Comparative analysis between The Satanic Temple and the Technoprogressive Declaration

Photo: TheDigitalArtist/Pixabay

The world is shifting in more ways than one. With the advent of our Transhumanist journey into the future, everything we knew of the old world is dramatically changing before our very eyes. For this article in particular, however, I’d like to direct my attention towards religion.

I’m not a religious person, I must admit. I’m an atheist, like many other Transhumanists. However, I also recognize the importance of unity that the Transhumanist movement is providing with the religious community. As a result, we’ve witnessed the formation of Transhumanist-oriented religious organizations — from the Mormon Transhumanist Association, the Christian Transhumanist Association, Terasem, etc.

As a Signator of the Technoprogressive Declaration, it’s in my hopes that these organizations will also take up the mantle for equality and social justice, just as so many of us Transhumanists have done as well. However, there is another growing “religious” body that is making a name for itself, which I believe has the potential of taking on a Technoprogressive Transhumanist stance as we continue marching towards the future. The “religious” body that I’m talking about is The Satanic Temple (TST).

Before I go any further, I must first reveal to the readers that I, myself, am also a member of TST. Yes, I am still an atheist, but my atheism doesn’t conflict with TST, despite their legal recognition as an “organized religion.” In fact, members of TST take on a Secular Satanist approach — meaning, they either adhere to atheism, agnosticism, or any other secular-based worldview. The legal recognition as an “organized religion” allows us to legally — and, might I add, successfully — fight back against religious-backed injustice.

Having said that, unlike the Church of Satan which was led by Ayn Rand-supporter Anton LaVey, TST takes on a more progressive approach in politics, resulting in a set of tenets that each member adheres to.

Below I will list these tenets, all while explaining in detail their correlation with that of the Technoprogressive Declaration and overall Transhumanist ideology.

Photo: The Satanic Temple

1. One should strive to act with compassion and empathy towards all creatures in accordance with reason.

This tenet strongly resonates with that of the ever-growing movement for nonhuman personhood rights. Many people tend to forget that we’re not the only creatures on this planet, let alone creatures who are self-aware. With this understanding comes the desired action to show compassion and empathy towards both human and nonhuman animals alike, whether it be the establishment of certain rights in the interest of one’s designated personhood or the simple wish to live without someone else becoming a threat to one’s life.

In the Technoprogressive Declaration, it is made quite clear that “We must join in working for the expansion of rights to all persons, human or not.” In which, eventually, will also come the right to not be eaten as technology continues advancing to the point where a successful market of lab-grown meat production is established. Subsequently, “the expansion of rights to all persons” and “compassion and empathy towards all creatures” requires the ability to see reason in the necessary pursuit of justice for the oppressed.

2. The struggle for justice is an ongoing and necessary pursuit that should prevail over laws and institutions.

TST has made their voices heard, loud and clear, when it comes to the struggle for LGBTQ+ equality. TST’s spokesman Lucien Greaves caught a lot of media attention when he and members of TST decided to perform same-sex marriages by the tombstones of deceased members of the highly homophobic Westboro Baptist Church. The reason it caught so much attention was due to the fact that LGBTQ+ equality is a hot-button issue in the activist world of social justice, resulting in the vast majority of the United States legalizing same-sex marriage and a growing emphasis on Transgender rights.

In the Technoprogressive Declaration it’s stated, “We must build solidarity with these movements [freedom and social justice], even as we intervene to point to the radical possibilities of technologies that they often ignore.” Indeed, as Freeman Dyson once noted, advanced technologies cannot be the sole harbinger of peace and justice, but equally an ethical hand to help maneuver these radical, technological changes. Social justice and equality are important movements which affect the vast majority of our population — whether it be LGBTQ+ equality, immigration rights, anti-racism, free expression of religious beliefs, etc.

For the Transhumanist movement, especially, it’s been an ongoing pursuit in integrating our own movement with those for social justice and equality. There are those in the movement, such as myself and Transhumanist Party’s Zoltan Istvan, who’ve been greatly emphasizing on the importance of merging our movement with that of the movement for LGBTQ+ equality. Which brings us to the next tenet of TST…

3. One’s body is inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.

This tenet, in particular, conveys one of the most important viewpoints of the Transhumanist movement as a whole — Morphological Freedom! As we continue moving forward in our exponentially growing technological world, there’ll be a shift in how people will view themselves phenotypically. There’ll emerge a very large population of those who adhere to Cyborgism — the merging of man and machine. Longer down the road, we may even reach the point where our species transcend from human to post-human. Even then, there’ll be those who wish to remain human, in which Morphological Freedom protects — the right of each individual to decide how they wish to alter their own body, including the right to not alter it whatsoever.

For TST, the idea of the body being inviolable reaches into the political ideal that all individuals are the ultimate deciders of what they do or do not with their own body. Women, especially, are the largest target in this struggle, due to the fact that many politicians today remain adamant in their oppressive opposition against women’s reproductive rights. Similarly, the Transgender community is waging their own struggle against unjust policies sought to dictate their gender identity, and thus attempt to prevent them to express their physical selves in ways which convey said gender identity.

