Religion and technology have evolved together. Now, if by religion we simply mean what reconnects us with what we hold sacred, or 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 techno-philes technology has itself become a religion: In other words, for many contemporaries, technology is part of what they hold sacred.
This website offers a network of resources and allies dedicated to 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 30 minutes in length. They are organized into four 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 following 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 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, identifies the demons of the virtual networked self and then speculates over religious experiments 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.
Another cluster of resources on the website are in the service of broadening and deepening my own limited background and insight.
- 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 is a network of live, real-time contributors (under construction, not yet operative). This website is designed to serve not only as a network of resources but of allies. I invite any visitor to this website to consider becoming a participant as well. To do so simply fill out the membership request form with some information about you. You will then be sent a password to enter the private side of the site. There you will find ongoing chats and contact information for others on the site with which you can supplement your own network of collaborators. On the private side, there will also be resources for students who will be taking online courses for which this website will serve as a platform.
- There is also an events tab where I will list conferences, summer seminars and online seminars sponsored by this website with the live aid of many of its contributors. I hope you might end up being one of these contributors in the years to come.
- Finally there are a few coronavirus related resources from the past year.