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Immortality, Life after Death
"If you were to destroy the belief in immortality in mankind, not only love but every living force on which the continuation of all life in the world depended, would dry up at once." Fyodor Dostoevsky
Immortality and Life after death
"Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I shall refresh you" - Matthew 11:28
Immortality - Immortality of the Soul, Paths to Immortality, Endless Life, Existence and Endless Life After Death
1. The quality or condition of being immortal.
2. Endless life or existence.
Endless life after death:
afterlife, deathlessness, eternity,
everlasting life, everlastingness.
Immortality, attribute of deathlessness ascribed to the soul in many religions and philosophies. Forthright belief in immortality of the body is rare. Immortality of the soul is a cardinal tenet of Islam and is held generally in Judaism, although it is not an essentially Jewish idea. The ancient Greeks and Romans believed in an afterlife, in which the souls of men lived on, but generally only the gods were considered truly immortal. The ancient Celts believed firmly in immortality. In the East, Zoroastrianism posited immortality. The religions arising in India (Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism) generally consider individual immortality undesirable and believe in reincarnation of men as a chain eventually leading to reunion with the infinite (Nirvana). Christianity teaches the resurrection of the body (in the sense of survival of personality) as well as immortality of the soul. "What would be the use of immortality to a person who cannot use well a half an hour." --- Ralph Waldo Emerson (American Poet, Lecturer and Essayist, 1803-1882)
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Why would any one want to be
Why would any one want to live to 150 and beyond?
In this issue you will read about the astounding leaps and bounds that science is making in the realm of ending disease and eliminating death. In about two decades, we may likely be faced with the choice of radically extending our lives - even living forever.
Most folks don't begin to consider these ideas until their elder years - often prompted by an aging body and a faltering mind.
A few may think about it at a young age ... but mostly, mortality becomes an issue the older we get, especially after we have passed the half-century mark of living on planet earth.
In order to stretch the believability-zone of the contemporary mind, I like to offer the extraordinary, the mysterious and the unexplainable. When we allow ourselves to think "out side the box" - even when, at first, we find it difficult to believe - we then begin to see creation in a whole new light of wonder and awe ... and life becomes so much more interesting!
The Illusion of Death
When I was a teenager, I was basically depressed and unhappy most of the time and I honestly believed that I was not going live very long. Born with serious ailments that greatly limited me as far as what I could do, I had not thought about any other possibilities for me, other than to just go to sleep and not wake up. In fact, my most favorite thing to do during those years was to sleep! It was, of course, the ultimate escape (short of actually dying) and it was there in the quiet void of unconsciousness that I could finally experience some relief from a difficult life.
In a way, that strong feeling of not living long played itself out in a deeply painful death - of a sort - when I was twenty-six. It was my second divorce and I felt like a profound failure. Every day I silently planned my suicide in my mind. When too afraid to carry it out, however, I feverishly prayed and begged God to take my life.
My prayers were answered in a bizarre yet mystical style. I did die - at least, the person who was originally born in this body died and another stepped in. Now some of you may be rolling your eyes at this point ... but just "hear" me out.
A walk-in or a walk-out?
A name has been given to this phenomena : "walk-in". The mention of such an experience was first tackled courageously more than thirty years ago by the then retired, award-winning Washington Post journalist, Elizabeth Montgomery. Amid the slew of her well written, best-selling metaphysical books (inspired by perennially wise "spirit guides" from the "other side"), she writes in great detail about "walk-ins" (souls from other life-times, another planet or dimension stepping into a human body that the former "owner" no longer needs or wants). None of this was known to me at the time of my "dying"; not until two years later when a new friend recommended I read her books after I described my "weird" experience to him.
Am I a "walk-in"? I don't know. It is certainly not something I can prove. Further more, the term "walk-in" is only a mediocre label given to an extraordinary experience that no one has yet understood nor has a better explanation for. The only thing I am certain of is that I fit Montgomery's description of a walk-in to a tee.
During those few of days of agonizing pain (of which I have never experienced before or since) some part of me "walked out" (and it certainly felt like dying) while another part of me - or perhaps, beyond me - "walked in". I literally became a very different person in a matter of a few days.
I gained some manner of validation that something strange and unexplainable happened to me when my ex-husband, close friends and few family members remarked on how different I was. My ex-husband claimed that he didn't know me any more - a remark he made only a few weeks after our separation. How could I have made such a vast change in personality in such a short period of time? Amusingly, he actually liked the "new me" better! But the "new me" would not tolerate the game-playing and the dishonesty. So ... no ... we did not get back together.
