If a person's lifespan could be extended indefinitely, how would organized religion still be necessary?


#1

From reading what I can here and there, it seems the purpose of religion boils down to several key needs:

  1. Establishing rules of ethical behavior
  2. Helping those in need (poverty, healthcare, education, etc.)
  3. Meeting people’s spiritual needs
  4. Getting people’s souls to heaven

The only problem (if it is a problem) is that the first three can essentially be covered in a secular, organized-religion-free society. Ethical behavior is a natural tendency of any advanced civilization; compassion to help others is seen in all sorts of people; and even spiritual needs can be fulfilled in almost any sort of way – even the shear awe a humanist may have at the sight of an advanced, balanced, enjoyable society. All that leaves left for organized, traditional religion and *only *organized, traditional religion is getting us mortals to a completely unobservable place known as heaven!

So, since I felt the question had to be asked: If humans could be made to live forever without dying, would something like Roman Catholicism be necessary? Couldn’t an advanced civilization try and create its own heaven-on-earth design without taking the risks of dying and seeing (or not seeing) what happens next?


#2

Yes, the Catholic Church would still be necessary. Three thoughts come to mind:

  1. There will always be a need for “organized religion” because we are creatures created by God, and by that alone He deserves our worship.

  2. The need to “get our souls to heaven” is a consequence of the Fall. And it is God’s desire to gather us sinners who have turned away from Him, to come to Him and He does that through the Church (or “organized religion” as you put it). Even if we could live forever, there would still be a need for us to align our will to God’s, and be forgiven for our sins.

  3. Where do you think the rules of ethical behavior come from? They come from the natural law put in our hearts by God. This is an excerpt of an article from New Advent:

“In its strictly ethical application–the sense in which this article treats it–the natural law is the rule of conduct which is prescribed to us by the Creator in the constitution of the nature with which He has endowed us.
According to St. Thomas, the natural law is “nothing else than the rational creature’s participation in the eternal law” (I-II, Q. xciv). The eternal law is God’s wisdom, inasmuch as it is the directive norm of all movement and action. When God willed to give existence to creatures, He willed to ordain and direct them to an end. In the case of inanimate things, this Divine direction is provided for in the nature which God has given to each; in them determinism reigns. Like all the rest of creation, man is destined by God to an end, and receives from Him a direction towards this end. This ordination is of a character in harmony with his free intelligent nature. In virtue of his intelligence and free will, man is master of his conduct. Unlike the things of the mere material world he can vary his action, act, or abstain from action, as he pleases. Yet he is not a lawless being in an ordered universe. In the very constitution of his nature, he too has a law laid down for him, reflecting that ordination and direction of all things, which is the eternal law. The rule, then, which God has prescribed for our conduct, is found in our nature itself. Those actions which conform with its tendencies, lead to our destined end, and are thereby constituted right and morally good; those at variance with our nature are wrong and immoral.”


#3

The effects of original sin are a done deal. Death is now unavoidable. Human bodies can never return to being immortal like they were before the Fall, no matter how much science discovers.

“Religion-free” societies tend to have abominable human rights records. Mao’s China comes to mind. Revolutionary France too. No, thanks, I’ll pass on living in a “religion-free” society.

The reason to accept or reject a religion, though, is not whether you think it serves this purpose or that. The reason to accept one religion is because it’s true, and the reason to reject other religions is because they are false.


#4

Physical immortality does not negate religion, the worship of the Creator and the ordering of all things to Heaven.

First, Adam and Eve were created to be immortal. They received preternatural and supernatural gifts. Therefore, the original order of things included *immortal *persons in a relationship with God.

Second, our soul is immortal and our bodies will be glorified at the end of time, after which we will have both an immortal body and soul.

Third, worship exists *now *in Heaven, as exhibited in Scripture. The angels worship God from all eternity. The Saints in glory worship God.

This is so because worship is the proper relationship of *created *to creator. Therefore, even if we were immortal, worship of the Creator would still be required.

The current mortality of our bodies is irrelevant.


#5

Well, of your four items, numbers one and two are not the exclusive domain of religion as it stands now; the third is, perhaps, more debatable; but as you said, the fourth is where the meat of the discussion really lies.

Even physical immortality only goes so far. The universe will eventually end, whether by heat death, the Big Crunch, the return of Jesus, or several other means. There may be others beyond that, possibly even of our own creation, but whether or not we can escape ours for those is unknown as yet.

Assuming that is impossible, then, we must consider the question of the immortal soul. Does it exist in the first place? Can it exist beyond the end of the universe? According to most religions, the answer to both questions is an emphatic yes. However, even the promise of damnation if one does not believe is not enough to make converts – fear is no reason to worship.

Religion is most likely going to have to find something more to offer than mere heaven or hell. I would surmise that its greatest enemy at that point would not be disbelief but boredom.


#6

Most people who ask questions like this make certain assumptions about human nature and are relatively uneducated in the area of the history of our civilizations. Western Europe and the Western Hemisphere are still living off the moral, ethical. behavior systems arising out of our judeo-christian heritage. The older civilizations including Greek and Roman were no where near as benevolent for the average human being. I don’t use the term citizen because in fact the majority of the population were slaves. In more recent times as someone has already pointed out we have societies that tried to do or still try to do without religion as well as some based on a religion that is much more punitive in its form of law than most Western Nations. So what I am saying is that all this charity and morality is the residue from our fore fathers who were for the most part Christians. Treasure it. Once it is gone it is difficult if not impossible to regain it.


#7

It stil comes back to the premise that either there is or there is not a God. If there is a God, which the vast majority of us believe, then God would probably intervene and prevent us from trying to take what is not ours kind of like the story of the Tower of Babel. Or perhaps God would allow for Heaven on Earth to happen and after the end of the world we would once again be free from the fall and live happily without sin and pain on Earth. The possibilities are endless. Perhaps if we invent brain transplants or ways of entending one’s memoeires into another person then the soul has still been removed from the body and a new soul granted.


#8

Finally, my kind of thread…

The wages of sin is death???.. lol!!!


#9

You mention that ‘secular society’ can cover this, but the question is whether they’ll be correct (assuming you believe in an objective right or wrong). Anyone can make up a whole bunch of rules to follow; but if there is an objective right and wrong, the rules you make up can be incorrect.

  1. Helping those in need (poverty, healthcare, education, etc.)

Again, you need to have the proper understanding of what is ‘help’. Is providing a government-funded abortion ‘help’? What about euthenasia? Etc. Religion informs on these things; there’s more at work than simply ‘making a decision’.

  1. Meeting people’s spiritual needs

Obvious, I believe.

  1. Getting people’s souls to heaven

It’s not like Catholicism is just a bus. ‘Getting people’s souls to heaven’ has a lot more to do with people living right and understanding why there really is a right way to live than forcibly transporting them to ‘heaven’.

I think the questions involved are more complicated than you’re allowing for (‘Any advanced society will do things ethically’ is, I think, giving too much credit to the potential of pure secularism). But that said, perhaps there is an overlap. Maybe eternal life is going to come about partly through God working through man.

After all, if in the future death is conquered, the dead rise, and all enjoy eternal life in a society governed by good moral rules where spiritual needs are fulfilled and poverty is eliminated, who do you think was more ‘correct’ in the end: The secularists, or the religious?


#10

As an aside:

What would you call eternal life where wrong moral choices are made or actively encouraged, hope for improvement was discouraged or denied altogether, and religion was utterly abandoned in the process?

I’d be tempted to call it hell. In other words, remember that ‘eternal life’ isn’t the only thing religion (and Catholicism in particular) is supposed to offer us.


#11

From reading what I can here and there, it seems the purpose of religion boils down to several key needs:

  1. Establishing rules of ethical behavior
  2. Helping those in need (poverty, healthcare, education, etc.)
  3. Meeting people’s spiritual needs
  4. Getting people’s souls to heaven

Emphasis on the important aspects of this conversation:

MORPHEUS: JC Denton. 23 years old. No residence. No ancestors. No employer. No –

JC DENTON: How do you know who I am?

MORPHEUS: I must greet each visitor with a complete summary of his file. I am a
prototype for a much larger system.

JC DENTON: What else do you know about me?

MORPHEUS: Everything that can be known.

JC DENTON: Go on. Do you have proof about my ancestors?

MORPHEUS: You are a planned organism, the offspring of knowledge and imagination rather
than of individuals.

JC DENTON: I’m engineered. So what? My brother and I suspected as much while we were growing up.

MORPHEUS: You are carefully watched by many people. The unplanned organism is a question asked by Nature and answered by death. You are another kind of question with another kind of answer.

JC DENTON: Are you programmed to invent riddles?

MORPHEUS: I am a prototype for a much larger system. The heuristics language developed
by Dr. Everett allows me to convey the highest and most succinct tier of any pyramidal construct of knowledge.

JC DENTON: How about a report on yourself?

MORPHEUS: I was a prototype for Echelon IV. My instructions are to amuse visitors with
information about themselves.

JC DENTON: I don’t see anything amusing about spying on people.

MORPHEUS: Human beings feel pleasure when they are watched. I have recorded their smiles as I tell them who they are.

JC DENTON: Some people just don’t understand the dangers of indiscriminate surveillance.

MORPHEUS: The need to be observed and understood was once satisfied by God. Now we can implement the same functionality with data-mining algorithms.

JC DENTON: Electronic surveillance hardly inspired reverence. Perhaps fear and obedience, but not reverence.

MORPHEUS: **God and the gods were apparitions of observation, judgment, and punishment. Other sentiments toward them were secondary.

JC DENTON: No one will ever worship a software entity peering at them through a camera.

MORPHEUS: The human organism always worships. First it was the gods, then it was fame (the observation and judgment of others), next it will be the self-aware systems you have built to realize truly omnipresent observation and judgment.**

JC DENTON: You underestimate humankind’s love of freedom.

MORPHEUS: The individual desires judgment. Without that desire, the cohesion of groups
is impossible, and so is civilization.

MORPHEUS: **The human being created civilization not because of a willingness but because of a need to be assimilated into higher orders of structure and meaning. God was a dream of good government. **You will soon have your God, and you will make it with your own hands.

MORPHEUS: I was made to assist you. I am a prototype of a much larger system.

I think “spiritual needs” refer to the desire for humans to be assimilated and to be appreciated and loved. A supernatual deity does not need to provide this.

I do think that the purpose of religion is to provide judgment and the concept of god was created as a paragon of an excellent administer who was not trammeled by the rapacious predilections of humans.

I wonder if a machine (i.e. a superintelligent benevolent AI) will replace god.


#12

Interesting to see you’re ‘into’ the singularity concept now. I’ll have you know there were some (unorthodox, perhaps) christians who seriously advanced the idea of science as a gift from God for our salvation, far in advance of today’s futurists.

But for what it’s worth, you may get a kick out of the writings of Frank Tipler.


#13

I also played Deus Ex (for the 4th time in about 6 years), sounds like Helios would have made a better God than Yahweh.


#14

Fantastic game, the sequel was horrible.

You’re welcome to your opinion, of course. But while you burn that incense for Helios, you may want to ask yourself ‘What made Helios possible?’ My answer would be ‘Yahweh’. So…

ahem Either way, I’m off for the night. Interesting conversation, but I stand by what I’ve said; mere “living forever” is not what people want, nor is a mere “ethic for society to live by”. They want the right kind of life, the right kind of ethics, the right kind of personal and cultural institutions. The teachings of Christ via Catholicism provide these.


#15

Interrupting for a second…

While my wife was in Grad School, she had a guest speaker come in once talking about the very subject of immortality, or at the very least, severely extended life spans. For starters, he indicated that scientist are ALOT farther along than people realize.

For example, their are rats that they have managed to extend their life spans by a factor of 5 to 10. in other words, if the same methods were applied to us, we would live for up to 1000 years using those techniques. I know people say… well, there is a big jump from rat to human, but when it comes to the manipulations needed, no there isn’t.

So, why am I mentioning this?
There was a second piece to this study, a Psychological piece. The mind it seems is incapable of living this long. It may seem a little strange, but literally, once you hit a certain age, you start to go insane. The number also seems to be not much greater than the 125 year life span.

The Human brain just simply can’t adapt.

Something to consider next time you get someone salivating over man made immortality

In Christ


#16

Immortality in this existence would be hell for us, unless we could live in relation to God and in union with him. As Saint Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” (From his Confessions, Book 1 chapter 1). This desire for God is implanted in all of our hearts. For those who do not know God, they search for substitutes in the created order which can never really satisfy our desire for the infinite, uncreated, eternal good. They would end up craving death, since their existence would be a series of unending dissapointments leading to eventual boredom and hopelessness. The definitions of hell.

If given the option to postpone death indefinitly, I would refuse, because a life separate from God is no life at all. This world is a “valley of tears” with occasional glimpses into eternity. The created order is not evil, It is beautiful and good, but it is temporal, partial, and cannot satisfy. All it does is point us in the right direction: to God.

God bless,
Ut


#17

Is it Aubrey de Grey?

For example, their are rats that they have managed to extend their life spans by a factor of 5 to 10. in other words, if the same methods were applied to us, we would live for up to 1000 years using those techniques. I know people say… well, there is a big jump from rat to human, but when it comes to the manipulations needed, no there isn’t.

Mice (not rats) live up to three years normally; here’s a Wikipedia article that discusses the progress of life extension in mice: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methuselah_Mouse_Prize

So, why am I mentioning this?
There was a second piece to this study, a Psychological piece. The mind it seems is incapable of living this long. It may seem a little strange, but literally, once you hit a certain age, you start to go insane. The number also seems to be not much greater than the 125 year life span.

The Human brain just simply can’t adapt.

Sounds dubious…


#18

Sounds dubious…

Maybe…
Just relaying what she was told by a Psychologist that is involved in the study. Unfortunately, I have no source to back it up, so the information could be completely faulty. But, the source is from the person working on the project, not just a random paper. It’s not just someones random opinion.

Anyway, just throwing that out

In Christ


#19

By the way, i looked up Aubrey de Grey because i wasn’t sure the persons name. It couldn’t be the same person because the research was taking place at Unv. of FL. if I remember correctly.

In Christ


#20

People travel though. He is rather enamored with life extension.


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