Digital Deities

Social media recreates the anxieties associated with early modern puritanism.

Triple Episcopacie, a puritan satire on Archbishop Laud, 1641.

Perhaps all ages are an age of anxiety, though some more than others. The 17th century, for example, as Keith Thomas wrote in Religion and the Decline of Magic (1971), was marked by ‘a new insistence upon God’s sovereignty’. The deity not only intervened, but he did so in a ubiquitous, all-encompassing, inescapable way, especially in the lives of the ‘hotter’ sort of puritan. Jean Calvin, whose religious teachings of predestination – a fixed, unchanging division into those saved and those damned – were anything but comforting, was ‘certain that not a drop of rain falls without the express command of God’.

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