Where am I going with all of this?
Well, in regards to immortality - or at least in regards to extending life past the age of 150 or more - my experience is relevant because it alludes to what many philosophers and theologians of the past waxed at great length about : that our souls are eternal and everlasting - and that the physical body is merely a vehicle that the soul learns to use in order to navigate through earthly experiences.
In addition, there are ancient writings which tell that humans were once capable of not only living for hundreds and thousands of earth years, but also capable of leaving the body at will (a conscious death by choice) and in some cases, even transmuting the body and taking it with them (an ascension of a sort).
How does one get to this point of conscious dying - or living longer - by choice? Why must we die at all if we are immortal and everlasting at the core? And why would any one want to live for hundreds of years?
A reason to live
Modern science is making rapid progress in breaking down the DNA code, rearranging of our genetic make-up and finding the very key that controls length of life (as you will see in the Fantastic Voyage article below).
It has been predicted that in less than 50 years, science will have perfected the procedure and will be able to manipulate our DNA to greatly lengthen human life. But why would any one want to have their genes manipulated like that?
In regards to stem cell research, cloning cells to grow arms, legs and vital organs in order to replace those which have been damaged or are dysfunctional in some way seems to be a healthy direction for the genetic sciences. However, when it comes to extending life, somehow morality comes into the picture .... because not only is science developing the ability to extend life, they are also perfecting procedures to clone a full human being.
Of course, there will be those who will dive in without hesitation and be more than willing to have their genes altered in order to increase their life span and stave off death. Some may even be willing to take on a cloned human body. Yet, I believe that as eternal beings, we have a natural ability to lengthen our life spans right here and now without genetic manipulation - of which we have no idea as to what the long-term side effects may be.
There are, of course, critical keys to generating a natural increase in human life span. Some of my viewpoints are substantiated by the renowned authors of Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever by Ray Kurzweil(one of the world's leading high-tech inventors and futurists) and Terry Grossman, MD (one of the world's foremost authorities on anti-aging and medical director of a leading longevity clinic).
Kurzweil and Grossman point out that in a few decades, science will have the skills and knowledge to end disease and lengthen human life spans by hundreds of years or more. However, they emphasize that many "baby boomers" may not live long enough to take advantage of the science. In Fantastic Voyage, they tell how we can build health and increase life spans now to enhance our chances of still being around when the developing science is perfected and becomes easily available.
They further present the factors that will maximize a person's potential for lengthening life spans using quality nutrition, natural alternative remedies and lifestyle changes. After that, they present that the science of bio-engineering will take over in the next few decades and will sustain the human body through adding altered cells.
Care of the body
Kurzweil and Grossman state that one major key in greatly lengthening the span of life is care of the human body. The human body does best on the bio-energetic quality of whole, live foods and natural alternative remedies. In eliminating foods and substances that contribute to aging, and instead, consuming the nutrients from whole foods that the body needs, miracles can then take place.
The body can repair itself, rejuvenate and regenerate when it has enough of the proper nutritional dietary elements along with proper exercise. There is no need for drugs, medications or invasive medical practices (with the exception of life-saving procedures). In fact, when the body is in balance and harmony, there are no cravings nor desires for drugs, alcohol, smoking, medications or other abusive and unhealthy substances. Cravings and desires for nutrient poor foods fades away, too. I concur with their viewpoint because this has been my personal experience - as has been the experience of thousands of others who have followed such a path.
Another critical factor to increasing life spans in a natural fashion is to have a good reason to live! Wanting to extend life because of the fear of dying is not a viable reason to strive for immortality - or life extension. In having a good reason to live, getting in touch with what impassions us leads to greater purpose in life. This likely falls under the category of lifestyle changes since changing our viewpoints about ourselves and our relationship to the world automatically influences our choices and begins to shift how we behave.
This is the creative link that unites us with that Higher Power which some call God: for when we are on purpose, we begin to receive sustenance in a whole different manner. We become energized through creative life force and every cell in our body begins to vibrate at a higher frequency. The aging process begins to slow down.
It is totally possible to live on creative energy. I know this to be true because I've done it for days at a time when I've experienced a birth of an idea and put it into action. During those times there was little or no need for food, very little sleep ... and yet, I had lots of steady, alert energy for days. Others have described similar experiences, too, at the height of their creativity.
