Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The End of Human Specialness

I just wrapped up a 12-week class that was ostensibly about the topic of "heaven". Though I'm quite sure it wasn't what most people were expecting. Rather than trying to project or describe what may or may not happen or exist after physical death, I approached the topic from the perspective of trying to place an idea or concept of an afterlife into a rational framework that reconciles with modern science (in terms of mind/body issues, concepts of "soul" or "spirit", personality, memory, cognition/intelligence, psychology, neuroscience, artificial intelligence), "hangs together" cogently as a systematic philosophy (i.e., how does heaven reconcile with creation and a perfect creator? how does free will reconcile with the inability to sin in some perfected existence, etc.?).

But one of the seminal ideas I tried to build and convince people of is that one of the truly great and unique messages of Jesus is the infinite and unique value of each individual person - and how this message changed the human species and human civilization radically and completely - and how this message has been lost by the Church and is gradually fading from society. The conclusion was the great opportunity Jesus-followers have to seek to renew and uplift this radical message and press it forward into our world not by religion, dogma, ritual or superstition, but by service, sacrifice, compassion and a commitment to systems and institutions characterized by this value system and this ethic. And to the degree and extent we do these kinds of things, we are participating in the work of God to connect with human history.

In reading, discussing and thinking about these ideas, I became hypervigilent to messages around me that resonating with these topics. Interestingly, I received two messages/links just this week that focus on just these questions. Both are worth the time to read:

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