To Hell with Death

A recent Pew Research Center poll revealed that nearly three quarters of Americans believe that there is a heaven which is defined as a place where people who have lived a devout life are eternally rewarded. This got me wondering how hard it is to get into the “good place” and what are my chances of gaining admission? One religious group believes that only 144,000 souls will be allowed in and, since there have already been over 100 billion people born, getting in could be very difficult. Sure, I have a better shot than people like Attila the Hun or Jack the Ripper or Bill Belichick, but I fear that there are a lot of humans that are (or were) much more pious than myself. Even if billions make it, I’m worried about my chances.

I was reviewing the rule book and came across a few concerns. Commandment #3 says, “Thou shall not take the Lord’s name in vain.” I assumed there was an exception for when Eli Manning threw five interceptions in one game. There isn’t. I also believed that Commandment #4, “Thou shall keep the Sabbath day holy,” didn’t apply during football season. It does. And that rule about coveting thy neighbor’s things may be a problem for me. You should see my neighbor’s car.

There should be an exception for Cleveland Browns fans

If I make it to the Pearly Gates, my interview with St. Peter might not play out so well. It will probably go something like this:

Me: Oh, thank God, I made it to heaven. Can you open the gates and let me in?

St. Peter: Wait, John, I don’t see your name on the nice list.

Me: It must be. I’ve lead a very righteous life.

St. Peter: What about that weekend in Vegas?

Me: I don’t remember that.

St. Peter: I’m sure you don’t.

Me: Nevertheless, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, right?

St. Peter: That’s not really how it works.

Me: Ok, here’s the thing, I’m not really ready for this afterlife business. Can you just hit the return button and send me back? I have a roast in the oven.

St. Peter: I can’t do that. This isn’t like Drop Dead Deva. Oh, here’s your name. You’re on the naughty list.

Me: What exactly does that mean?

St. Peter: Well, suffice it to say, you won’t be needing that coat anymore.

I also made it to this naughty list… again.

So, since my chances of getting that eternal reward don’t seem too promising, I need a Plan B.

My first thought was to buy an indulgence (a get out of hell free card) but unfortunately they were discontinued in the Middle Ages thanks to Martin Luther. So that option is off the table.

Reincarnation seemed like a good alternative, although I probably haven’t accumulated much in the way of good karma. I might come back as a slug or a desert mole rat. And, even if I was destined to come back as a human, I’m very claustrophobic and don’t know if I could handle nine months in the womb again.

So I decided that Plan B has to be immorality. No wait. That is what got me into this fix in the first place. Plan B needs to be immortality.

Immortality is nothing new. Adam and Eve were initially designed to live forever. Sadly, that ended after the forbidden fruit allegation. Actually we were going to lose eternal life anyway. Before the fruit episode, the Garden of Eden was basically a nudist colony because, before sin, there was no need for clothes. The fig leaf apparel came later. But without clothes there would inevitably have been sinning which would have made the forbidden fruit matter seem trivial. That first shot at everlasting life was never going to last.

Throughout history man has sought eternal life. Alexander the Great was said to have searched for a fountain of youth and we all know the story of Ponce de Leon who traveled all over Florida in pursuit of such a magical fountain. Unfortunately, no fountain of youth or magical elixir was ever found. Everlasting life has so far eluded mankind.

However, with rapid advances in technology, greatly expanded life expectancy and even immortality may be close at hand. Peter Thiel, the co-founder of Pay Pal, expects to live to 120 while Larry Ellison of Oracle finds the idea of dying incomprehensible and Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google, hopes to someday cure death. It turns out that many billionaires are pursuing life expanding technologies. If they can’t take it with them then they just don’t want to go.

Cryonics is one idea being pursued. This is the process of suspending a just deceased person in a frozen state until the cure for what killed them is discovered. To have your entire body preserved costs $150k while the expense of preserving just the brain is $50k. We men would at least want to preserve the two organs that we think with. But my problem with cryonics is it doesn’t help if you get hit by a bus. I could still end up having that uncomfortable conversation with St. Peter.

Ray Kurzweil, the head of engineering at Google, has a different vision for life extension which he explained in a 2016 interview in Playboy Magazine. He says that by the 2030’s science will be able to place nanobots (microscopic robots) in your bloodstream that will destroy pathogens and tumors and actually reverse the aging process. This surprised me – who knew that Playboy Magazine was still being published? The problem with Kurzweil’s vision is that it doesn’t help if you get murdered by a jealous husband. In that case, my discussion with St. Peter would certainly focus on that coveting thing.

But the enterprise that appeals to me the most is the 2045 Initiative being developed by the Russian internet mogul, Dimitry Itskov. This project aims to create technologies that will enable the transfer of one’s consciousness to a more advanced non-biological carrier.

The hope is to soon produce a robotic copy of a human body remotely controlled by a person’s brain and by 2035 to have an avatar with an artificial brain in which a human personality is transferred at the end of one’s life. Dimitry says his goal is to live 10,000 years. If he gives the technology to those Russian hackers we can expect Russian interference in our democracy through the 12,018 election.

Extending the life span to 10,000 years isn’t immortality but it’s close. Perhaps during that time period we will develop the technology that will actually bring us everlasting life. If not, at least it will give me thousands of years to repent and during that time I may finally get to see the U.S. Men’s team win the World Cup.

Still rocking at age 10,000

You can also read John Wade’s dive into the beliefs of flat-earthers.

John Wade, a frequent contributor to Unhinged Magazine, is a retired Chief Financial Officer who lives in Wildwood, Missouri.