damp cellar prison, the Lord teaches the following: “… when we undertake to … exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen [meaning, “It is the end”] to the priesthood or the authority of that man.”

I was just trying to make the point that sexism is not a part of LDS Church doctrine and correct Roger’s misunderstanding that according to Mormon doctrine women will have a “secondary role” in the afterlife. Yes, here on the earth men “have different participation opportunities” than women in the church. But as I stated in my earlier response, men and women are different – God made them so. There is no reason to read anything negative into that. I imagine that in the church there are fewer women who feel it unfair that they are denied the priesthood than men that they are denied the closeness that mothers naturally have with their little children. It really isn’t a big issue.

“Cacarr, in what ways is Mormonism almost certainly incorrect?”

You’re kidding? No? In all ways: Smith didn’t find those tablets; Jesus is dead if he ever lived; there was no tribe of Israel in N. America, etc… It’s nonsense. Ain’t real. 

Rhansen, I appreciate the sincerity of your concerns and will be happy to address them. Thank you for bringing them up.

In Abraham 3 the Lord simply states that he will make those that were “noble and great” in the pre-existence “my rulers”. What kind of rulers are these? He doesn’t elaborate, except to say they will be His. Perhaps, in His foresight, He knows that those valiant in the pre-existence will be valiant here as well. He will then make of them His rulers in the next world where all the righteous are each promised a kingdom and more (described in many places throughout all the scriptures). Or, by “rulers” God means simply that the valiant will serve in His kingdom here on the earth as leaders in His church. I wouldn’t apply the worldly concept of “ruler” (a king or emperor like Caesar) to what God means here. Also, I see nothing here to indicate any connection between the pre-existence and the material inequalities of birth station (Roger’s concern).

Regarding the opportunities of poverty, I said this in my earlier comment: “The poor and needy give us opportunities for service.” I’ve been poor. When our family lived in Brazil (and we had several young children then), the economy was in turmoil unlike anything modern Americans have ever seen. Inflation had been running above 10% a month for several years. One day when we ran out of food and money (something that perhaps out of prideful shame we kept to ourselves), our church bishop showed up with a bag full of groceries. He said the Spirit clearly told him to bring it to us right away. It is impossible to describe the happiness I saw in his eyes as he helped us fill our cupboards. What a beautiful experience! It brought us all closer to God.

Finally, about women being “separate but equal” in the church as you say, I really don’t see it. Neither does my wife of 31 years. Individually, we differ in skills, talents, and church and family responsibilities as much as we differ in our biology. “Nevertheless, neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 11:11) Nothing separates us from one another. We share in all our struggles and blessings together as one. We are fully united in our love for each other and our love for God.

Cacarr, if Mormonism were as narrow or as improbable as you just depicted it, it never would have gained so many followers so fast. I understand (and to an extent sympathize with) your skepticism regarding Mormonism’s historical claims. However, those are not remotely the most important aspect of the religion.

Explains much, Peter. But I can’t help being skeptical; the following brings up a reason:

“One day when we ran out of food and money (something that perhaps out of prideful shame we kept to ourselves), our church bishop showed up with a bag full of groceries. He said the Spirit clearly told him to bring it to us right away. It is impossible to describe the happiness I saw in his eyes as he helped us fill our cupboards. What a beautiful experience! It brought us all closer to God.”

God helps the burglar, too, just for example. If someone gave a burglar a tool for to use in metalwork, but he instead uses the tool to break and enter into a home, then we could say God helped the burglar by having the tool make its way into his hands. One can rationalize this, but can one go beyond rationalization?
This isn’t to be anti-religious; that is to say, there are too many doubts concerning the nature of evil—and good v. evil—to convince me of all of what so many of the religious/spiritual speculate.

“Cacarr, if Mormonism were as narrow or as improbable as you just depicted it, it never would have gained so many followers so fast.”

