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Stef Aupers

The classical assumption that scientific and technological progress are the main driving forces behind, what Weber called, the 'disenchantment of the western world', is basic knowledge in contemporary sociology. In this paper, however, it is argued that the implementation of digital technology also stimulates the religious, or more specific, animistic imagination. A qualitative analysis of

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magazine (1993-2000) shows that various computer specialists, who are 'supposed' to be the pioneers of a rational, secular and disenchanted society, can be seen as 'technoanimists'. They consider our new technological surroundings as an intelligent, autonomous force and express feelings of humility. Exemplary for this phenomenon is a group of ICTexperts who refer to themselves as 'technopagans'. Paradoxically, the explanation for this unforeseen development of 're-enchantment' can be found in progress in the technological fields of Artificial Intelligence and Artificial Life. More generally, the ongoing process of rationalization seems to provide a good explanation for the contemporary emergence of technoanimism.

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Religions of Modernity

Relocating the Sacred to the Self and the Digital

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Edited by Stef Aupers

Religions of Modernity' challenges the social-scientific orthodoxy that, once unleashed, the modern forces of individualism, science and technology inevitably erode the sacred and evoke the profane. The book’s chapters, some by established scholars, others by junior researchers, document instead in rich empirical detail how modernity relocates the sacred to the deeper layers of the self and the domain of digital technology. Rather than destroying the sacred tout court, then, the cultural logic of modernization spawns its own religious meanings, unacknowledged spiritualities and magical enchantments. The classical theoretical accounts of modernity by Max Weber, Emile Durkheim and others, it is argued in the introductory chapter, already hinted that there's a future for such religions of modernity.
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Stef Aupers and Jaron Harambam

In the social sciences, conspiracy theory is often morally debunked as pathological, irrational and dangerous and, essentially, considered a form of ‘religious superstition’. Arguing that this simplistic labelling of conspiracy theory as ‘religious belief’ is primarily a form of ‘boundary work’ to legitimate the epistemic authority of the social sciences, this chapter studies the hybrid character of contemporary conspiracy theory based on the self-understanding of its advocates. The analysis shows that conspiracy culture is an unstable, multi-faced phenomenon that is situated at the intersection of three discourses: secular scepticism, popular sociology, and spiritual salvation. Mixing up secular science and spiritual salvation and simultaneously assessing how the world ‘is’ and how it ‘ought’ to be, may be a horror to academics; for conspiracy theorists it is having the best of both worlds.