Non-biological bodies & digital immortality

The director of engineering at Google, Ray Kurzweil–who has written a couple of books on these subjects– told a conference that in about 30 years, we will be able to download our minds into the internet to achieve “digital immortality.”  We will also be able to dispense with our physical bodies in favor of “non-biological bodies.”

Think of these goals as the promises of a new religion for our day.  Note the gnosticism, that ancient but always recurring heresy that denigrates the body and the material creation.  No families would be needed, since there would be no need for reproduction.  This would seem to herald the end of sex, though perhaps it would simply be the next step in internet pornography replacing sex.  (Though what would be the locus of desire without bodies?)  Getting rid of biological bodies, of course, would mean killing them, so this opens the door to mass murders, but that would be all right since people’s “minds”–which is the only part that counts–would be downloaded into Google’s servers.  Not much privacy there, but we could access everyone else’s minds, which would be the new version of human relationships, replacing such retro concepts as love and community.

What else?  (After the jump, details from Kurzweil’s sermon to the futurist conference.) [Read more…]

Religion and crime

The worst criminals tend to be very religious.  In fact, they often use religion to rationalize their misdeeds.  Of course, in doing so, their theology is horrendous.  Nicholas C. DiDonato reports on some research that studied  How criminals use religion to justify their crimes.  Details after the jump. [Read more…]

The Numinous

Many years ago, I read The Idea of the Holy by the Lutheran phenomenologist Rudolph Otto.  This book profoundly influenced C. S. Lewis, who writes about it in Surprised by Joy, and I have to say that it also influenced me. Touchstone Magazine has published a fascinating article entitled Surprised by Awe: C. S. Lewis & Rudolf Otto’s The Idea of the Holy  by Clara Sarrocco.

Otto was describing and analyzing a distinct kind of religious experience that he called “numinous,” from the Latin numen, meaning “divine power.”  It is the perception of awe-inspiring, transcendent mystery.   If  “mystical” experience means feeling one with God, the numinous is almost its opposite, the sense of coming into contact with some One “wholly other” than oneself.  It is overwhelming, effacing the self while also filling the self with ineffable joy.  The numinous goes beyond the rational, but Otto is careful to explain that it stands in relationship to objective religious doctrines. [Read more…]

Family and Secularization

Christian scholar Mary Eberstadt has a new book entitled How the West Really Lost God: A New Theory of Secularization. From the editorial description at Amazon:

In this magisterial work, leading cultural critic Mary Eberstadt delivers a powerful new theory about the decline of religion in the Western world. The conventional wisdom is that the West first experienced religious decline, followed by the decline of the family. Eberstadt turns this standard account on its head. Marshalling an impressive array of research, from fascinating historical data on family decline in pre-Revolutionary France to contemporary popular culture both in the United States and Europe, Eberstadt shows that the reverse has also been true: the undermining of the family has further undermined Christianity itself. . . .

Her conclusion considers this tantalizing question: whether the economic and demographic crisis now roiling Europe and spreading to America will have the inadvertent result of reviving the family as the most viable alternative to the failed welfare state—fallout that could also lay the groundwork for a religious revival as well.

[Read more…]

IRS also targeted religious groups

It wasn’t just Tea Party groups that the IRS harassed, delayed, and audited.  Some religious groups were too, including some that already had the non-profit exemption.  See the list after the jump. [Read more…]

The world’s worst violators of religious freedom

The worst countries for religious freedom are either Muslim or atheist.  (Burma is Buddhist.)  We understand about Islam, but atheists like to present themselves as tolerant.  What does it tell us that no countries of Christian heritage are on the list?  (After the jump: the 15 countries currently on the official list of the worst religious rights violators.) [Read more…]