Deus in Machina Movet: Religion in the Age of Technological Reproducibility

in Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
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Abstract

This essay demonstrates that the concept of feedback—as a technological condition, historical ontology, and theoretical frame—challenges traditional ways of conceiving of religion and writing its history. This essay "begins" in 1920's America, a moment when the capacity of machines to regulate both nonhuman and human systems reached a point of critical mass and intensity. Integrating theoretical exploration with historical specificity, I address responses to this changing technological atmosphere among Anglo-Protestant leaders as well as leaders of the infamous "Revival" of Herman Melville and his long-forgotten Moby-Dick (1851). Historically, I argue that Protestant strategies of self-centering, so pervasive in the early twentieth century, failed to hold their ground against the billowing nature of feedback technology. Theoretically, I argue that Protestant-inspired definitions of what constitutes religious belief and practice, still pervasive in the modern academic study of religion, are not equipped to deal with crises of the natural within (post)modernity.

Deus in Machina Movet: Religion in the Age of Technological Reproducibility

in Method & Theory in the Study of Religion

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