December 4, 2022 / Allison Nguyen
When posthumanism erases our need for faith, I am unsure whether or not we will mourn our loss of divinity.
The last time I prayed was July 22, 2022.
I clasped my hands with my mother and did the sign of the cross in a sprawling restaurant in Barcelona, surrounded by tapas and sangria, while my father broke down crying in front of a startled Spanish waiter.
My grandmother had just been taken off of life support in the States.
We spoke to God at Barcelona Airport. I asked him to get us tickets for a safe flight home to see my grandmother go up in flames and spread through the temple. But when we booked the tickets and made the flight, I thanked everyone else: the flight attendants, the airport staff, and the stellar Wi-Fi in the terminal.
Everyone except God.
He (The Almighty) didn’t even receive a thank-you card in the mail.
Postage was too high and so was my pride. Despite praying for God’s divine hand to change the tides of fate, bestowing upon us a flight home, I secretly begged for the computers to spit out the right sequences of code instead. In the end, my flight home materialized from our divine creation: the 2017 Dell Desktop that sat in the Southwest Airline terminal, repeating incessant zeroes and ones that slowly printed out BCN → IAH.
The day I felt most hopeless I joined my mother in begging for God and his divine hand. But when the golden beam of light shone down on that 2017 Dell Desktop, I no longer cared for religion or God. Rather, my faith turned to humankind’s creations to solve my problem.
This wasn’t always the case.
When I was younger, my pedestal for God was the holy water on my nightstand.
Every time a demon or clown would appear in my nightmares, a sprinkle of holy water and the sign of the cross would solve all of my problems, the almighty Jesus Christ christening me from the heavens above as the monsters slowly drifted from my mind. The quick fix of God became my lord and savior: Every time a small issue or problem would arise in my life, I would splash holy water across my face and sign the cross. God became the creator who could solve all, the deity that could dissolve my problems.
But when my mom got cancer, God’s quick fix was no longer an option. My new fix became the sharp slice of the scalpel and the Bible of chemotherapy, putting the creations of humankind on a pedestal instead.
I stopped praising the holy water on my nightstand and turned to IV pumps and vaccinations.
God is relied upon because of his omnipotence — his ability to solve the problems mere humankind cannot. Yet in the modern world, humans have inched closer and closer to the miracles of divine power once figured impossible by the creators of the Bible. Is the creation of cures to diseases like polio not akin to Jesus curing a man with leprosy? When humans provide better solutions than God himself, God feels as if he may almost dissipate from our reality, becoming irrelevant the day we gain the ability to solve all the problems humankind once could not.
From the dawn of our creation, humans have been defined by our struggles. By war, disease, and disasters. We are defined by our tragedies — take a look in a history book to verify it. But God? He is defined by his lack of tragedy. His lack of struggle. His all-consuming power.
It is this power differential that necessitates faith in religion.
Already, analysts and researchers are tracking the decline of religion in the modern world. From 2007 to 2020, 49 countries representing 60% of the world’s population had a decline in religion, this decline most apparent in high-income countries. In these high-income countries, as technological innovation persists and presents as the cure to all ailments, belief in religion declines in response. When granted unlimited access to modern solutions, people lose the need for religion, now faithful to technology to fix their problems instead.
The largest form of this shift away from religion took place in the United States. For decades, Americans have been a prime example of the idea that modernization and religiosity can coexist. Despite this pious image, the American public has been moving away from religion even more rapidly than other countries in recent years.
Although there are several forces driving this trend, the downfall of religion in America — where innovation runs rampant — signifies something greater about the struggle between innovation and religion: They cannot, in fact, coexist in modern society.
When I discovered the divine nature of chemotherapy and IV tubes, religion dissipated in my life. Technology began to prevail.
As I’ve lost my faith in religion, I’ve become grounded in the roots of reality — to my detriment. Technology is wonderful in so many ways, allowing us to constantly improve our lives, transforming and redesigning at every step. Yet the loss of religion has placed an indescribable burden on me.
Now, when I wake up from a nightmare, I have no peaceful solace that comes from a simple gesture, no sense of calm that comes from the splash of divine water across my face. Instead, I must have faith in myself to remove the jarring images from my mind, doing breathing practices as I lie in bed, attempting not to wake my roommate.
Perhaps in my haste to engross myself in humankind’s creations, to solve all of my ailments and struggles, I have lost something else. Maybe hope, or naivete. I’m not quite sure. What I am sure of, though, is that since I’ve removed the cross from my room and the holy water off of my nightstand, there is an emptiness that sits in me when I struggle — a sort of suffocating burden that God can no longer take off my shoulders.
When posthumanism erases our need for faith, I am unsure whether or not we will mourn our loss of divinity. In order for humanity to achieve its apex form, I must stab my Creator in the back. Am I not stabbing myself in the back as well, though? By eliminating the need for prayer, I lose the solace and peace I gain from it too.
The face of God will change from scripture to animatronics, the Bible turning into an instruction manual. The Machine will become my new faith, tying down with it my ability to find peace in what I turn to. The Creator’s Bible can be morphed, turned into a coddling blanket for all of my worries. But the Machine’s instruction manual has no ambiguity, full of ones and zeros that spit out one definitive answer.
While an instruction manual is clearer, can humanity be extracted out of it?
Only time will tell. ■
By: Allison Nguyen
Layout: Sophie Zhang
Layout: Sophie Zhang
View the full spread as it appeared in Issue No. 19 here.