In his book Homo Deus, Yuval Noah Harari writes, “Despite all the talk of radical Islam and Christian fundamentalism, the most interesting place in the world from a religious perspective is not the Islamic State or the Bible Belt, but Silicon Valley. That’s where hi-tech gurus are brewing for us brave new religions that have little to do with God, and everything to do with technology. They promise all the old prizes – happiness, peace, prosperity and even eternal life – but here on earth with the help of technology, rather than after death with the help of celestial beings” (Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus. New York: Harper, 2017, p.356).
I’m interested how many scholars of religion would agree with Harari. It is always hard to tell where things are headed. In some ways, it might sound like a message of hope, when Harari suggests that the real trajectories towards the future are found not in fundamentalism but in futurism. There is certainly a growing Christian transhumanist movement that I am aware of.
One great thing about exploring science fiction and religion is that the genre of sci-fi allows for opportunities to imagine what the future of religion might look like, in conjunction with the development of future technology, and to explore the possible relationship between the two. When sci-fi has projected fundamentalism into the future, we must remember that that is commentary on the present, and that what science fiction authors imagine happening in the realm of religion is not likely to be any more on target than what they have managed about the future of technology – or about the future of human clothing and dance, for that matter.
There is a review of Harari’s book that appeared in The Guardian last year, for those who want to find out more about it. And here on Patheos, the blogs Anxious Bench and Friendly Atheist have both explored this theme of the future of religion.