03 April 2007

computers vs. religion?

This entry is motivated by Dan's recent post, Technology and Religion.

Dan's main point in his post seems to be that the advent and development of technology has been detrimental to the human experience of religion, and its importance in daily life. It's impossible to contend that technology has not drastically changed the human experience, but I disagree that religion has been affected in a "negative" way by the connectedness provided by technology.

Of course, however, the first thing I thought of was Futurama and Bender's adventure in Robotology, led by the little guy to the left there. Matt Groening's point there appears to be something like "technology-based religions are just as whack as regular ones," but it's hard to say. A religion that worships technology is a bit strange, but that's not my point right now.

Anyways, I think that technological interconnectedness has benefited religion in many of the same ways it has benefited other forms of community, to first look at religion in that sense. In the modern world of billions of people and all sorts of exciting places to go, religious wobsites, chatrooms, bulletin boards, and everything else can help unite people who might otherwise be too sundered to ever meet in person. This also lets people feel connected to one another in general, in a world so large that it's easy to feel insignificant and unnoticed.

Dan also mentioned that because we are in contact with so many different types of people, we also encounter things that challenge our religion, which creates conflict. I think his point was that this sort of thing either didn't happen much at all or happened only rarely among early peoples. However, I think we can't make such direct comparisons to our distant ancestors -- we have obviously evolved a lot in many different areas since then. They may have been unable to handle differences in opinion, but many modern people pride themselves on tolerance, which often shows up in religion itself, particularly Christianity.* I think that, even though we're not there yet, our society is inevitably moving toward a truly unified global community. It will probably take a while, but the alternative is total annihilation.

*To quote Douglas Adams, Jesus was "nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change".

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