Technology and Faith are two concepts that are ever present in our lives and in the modern era are seemingly placed in opposite corners of reality. Technology is being used to spread some of the knowledge and wisdom of Faith to all corners of the globe, while at the same time it is being used to spread the virus of hate to these same corners of the world. Why do we view these two ideals as opposing each other? What effect has Technology had on our minds when searching for answers? Has the promise of instant data led us to seemingly insurmountable mountain range of devolving rhetoric and fear/hatred of the Other? Has Technology opened our third-eye in this search and simply made us more doubtful of the answers that we are given?.
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From the creation of Facebook to the creation of the cloud, advances in technology are proceeding at a pace heretofore unseen. For all the impact of the Gutenberg printing method, the PC has created monumental changes in our lives and even with the way that our religions are practiced. Mobile devices have gotten the acclaim for provoking social change in various countries which rein from the Arab Spring in the Middle East, the growing impact of the #MeToo moment to the more hidden growth of the megachurch. These mobile devices are eliminating brick and mortar stores and that affect can be seen with the idea of the traditional church with it set hours of worship. Now, people can turn to the YouVersion Bible app and read the Bible from different interpretations at a moment’s notice. This decline in church membership changes how the youth experience religion. Most do not understand that the religious experience was never just about the worship of a supreme being, but it was more about the communal effort of experiencing the here and now with a group of like-minded individuals.
The struggle in the next decade will be how to organize religion while achieving the social benefits that are found from real life interactions from attending a place of worship. Can we replicate this experience with a virtual session? Can we find peace within the confines of an app? The virtual space can be effective with people that have a solid foundation with their faith. The most recent technological marvel that attacked religion has been coopted in ways that no one predicted. The Television. The television was labeled with the same negative aspersions we discuss with our mobile devices. It dehumanized the family structure. It ruined attention spans. People would rather stay home rather than go out. All of these have been said about the Internet and Social Media and the same messages were said about TV. Can we even imagine Christianity without Jim Bakker, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Jerry Falwell and Billy Graham? The apathy that we find in the modern world has spread to many avenues of our modern life.
Young people expect to have any religious event to have some form of modern technology in use. Perhaps church leaders should merge their sermons with some of the modern apps to hold the attentions spans of the modern congregation. Multitasking is a part of their modern lives and many of them would love the idea of using this influx of data to blend in with the more serene procedures of the chapel. These even ties into the concepts of what religion is to a young person. Their entire lives have been spent with this a la carte methodology. Don’t like someone’s page? Block. Don’t want to be bothered with those tweets? Mute. The idea of religion to the modern age is simple another deal. A smart contract in a sense. Religion says: God is real. He tells us to behave in certain ways. If you obey then you will get into heaven. If you behave in horrible ways, you’ll go to Hell. This very concept appears to many people as an implicit contract with tangible benefits AFTER you’ve left the mortal plane. Everywhere that they look they see many people getting tangible benefits from choices than in the past. One could even say that religion has informed one of the more innovative technological breakthroughs of the last few years: the Blockchain Smart Contract. In the simplest example, Ethereum or Bitcoin users can send 10 ether/bitcoin to a friend on a certain date using a smart contract if certain terms have been upheld. This technology will continue to spread through the youth of America.
Science has become the religion of choice for many. Most people will accept it as fact any statement made by anyone associated with the scientific community. Why is this so? Because science is supposedly based on objective principles and verifiable data. The scientific method: form a hypothesis (a model), perform experimentation and gather data, and evaluate the model against the results. Again, we see the modern way prevailing upon our reality. The need for a RESULT. Modern people go from the Atkins diet to the Paleo diet on a whim from a scientist. They neglect to see that even these “clerics” are just spouting their truth. There is no ultimate truth that can come from our scientists. The fact that the scientists claim to have any sort of model that truly sorts fact from fiction is foolish at the least. To what extent can any model be proven to be a perfect representation of that which it seeks to describe? At best, the model may reasonably predict under certain conditions and based on a set of assumptions. Chaos theory tells us that most systems are too complex to be represented by such models.