Wait, religions are popular and/or fast-growing to the extent that they hold up well to rational analyses of their plausibility? Since when?

Like all theistic religions, Mormonism makes assertions about the nature of the universe—assertions without any supporting evidence. Anu/El/YHWH/Elohim/Jesus is no more likely to exist than Asherah or Marduk or Odin or Santa Claus.

Transhumanism is concerned with bringing about a desirable (to transhumanists) future state of affairs. A real state, in the real universe. If it were about engineering a new religion, then, yes, it might be useful to have a look at Mormonism.

...would like to hastily add, without temporizing, that I accept Mormonism (and Islam BTW) fully, without having to accept everything included in Mormonism. Mormons operate in good faith, do good works. In the other current IEET piece on this topic, I wrote lying is well-nigh universal, so knowing the Mormon reputation for business, they certainly live up to whatever high ethical standards business still retains.
Nevertheless you don’t want someone to hide their core beliefs (and in the case of some, their lack of such). IMO religion is legitimate escapism… the overwhelming majority at IEET would agree on how inhaling the fumes of airplane glue is not legitimate escapism; it isn’t a stretch to write many here would think religion in general is legitimate escapism—if they were so inclined to verbalize it my way in terms of escape. Even more than that, IMO religion is social club, and ‘social club’ is more positive. Any manner of expressing it is acceptable: nexus, nomos, we could think of many more. This brings to mind, though, non-violent Satanism: is non-violent Satanism to be considered legitimate religion? the answer IMO again, is yes.
But it goes without saying we don’t have to agree on that.

Cacarr,

To the extent religions have not competed successfully for our hearts and minds, they have been selected out of existence. There are far more extinct religions, and far more small religions, than there are large contemporary religions. Mormonism is among the most (if not the most) successful religions to enter the competition within the last millennium.

Whether there is evidence for or value in Elohim or Marduk depends first on your understanding of Elohim or Marduk. I find evidence for value in both. In the least, each illustrates humanity’s progress in its understanding of and relationship with divinity, a process of becoming, which has always aimed at the posthuman.

Mormonism, from its beginnings (long before “Transhumanism” became a word), has been concerned with bringing about desirable futures, in our material universe on this planet. As Joseph Smith put it, this Earth will become heaven. As Brigham Young (who led the Mormon pioneers to Utah) put it, the only heaven we will ever attain to is the one we make ourselves.

Contemporary secular Transhumanism has contextual scientific and technological advantages that Mormonism did not have at the time of its founding, but the secular movement has as yet failed to attract the hearts and minds of adherents at a rate and in a manner comparable to Mormonism. It’s an esthetic failure - a spiritual failure. There is a lack of inspiration where there is no God. In contrast, where God is, there is a strenuous mood.

Is Transhumanism not a religion? So far as I’m concerned, my religion is Transhumanism. Mormonism is a Transhumanism.

Peter and Intomorrow, the Mormon membership appears to have two separate beliefs about the God.  One is that He is a micromanager and is continually stirring the pot.  Peter this seems to be your general belief.  There is also the view that God is hands off, giveing man a great deal of “free agency.”  (There are obviously also those in the middle.)  I would argue that the latter description sits better with transhumanists (those who are not atheists).

What I find so interresting about this conversation is the general attack on a relatively rational perspective of God.  I find that most adherents of most faiths that are socially functional in the world at large are not adherents to a literal or infallible concept of deity.  I am about as far from Mormon as you can get, however I find their “works” mentality refreshing, productive, and honorable.  When I get down to the base of most faiths it is about learning to love your fellow man, learning to be the best person you can, and some sense of rational for when the world is nonsensical.  It is a rationalization and self-improvement tool.  Self improvement is a large part of what I see driving Transhumanism.  I don’t see that this system is any poorer at approaching this goal than Asatru(The non-volk variety), or Islam (the non-jihadist variety).

“To the extent religions have not competed successfully for our hearts and minds, they have been selected out of existence.”

Indeed, but there’s no reason to think that religions out-compete other religions by being more “true.” They need only be more effective at occupying skulls, getting into other skulls, and fighting off competing belief systems. You seem to be under the impression that religions necessarily evolve toward some correct understanding of reality—a sort of teleological view, but maybe that’s not surprising considering that you are convinced by arguments for at least one flavor of theism.

“There are far more extinct religions, and far more small religions, than there are large contemporary religions. Mormonism is among the most (if not the most) successful religions to enter the competition within the last millennium.”

Do you think that Mormonism will be replaced by something better at some point?

“Whether there is evidence for or value in Elohim or Marduk depends first on your understanding of Elohim or Marduk. I find evidence for value in both. In the least, each illustrates humanity’s progress in its understanding of and relationship with divinity…”

You are just asserting that there’s a “divinity” with which to have a relationship; there’s no good reason to think so.  And what progress (other than the increasing, welcomed tendency to ignore the unsavory bits of the various religions)?

“...but the secular movement has as yet failed to attract the hearts and minds of adherents at a rate and in a manner comparable to Mormonism.”

In many parts of the US, biological evolution has failed to attract the hearts and minds of adherents at a rate an in a manner comparable to “Intelligent Design”—which doesn’t at all mean that ID is correct. Secular transhumanism doesn’t have Mormon metaphysics (and if you don’t buy into any of that, in what sense are you a Mormon?) to fall back on in the event that things don’t work out the way we want, so in that way it’s more uncertain and not as reassuring as Mormonism.

“It’s an esthetic failure - a spiritual failure… “

Aesthetic sensibilities are products of culture and are rooted deeply in biology and evolutionary history. No spirits are required.

“There is a lack of inspiration where there is no God…”

Speak for yourself.

“In contrast, where God is, there is a strenuous mood.”

That sort of religious language cuts no ice with me.

Rhansen, please allow me to try to reconcile for you those two views in the following few paragraphs.

I believe God knows each one of us and loves us all with an intensity we cannot even begin to comprehend now. Why does He love us so much? Because we are His children. His greatest desire is that we learn to love Him and each other as He loves us. It is all about love. It is when we attain the ability to love to the degree that He loves that we become like Him, a god – which is exactly what He wants for all of us. And when we again feel His love to its full extent in the afterlife, our having that ability and that capacity to love Him and one another the way He loves us will be our most fervent desire, too.

I believe our mortal experience on this earth was designed by our Heavenly Father to help us achieve this goal, a first step in the process of becoming gods ourselves. In this step, we learn to choose between good and evil. It is a test. Those who pass this test will all be qualified to go on after this life to live forever with our Heavenly Father and learn from Him how to become gods. Those that fail will never so qualify. My desire to become a god is not about ambitions for glory, power and control. That is the misunderstanding of the world. It is about me developing from God the ability and capacity to respond to His love with a love of equal magnitude. It is what He wants. It will bring us an infinite happiness.

Every day we are presented with choices. Most of them have no eternal consequence; they are not choices between good and evil and therefore of no real interest to God. Unless it may somehow further His purposes of teaching someone (either you or someone else) the meaning of love (by helping you or them choose good over evil), he will not intervene to tell you, for example, what to have for breakfast or what brand of toothpaste to use. But He does gently prompt each one of us in our hearts and minds all day long to make good choices, which means to love others, be kind, generous, helpful, benevolent, compassionate, gentle, just, merciful, forgiving, patient, humble, etc. With every opportunity that arises throughout your day to do good, God will invite you to take action with a small thought that He places in your mind. As you act according to His promptings, you will gradually grow in your capacity to love.

There are also opposing forces at work, otherwise there would be no choice and there would be no test, and therefore no growth. Satan and his followers (who, though also God’s children, chose evil over good in the pre-mortal realm and were therefore not permitted to receive human bodies and come to this world like us) are permitted by God to also place thoughts in our minds. That is the full extent of their power.

