Recommended Reading – Faith and the Digital Age

Need a new stack of books for your bedside table? Brad and Irwin share their reading list and insights gleaned from within the pages. Let us know your thoughts on the books if you’ve read them (or leave book recommendations) in the comments below.


1. The Soul of the World

Bob Dylan sang, “It may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” English philosopher and writer Roger Scruton’s wise and beautifully written The Soul of the World (Princeton University Press) makes the case that despite the brashness of the New Atheists and the increase of Nones (those with no religious affiliation) there is a “fundamentally religious impulse” – what we call “the sacred” that is irrepressible.

Scruton explains faith as an “attitude of openness to meanings” experienced in love, art, nature, and morality that are expressed and captured best in spiritual language. Think of all the times we reflexively say “Oh God”: When we witness a magnificent sunset, make love, hold our new born child or grandchild, receive a random kindness, narrowly escape from danger, dance with abandon at a rock and roll concert, hold our ill-friend’s hand, comfort our grieving neighbor, risk our status, our possessions, our lives to fight for the right thing. The feelings of awe, wonder, connection, reverence, surrender, sacrifice, gratitude, compassion evoked by such experiences and captured by our “Oh God” point to something beyond the perceptible here and now, something that occurs in this life, but which we sense also in some way reaches beyond this life.

Yes, philosophy teaches us that because reality is always mediated by our subjectivity we cannot access some transcendental Reality and yes we know that the data of nature is as entirely compatible with a random and even malevolent view of the universe as it is a trusting and good one. So okay, “God” may indeed be dead but we who seek God aren’t looking for proof. We know that our emotional needs precede rational arguments and that our yearnings for transcendence often move us to surpass our less than noble needs and desires and take us to a higher realm of ethics and a more intimate connection to each other and the universe.

Scruton shows that when religion is working it provides the stories, images, symbols and practices that nurture and place these yearnings and emotions into a framework of redemption – a trajectory towards a better world. Yes, we gotta serve somebody so let’s continue inventing our sacred games. – Irwin


2. The People’s Platform… Really?

Has the internet paid off as promised? Has culture – both popular and intellectual – actually been more democratized and upgraded over the past 20 years, or is it a fake kind of democracy in which a new oligarchy has replaced the old one(s) which governed the pre-internet world? Astral Taylor’s new book, The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age makes a powerful case for the latter.

Make no mistake; this is no tech-hating Jeremiad – this book deeply appreciates both the good and the potential good of the internet, which is what makes it such an interesting book, and one who’s most fundamental insight applies far beyond the topic of the internet and its discontents. That insight? That emerging realties are never as smooth or positive as enthusiasts of that reality would have us believe. Perhaps still worth the cost, but as the old adage goes: there’s no such thing as a free lunch. -Brad

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