Religion and Technology: A Study in the Philosophy of Culture

By Jay Newman | Go to book overview

certain kind of religious world view can help particular individuals to be better producers and users of technology, just as it can help some people to be better philosophers, politicians, or--as so many of them have testified in the mass media--professional athletes. Meanwhile, those of us who are more open-minded with respect to the question of the value of religion can see from our own daily experience how religious commitment of a certain type can make individuals better human beings.

However, can we afford to forget that religion in some of its most important forms, including forms defended by prominent religious antitechnologists, has contributed mightily to making individuals and societies worse? Casting a skeptical eye on the wailings of religious antitechnologists, Herbert Muller points to the conspicuous failure of the major churches themselves to provide either moral or spiritual leadership in the emerging industrialized societies of the nineteenth century; indeed, "in spite of the shocking abuses of early industrialism, they mostly opposed movements toward social and political reform, and then the whole labor movement."143The very type of religion that can foster justice, spirituality, compassion, and hope, can also, when misappropriated--as it so commonly is--result in smug complacency, mindless superstition, bigotry, and hatred. I remember, as a child, seeing a picture that has left a great impression on me throughout the years, a picture of highly intricate torture devices used on victims of the Inquisition. Such elaborate machine technology, put to the service of the cruelest forms of dehumanization centuries before the invention of the steam engine, centuries before the Nazi death camps, is well worth remembering in an investigation of the relations of religion and technology. If the religious antitechnologist insists on seeing it as one more example of how technology has corrupted religion, the rest of us still have the prerogative of seeing it as also in part a powerful example of how religion has corrupted technology.


NOTES
1.
Paul Tillich, Theology of Culture, ed. Robert C. Kimball ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1959), 42.
2.
Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion ( 1927), trans. W. D. Robson- Scott ( 1953), revised and newly edited by James Strachey ( 1961), ( Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1964), 60.
3.
Thorstein Veblen, The Instinct of Workmanship ( 1914) ( New York: W. W. Norton, 1964), v.
4.
José Ortega y Gasser, "Man the Technician", in Toward a Philosophy of History, trans. not identified ( New York: W. W. Norton, 1941), 117-18.

-31-

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Religion and Technology: A Study in the Philosophy of Culture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • 1- Religion and Antitechnology 1
  • Notes 31
  • 2- Technology and Techne 39
  • 3- Technology and Progress 73
  • Notes 105
  • 4- Technology as a Religious Endeavor 109
  • Notes 138
  • 5- Religion, Technology, and Culture 143
  • Notes 170
  • Bibliography 175
  • Index 187
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