by James Swayze
reprinted from CryoNet by kind permission of the author
I used to be one. If I could kid myself into still believing in God I would be Seventh Day Adventist over any other religion. Having studied some about most other religions and indeed most other Christian based religions I still find SDA's as the most practical and logical and literal truth following of any religion in existence. This is of course assuming The Bible had no flaws which now being an atheist I adamantly point out that it does at every opportunity.
However, had I not been an Adventist once I most probably would not be an immortalist or Extropian or hopeful to be cryonicist. Notice I didn't say I am a cryonicist. This is because I am not funded nor likely will be any time soon but that's another issue. [This was written before the author signed up to be cryopreserved by the Cryonics Institute. -ed] First of all Adventists are practising Life Extensionists! They were so long before science ever got the notion to consider it. They were many generations before any of us here were even born. Second only to their preaching that the seventh day Sabbath of the Ten Commandments is Saturday and not Sunday, and they are right – just consult a calendar, is their health message.
They encourage vegetarianism. They abstain from pork, not just because some part of The Bible suggests it and not also solely because pork once was dangerous for trichinosis, but for practical – one may even say scientific – reason based on the fact a pig has just one stomach and therefore the possibility that more toxins will reach the animals flesh. They observed the effects of biomagnification (the theory that toxins accumulate and magnify in effect as food travels up the food chain from smaller beings being eaten by larger and so on) long before it became a scientific theory. Another not well known fact is that many Adventists have practiced and preach caloric restriction long before Walford adopted the practice.
The founder of the Church, Ellen White, (seen left, picture from http://www.religioustolerance.org/sda.htm) first promoted a healthful lifestyle in the 1800's when it was unheard of. She was even instrumental in raising/shortening the lengths of skirts because she felt it unhealthy to be so fully closed in and that the skirts of the day dragged in the dirt which was caught up to land upon the body – this despite the prudish sexual morality fashions of the day. She promoted healthy breathing techniques and the opening of windows for fresh air and also bathing in a time full of superstitious beliefs to the contrary.
Speaking of fresh air and preaching healthy lifestyles how many churches do you know of that have a five day quit smoking program? How many do you know of that produce and market soy meat substitutes. Guess what, Adventists knew red meat was not so good for you long before it became mainstream scientific theory!
Politically Adventists unlike all other fundamentalist religions strongly support separation of church and state. In our present time where conservative Christians all around us are clamoring to bring government and religion together and promoting such things as prayer in school and infiltrating school boards and government offices with right wing Christian extremists, Adventists stand apart in condescension of such deeds. They support freedom of speech more than any other fundamentalist group. Adventists tend to be either liberal or libertarian bent and even those that are members of the republican party. Regarding issues of legislation that cryonicists may someday face you can count on that Adventists will be allies not enemies. They've always supported a persons right to personal choice over state dictated.
Scientifically Adventists have always been ahead of the crowd where other fundamentalist religions are concerned and very often ahead of mainstream science as I have mentioned above. They are not afraid to try unpopular and even controversial sciences. You all may remember the attempt to transplant a baboon heart into a human. A failure, yes, but they didn't shy away from it out of superstition and didn't get detracted by issues of human versus animal ethical bugaboos. Unlike other fundamentalist religions biology departments at Adventist colleges and hospitals recognize the Earth is older than the literal interpretation from The Bible and that evolution defines our medical theories. Adventists have always believed we are not alone in the universe and so are not Earth centric.
Theologically speaking Seventh Day Adventists among all Christian religions would be the most accepting of cryonics. They do not believe that one's soul exists before birth. Unlike many Christian religions they do not believe that the soul upon death immediately goes to heaven. They will point out that in 29 places in The Bible the state of the dead is written as being unconsciousness or sleep, that you "know nothing" and cannot be contacted or held accountable. They do not believe in contemporary faddish beliefs of the charismatic fundamentalists such as speaking in tongues or the rapture nor in secular spiritualism. They do not believe that life after death is as a bodiless spirit. They don't believe in ghosts, except for the third being in the trinity the "Holly Ghost". So, given all this every Adventist I have talked with has no problem with cryonics agreeing with me that it is no more a usurpation of their god's plan than cardiac resuscitation and they have no problem with that either. They have all agreed that if one does come back from cryonic suspension then one was not truly yet dead.
