We Invented Our Past Again

In the world of technology 2024, among the bullshit (AI that’s just Clippy Turbo), the scams (pick your food substitute), and the pathological rich (everywhere) something seems familiar. There’s something that feels similar, something that’s not just a rut, but a sameness to all of this new inanity. Consider.

There’s new tech messiahs in town, a handful of men (always men) worshiped as virtual gods who are going to save us. Sure they may no thave invented anything, are building on connections and/or inherited money, have horrible politics, and probably committed sexual assault. Yet people gather around them reverently, singing their praises, vying for attention.

We have our Lord and Saviors – and best of all you can swap one out for another, plus they kind of dress alike,

There’s the promise of change, of revolution. We’ll ascend to space or go to mars. We can acclerate technical development into utopia (especially if you give my company money and venture capital). Just trust us, remove all limit, and we’ll have a future – and show those people who’s in charge.

We have the Apocalypse and the Kingdom of Heaven. Funny how the apocalyptic parts don’t get mentioned as much except for a few tech-types who like to pen vicious screeds grounded in their own paranoia.

There’s even the promise of immortality. This new food substitute will add years onto your life. There’s curious and disturbing talk of blood transfusions. Of course there’s always that promise of uploading your brain to the internet that echoes around the edges of these futuristic grasps for eternity.

For some tech promises we shall be undying in the new utopia.

What has Silicon Valley and it’s attendant technosphere given us? Simple.

It’s given us Christianity2.0.

We’ve got thirst for a messiah, a constant promise of Heaven, and a hope of long life/immortality. Wrap this all up in money and what appear to be widespread daddy issues, and yep, it’s American Christianity re-invented.

I mean we shouldn’t be surprised. Religion has well-worn cultural paths that are easy to follow intentionally or not. The tech world has gotten less and less original anyway, so it doesn’t surprise me to see this weird duplication. Honestly, there may be nothing malicious here, it may be sheer unoriginality.

A lot of are looking for a future of more responsible technology, less grift, less bullshit. Economic downturns and economic bubbles may help, but we need to remember there’s a culture issue here. A change will not just be federated servers or government regulation – it willl be, on some level, spiritual and psychological.

Otherwise we might just re-invent a kind of flaccid, hack Christianity again.


So Where’s The Spirituality?

It seems a lot of people want to tell me and my friends how to live, act, love, etc. all in the name of their “god.”

They have lists of things to do and don’t do. They have rules. These are all things we have to follow – though it seems certain people get to make exceptions. Usually those shouting the loudest about “divine” guidance seem to get to follow none of it.

They have opinions of who can do what. Often around gender, sometimes age, and in the end skin color and ethnicity. Oh they’ll deny the latter, but it’s fairly obvious their little checklists of who is exceptional is pretty small – and funny thing is all the religious shouters are in that small group.

Know what I don’t see in these religious authoritarians? Any kind of spirituality.

Where’s the soul-shattering insights that lay you humbly low? Where’s the connection of some universal truth that comes through from elsewhere into your mind and words? Where’s the depth of it all, of that great sea of being behind things? Be it god, archetype or insight, these religious checklist-wielders don’t have it.

There’s nothing because all they have is their pile of rules (that of course they don’t have to follow). It’s clear as desert-noon day that there’s nothing spiritual at all, nothing deep, in their minds. There’s just the rage-fueled clockwork click-clack chatter of their demands we conform.

Sure some of them make it up. They fake speaking in tongues, they get ghostwritten books, they have some media consultants. A few are wacked-out enough to think they’re having visions, but then you hear about portals to hell over landmarks and other recycled internet conspiracy theories.

And, in the end, there’s nothing there.

I’ve said that I don’t have to take religious fanatics seriously. I don’t believe in their religion, and as they’re obvious hypocrites I don’t have to believe them. But let me add to that, in my more esoteric moments, it’s pretty damn clear they have no claim to deep spiritual insights.

They’ve just got a checklist, and obviously an agenda. If they every encountered some moment that cracked their soul open to something bigger, they wouldn’t be such assholes, or they’d crawl away in shame.


A Newly Burning Brand

“I’m X, Y, and Z” some religious person or spiritual seeker will exclaim proudly, touting their supposed morals and ethics.. However they are neither X,Y, or Z in your humble opinion – yet if you call them on it they get very offended. You yourself are offended that they are making such statements while clearly not living up to what they profess.

We’ve seen this before, with gun-toting Lightworkers, compassionate Christians who want homeless people dead, and so on. People are very emphatic about who they are while being absolutely nothing like they say they are.

So are they just lying? Well, it would seem as much, but drifting among various conversations I’ve had and heard, I’d like to suggest something different. These people have a brand.

A brand. A set of labels and images and so on that define them. It doesn’t mean they are these things, but they say they are. The human equivalent of a corporation touting their love of the environment while pumping toxic waste into it, or financial responsibility being part of their image until the CIO suddenly flies to a country without an extradition treaty.

At least with corporations we have the comfort of assuming people in them are lying to us, but I think these “spiritually branded” people who don’t live up to their brand may be serious. They may actually think they’re what they say they are.

Why do I say that? Am I going soft? No, they’re still destructive assholes, but we can learn from them. In fact I think I have a pretty good idea of how we got here.

Ages ago, “personal branding” was all the rage in the career world. Initially I kind of liked it because it felt like a vision quest – figure who you are and sum it up! I’ll even argue that early on it was a good thing as it helped people figure out how to communicate in their careers!

But of course, it became corrupted into bullshit-spewing self-marketing. The internet didn’t help because it encouraged everyone to brand themselves. Start this youtube channel! Start this podcast! Do this etsy store! Try this on your LinkedIn. We all got branding dumped down our throat, and even if we didn’t respond we saw all those people who found brands and wondered . . .

Now slather all of this on top of religion and spirituality, which has had PLENTY of inaccurate branding over the ages. The result is something far worse than the usual religions toxicity. We’ve taken the problems humanity has always had and added market-tested, keyword-enabled branding on top of it. It’s somewhere between marketing and toxic fandom.

So when you tell someone they’re a religious hypocrite and they insist they aren’t with buzzword bingo, remember this is branding. This is a lie people are so used to telling it’s not a lie.

(As how we deal with it, well, that I gotta put some thought into . . .)

– Xenofact