There will always be unexpected agitations in the system that have no apparent cause. Weather forecasting is a good example of this. When we understand that what most people believe to be proven scientific theory is just accepted hypothesis. Faith is something that cannot be proven scientifically, however to dismiss outright without the understanding that believing in the Holy Trinity has just as much belief as believing in the Big Bang Theory. That’s all that they are. Constantly tested hypotheses that are constantly being upgraded and disparaged based off acceptable doctrine from scientist and priests. The gap between a priest or clergyman is at once huge and tiny at the same time. As we become more and more isolated from each other and shuffle off into smaller and smaller clicks we simply are causing these fissures to widen that threaten to separate us once and for all.
How do we attempt to bridge these gaps? There are applications that can be used to present free online courses for fellow members of a certain religion. This would allow the church to have a wider online presence and would allow for the possible transition to a MMORPG function that could be used to bring in others. These MMORPGs that are tied to the online courses could give a visual representation for the lessons within the course. This will allow the instructor/clergy to tap into the addictive nature of games like Candy Crush. The premise should be to allow users to experience “accomplishments” that will allow for the release of the neurochemical dopamine. Dopamine plays a critical role in learning which allows for us to cement behavior in our daily lives. Advances in technology influences all aspects of our lives, from driving with its integration into our parking and driver assisted steering on the highway, to education with its opportunities for online learning such as Khan’s Academy, Harvard and Stanford’s MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) to Wikipedia with its open-sourced encyclopedia. People approach every single point of their lives to be impacted by technology and those institutions that fall behind suffer dramatically as opposed to the classes from yesteryear.
As I stated earlier relying on brick and mortar institutions simply isn’t a valid instructional idea anymore. Churches and other religious institutions must use tools like Facebook groups to communicate together, while allowing groups to communicate collaboratively with shared documents such as Google Docs, where students can participate and change roles on a whim. Imagine a congregation using the hashtag inside of a social media group to respond to others that find similar interest during a sermon? Allowing that same congregation to drop news articles and files into a community Dropbox for discussion within the Wednesday night study group. This gives the pastor a real-time integration with his flock and to even crowdsource any projects that the Church may have by way of Kickstarter? Perhaps have the choir subsidized with a local Patreon account…which would allow the church leaders to spend less time speaking about fund-raising and more time on the serious questions that we all have. At the same time, we have coming paradigm shift of AI otherwise known as Artificial Intelligence.
The coming onslaught of creating devices that can think for themselves and shall bring a rather gigantic quandary of human limitations and the responsibility that the clergy of artificial intelligence design shall have on human affairs. More than 8,000 people, including Hawking, Noam Chomsky, and Elon Musk, have signed an open letter warning against potential pitfalls of AI development. Many of these people are considered amongst the smartest people in the world and are not voices that should be ignored. “If humans were to create free-willed beings, says Kelly, who was raised Catholic and identifies as a Christian, absolutely every single aspect of traditional theology would be challenged and have to be reinterpreted in some capacity. Where would this place human beings in the theological chain? Are we capable of creating souls? And if we can, are we following too closely in our Creator’s footsteps? Are we about to become Icarus flying too close to the Sun? So how should one navigate this dilemma? We cannot choose to ignore the benefits of a digital world and live in a state of unawareness. Technology is a fantastic tool and can be used to impact people across the world. We’ve gone over how much more accessible the world has become in the last 25 years, all due to the utilization of concepts such as mobile phones, the internet and of course, social media.
Everyone should remember that life is all about balance. Does social media and the fast-paced ADD culture make it harder to focus on the religious experience? Yes. However, I believe that is because we have all hunkered down on this idea that Technology is against God. Was life easier before Technology? No. By every possible metric mankind’s experience has been significantly improved by Technology. There are no concrete answers in our modern-day life, but what is certain is that God will meet you where you are regardless of your circumstances.
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