( A five minute read)
We all know the way religious scriptures are read can influence how they are interpreted.
Apps like YouVersion, which has been installed more than 260 million times worldwide since its launch in 2008 and similarly popular apps exist for the Torah and Koran are tweeting out filtered Bible verses which are allowing a private expression of faith to take place between a person and their phone screen.
A new kind of mutated religion for a digital age.
It’s no longer necessary to set foot in a church or a mosque.
The ubiquity of smartphones and social media makes them hard to avoid, but are they both changing the way people practise their religion.
The importance of the web in everyday life – from banking to shopping to socialising – means that religious organisations must migrate their churches and temples to virtual real estate in order to stay relevant and to be where the people are.
Religion was important just a century or so ago, but now it is at lowest rates of belief in the world. Very few societies are more religious today than they were 40 or 50 years ago.
Now we have more and more societies following many of the ethics of the secular world. Known as moralistic therapeutic deism, this form of belief is focused more on the charitable and moral side of the Bible – the underlying tenets of religion, rather than the notion that the Universe was created by an all-seeing, all-powerful leader.
These Societies are being supercharged by the internet and social media creating a sort of Pick-and-mix religious beliefs which means people can avoid doctrines that do not appeal to them.
Quite how interacting with the Bible or the Koran in bite-sized nuggets might affect people’s views of either remains somewhat unknown, but reading the Bible or Koran or any religious writings in this way is changing people’s overall sense of it.
If you go to the Bible/ Koran as a paper book, they are quite large and complicated and you’ve got to thumb through it to find what you are looking for. With the mobile phone Bible or Koran we have more access to more information, more viewpoints, and we can create a spiritual rhythm and path that’s more personalised.
Although Capitalism, access to technology and education also seems to correlate with a corrosion of religiosity in some populations. Technology is shaping religious people themselves and changed their behaviour. You just go to where you’ve asked it to go to, and you’ve no sense of what came before or after. A lot of people who consider themselves to be active Christians may not strictly even believe in God or Jesus or the acts described in the Bible.
It is becoming less about the preacher in the pulpit,and more about the Tweet.
When you read the Bible on a screen you end up reading the text as though it was Wikipedia.
The text read on screens is generally taken more literally than text read in books. It’s a flat kind of reading, which the Bible or the Koran or for that matter any Scriptures were not written for.
Overly literal interpretations of religious texts can lead to fundamentalism. The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace, as “a new kind of realm for the mind”.
Even if we lose sight of the Christian, Muslim and Hindu gods and all the rest, superstitions and spiritualism will almost certainly still prevail, and as climate change wreaks havoc on the world in coming years and natural resources potentially grow scarce, then suffering and hardship will fuel religiosity.
The greatest danger of the web is not that it will kill or change religion, but that, we will see the differences in our faiths because of our desire to find our own kind.
The web has not de facto increased inter-faith communication. It is not being used for inter-religious dialogue or diversity.
Religious leaders will have to get used to the idea of being more accountable and transparent in their dealings and of having to engage, on equal terms, with those who stand outside the traditional hierarchies.
Can it be, then, that the more information at our disposal, the more we stop to wonder whether our God, our church, and our supposedly holy books are really as believable as they once seemed?
People become their Internet selves to such an extent that these selves become their “real” selves. Does this somehow switch them off from their former core beliefs? Or could it be that some religions are so rigid, so literal, so supposedly inviolable that they don’t sufficiently allow for critical thought?
Pope Francis has 3.8 million Twitter followers. Miley Cyrus has almost 17.7 million.
When a new technology, such as the printing press or the Internet, unleashes massive cultural change, the challenge to religion is immense. Cultural developments change how God/Mohammed , or the ultimate, is thought of and spoken about.
If there is a battle between generations about the shape of the future, it is one played out not in public life but within families.
All comments appreciated. All like clicks chucked in the Bin.