The Technium

The Internet Is My Religion

[Translations: Japanese]

Well, it is not really MY religion (mine is more like this) but it is this guy’s religion, and I think he speaks for millions.

Jim Gilliam is a former Christian evangelical, a two-time cancer survivor, and is very passionate and articulate about his beliefs. What he believes now is that he has faith in people, God is real, and “the internet is my religion.” He finds grace and goodness in the best of what happens online, and he uses the language of religion to try to identify this spark of the true, good and beautiful. I won’t try to justify his faith in the internet, but I do think that the internet — particularly in its planetary scale — will continue to attract a religious metaphor as it grows.

I think we should prepare ourselves for all kinds of new religions based around the idea of a planetary soul. As in a single web of electronic neurons around the globe, connecting all sentient beings. The Noosphere will go from a hypothetical speculation by a Catholic priest to an outright competitor to the Catholic faith. We will see the rise of Noosnics, Globalists, Overminders, Bit Monks, Quantumarians, and a hundred other sects and cults that take seriously the idea of a glorified planetary spirit as a reflection of the divine.

Or as one wag told me, the history of the universe marches from the cosmos to the bios to the technos to the god-knows. I think the double-funny of that one is that the coming era of the god-knows can also mean an era of religion, spirituality and theism. As long as completely counterintuitive facts like quantum physics and gravitons are the height of science, we will have spiritualism. In some way a belief in souls is easer to hold than belief in one particle in two places at once.

At some point the one machine we have made, the continuous cloak of electronic neurons wrapped around the globe, will produce some impulse, some emergent behavior, some new phenomenon that is evident to all did not arise with us, but came out of this gigantic web — and at that point many people will begin to see God in it. This larger-than-us life will trigger old reactions, including awe. And fear. And those ancient emotions will breed primeval religious practices. Petitions typed out for good luck, just in case, why not?

The fact that most other people will deny there is anything special happening will harden the belief of the few that in fact they are particularly sensitive to the stirrings and whispers of the planetary superorganism. Why can’t they hear it, see it, sense it?

The internet will become a religion in part because everything will happen on it, including all other religions. But mostly because it will be the first platform for true Otherness that will appear on the planet. Not Other as in other variety of human, or other variety of animal, but Other as in an agent not like us, yet bigger than us. A true alien being. Of which we are part. This conundrum will trigger so many spiritual and religious buttons that it will also shake the established religions.

There will be dogma. Thou shalt use the internet this way or that. Or do not use it this way or that. Don’t go here, or release that. Or you’ll be excluded from its constant goodness. Cut off! Can you image growing up in 50 years wholly dependent on the exo-mind, and then being excommunicated?!!

The internet is my religion, and I will not deny it or defy it.


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