Thursday, April 12, 2007

Technology and the belief of God

We were discussing an as yet unpublished paper (thus - no link) about technology and Religion and there always seems to be allot of qualified people offering the scientific and technical reasons why God 'cant exist' or religion isn't true.

Clearly, the three most common Web sites are porn, health and religious ones. Obviously, porn and health are not surprising, but religion as number three is.

That should be telling us something. People want their porn without going to seedy theaters and getting it in brown paper packages. People crave religion and spirituality without having it crammed down their throats in a Church, Synagogue, Mosque (or wherever).

Anonymity and having the user be the one in charge have driven the growth of the internet as well as the online porn and spirituality engines. Technology has allowed thousands - if not millions - of people to begin to develop sexually and spirituality outside of the traditional power structures or social norms.

So if the role of religion, organized or not, is to meet human need on a social or community level, then surely technology - which arguably has transformed the way groups of people communicate - has a role in religion and thus, society as a whole.

But Plato once said that, 'man does not discover anything - he merely exhumes what's fed into him' so I did a quick poll of my students, friends and colleagues in this space and asked them:
'What do you think was the science or technology invention that most damaged peoples ability to believe or understand religion?'
Below is the top 10 of my unscientific research - I checked around on the net and these 'inventions' seem to be supported but not necessarily in this order. Either way - I was a bit surprised.

1. Artificial Intelligence
2. Creation of a standardized and free education system
3. Literacy
4. The printed and freely available Bible
5. Availability of the Pill (the sexual revolution)
6. Transportation and mobility
7. Application of economic theory and the creation of the 'middle class'
8. The telescope
9. Mathematics that led to 'logic' theory
10. Psychiatry (discovery of the 'Self')

So where will religion and technology be in the mid-future?

Clearly - there will be no centralized church structures - mainstream religion will finally understand and embrace telecommuting, so to speak.

The definition of a religious place or center will have to be re-imagined and the concept - or even the believability - of a God in the context of a digital world and in terms of cause-and-effect science will remain 'untestable voodoo'.

But isn't that what most non-IT people think of IT? Try to explain 'usability' to an tax accountant and you know what I mean.

But in the end - geeks know that IT isn't voodoo - and maybe religion isn't either.

PS - kudos to Vonnegut - he beat the this sad little system of ours.

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Anonymous João Miguel Neves said...

The interesting thing is: effective centralized church structures are something that was created in the 20th century. Before, the lack of ability to communicate quickly made all the structure a lot more distributed.

I do believe that the unidirectional communication standard that is going away with the Internet was the cause of this empowerment of central structures: for the first time in history, a message could easily reach millions without going through a participant in the local community, with the disadvantage that few to none feedback is given directly to the producer of the message.

The interesting thing is that it's only solvable by those in "power" (aka acess to the unidirectional media) relinquishing their own power. Otherwise, yes, people will find an alternative system. It will be interesting to watch...

11:11 AM, April 15, 2007  

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