In the Technoprogressive Declaration, the pursuit of both reproductive rights and Morphological Freedom are equally exclaimed, whereby it shows solidarity to “The movement for reproductive rights, around access to contraception, abortion, assisted reproduction and genomic choice,” and “Sexual and gender minorities around the right to bodily self-determination.” Nothing else can be said of this other than an increased emphasis on the importance of showing our support — whether it be under the Transhumanist flag or TST’s — to those continuing the fight for reproductive rights and Morphological Freedom.

4. The freedoms of others should be respected, including the freedom to offend. To willfully and unjustly encroach upon the freedoms of another is to forgo your own.

The freedom to offend is a tenet more important than ever to adhere to, given fatal tragedies like the Charlie Hebdo artists who were killed by Islamic extremists for their satirical cartoons regarding the Prophet Muhammad. In response to such a tragedy, nearly the entire world joined in unity to show solidarity to Charlie Hebdo and their right to offend, despite what religious extremists may wish otherwise. Included in that show of solidarity was the majority population of the Transhumanist community, calling for justice for those who were killed.

It then shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Technoprogressive Declaration would, alongside a call for Digital Rights, call for solidarity to “Digital rights movements around new freedoms and means of expression and organization.” The means of expression is a right granted upon all peoples, which include the expression of satire and offense. Of course, even then, we must also emphasize educating our youth on why certain actions of offense — racism, xenophobia, homophobia, etc. — should be refrained by all means.

5. Beliefs should conform to our best scientific understanding of the world. We should take care never to distort scientific facts to fit our beliefs.

For TST, this tenet revolves largely around their ongoing struggle against religious-led attacks on our youth’s right to a secular education — that is, to be taught the scientific facts of evolution, climate change, the Big Bang, etc. Unfortunately, there are too many religious organizations sought out to abolish the separation of church and state and impose unscientific beliefs veiled as “science” in our school systems. With that comes TST’s — and equally the Transhumanist-oriented religious organization’s — fight against local and nationwide anti-science policies, in both education and governance.

For us Transhumanists, the fight against anti-science also revolves around the fight against those who believe transgenic crops (“GMOs”) are harmful to both the environment and human consumption, despite scientific consensus pointing to their safety. Equally, we’re fighting against the anti-science of anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorists who believe the government and government-run medical institutions are trying to give their children autism via vaccinations.

Most importantly, however, we are also fighting against the anti-science of our very own government who persist in their refusal to recognize the science of longevity and anti-aging research. Instead of pouring money into these important fields of medical research, our government persists in spending billions of dollars for unnecessary ground invasions and drone strikes on foreign lands. It is the very reason why the Technoprogressive Declaration strongly calls for “dramatically expanded governmental research into anti-aging therapies, and universal access to those therapies as they are developed in order to make much longer and healthier lives accessible to everybody.”

6. People are fallible. If we make a mistake, we should do our best to rectify it and resolve any harm that may have been caused.

This is a very important tenet, indeed, especially given the prospect of possible existential risks that could arise due to any number of advanced technologies — artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, genetic modifications, etc. For TST, this tenet is a call for each member to pay attention to their actions, for every action has a reaction and TST is currently in a struggle to win the overall population’s support. To make a mistake, those representing TST must do the right thing and fix said mistake. Equally, for us Transhumanists, whatever mistake or risk that may arise from our actions or the actions of advanced technologies, it is up to us to fix all mistakes and help alleviate all risks.

In the Technoprogressive Declaration, it clearly states, “We must join with movements working to reduce existential risks, educating them about emerging threats they don’t yet take seriously, and proposing ways that emerging technologies can help reduce those risks.” For us, it is more than fixing mistakes when they occur. Rather we must greatly emphasize the importance of educating the population and creating a dialogue about any possible risks, so as to develop plans of action that’ll help mitigate any risk if and when they materialize.

And finally…

7. Every tenet is a guiding principle designed to inspire nobility in action and thought. The spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail over the written or spoken word.

In other words, no matter what spoken word is declared against the movements of justice, equality, and reason, our actions in defense of these movements must prevail above all else. Whether we’re fighting for the right of religious expression, the right of secular education, the right of LGBTQ+ equality, reproductive rights or Morphological Freedom, our “spirit of compassion, wisdom, and justice should always prevail.”

As stated in the Technoprogressive Declaration, “It is time for technoprogressives, transhumanists and futurists to step up our political engagement and attempt to influence the course of events…It is time for technoprogressives to step forward and work together for a brighter future.” Speaking as both a Technoprogressive Transhumanist and member of TST, I couldn’t agree more.

It is in my hopes that TST will follow suit with that of other religious organizations in embracing a role in our ongoing journey towards an era of Transhumanism. Who knows, we may soon witness the formation of a Satanic Transhumanist Association. Either way, it is clear that our movements are in parallel with our pursuits for justice, equality, freedom, and a brighter, more optimistic future!

This article was originally published on the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies.