Today being Good Friday, with Easter being Sunday and in the midst of Passover; it is a time for reflection. Instead of thinking about DevOps, today I ponder life and religion. What comes to mind is the future of religion in these technological times. The number of Americans with a religious affiliation continues to decline, less and less of us make an appearance at a Synagogue, Church or any house of worship for that matter. In my childhood we would at the very least make an appearance a few holidays a year, notably at the annual pancake breakfast.
From the calculator to the computer, from mobile devices and the Internet, advances in technology are creating monumental changes in our lives and in turn the way religion is practiced. The universal acceptance of mobile devices, like the iPhone and iPad, is provoking a profound social change. The dependence on these devices is eliminating the individuals need for traditional religion and going to traditional houses of worship. The problem is, without the traditional religious brick and mortar upbringing, the youth of today forgo a key element of the religious experience. Religion was never just about a supreme being, the social gathering and interaction of those with similar beliefs and values is also a critical part of the experience. Religion is losing the youth.
It seems there are now thousands of apps which allow parishioners to bring Bible quotes, Torah-chanting practice and Buddhist prayer wheels anywhere, anytime day or night. My concern is how many of our youth are downloading religious apps as opposed to angry birds. The challenge is how to mobilize religion while still achieving all the religious personal support and socialization benefits that are realized from real life interaction in attending a place of worship. Is the virtual congregation a realistic way to gather people and practice religion? I have a hard time thinking the young will embrace religion without the real life experience which creates the feeling of being at peace with oneself.
The virtual congregation will be effective fill in for those who have already experienced religion in the traditional sense. Worshippers who cannot find their way to their house of worship for services will pray online with their fellow believers via the latest technology, confident that the other worshipers are doing the same on their devices. How powerful that will be is the question, it has been relatively effective via Television. But those are already followers seeking religious celebrities, not new believers.
There is no denying religious leaders who conduct services via technology to a geographically wide spread audience will notice a significant difference in how worshippers experience the event. Religion is very much an emotional event and technology can be a non starter for the holy rollers. Gathering around technology in smaller groups may be an answer.
The religious apathy of the young produces a serious problem for religious leaders looking to grow shrinking congregations. The lack of formal religious upbringing has lost many of the young and younger worshippers that do exist expect any religious event to embrace technology use. Device multitasking has become such a pervasive part of their life that quiet, hard cover book based religious ceremonies seem awkward and therefore not compelling.
Technology may represent the end of traditional religious worship, and the beginning of a new age of worship, the form of which no one can reasonably predict or control. The bottom line is if you look at technology and say how does this change people going to house of worship? You miss the point, because religion is a much deeper set of beliefs. The question is without new young followers, what does the future hold for organized religions?
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