John Modern, Franklin & Marshall College
ACLS Burkhardt Fellow
“The Religion Machine, or; a particular history of the brain”
“The Religion Machine” will be the first book to offer historical leverage upon the strange compatibilities of religion and cognition from the eighteenth century to the present. Moving from the writings of Emmanuel Swedenborg in the 1720s through an emerging scientific desire to measure religion in the 1870s to the abuses of electric shock therapy in the 1970s, I frame the cognitive revolution in terms of its cosmic claims and religious allure. How is it, I ask, that the brain has become ever present, self-evidently authoritative, demanding, in effect, that it be accounted for across a diverse range of activities? How, why, and to what effect has religion become an engineering problem—quite literally a matter of circuits and codes and neural networks—for scientists and supplicants alike?