Religious Experience, Moral Identity, and the Technological Future
Throughout human history there have been “techniques” of spiritual experience. These botanical, psychosocial, and meditative techniques are better understood and more precise now. Projecting forward from existing technologies, we can also expect neuropsychopharmacology, transcranial brain stimulation, genetic analyses, brain scanning, and biofeedback to play ever greater roles in spirituality. Whether we welcome it or fear it, the era in which we can induce, prevent, and control many kinds of religious behaviors, beliefs, and experiences is fast approaching, and in some respects is already with us. This presents us with an ethical quandary of enormous proportions. The theological questions are no less challenging. What does this level of control say about the authenticity of religious behaviors, beliefs, and experiences? How do we conceive of personal and religious identity in light of such levels of control over religious and spiritual experiences? Can such technologies support moral discernment and virtue-enhancing practices?
Wesley J. Wildman is Professor of Philosophy, Theology, and Ethics at Boston University, and Convener of the Graduate School’s doctoral program in Religion and Science. His research and publications pursue a multidisciplinary, comparative approach to important topics within religious and theological studies, and has lectured on these themes in many parts of the world. Among his recent publications, the programmatic statement of a theory of rationality underlying this type of integrative intellectual work is Religious Philosophy as Multidisciplinary Comparative Inquiry: Envisioning a Future for the Philosophy of Religion (State University of New York Press, 2010). Science and Religious Anthropology (Ashgate, 2009) presents his multidisciplinary interpretation of the human condition, and the companion volume Science and Ultimate Reality (Ashgate, forthcoming) articulates his account of religious naturalism in relation to competing views of ultimate reality. Religious and Spiritual Experiences (Cambridge University Press, 2011) presents a multidisciplinary interpretation of religious experience. The three co-edited volumes of Science and the World’s Religions (2013) demonstrate the ways in which all religions have something at stake in science-religion dialogue, and the two co-edited volumes of Encyclopedia of Science and Religion (2003) survey the field. He is a member of the American Academy of Religion, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the International Society for Science and Religion. He is co-founder of the Institute for the Biocultural Study of Religion, a research institute devoted to the scientific study of religion (see www.ibcsr.org and www.ScienceOnReligion.org), founder of the instant-feedback survey site at www.ExploringMyReligion.org, and founding co-editor of the institute’s Taylor & Francis journal Religion, Brain & Behavior (see http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rrbb20). For more information, visit www.WesleyWildman.com.