Friday, December 11, 2009

Will Immortality piss off God?

So, birthday. Fifty six – is my life half over? What are the chances I'll live to be 112 years old? Oy.

I had this weird thought. We, you and I, are all in a peculiar spot: we don't know if we'll ever die at all. It is conceivable that, before I die, scientists will discover the secrets to biological immortality. In fact, it's almost impossible that science won't someday achieve immortality for humans. Maybe not in my lifetime, but certainly within 100 to 500 years.

So what happens to Heaven and Hell when people stop dying? Seriously, this will be a real problem for the the Big Three, the Abrahamic religions. Christians, Jews and Muslims all rely on that life-after-death concept to keep believers in line, and as a sort of antidote for all of the trouble that we find here on Earth.

Life sucks? Don't worry, you'll get your reward. Saddam Hussein killed a couple hundred thousand of the Iraqi people? No problem, he's going to suffer forever in Hell.

The Heaven and Hell memes bring a balance into people's lives. They're very comforting, and assure people that, in spite of the apparent unfairness of life caused by government, society and "acts of God," everything will be smoothed over in the end.

But what happens when nobody dies? This is going to be a huge theological problem for Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

I'll make a wager, any amount of money you like, that when the day arrives that science defeats old age, religious leaders will declare that it's a sin, that it violates God's design for us. I'll even bet that it will be taken as yet another sign of the approaching Armageddon.

Of course, I can only pay up if I live that long...
If I knew I'd live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.
– Mickey Mantle (American baseball player)
For those of you interested in reading more about immortality, I'm not the only one who thinks we may live forever. Raymond Kurzweil even wrote a book about this immortality, Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever. He claims that if we can manage to live long enough (like, to 120), science will have cured most or all diseases and even conquered old age itself. And it's actually not an unreasonable claim. I fully expect to live to 100 just by taking care of myself.


  1. there will be no immortality because someone else will kill you. or, you'll kill yourself when you've just had enough. everyone who dreams of immortality never says what they would do with that time, considering they're not even doing anything right now. so an eternity of sitting around thumb twiddling in front of the tv and other stupid crap is not even remotely attractive.

    all gods die too. there's countless dead gods throughout history and every religion active today will someday perish. people move on, create new gods when the definitions of the old one become too cliche and hollow.

  2. Anon – Not true. You're still here, right? Why didn't you kill yourself this morning? When you're 105 years old, you'll very likely feel the same as you do right now.

    There will be immortality. There will be some sort of "filtering" process, where the risk-takers, depressed people, and bored people eventually die or get killed. But a percentage of us, people who enjoy life, and constantly reinvent themselves and seek out new and exciting things to do, will get older and older.

    A more interesting question is: What happens to children? If nobody dies, will we stop having babies?

  3. Someone has said a great deal about what could be done with all the time, and how long it would take to get bored. (a very long time)

  4. I would take your bet in a heart beat, considering that we would both be around.

    The problem with this is that we have no cure for numerous diseases that will eventually with time and more people to spread through and grow more deadly.

    the death rate is and always will be 100%

  5. It's fine, as long as we figure out space colonization first.

  6. Is that an old photograph? You look very good for 56.

  7. Thanks, it's very recent. I just try to do everything the scientists say that helps our health -- food, exercise, sunblock and so on.


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