Transhumanist Advent: Lift up your eyes and look at the Earth beneath

"Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath" (Isaiah 51:6)

In what is often called the overview effect, humans who have travelled into space and have viewed the earth from that elevated vantage point describe intense feelings of euphoria, interconnectedness, humility, awe, and the awareness of the fragility of life. National boundaries fade away, the atmosphere we often take for granted appears paper-thin, and the world appears as an oasis, silently suspended in an endless void.

Religion is at its best when it too produces these same sensations: euphoria, interconnectedness, humility, awe, and awareness of the sanctity of life. It is at its worst when it is used to produce the opposite: dogma, sectarianism, pride, dullness, and disregard for life. Jesus powerfully orients us towards the best in religion: "My peace I give you" (John 14:27), "In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these" (Matthew 25:40), "he that is greatest among you shall be your servant" (Matthew 23:11),  and "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son" (Matthew 18:10). Indeed, the "fruits of the spirit" has been canonized as "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance" (Galatians 5:22-23).

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel contrasted the difference between anti-science religion used to dull and oppress vs. science-welcoming religion that can awe and inspire:

“It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion–its message becomes meaningless.” (God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism)

May we turn to the example of Jesus, lift up our eyes to the heavens in spirit and with our tools and technology, then look at the earth beneath with re-invigorated humility and awe towards the sacredness of our world, life, and one another.

-Caleb Jones

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