About Religion: Economies of Faith in Virtual Culture

Mark C. Taylor, Author
Mark C. Taylor, Author University of Chicago Press $25 (304p) ISBN 978-0-226-79162-3
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What is religion about in the late 20th century? In a virtual world where surface images provide the depth of reality, what role does religion play? These are only two of the many questions that Taylor (Hiding) explores in his inimitably playful way. He begins by asking how can we engage in speculation about the existence of God after God's death and he argues that Melville's (""the most important writer America has yet produced"") The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade provides the best portrait of the bankruptcy of faith. In other essays, Taylor investigates the relationship between psychosocial theory and religion as well as the relationship between evolutionary biology and religion. In addition, he explores the similarities between ancient alchemy and the virtual Postmodern culture. ""Today's alchemists,"" he notes, ""sublimate base matter into immaterialities on fiber-optic networks where everything is light."" Where is religion in the late modern age? Taylor concludes: ""The religion that today calls for reflection does not answer questions or provide meaning but abandons us....[It is] forever turning toward what is always slipping away; we can never be certain what religion is about."" As comfortable talking about Karl Marx as about contemporary sculptors Fred Sandback and Richard Serra, Taylor courses through the history of ideas and the images of pop culture to demonstrate that religion, art and literature are cultural constructs inextricably bound together. No one who wants to understand religion and contemporary culture should avoid reading Taylor. (June)
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