Religion and technology have evolved together. Now, if by religion we simply mean that which reconnects us with what we hold sacred, that is, with what is most meaningful, then religion is itself a technology. And if technology is ultimately oriented towards the enhancement of the meaningfulness of human life, it has always had and always will have both religious inspiration and religious consequences. Indeed for many social critics, both techno-skeptics and technophiles, technology has itself become a religion: In other words, for many contemporaries, technology itself is part of what they hold sacred.
This website offers a network of resources for the exploration of these two interwoven and interdependent forms of life. It is a contribution to a new academic field at the intersection of the Philosophy of Religion and the Philosophy of Technology as well as other related fields such as Media Ecology, Cognitive Archeology, Object Oriented Ontology and Lived Religion.
At first glance, the study of technology and religion might appear to involve a coincidence of opposites. For the past century or more, technology and religion have been set over against one another. It is often said that technology disenchants the world and eliminates the need for religion. It is also often said that religion offers a refuge from technology, a place where one can step back, unplug and get off the grid, if only for a time. Both are true, but consequently, both are partial truths, each of which, when taken in isolation only occludes the more important larger truth: that humans are by nature both: the only technological species and the only religious species on the planet. The motivating assumption of this website is that this is not a coincidence.
This website is a network of networks. A general list of all video lectures can be found here. Each network links an array of video lectures each ranging from 15 to 45 minutes in length. They are organized into five series:
- The first offers an introduction to the field of religion and technology with a specific focus on what religion can offer digital natives and what virtual technologies might offer religious thought and practice.
- The second offers a history of the co-evolution of religion and technology. Following in the footsteps of Marshall McLuhan and Walter Ong S.J., this history focuses especially upon the evolution of communication technologies: mimetic, oral, literate and virtual. This series is in part an extended argument that with emergent computer and internet-enabled virtual technologies we are entering a new epoch in human evolution as significant as that of writing, from which we date the rise of civilization itself.
The next three series of video lectures are speculative explorations and initial sketches of some of the implications of this new virtual age.
- Virtual Ontology offers a cluster of video lectures in the philosophy of technology exploring the social, psychological and philosophical implications of virtual technologies for contemporary understandings of self, other and world. It argues for a networked self, and a second person, alterity ontology of evolving intelligence.
- Virtual Religion offers a similar cluster of video lectures exploring the implications of the virtual age for contemporary religious thought and practice. It begins with the nature of religion as itself a technology, and of virtual technologies as both enabling and entangling new forms of religious life. It also surveys a variety of religious criticisms of virtual culture, identifying the demons of the virtual networked self and then speculates over religious efforts to battle, if not exorcise these new demons in pastoral practice.
- Virtual theology encompasses video lectures that translate traditional Christian religious doctrine into the categories of a virtual ontology. This is the most speculative exploration of all. Finally, I eventually plan a further series of video lectures on literate Axial Age religions beyond Christianity, for I argue that virtual religion ushers in a second axial age, characterized by religious pluralism and inter-religious dialogue.
The three last series of video lectures are designed for other courses I teach in philosophy. The first two introduce two contemporary approaches to human behavior that mirror the dichotomy between radical objectivity and radical subjectivity characteristic of print modernity.
The first is a series of lectures introducing a literate, radically objective, scientific approach to human nature: that of evolutionary psychology. Here humans are modeled on computers with our genes serving as our operating system, and cultural practices as our programming. Consciousness on this view is epiphenomenal, analogous to what appears on a computer’s monitor. Freedom and Religion are both illusions, evolved cultural programs that have enhanced evolutionary fitness at least up to now. I argue in later lectures that evolutionary psychology’s shift from organism to gene as the unit of selection needs to be extended to networks with consciousness reconfigured as an emergent user rather than a passive observer without causal agency.
The second series of video lectures introduce existentialism, a radically subjective, first person exploration of human behavior. Here humans are modeled on authors writing novels. Hence the ideal is “authenticity”, in which one takes responsibility as the author of one’s actions, criticizing causal algorithmic explanations of behavior as an illusory objectification of subjectivity that is ultimately a denial of responsibility and a flight from freedom.
Finally there is link at the bottom of the lecture tab accessing a history of Jesuit Higher Education from the lens of print literacy and how it might adapt to our new virtual age.
Other tabs link to resources for further explorations:
- The first provides a list of relevant websites and a list of links to online rituals that participants on the website have found useful and/or provocative
- A second password protected link accesses research papers written by former students and current subscribers to the website.
- This is followed by a link to the website
- A blog link follows for subscribers to the website to share and discuss ideas, articles and websites.
- Finally there is a translation tab connecting to Google Translate for the website and the scripts of all the video lectures.