Satan appeals to our pride and lusts. He tells us we deserve certain pleasures, indulgences and other selfish gratifications. He wants to create within each of us self-serving desires that are contrary to God’s love, powerful desires to have and control things – even other people. Satan encourages taking risks with addictive substances, like drugs and alcohol, or addictive behaviors like extra-marital sex, pornography and gambling, because he knows that once entangled in an addiction, we will make the fulfillment of that addiction more important to us than learning how to love as God loves.

Evil is evil precisely because it causes pain and suffering. God’s laws are not arbitrary rules. A young man may argue that his use of alcohol or pornography doesn’t hurt anyone. It is legal, after all, he may say. But God sees things differently. He sees the people that will be hurt years later, perhaps in an alcohol fueled rage or car accident. God sees the wife that will someday quietly suffer because her husband, too consumed by pornography as an adolescent, never learned how to understand her needs for an emotionally fulfilling relationship, or the children that will suffer throughout their lives because of divorce or even just the stresses in their parents’ marriage caused by hidden infidelity. Life is certainly not a game. Lives are eternally affected by the choices we make. God takes these things very, very seriously.

Good is good because it helps us individually and collectively succeed as God wants us to succeed. Sometimes God gives what may seem to us to be strange rules and laws with no apparent benefits. We need to trust God and know that He has reasons for giving us His laws – even if only to help us remember that we have made commitments with Him to keep His commandments.

Each person has agency, the freedom to choose for himself between good and evil. God will never deny you the freedom to make a choice. Others may put you in jail for murder, taking away some of your freedoms. But God will not stop you. He freely lets any person do what they want to do. He only gently continually invites us to do good. We are free to ignore His invitations. (Oh, that we would so easily ignore all of Satan’s temptations!) I believe God may miraculously nudge a bullet away from your heart, if He so chooses, if, say, there are still things He wants you to do on the earth and knows you will do them. But He will not take from the assailant his freedom to pull the trigger.

So, how do we pass this test? By choosing more good than evil? By making sure that our last choice before we die is a good one? No. One evil choice corrupts us and disqualifies us from living forever with God and becoming like Him. God has no corruption. How can we take any corruption with us into the next world and hope to become like God? It can’t be done. Because we all have sinned, we are all lost. We have no hope.

God foresaw this from the beginning and therefore prepared a plan whereby we could be redeemed, a plan of infinite mercy that would also fulfill the infinite demands of justice. But such a plan would require an infinite atonement. Who could pay such an enormous debt on behalf of all of His debtor children? Who, though deserving no suffering, would suffer all the eternal consequences of all our sins so that the rest of us would not have to suffer at all? Only His first child in that pre-mortal realm, Jesus Christ, the only one who lovingly obeyed His Father in all things from the beginning, could do it.

Because Jesus loved us and Heavenly Father from the beginning with an infinite love equal to the love of the Father, He would come to the earth and live a perfect sinless life, partake of no corruption, and then suffer the combined agony of all our sins and die for us, a sacrifice without blemish, to pay in full our debt to the righteous justice of God. Because the Father loves us all with an infinite love, He would send His innocent firstborn, who was first with Him in the beginning, to come to this earth as His only begotten mortal Son to suffer the combined agony of all our sins and die for us, a sacrifice without blemish, so that mercy could be extended and we be redeemed, so that we could each receive a full and complete forgiveness from God. This plan was successfully fulfilled.

What a terrible pain the Father endured, to see His only perfect child mocked and judged unworthy to live by those He was sent to save, to send His only perfect child to die a miserable death among thieves to save those who would not love Him! We are all guilty of causing our Father this pain. Yet, He still offers us His forgiveness because He loves us.

There is no sacrifice we can make, no apology we can offer, nor good we can do that will take away our incorruption and make us acceptable to God. A single small sin is really that profoundly bad. We must not minimize the eternal consequences of one “small” sin. It can only be forgiven through the infinite atonement provided by Jesus Christ. And because Jesus Christ paid our debt to justice, He now sets the conditions for our redemption.

