Digital religion - blessed are the heretics!

Baldwin, Jon (2020) Digital religion - blessed are the heretics! International Journal of Baudrillard Studies, 16 (1). ISSN 1705-6411


The best thing about religion is that it spawns heretics. Ernst Bloch (2009: 122)

The consideration of religion, especially when entwined with technology, has as Bloch suggests, spawned much heresy, and this paper considers the constructive heresies of Jean Baudrillard, as well as Ernst Bloch, Byung-Chul Han, and Peter Sloterdijk. Whether it be it be oral, notches on bone, clay engraving, handwritten scrolls, codices, illuminated manuscripts, print books, audio recordings, or more recently, software and mobile applications, religion has been continually mediated by technologies to various degrees. The recent coupling of the terms digital and religion, brought about by the merging of the digital, internet, and forms of religiosity, attests to this. Indeed, religion itself might often be regarded as mediation between god(s) and man, the heaven and earth, the sacred and the profane, and so forth. This paper discusses the notion of digital religion and attendant theoretical approaches. It indicates how Baudrillard’s work might contribute to this configuration and methodology with a consideration of the academic field of ‘digital religion’ and ideas from Marshall McLuhan. Against a somewhat utopian vision and drive, the poverty of a networked digital religion is advanced. The possibility that a form of religion somewhat influenced the advancement of the internet is outlined with focus on Unitarianism and Tim Berners-Lee. Attention turns to Baudrillardian motifs and notions of potlatch, defiance, and challenge as they might inform the developments of certain elements of religion. There is focus is on the Heaven’s Gate ‘cult’ and Sloterdijk’s approach to religion. Finally, consideration given to how the digital itself is emerging as a religion. This leads to the possibility of a new religious movement of ‘dataism’ on the horizon usurping other forms. With this notion of an emergent inhuman digital religion the position of the heretic is underscored: blessed are the heretics!

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