Religion has laid claim over life’s mysteries. To the extent science casts light into shadow, it pushes back the realm of mystery, leaving a smaller domain for religion. At least, that’s the way clergy have often behaved, as if newly acquired knowledge were a direct threat to their authority.
Acknowledging that the earth is round and orbiting the sun is one thing. But we’re rapidly entering into an era which will present technologies that could more radically shift our paradigm. The embedded video lays out our likely future, one in which advances in genetic engineering will enable us to fundamentally rewrite the human genome. The technology poses both promise and pitfalls. Among the former lurk cures to innumerable diseases, including HIV and cancer, and the potential to slow or even reverse the aging process.
How will religion cope? Faith has always been tied inexorably to morality. “Where will you go when you die” remains the quintessential question leading to religious conversion. What happens if that question loses its relevance?
The short answer, from a Christian perspective, is that it can’t. Human technology has already done much to improve both morbidity and mortality. I have two sons and a wife who would not exist without modern medical methods (she would have surely died in childbirth before the advent of Cesarean section). Further enhancing our health may enable longer and happier lives, but it will never cure our worst ailment — sin.
Spiritually, a life lived in sin proves indistinguishable from death. Indeed, there’s a word for immortality in a state eternally separated from God. It’s called hell. Perhaps, in our technological achievement, we will succeed in crafting hell on Earth. If so, the new question leading to conversion may shift from “where will you go when you die” to “is this all there is.”