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

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy