At first glance, the ideas of religion and transhumanism oppose each other – the rejection of the forms given to us by God, etc., etc. Some transhumanists argue that transhumanism replaces religion and requires no gods – it allows humans to assume godlike roles in controlling our being and destiny. In a survey conducted by the World Transhumanist Association, most transhumanists were atheists or otherwise secular.
But there are many in the h+ community who choose to hold their transhumanism and their religion together.
The Christian Transhumanist Association recently published their Affirmation, detailing that;
1. We believe that God’s mission involves the transformation and renewal of creation, including humanity, and that we are called by Christ to participate in that mission: working against illness, hunger, oppression, injustice, and death.
3. We recognize science and technology as tangible expressions of our God-given impulse to explore and discover, and as a natural outgrowth of being created in the image of God.
In this way we are Christian Transhumanists.
The CTA has put their money where their mouth is, funding projects to curb infant mortality rates. They put forward that technology like this – man-made technology that enhances the human condition – enacts Christian values of valuing human life. Some argue that cryonics may allow a future Noah to save God’s creations as was done in Genesis. The basic principle of Christian Transhumanists is that the values of love, sacrifice and compassion are what will prevent the techno-apocalypse presented in the media.
The Mormon Transhumanist Association draws strong parallels between the ideas of transfiguration in the Mormon faith and the desire for transhumanists to ascend beyond their human form. Both aim to move beyond the limitations of the human body to achieve a higher form, and Mormonism adds a spiritual level to the transcendence of physical contraints – an aim of transhumanism – by linking it to religious beliefs that this overcoming of the physical allows one to commune with God.
Buddhist transhumanism holds that the implementation of technologies to relieve suffering, material confinement, stress, negativity and ill-will creates a confluence between h+ and Buddhism. An ability to control of physical function may also allow us to control our vices and failings.
“Then it might be possible to use future neurotechnologies to systematically make ourselves more truthful or compassionate. The use of neurotechnologies to consistently avoid vices and practice virtues would be useful in cleansing the mind of klesas or mental impurities.” (Hughes, 2013, p30)
In essence, these groups agree largely that religion and H+ are compatible, joining in the idea of ethical and mindful use of technologies. While these are minorities within their larger religious structures, we can accept that the fundamental principles outlined above may indeed have a positive influence on the future of transhumanism. Moreover, they provide an interesting framework for considering how H+ can work to increase happiness.
Hughes, J 2013, ‘Using Neurotechnologies to Develop Virtues: A Buddhist Approach to Cognitive Enhancement’, Accountability in Research: Policies & Quality Assurance, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 27-41