Why a Religious Person Can Choose Cryonics
In October 2020 I joined the Tomorrow Biostasis team. Upon accepting the job, many of my family and friends had questions about my motivation for wanting to join a company whose goal is to essentially “bring people back from the dead”. Many of the questions I receive go something like this: “Do you think this aligns with your beliefs?” and “How does it make you feel to be a part of something that goes against God?”
To be absolutely clear I unashamedly consider myself a Christian. In short, I believe in a connection between mind, body, and spirit, and that this “completes’’ a person. While I still have doubts, and don’t consider myself a traditionalist, I will likely continue to be a Chrisitian for the foreseeable future.
I also want to be absolutely clear that I am also a woman of science. Through my studies I’ve used the Christian Bible to examine meaning behind myself and the relationship I have with others, but I am not a fundamentalist. I believe in evolution as fact, and I trust in science and most if not all advancements mankind has made. While I’m not here to give a complete explanation of my faith and beliefs, I do feel the need to explain my background a bit as it is relevant to my motivation for writing this post.
While I am writing from a Christain perspective, I believe my words are relevant to most other montheisitic and even polythiesitic religions. The mention of God in this text can be replaced with the concept of a non-Christian God/s or another spiritual concept. My goal is to help religious people understand the true aim of cryopreservation companies, so that they can make a well informed decision about if this is something that could be for them.
What most religious people have against Cryopreservation
Problem 1: They do not understand what it is
I believe there are two main reasons why religious people might oppose cryopreservation. The more significant of the two is that some religious people do not understand what it means to be cryopreserved. Many ask me why I’m trying to “Play God” and bring people back from the dead. As soon as someone asks me this question I know that they have not been properly introduced to this topic.
First, it is important to be clear what we consider as death. As humans have developed medical technology our definition of death has changed. For simplicity let’s consider “death” when a person’s heart stops beating. (It is a bit more complicated than this, but I will use this when referring to legal death.)
I think the best example I use for explaining this to others is relating cryopreservation to the development of CPR. CPR was discovered in the 20th century. So if you were in a situation where you stopped breathing in the 19th century, a medical professional could have considered you to be dead. At this point in time we did not have the knowledge nor technology to heal people from the condition of “not breathing” and so, by all standards at that time, they were dead.
Even if you have a very orthodox set of religious beliefs, there aren’t many that would say that they believe CPR is an act against God. In fact, there are many religious people that work in healthcare and medicine who regularly use modern practices such as CPR to save people everyday. Although far more complicated, I believe that cryopreservation and the act of reviving a cryopreserved patient is conceptually similar to many methods of medicine that we regularly use. Check out this article to find out more about how cryopreservation works.
Most people (religious or not) would want CPR performed on them if it were necessary, or would opt to take antibiotics if they had an infection because they (at least at a very basic level) understand how these things work to save them. It makes sense to oppose something that you believe completely contradicts what you put your faith in. Therefore, I believe with the proper education, a good amount of previously opposed people would choose cryopreservation after they have had the opportunity to learn more about it.
Problem 2: They understand what it is, but believe it goes “too far” or interferes with the afterlife.
The second thing I believe religious people have against cryopreservation is not as common, but is something I have been addressed with. And it’s that cryopreservation is science that has gone too far. It is the belief that right now we have reached the limit of what death should be and anything further is an interference with God’s will for us to join the afterlife.
I have to counter this in two parts. The first being
- How far is too far to save a person’s life?
When discussing the extent of the technology that we currently use to revive people I like to use an extreme and very personal case. I’ll use the example of my mother (who is a very conservative Christian).
At the age of 31 she went into cardiac arrest. She flatlined and experienced what could have technically been considered “death”. Through use of modern technology (multiple shocks from a defibrillator) she was revived and is still alive to this day at the age of 64.
Now here comes my greatest defense for why cryopreservation does not go too far: As previously mentioned my mother in this case, “died”. It is unclear why she was able to be revived and someone in a similar state could not be, but one thing is certain she reached a state at which some medical professionals would have stopped trying to save her. She is a clear example that there is so much about death that we do not understand. Death is far more complex than someone’s heart stopping. It’s a process full of mystery.
As medicine and technology advances it’s possible that touch-and-go cases like my mother’s will be better understood and we will increase the number of people revived and also the success rate of the revival procedure of recently flatlined patients.
There are things we simply do not understand NOW that we may understand later and be able to fix with ease. I believe that cryopreservation, with development, could become something that is well accepted and regularly used in the future.
People often fear what they cannot understand, or what cannot currently be understood at their given time. For those who would like to say that cryopreservation goes too far, my question is at what point have we gone too far to save a human life? Should we have stopped at heart transplants? After all, a Protestant 15th century doctor would likely have called this procedure witchcraft. Or do we take our God given abilities to the fullest capacity that we have been gifted, and do whatever we can to make sure people can enjoy what many consider the blessing of life?
- If there is a point that is too far, then isn’t this impossible?
I do like to address those who have more conservative beliefs because I feel that this group is often met with direct opposition rather than understanding from the scientific community.
Let’s say cryopreservation with the goal of reviving a human is indeed a method of “cheating” God. If this is the case, then there is nothing humans will be able to do against an all powerful God. If it is God’s will for a soul to go to heaven, revival simply won’t work. If the point at which we now consider a person legally dead is true death, (ie nothing can be recovered from this person’s memory or otherwise what makes them them) then their “soul” cannot be recaptured from heaven, the afterlife, or the next reincarnation of that person. If religious people are fundamentally correct in what they believe, no technological effort could overcome God.
With that being said, even if you don’t believe in cryopreservation working as a tool to revive someone after death, it also has the potential to benefit other areas of science and medicine.
Even if we can’t bring people back from what we currently know as death, there are still far more opportunities for cryopreservation. We currently use methods similar to cryopreservation to allow people to preserve human sperm and eggs. This practice has allowed many couples to have a child in a case when they would have never been able to.
Additionally, the development of technology in cryopreservation has the potential to help us in other areas. For example, this could be used for long term organ storage and help patients who need very specific transplants. We could use cryopreservation to create a long term organ bank and make sure that no one would ever die from lack of a needed liver, kidney, etc. This technology has the potential to be used in other life saving (not revival specific) ways, and the research behind it should continue to be pushed forward.
At the end of the day there will always be people who vehemently oppose what we do at Tomorrow Biostasis. I am not trying to disclaim or disprove anyone’s beliefs. I’m also not trying to convince religious people that they should be cryopreserved. There are non-religious people who only believe in science that fully understand what this is, and decide that they do not want to have this done to them when they die. My hope is that by explaining what we do and having a respectful conversation with those of any religion, we can give more people the opportunity to make an informed choice to be cryopreserved. If a person wants to sign up for cryopreservation, they shouldn’t feel like they are compromising their faith for the chance at more life.