I hadn't really much thought about the parallels between transhumanism and (some) religious ideas before (and perhaps Jason Soon was the first to mention them to me), but this essay makes them clear and it is a very good read. Here is a key section:
Of course, mind uploading has spurred all kinds of philosophical anxieties. If the pattern of your consciousness is transferred onto a computer, is the pattern “you” or a simulation of your mind? Another camp of transhumanists have argued that Kurzweil’s theories are essentially dualistic, and that the mind cannot be separated from the body. You are not “you” without your fingernails and your gut bacteria. Transhumanists of this faction insist that resurrection can happen only if it is bodily resurrection. They tend to favor cryonics and bionics, which promise to resurrect the entire body or else supplement the living form with technologies to indefinitely extend life.It is perhaps not coincidental that an ideology that grew out of Christian eschatology would come to inherit its philosophical problems. The question of whether the resurrection would be corporeal or merely spiritual was an obsessive point of debate among early Christians. One faction, which included the Gnostic sects, argued that only the soul would survive death; another insisted that the resurrection was not a true resurrection unless it revived the body. For these latter believers — whose view would ultimately become orthodox — Christ served as the model. Jesus had been brought back in the flesh, which suggested that the body was a psychosomatic unit. In contrast to Hellenistic philosophy, which believed the afterlife would be purely spiritual, Christians came to believe that the soul was inseparable from the body. In one of the most famous treatises on the resurrection, the theologian Tertullian of Carthage wrote: “If God raises not men entire, He raises not the dead. . . . Thus our flesh shall remain even after the resurrection.”
There is much, much more in the essay setting out the pre-history of transhumanism, so to speak. It's also good in that it points out that Christians, with their disdain for humans "playing God" with biology (and, I think, rather appropriately, for fear of inadvertent suffering that such experimentation risks), are perceived by some transhumanists as the enemy of transhumanist progress.
I'm certainly a skeptic when it comes to the idea of uploading mind into a computer - it makes for good imaginative stories in science fiction, but Kurzweil's optimism about when it could be achieved is just over the top. On the other hand, if he is right, I didn't realise that a comment I made here once, that a reason for keeping this blog running is so that it might aid my virtual resurrection in the distant future, is an idea directly derived from Kurzweil:
“I do plan to bring back my father,” Ray Kurzweil says. He is standing in the anemic light of a storage unit, his frame dwarfed by towers of cardboard boxes and oblong plastic bins. He wears tinted eyeglasses. He is in his early sixties, but something about the light or his posture, his paunch protruding over his beltline, makes him seem older. Kurzweil is now a director of engineering at Google, but this documentary was filmed in 2009, back when it was still possible to regard him as a lone visionary with eccentric ideas about the future. The boxes in the storage unit contain the remnants of his father’s life: photographs, letters, newspaper clippings, and financial documents. For decades, he has been compiling these artifacts and storing them in this sepulcher he maintains near his house in Newton, Massachusetts. He takes out a notebook filled with his father’s handwriting and shows it to the camera. His father passed away in 1970, but Kurzweil believes that, one day, artificial intelligence will be able to use the memorabilia, along with DNA samples, to resurrect him. “People do live on in our memories, and in the creative works they leave behind,” he muses, “so we can gather up all those vibrations and bring them back, I believe.”I've just got to get some of my DNA details embedded into this blog somehow, and I'll be back!
Anyway, go read the essay.