Different people have different views on what it means to be a
“religion.” Many believe that a religion must require belief in a
supernatural agency or God, but this would overlook such movements as Unitarian-Universalism and Theravada Buddhism that are usually
classed as religious but do not emphasize belief in a supernatural
power. The U.S. courts generally take a broad view. As a case in
point, in 1965 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, U.S. v. Seeger, that “a
sincere and meaningful belief” that occupies a place in the lives of
its possessors parallel to that filled by orthodox beliefs in God is,
in effect, a religious belief.1 Some objective grounds for
considering Venturism a religion are: it is concerned with what is of
ultimate significance; it is concerned with what ought to be, both
from the standpoint of definition and of implementation; and it is
concerned with the attainment of human immortality. Serious
Venturists certainly find their commitment to be “sincere and
meaningful,” and it can occupy a place parallel to belief in a Deity
for adherents of traditional faiths.
Venturism addresses the problems of life, everything from extreme
inequality throughout humanity to damages to our environment that may threaten our future existence. Included are the present natural
limits on human life and health and how these might be circumvented to make life much better than it is now or ever has been. The position of Venturism is that it is up to human beings to solve life’s problems through reason, logic, science, and technology,
“inspired by love and guided by knowledge,” as Bertrand Russell aptly
phrased it.2 We have a firm conviction that all life’s problems
should be approached rationally, with the intention to bring about
and sustain what is good and right and what ought to be, for time
without end. Our rational approach includes the idea that science and
technology are progressing so that future capabilities for good will
be greater than today’s possibilities. We thus hope that now-terminal
illnesses will be curable and the aging process itself will be reversible so that persons can live indefinitely in a state of good health. We also advocate the low-temperature preservation of individuals who today experience clinical death, a practice known as cryonics. Through cryonics we think that such persons may eventually be resuscitated in good health and enjoy the benefits of greatly extended life.
The Venturist organization-the Society for Venturistm-has been
recognized by the U.S. government as a scientific, religious and
educational organization. Today we find, among thoughtful people, a
weakening or collapse of mystical beliefs as the scientific evidence
makes those beliefs increasingly untenable, coupled with recognition
that, nevertheless, there are basic needs religion fulfills.
Religion, after all, is the only thing that seriously attempts to
address all the deep problems of life, and we need to address these
problems now as much as in any previous age, if not more. As is true
in some religious traditions such as Unitarian-Universalism,
Venturist members can be atheists or have different religious beliefs
according to their background. The community they create is their
own. In 2012 the Venturist organization became a church. We hold
monthly meetings that are announced online, and members are welcome to set up local meetings and have done so from time to time.
(Meetings can be announced on our blog and information shared at
sister organizations such as Longecity.)
The classification of the Society for Venturism as a religious
organization and a church has advantages for our community. One
practical consequence emphasizes the seriousness of our commitment to what is of greatest importance: we try to help our members who are experiencing clinical death receive optimal cryonics care. We also
have a solemn commitment to do what we can to protect those in
cryopreservation and help them return to life and good health, when
that becomes possible. Venturist cryonicists receive a do-not-autopsy
card affirming that they are a religious objector to autopsy and
other procedures that would interfere with their cryopreservation in
the event of clinical death.
Our ethic is based on enlightened self-interest, extrapolated over
infinite time. We hope to be immortal. To safely interact with our
neighbors and to realize maximum benefit over this vast span of time
will require an extraordinary code of conduct, one we expect to
evolve even as we ourselves evolve. We cannot imagine what all the
complexities of this evolutionary process will be, but we think its
success will require extraordinary benevolence. Hatred and hostility,
after all, are dangerous habits, even in the brief span of present
natural life, and seem all the more inappropriate as we contemplate
an open-ended existence. Indifference, while an improvement, still
does not seem the safest nor the most beneficial course to follow,
but instead a condition of unity and harmony is far better.
Accordingly, we advocate the highest moral standards in our dealings
with others. We advocate respect and love for others, practicing the
Golden Rule, and being willing to defend others against danger. We do not think people should be absolved of responsibility for wrongdoing, but that toleration, mercy and forgiveness also have their importance.
We also recognize the beauty and value of the natural world, and in
fact see ourselves as an important part of nature, broadly interpreted. This interpretation must take account of human nature as well as that portion of nature that is manifest in our surroundings. Humans, alone among earthly life forms, know they are alive, and know they are mortal. The wish for immortality is deeply rooted in human nature, despite the efforts of some to deny it. We are trying to realize that wish, and thus to uphold and nurture that very important facet of our human nature. In so doing we are not advocating violence to “nature” as a whole. This is our world, and we wish to protect and appreciate its beauty for what we hope will be endless tomorrows.
Venturists support the various ways humans are working to end aging and now-terminal illnesses, ranging from medical breakthroughs to developments in artificial intelligence that could bring about the assistance of scientifically talented automata. Cryonics meanwhile is seen as a stepping-stone to the future for those who will not live long enough for medical breakthroughs that would give them indefinite life-spans. As a cryonicist one also supports research into organ preservation to help match organ donors to patients more effectively today.
No one can predict the future, but Venturists hope to see it and hope
to give back to it. Venturism is a community, a philosophy and a
religion with a moral code which its members are expected to follow-a reverence for life, to give back to the world, help end inequality,
to protect the rights of cryonicists to get optimal preservation,
long term care, and resuscitation, and to give back to the future if
given the chance.