Transhumanism Is the New Gnosticism

"Transhumanists, like Gnostics, tend to place little importance on our bodily appetites, reducing them to the level of distractions."

By Published on February 18, 2015

In the second and third centuries A.D., some Christian leaders felt it necessary to speak out against a movement of thought that had emerged within the early Church. They believed this new movement conflicted with the orthodox view handed down by the apostles and the Old Testament scriptures. The emerging movement, which was heavily influenced by the ideas of Plato, held that the material world was inherently corrupt and debasing, and our physical bodies were a type of prison. Our souls, on the other hand, were pure and eternal. The end goal of this movement was for one’s soul to be released from the bondage of the physical world, and to exist eternally in an ethereal heaven. This movement became known as Gnosticism.

While self-professed Gnostics are rare today, Gnosticism’s core beliefs live on in various forms, one of them being transhumanism. In its most general sense, transhumanism is not necessarily incompatible with Christianity — they share many of the same values — but there is definitely a prominent thread of transhumanist thought that has more in common with Gnosticism than Orthodoxy.

Consider the attitude that both Gnostics and some transhumanists have toward bodily appetites like food and sex. Because Gnostics greatly devalued the material world and our physical bodies as either unimportant or degrading, many of them engaged in ascetic practices. They would, for example, go on long fasts or strict diets, or abstain from sex altogether. At best, Gnostics viewed bodily pleasures as “worldly” distractions from greater pursuits; at worst, they viewed such pleasures as sinful regressions from their true purpose.

Christians also abstain from food and sex at times, but for very different reasons. It is not because they view bodily pleasures as unimportant, degrading, or inherently sinful. On the contrary, Christians recognize the inherent goodness and joy of these pleasures, and consider them important gifts from God. However, they might choose to abstain from them for a time in order to practice balance, to refocus, or to simply give up something they enjoy as an act of worship.

Transhumanists, like Gnostics, tend to place little importance on our bodily appetites, reducing them to the level of distractions — things we must do to survive, but wish we didn’t have to. Take, for example, the new food-replacement drink Soylent, which has become popular among techies, “life-hackers,” and others of the transhumanist persuasion. Soylent, as its advertisements claim, is intended to “free your body” from the chore of preparing and eating traditional food, while still providing all the essential nutrients your cells need through a chemically engineered sludge. Unsurprisingly, some who have tried it complain that Soylent takes the joy out of eating.

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No Longer Orphans
Alisa Keeton
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