Who (or what) are the iGods? For Detweiler, "a technology, a technologist, or the person bewitched by the power promised by the gadget" can all become deified. His primary interest, however, lies with the august pantheon of digital business magnates and their corporations: Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google, Apple's Steve Jobs, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. These hallowed names have been accorded godlike status in popular culture because they have engineered solutions to perceived technological problems: Apple made computers user-friendly and more aesthetic in design; Amazon enabled shoppers to sort through the endless products and offered personalized recommendations; Google made the flood of information on the Web searchable and more manageable; Facebook allowed us to connect with friends while we are shopping and searching in a fragmented society.
Detweiler takes us behind the screen and recounts the "creation narrative" of each company. What emerges is a complex description of a new religious system—the cult of technology—and a theological profile of its leading figures.
YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram are not left out. Since they have offered no comprehensive solutions to major technological dilemmas, however, they are assigned the subordinate status of "demigods." These online utilities are more concerned with our divine status than with their own. In a participatory culture of user-based media, these companies grant us the means of deification. We can become immortalized, building personal platforms and creating an audience of followers.
Like many of us, Detweiler seems uncomfortable with this religion of technology. But he's certainly no digital iconoclast. Though absolutely clear that "technology cannot save us," he seems to find himself often sitting on the back row pews of technology's temple. At times he even seems inspired to move up a few rows, as when he "sings the praises" and "celebrates the wonders" of technology and social media. After highlighting the suspicious business attitudes and motivations of Apple and Google, he then presents them (to a limited degree) as pattern-shaping for the church.
This is not techno-religious hypocrisy, however, but a complicated honesty arising from the Christian vocation to know and engage one's culture. And to my mind, such tension is actually instructive. Embedded within technological processes are the conflicting dynamics of the human soul, crafted in God's image yet marred by sin. Though it often seems less risky to just reject all this newfangled digital stuff, the technological society is here to stay, and we need to venture into it faithfully.
Yet casting Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon as "iGods," frames an approach to digital technology that leaves us wondering if using and enjoying their products and services renders us de facto idolaters. Though Detweiler is critical of pop-culture's cultic language on technology, he often goes on to adopt that language himself. So we are left wondering if the digital age is inevitably an era of religious compromise. Detweiler's approach reminds readers that technology is so embedded within our lives that bowing to its altar is a real and present danger. But it raises questions of how we can use today's technology without selling our soul.