These are His conditions: We are to trust and rely on His atonement, that it did satisfy the demands of justice and provide forgiveness for all of us, and that there is no other way. We are to trust and rely in His resurrection, that it did break the bands of death to allow all of us to someday be raised in immortality, and that there is no other way. We are to repent of our past sins and sin no more, keeping all the commandments of God as taught by Jesus in the scriptures, by the words of all His holy prophets, and as directed by God in our hearts and minds. If we sin again, we must quickly repent again and humbly and sincerely increase our efforts and renew our commitments to keep His commandments. This is the only way to eternal life and happiness.

Cacarr,

I’m a pragmatist. In the end, so to speak, truth will be what works, and no one will have any evidence to the contrary. And indeed, whether intentionally or not, every environment has a teleology. Evolution is not random, but rather proceeds to fill out the contours of the environment in which it’s scoped. Accordingly, although no narrowly identified ideology (Mormonism or otherwise) will exist forever, those ideologies that identify less dogmatically may reasonably claim to persist, as Mormonism looks to Christianity and Judaism as earlier manifestations of the same religion.

Whether there is divinity to identify with begins first with you. God is posited, not proven, except within the context of a position. Whether you choose to posit God or not, humanity has persistently progressed in the liberality of its cooperation, and this has been continually reflected in the changing nature of our anthropomorphisms. Ultimately, if sufficiently empowered, our anthropomorphisms will shape the world to such extent that we’ll engage in theomorphizing it, as perhaps it has already been doing to us.

I’m not appealing to metaphysics or immaterialities. I’m equating esthetics with spirits and gods with anthropomorphic posthuman projections. That’s how these religious ideas have functioned throughout time. They’ve shaped us, they’re shaping our world, and they may yet move us into realization of our projections. Whether it cuts ice for you or not, ideologies that excite the strenuous mood will out-compete those that do not. Secular Transhumanism has yet to demonstrate that it can compete, and I’m skeptical that it ever will in itself. To the extent Transhumanism has succeeded, it has moved beyond mere secularism into that which is religion, which by any other name is as divine.

Well, this isn’t going to go anywhere productive.

Suffice it to say that you should not be surprised to encounter self-described “transhumanists” who do not consider Mormonism and transhumanism to be the same project, program, effort—whatever you want to call it.

Also, this assertion of yours that secular transhumanism isn’t gaining any traction doesn’t appear to be correct to me.

Cacarr, I don’t expect Transhumanists to be Mormons, and I suggested secular Transhumanism (whatever traction it may gain) will continue to be less successful than religious Transhumanism, as represented by Mormonism and otherwise.

‘Also, this assertion of yours that secular transhumanism isn’t gaining any traction doesn’t appear to be correct to me.’

The above is the collateral issue, IMO naturally. Don’t know, but do know people have turned to religion and secular religion (i.e. Communism, Fascism) when they saw no other way, or, yet again, no other escape. I also know that the techno in technoprogressivism has moved along, while the progressive in technoprogressivism has moved at a snail’s pace, or, more optimistically, at a turtle’s pace.
I also remember the ‘back to nature movement’ of 4 decades ago, which took off because of the misapplication of tech. Pure science is not based on faith, so we can’t say the research involved in transhumanism is faith-based, however one can say the application (and unfortunately misapplication) can be considered religious in some sense because we are playing God(s) due to our idiosyncratic/esoteric influence. Such is practically self-evident.
At any rate, any Mormon interested in transhumanism is my brother/sister; any not interested is an acquaintance—but not a stranger.

“I suggested secular Transhumanism (whatever traction it may gain) will continue to be less successful than religious Transhumanism, as represented by Mormonism and otherwise.”

It wouldn’t be the first time that bad ideas were more popular than less bad ideas.

But go ahead and prove that there are more transhumanism-inclined Mormons than non-religious transhumanists. What percentage of Mormons are members of the MTA? And why do you even need the notion of “transhumanism” if Mormonism already entails it?

“And why do you even need the notion of “transhumanism” if Mormonism already entails it?’

Lingua Franca?
Public relations counts for something if not a whole lot. Anyway, if Mormons will accept us, I will accept them.

Cacarr,

Mormonism counts as many adherents worldwide as Judaism—over 13 million. Most Mormons believe they, through their works within a context of grace, should become as God, who is understood to be a material being of sublime benevolence and creativity, and who was once human before, through works within a context of grace, changed and progressed to Godhood. That is religious Transhumanism, gracious works or ethical technology, whether explicitly acknowledged by the word “Transhumanism” or not. In comparison, it’s probably an exaggeration to say there are 13 thousand persons that identify as secular Transhumanists, which would be three orders of magnitude fewer. Of course, Mormonism has had about 180 years, whereas secular Transhumanism has had perhaps 50 years. Yet after 50 years, Mormonism already had well over 130 thousand adherents, which is still an order of magnitude more than secular Transhumanists, even without the help of the Internet and other modern communications mechanisms.

Most Mormons have never heard of Transhumanism, and some that hear of it think it’s either superficial or irrelevant. I disagree with them because I think explicit acknowledgement of “Transhumanism” can help us combat the increasing influence of fundamentalist Christianity on Mormonism, and because the explicit acknowledgement can also remind us of the more liberal and ecumenical interpretations of our religion, which embraces most other religions and ideologies as important actors and companions in the work of God.

...let’s not be hypercritical towards Mormons- we may need all the decent allies we can get, cacarr; and Mormons are decent. Of course a certain argumentation is necessary—but we don’t want to deconstruct our deconstructions. kiss

@Intomorrow:

If you’re inclined to humor them, go for it. I’m not so inclined.

This sort of gibberish makes it all the more impossible for me:

“...where God is, there is a strenuous mood.  ... To the extent Transhumanism has succeeded, it has moved beyond mere secularism into that which is religion, which by any other name is as divine. “

“In comparison, it’s probably an exaggeration to say there are 13 thousand persons that identify as secular Transhumanists…”

What? Yes, I suppose it’s quite an exaggeration to say that there are that few. You’re just pulling things out of your arse at this point.

Cacarr, appeals to ridicule are poor arguments. If you have reasons to suppose my arguments are poor, please share them.

“If you’re inclined to humor them, go for it. I’m not so inclined.”

But you wouldn’t write ‘religion is humbug’, even if you were so inclined, that is where you draw the line. I don’t think religion is humbug anymore than philosophy is, which isn’t necessarily damning with faint praise, because IMO religion is nomos, nexus, etc.—deeper than mere ideology.
And I like Mormons and Islamics more than before, as it now appears they have been used as scapegoats.
Humoring implies hiding something, however I never did: wrote in the past how Mormons don’t treat their children as well as they should; all the same, the material benefits to Mormon children may compensate or more than compensate for the strictness of the parents.
Plus, if I want to call Mormon transhumanists brothers and sisters, it is permissible in a religious context.

Cacarr,
is religion nonsense? IMO, yes, however is it necessary? don’t know. There are many billions who want religion; whether they can do without religion I don’t know—but would say yes, they can do without religion. Reacting to this article, my judgment call is since Mormonism appears to be less effete than other faiths, and certain Mormons are interested in transhumanism, it might be worth communicating with Mormons.
You might be braver than some, Cacarr, you perhaps would challenge the religious directly while I am afraid of the religious, as they are generally authoritarian; and since they use faith to advance their interests (and, to be fair, the interests of select others) it is difficult to know how to relate to them.
A non-religious Republican is transparent, he wants power because he believes in hierarchy like a Christian believes in Jesus—there’s more to it yet that is a great deal of it.

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