Out of all Christian religions the first to be an ally to cryonics, I would submit, would be the Seventh Day Adventists. In fact I would encourage the cryonicists here that have Christian spouses and relatives who are not friendly to cryonics to urge them to become SDA as a first step towards accepting cryonics. One reason to justify cryonics for anyone that shares Adventist beliefs would be to use cryonics as a way to be alive to actually witness their Christ's return.
On a personal note all of my family, save one, my step brother who shares my atheist beliefs, are Seventh Day Adventists including parents, grand parents, uncles, cousins and distant cousins on both sides of my family. When I told them I wanted to be cryopreserved they weren't shocked or appalled and support my decision. They don't like that I am atheist but if I were not and still wished to be involved in cryonics they would still support me. My mother supplies me with 19 vitamins and supplements I take daily some of which were suggested by Paul Wakfer and Gary Tripp but she supplied the rest for many years before I became acquainted with Paul and Gary or even the Life Extensionist movement. She did so not only because she is a nurse and able to research and understand the benefits but because it was natural for her with her life long Life Extensionist Seventh Day Adventist beliefs. Some of you may recall meeting my step father who single handed, except for some help from Gary Tripp after we arrived, drove me to and cared for me at the Asilomar conference. He took copious notes of all the lectures, not for me but for himself. He engaged in discussion and genuinely enjoyed learning every aspect.
I firmly believe if money were not the obstacle it is I could persuade much of my family to use cryonics. They might do so for the afore mentioned reason of seeing the second coming they believe in or simply to assuage my grief at their loss. After all it matters not to them as an observance of faith being no different logically than heart resuscitation. They would feel if it failed no matter they still have their belief in bodily resurrection. If it is successful then fine their god still awaits.
Now in anticipation of the discussions to come I wish to cover an issue that irks me. I have heard people accuse Seventh Day Adventists of being a cult. Now to me as an atheist, all religions are cults. However, being a little more reasonable and comparing religions to each other I wouldn't define a cult as having hospitals and colleges all over the world. Perhaps those that promote this negative aspersion do so because SDA's won't lock step with the rest of the fundies. Perhaps it is because they don't shy away from pointing out the hypocrisies of their peer religions. Perhaps the peer protestant religions don't appreciate being held up to the standard the SDA's set. I don't know nor do I much care. I just wanted to nip the cult issue in the bud. If Seventh Day Adventists are cultists then so are Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals and all the rest. By the way, the "Branch Davidians" of Waco massacre infamy are not and never were sanctioned by the official SDA church. In fact one of the major warnings preached by the church is the danger of following "false prophets" such as David Koresh.
There is a description of Seventh Day Adventism on http://www.religioustolerance.org/sda.htm
From it, there these interesting beliefs held by Seventh Day Adventists:
Immortality: They deny the concept of "innate immortality". They believe that a person is not naturally immortal. When a person dies, they remain unconscious until they are resurrected. Eternal life in a new world is a gift which God will give only to righteous Christians; the rest will be annihilated. Thus, they do not believe that a person goes to heaven or hell immediately upon death.
Diet: Members are expected to abstain from alcohol, coffee, tea and tobacco, and every "soul-defiling habit". They have interpreted the Old Testament dietary laws as prohibiting the eating of some foods. The church recommended avoiding red meat for many decades before medical science caught up with them. Many SDA member are vegetarians who supplement their diet with eggs and milk.
As of mid-2000, the Church has about 11 million baptized members, worldwide, who are "of age" and on the "official" roles. The total number of members and adherents is perhaps double that. They have a growth rate of about 11% per year. Adventists can now be found in 205 of the 229 countries and areas of the world recognized by the United Nations, with 91.6% of membership living outside of North America.
Also linked from this site is http://www.ellenwhite.org/ which gives some of Ellen White's writings and critical appraisal of them. Like anyone's beliefs, there are some elements of truth and some ideas which are now known to be untrue. Clearly if they were "revelations from God" as claimed, all would be equally true, according to the definition of God as being omniscient. God left out telling her about things like antibiotics, pasteurisation and many similar ideas which could have easily been implemented at the time. Apparently God considered it more sensible to spend a great deal of effort discussing moral issues and medical ideas now known to be flawed.
But we as cryonicists need to be aware that we have potentially 11 million allies in this group. Religious thought, concepts of "god" etc, are just ways of looking at the universe and describing it. Like science, they can sometimes be wrong. But also like science they can also sometimes be correct. It may well be due to pure chance, or it may be that, like scientific method, "religious method" can come up with correct answers. The only difference is, that scientific method gets it right more often than religious method. It is, of course, possible that one day a different methodology may be find that doers better than either.