“You Will Not Die...You Will Be Like God" – Fasting & the Search for Everlasting Life
Victoria Yunez Behm, MS, MTS, CNS, LDN, Preceptor, Duke Divinity School & Adjunct Faculty, Nutrition and Herbal Medicine, Maryland University of Integrative Health
The longevity movement, also known as the anti-aging movement, is a widespread endeavor in popular medicine and advanced precision health sciences to understand and prevent the aging process. The ultimate goal of its proponents is to extend human lifespan beyond biological limitations. This paper argues that the longevity movement represents an extension of and is a distinct response to one of humanity’s most fundamental, existential quandaries – why do people suffer and die? With Genesis 3 as an entry point, I trace the ideological roots of the modern longevity/anti-aging movement that is propelling personalized medicine and my field, personalized nutrition, into a bright and lucrative future. This project underscores historical, philosophical, scientific, and Christian theological perspectives on the imperative to end suffering and ease (or cease) the processes of death and decay via the practice of fasting. I emphasize fasting as a biological intervention and Christian spiritual practice that has been deployed throughout history as seekers have attempted to understand God, human life, the body, and death. The promise of longevity medicine echoes the words of a swindling serpent: “You will not die...you will be like God." A key question is whether and how contemporary people of faith can practice fasting with integrity in light of current scientific knowledge of its benefits.