Dropping the Old Self
If I am indeed a "walk-in", then the "old me" simply had no good reason to live, felt hopeless and just gave up. And another soul - or perhaps a more evolved or future aspect of myself - "filled in" because it needed to be here and has a lot more reasons to live a long life. After taking years to clean up the karmic mess the "old me" created - including healing a very sickly body and eliminating some destructive, rigid beliefs and habit patterns - it has taken me a long time to get to the place of understanding and accepting the larger picture of why I am here.
Do I have memories of my life in this body before my "walk-in" experience? Yes ... although, when I remember them its more like being an observer watching myself with no emotion. It's similar to being in the audience while watching a movie with the same kind of detachment. I see the image of myself on a screen acting in various roles that looks like an old black and white film. There is no longer any emotion associated with any event prior to the "walk-in" experience. Even the worst of scenarios are memories without any feeling attached to them.
However, in order to "jog" my COSMIC memory and awaken more fully to my "life's purpose" - I had to endure more crisis events during the thirty years that followed my "walk-in" experience. I came within inches of dying yet again: twice through illness, once through a severe auto accident and another through an extremely unpleasant circumstance where I actually did die a physical death, traveled briefly to the "other side" (where existence is far more real, vibrant and alive than here) and then came back to life - commonly called a Near Death Experience.
These experiences taught me some very profound truths: that in order to realize more of my eternal self - and add a few healthy and enjoyable decades onto my life - I had to learn to allow myself to go through the "little deaths".
"One has to pay dearly for immortality; one has to die several times while one is still alive." --- Friedrich Nietzsche (German classical Scholar and Philosopher - 1844-1900)
Those fragmented parts of our personality that represent the false beliefs that influence and distort our perceptions of reality are the parts that need to integrate, fade away or die. When these parts of ourselves die (or perhaps it is the separation between the true self and its fragments that dissolves and nothing actually dies), it sometimes happens through great emotional and mental pain. Some call it a psychological death, or the death of the ego, or being "born again" - or on a more amusing note - a serious attitude adjustment.
Yet the importance of these "little deaths" is that the aspects of our consciousness that keep us limited, fearful, lacking, fragmented, shamed, separated, pessimistic, unfulfilled and unhappy - falls away like a dead leaf falls from its branch. It dies and leaves a space ... an opening ... to be filled by more of our whole, evolved and truthful selves.
Those who believe they cannot - or will not - change their beliefs or thinking patterns because their need to keep their viewpoints alive is stronger than their desire to live fully, healthfully and authentically ... will likely go through the Big Death in accordance with what society deems is an appropriate stage to die. Not that this is wrong, of course ... it only represents where most folks unknowingly choose a path that greatly limits their potential rather than to be more fully liberated.
I could have died a physical death in all those incidents that I related above. However, I did not die because I chose to live - AND I also chose in those moments to ask a Higher Power (God, Spirit, etc) to show me what it was that I was supposed to learn from those experiences.
Even though I experienced an extreme amount of pain, confusion, bewilderment, terror and hopelessness in those circumstances - and more than once I whined, "Why me?" - I never once hated, blamed nor resented any of those people who played a major role in bringing about those unfortunate situations: not the three drivers who plowed one after the other into my stationary car at high speeds - with me in it; not the person who sucked my energy dry, used me up and "broke my heart"; not the person who physically assaulted me and wanted me dead.
Not blaming does not mean that any of those people responsible should be in my life or that I should look them up and be their buddy. Even though the above circumstances were either innocently or deliberately perpetrated - its simply healthy and wise to stand clear of "toxic" elements. After all, if you know where the community cesspool is, you don't go hang out there for health reasons! Don't get me wrong ... the community cesspool (and people who act like one) has an important and necessary role to play regardless of any unpleasantness.
So ... I was able to accept the circumstances without blame and moved on. In some situations it took longer to move on ... but move on I did. And as you may have already guessed, achieving forgiveness - or perhaps more appropriately - achieving "non-blame" - is a critical key to extending one's life and to have that extended life be a very healthy one.
Immortality - or living longer - is not just about reaching a very old age.
Lots of folks have reached 90, 100 and beyond, even though they smoked all their lives, drank alcohol, ate poorly, had a lousy attitude about people and life, and were basically bitter, ungrateful and hateful until the day they died. If one lives a long life in a pain ridden, arthritic body; if one lives long with dementia or Alzheimer's; if one lives long with depression and hopelessness; if one lives long with resentments and lots of regrets about the past - then living a long life beyond the expected norm is not all that desirable nor enviable. Better to live a short life of good health, gentile thoughts, a peaceful heart, a loving attitude and kind acts towards others - than to live for 200 years without those things.
To begin a journey toward radical life extension... we must want to live for the sake of fulfilling one's purpose, to participate in the world in being of service to others and contributing to positive change. In rising to the next level of fulfillment, its critically important to want to live fully, authentically and do what impassions us.
Are you passionate about your goals and dreams? If not, find something to be passionate about in which you can apply your heart and soul. Are you healthy and content with yourself? If not, then find a way to eliminate what stops you and then build a new lifestyle and a new attitude.
Be open to receive and actualize your greater, more evolved self - as I am convinced that everyone has a greater, more evolved self waiting to step in. In this way a greatly extended life makes sense. Immortality makes sense, too.
And when immortality dawns, then time disappears and a whole new world is born.
More Information About Immortality is the concept of existing for a potentially history humans have had the desire to live forever. The most commonly conceived form of immortality involves a spiritual existence after physical death.
Many people still believe in immortality of this type today.
Many people believe that they can achieve "immortality" through their legacy and achievements they leave behind. This view of immortality is vastly different than the others in that it places value not on the continuity of one's physical, spiritual, or intellectual " self ", but rather on how one will be remembered by generations to come. This view of immortality is embraced in many Jewish philosophies. Another view of immortality concentrates on leaving offspring, or immortality via evolution, which is curiously similar to ' theory of the selfish gene.>
However, there has always been a different breed of "immortalist" one who believes it may be possible to avoid death altogether. These people believe in the possibility of immortality in a physical sense, rather than or in addition to immortality in a spiritual sense. Gilgamesh was one such as this, as well as many European and Chinese Alchemists (Gunpowder was said to have been invented by Chinese alchemists in pursuit of immortality). Juan Ponce de Leon supposedly was pursuing the fountain of youth when he travelled to Florida in 1513.
Causes of death
There are three main causes of death: aging disease and trauma.
Aubrey de Grey, a leading scientist in the field of aging, defines aging as follows: "a collection of cumulative changes to the molecular and cellular structure of an adult organism, which result in essential metabolic processes, but which also, once they progress far enough, increasingly disrupt metabolism, resulting in pathology and death." The current causes of aging in humans are cell loss (without replacement), oncogenic nuclear mutations and epimutations, cell senescence, mitochondrial mutations, lysosomal aggregates, extracellular aggregates, random extracellular cross-linking, immune system decline, and endocrine changes. This is a long list, but it also appears to be complete. Eliminating aging would mean finding a way to deal with each of these causes. This is indeed a formidable task, but progress is being made.
Disease also is theoretically surmountable via technology. Human understanding of genetics is leading to cures and treatments of a myriad of previously incurable diseases. The mechanisms by which other diseases do their damage are becoming better understood. Sophisticated methods of detecting diseases early are being developed.is becoming better understood. Neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's may soon be curable with the use of stem cells. Breakthoughs in cell biology and telomere research are leading to treatments for cancer. Vaccines are being researched for AIDS and tuberculosis. Genes associated with type 1 diabetes and certain types of cancer have been discovered allowing for new therapies to be developed. Artificial devices attached directly to the nervous system may restore sight to the blind. Drugs are being developed to treat a myriad of other diseases and ailments. Most likely the hardest cause of death to overcome is trauma. The problems of aging and disease usually at least provide ample time to solve them, if the technology exists. But even in a postulated world where aging and disease were correctable conditions, getting shot in the head is not. In situations where time available to provide treatment is extremely short, the success rate of even advanced paramedical technology remains low. Unless technology advances to the point (via perhaps nanotechnology) that a body can automatically treat itself for severe trauma, then the time it takes to deliver a patient to a care facility will likely remain the overriding factor.
Types of immortality
Immortality can be divided into two main types: physical and spiritual. Physical immortality is the unending existence of the mind from a physical source such as a brain or computer. Spiritual immortality is unending existence of a person after physical death such as a soul.
Technological immortality is the name given to the prospect for much longer life spans made possible by scientific advances in a variety of fields: nanotechnology, emergency room procedures, genetics, human physiology, engineering, regenerative medicine, microbiology, and others. Contemporary life spans in the advanced industrial societies are already markedly longer than those of the past because of better nutrition, availability of health care, standard of living and bio-medical scientific advances. Technological immortality predicts further progress for the same reasons over the near term. An important aspect of current scientific thinking about immortality is that nanotechnology will play an essential role in extreme life extension. For example, Robert Freitas, a leading medical nanorobotics theorist suggests we may be able to create tiny medical nanorobots that could go through our bloodstreams, find dangerous things like cancer cells and bacteria, and kill them. Freitas anticipates that gene-therapies and nanotechnology will eventually make the human body effectively self-sustainable and capable of living indefinitely, short of severe trauma. Some suggest we will be able to continually create biological or synthetic replacement parts to replace damaged or dying ones.
Some people believe that such treatments will not be available in their natural lifespan. Cryonics is the practice of preserving organisms (either intact specimens or only their brains) for possible future revival by storing them at cryogenic temperatures where metabolism and decay are almost completely stopped. Ideally this would allow clinically dead people to be brought back in the future after cures to the patients' diseases have been discovered and aging is reversible. Modern Cryonics procedures use a process called vitrification which creates a glasslike state rather than freezing as the body is brought to low temperatures. This process reduces the risk of ice crystals damaging the brain structure. Many people who wish to become physically immortal think of Cryonics as a backup plan in case the emerging life extension technologies don't develop rapidly enough.
Some believe that biological forms have inherent limitations in their design--primarily, their fragility and inability to immediately morph to fit the environment. A way around that predicament may someday present itself in the ability to "exist" outside of the biological form. Over the long term, the biological nature of humanity may only be temporary; should technology permit, people may circumvent death and evolution, simply by taking artificial forms. One interesting possibility involves the personality and memories via. Some propose that, thanks to computing power, it will someday be possible to upload human consciousness onto a computer system, and live indefinitely in a virtual environment. This could be accomplished via advanced cybernetics, where computer hardware would initially be installed in the brain to help sort memory or accelerate thought processes. Gradually more and more components would be added until the person's entire brain functions were handled by artificial devices, without any sharp transitions that would lead to some identity issues mentioned below. At this point, the human body would become only an accessory and the mind could be transferred to any sufficiently powerful computer. A person in this state would then be essentially immortal, short of cataclysmic destruction of the entire civilization and their computers.
Quantum immortality is the name for the speculation that the Everett many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics implies that a conscious being cannot cease to be. The idea is highly controversial. Theoretically given any potentially fatal event that could happen to, say, a quantum physicist, there will be possible universes in which the physicist indeed dies and other possible universes where the physicist somehow survives. As time goes on the physicist is dead in more and more of all possible universes due to random accidents and aging, however because there are infinite possibilities, there will always be at least one universe in which the physicist miraculously lives another day. The idea behind quantum immortality is that the physicist would only be able to experience the universes in which he survives, even though they may be an increasingly small subset of the possible universes. In this way, the physicist would appear from his own standpoint to be living forever. Some of the potential ultimate fates of the Universe could present an eventual death with no means of avoidance no matter how unlikely, but even then in an infinite universe there could be some means of working around such a limit.
Long before modern science made such speculation feasible, people wishing to escape death sought what we might term mystical immortality, turning to the supernatural world for answers. Examples include the medieval alchemists and their search for the Philosopher's Stone, or more modern religious mystics such as Sri Aurobindo, who believed in the possibility of achieving physical immortality through spiritual transformation.
Rastafarians believe in physical immortality as a part of their religious doctrines. They believe that after their God has called the day of judgement they will go to what they describe as Mount Zion in Africa to live in freedom for ever. Instead of having everlasting life, which implies an end in the word last, the rastas look forward to having everliving life. Another group that believe in physical immortality are the Rebirthers, who believe that by following the connected breathing process of rebirthing they will live forever physically.
Some people believe physical immortality would not be possible or even desirable. Jacques-Yves Cousteau, in the preface to his book The Ocean World, expressed his meditations on physical immortality, as a part of life and its adaptive processes: 'Death,' Cousteau states, 'is fundamental to evolution;' and 'evolution is fundamental to survival'. He concludes that, biologically speaking, 'immortality does not present a possible means to avoid death': "Mortal or immortal, [an organism] must die." Michael Shermer believes there is no significant scientific evidence for the proposed methods of achieving physical immortality. He says about them, "All have some basis in science, but none has achieved anything like scientific confirmation."
In Hindu myth & Yoga powers, there is rumoured to be what is known as "body jumping" - a forgotten and voodoo term used to denote a person chanting a mantra to jump into another host and therefore live a longer life. Many Indian fables and tales include such instances of people doing so, that such an "immortality" method cannot be dismissed outright.
Spiritual immortality, on the other hand, is a belief that is expressed in nearly every religious tradition. In both Western and Eastern religions, the spirit is an energy or force that transcends the mortal shell, and returns to either the heavens or the cycle of life, directly or indirectly depending on the tradition. Below we consider the perspective some of the world's most popular religions on spiritual immortality.
Buddhists believe that a person goes through a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. However, in Buddhism there is no belief in an eternal soul, but rather a collection of habits, desires, and memories. After death a person is reborn on either as a human or in some other form, depending on the fruition of karma.
Christians believe that every person will be resurrected bodily: some to life forever in the presence of God, and some to never-ending consciousness of guilt, separation from God, and punishment for sin. Eternal damnation is depicted in the Bible as a realm of constant physical and spiritual anguish in a lake of fire, and a realm of darkness away from God. Some suggest that the fires of Hell are a theological metaphor, standing for the inescapable presence of God endured in absence of love for God. Catholic theology also teaches that there is a realm called Purgatory where souls who have accepted Jesus are purged of their sins before they are admitted into Heaven. Some Christian sects also believe in a third realm called Limbo (Latin: border), which is the final destination of souls who have not been baptized, but who have been innocent of mortal sin. Souls in Limbo include unbaptized infants and those who lived virtuously but were never exposed to Christianity in their lifetimes.
Islam believes that everyone has an immortal soul that will live on in either Paradise or Hell depending on how one lives their life. Like Christianity and Judaism, there are no second chances following death in Islam. On judgement day one's place of existence for all eternity is decided.
Hinduism believes in an immortal soul which is reincarnated after death. According to Hinduism, people repeat a cycle of life, death, and rebirth (a cycle called samsara). If they live their life well, their Karma increases and their station in the next life will be higher, and conversely lower if they live their life poorly. Eventually after many life times of perfecting one's karma, the soul is freed from the cycle and gets to live forever with God. Hinduism has no version of Hell, although if a soul consistently lives very evil lives, they could work their way down to the very bottom of the cycle.
Judaism claims that the righteous dead will be resurrected in the "messianic age" with the coming of the messiah. They will then be granted immortality in a perfect world. The wicked dead, on the other hand, will not be resurrected at all. This is in contrast to Christianity where the wicked dead are still immortal and exist forever in Hell. This is not the only Jewish belief about the afterlife. Others do believe in a version of Hell. The Torah is not specific about the afterlife, so there are differences in views among believers.
Shinto claims that except for those who choose or are dispatched to the underground world of Yomi, every living and non-living beings may lose their body but not their Tamashii (soul) and they live together with mortal souls as an immortal being called Kami. Unlike the previously mentioned religions, Shinto lets anything to attain Kami status regardless of its existence before becoming Kami. Therefore, even those that do not believe in Shinto may choose to become Kami, as well as things like a rock, a tree, or even a robot. Some may be reincarnated for various reasons. Shinto has no version of Hell or a judgement day.
Concepts of immortality
Considerations of immortality usually bring to mind the idea of unending existence, a freedom from the concerns of annihilation and death. Often times, talk of the immortality of the soul arises in conjunction with talk of immortality. The ideas of science and religion find common goals in the perpetuity of man's existence.
Unending existence is too simple a condition for immortality
As a thought experiment, suppose that clinical immortality was possible, in which through advanced life support machinery or similar, the bodily functions of a comatose human could be kept running in perpetuity. Is it good news to keep a vegetative human's heart pumping for aeons? According to the vast majority of ethicists, "Not at all," since unending biological functioning is not what is at issue in immortality. Ultimately, what one desires is some sort of permanent preservation of personal identity, not just unceasing metabolic integrity.
This brings up the philosophical issue of the meaning of consciousness. As another thought experiment, suppose a surgeon replaces part of a man's brain with a pacemaker (this is actually done to treat Parkinson's). After this procedure is done, the patient comes out of his anesthesia feeling like the same person. For the intentions of this experiment, suppose that doctors already fully understand the brain and are able to successfully move sections of the brain's neural network and memories onto hardware where they can perfectly emulate the "architecture" of the brain. Over a period of time, suppose that the individual has many more operations with the intent of gradually replacing parts of his brain with computer hardware. Eventually, the man has a brain made entirely out of computer parts. The man comes out claiming that he is the same person as before. He has the same memories and acts the same.
Now suppose that instead of replacing parts of his brain with hardware, he copies the entire brain onto hardware. The computerized version of this man's brain acts the same way, and claims that it is the same man who underwent the procedure. The original man is still alive, however. Are the machine and the man the same person? Are they somehow linked in conscious? These are the types of situations that illustrate the lack of knowledge concerning the meaning of consciousness that we as a civilization currently possess.
The freedom from concerns of annihilation and death is insufficient for immortality
Essential to many of the world's religions is a doctrine of an eternal afterlife. But well known narratives from Christianity and Islam show why freedom from annihilation and death could (in principle) not be desirable:
"The rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence."- (Luke 16:22-26 King James Bible Translation)
"Those who are wretched shall be in the Fire: There will be for them therein (nothing but) the heaving of sighs and sobs: They will dwell therein for all the time that the heavens and the earth endure, except as thy Lord willeth: for thy Lord is the (sure) accomplisher of what He planneth. And those who are blessed shall be in the Garden: They will dwell therein for all the time that the heavens and the earth endure, except as thy Lord willeth: a gift without break." - (The Noble Qur'an, 11:106-108)
Instances from other religions could be adduced. Mere perpetual existence is not enough. Ultimately, one desires that this existence be of a desirable quality. As the prevalence of suicide suggests, people would often prefer not to exist at all, than exist in a severely unpleasant environment.
When talk of a "soul" arises
When talk of a "soul" arises, immediately, concerns of psychology and metaphysics become relevant. Suppose, as yet, another thought experiment:
An engineer produces a wondrous, new, nanotechnology machine. At two key moments during life, he might eagerly announce, a human would step into this device. At the first trip into the device, a full molecular scan of all 7 x 1027 atoms  in the body is recorded. At the second trip into the device, ideally many years later, the molecular structure is instantly dissimilated. Furthermore, during this second trip, a reference is taken of the earlier scan, and an appropriate amount of organic goo is added or subtracted to precisely match the configuration of materials original to the 7 x 1027 atoms as configured at the first scan. As an application—Jones at 30 walks in; Jones at 30 walks out. Years later, Jones at 80 walks in; Jones (allegedly) at 30 walks out. Has the engineer done Jones a favor?
According to most ethicists, the engineer has not done Jones a favor even if Jones could, as it were, "wash, rinse, and repeat" this whole cycle indefinitely. First off, it is anything but clear that the human exiting the machine at the second trip is Jones. Call the person who steps out (whether he is Jones or not) "Jones*". Presuming that memory is a physiological structure encoded by neural pathways, Jones* would not preserve the memory of Jones, since Jones* would not have the encoded neural pathways of an 80-year-old, but only of a 30-year-old. Hence, all that Jones was (after 30, anyway) as the collection of memory experiences upon second entry into the device is lost; thus, Jones is effectively dead. Immortality would offer little if the best results obtainable were a recurring coda of temporal duplicates.
Second, even if the eager engineer were to modify his machine (due to popular demand) so as to configure all the neural pathways of Jones* to match Jones, this would still present problems. Jones does not want a perfect duplicate to exit the machine at the second trip, but Jones himself wants to exit the machine. Granted, if all were done discreetly, Jones' wife, Jones' mistress, and Jones' poker buddies would think that Jones* was Jones, and even Jones* himself might think he was Jones, but thinking that X is true is hardly a guarantee that X really is true.
Third, the Jones/Jones* problem is at issue in religious accounts of resurrection. Since humans share substantial quanta of their atoms with others who have preceded them in history (i.e., coffins leak, eventually, and nature cycles the organic material back through the biosphere), any resurrection cannot use all the original atomic collection for each individual to be resurrected. New material would be required; thus, worries about a duplicate thinking that s/he was the original person arise for the pious as well as for the pagan. The theological answer to this objection is that either: A) it doesn't matter if all your exact biomatter is exactly the same at the time of resurrection as when you died, so long as your soul is inside. Or B) if God is going to use divine power to resurrect a slew of people he can use divine power to redivvy up the biomatter as well if that's important.
Apparently, on any account where immortality requires a remanufacture of a body in order to maintain character identity, seemingly insurmountable difficulties present themselves, especially due to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. Some views of quantum immortality approach the general issue of immortality differently.
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