Silicon Valley’s Pseudo-Religious Awakening

Investigating various strange corners of the Internet, Tara Isabella Burton finds a subculture of educated computer programmers and engineers who are losing their faith in the power of gizmos and apps to bring forth a better world, and are turning instead to mysticism, magic, and ritual. The most devoted adherents call themselves “postrationalists” or members of “the metatribe.”

[T]his tendency is all the more striking for the fact that its genesis lies in a subculture ostensibly dedicated to the destruction of all thoughts non-rational. For example, when I was writing a piece on the rationalists for Religion News Service in 2018, I attended a rationalist-affiliated “Secular Solstice” in New York—a non-theistic version of Hanukkah in which a series of (battery-operated) candles were lit and subsequently extinguished to represent the snuffing out of superstitions. The ceremony culminated (or would have culminated, if a stubborn candle hadn’t refused to go out) in total darkness, during which we were invited to meditate upon the finality of death, the non-existence of God, and the sole avenue for hope: supporting—financially, intellectually, or otherwise—quixotic scientific initiatives capable of prolonging life, or of eliminating death altogether.

And while few of them find a home among the seemingly implausible dogmas of traditional, organized religion, they’re far more willing than their rationalist forebears to see in religious, spiritual, or even esoteric or occult practice an avenue toward self-transformation in the service of a meaningful life.

If the metatribe reflects anything about our wider cultural moment, it is our shared disillusionment with the broader liberal optimism the rationalists have come to embody. The promise proffered by so much of Silicon Valley—that we can hack our way to Enlightenment, transcending our humanity along the way—no longer seems plausible amid the broad ennui and general pessimism that has settled into our culture over the last decade.

But it’s also true that metatribe discourse remains more wedded to contemporary liberal individualism than many of its members might care to admit.

Read more at New Atlantis

More about: American Religion, American society, Mysticism, Silicon Valley

Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University