Is there a need for technology in religion?

Everyone has the right to experience spirituality in a different way. Kanye West describes my intention perfectly when he said, “I ain’t here to argue about his facial features. Or here to convert atheists into believers.” But, I do have some interesting thoughts to share.

For one, is our technology taking away from these experiences? Every time we open our smartphones when we’re bored, are we subtracting and distracting ourselves from meaningful introspection?

There’s no doubt in my mind that technology has given us more opportunity to treat our “neighbors” with disrespect – it is pretty easy to leave a hateful comment when I’m thousands of miles away. It has given us more opportunity to crave wealth and envy false prophets – half of my Instagram feed follows the lives of celebrities which I’ll never meet.

Not to mention, the internet provides us with a lot of information that contradicts religion (whether that info is made up or not). Some researchers even go so far as saying that internet usage decreases the chance of religious affiliation.

But, I think a more obvious trend to point out is that in our ever-busying lives, we aren’t attending religious services as much. The Pew Research Center conducted a survey that suggests this trend, showing that Millennials attend religious services the least of any age cohort.

I refuse to say that technology brings out the evil in people. It might make evil-doing easier. But, technology is not the antithesis of religion. However, when the two collide, they are often being used to further a message or to meet people where they are.

We’ve seen televangelists prosper for the past sixty years – when television was thriving. Now it may be the era of the religious podcaster and community builder – such as Rich Wilkerson’s VOUS Church.

More probable, though, is that we’re going to see a plethora of digital churches emerge. I tie this to digital restaurants – which are a phenomenon seen only with the advent of Grubhub and other food delivery services – basically where these restaurants have no storefront, but are a brand that creates food solely to be ordered on these digital platforms. Similarly, a digital church would serve the emerging Oculus Go communities, most likely without a physical location.

Another religious trend has to do with the widespread belief that a superintelligent AI is on the rise. That in our lifetime, an algorithm will be created that is so powerful, it can teach itself anything and come up with solutions to the world’s problems in moments. It could tap into all connected products on the globe from refrigerators to cameras to armed drones. Effectively, it would be all-knowing, all-seeing, and possibly all-controlling of humankind.

While most researchers are philosophizing on failsafes to prevent this superintelligent AI domination, one researcher is taking an unpopular approach.
Anthony Lewandowski, a very influential figure in the self-driving car space, believes the best solution is to treat this superintelligent AI as a deity. He’s created the Way of the Future Church, which plans to worship this artificial intelligence deity at designated churches. So, when the AI deity manifests, it knows that we brought it to life, will view us as its elders, and treat us with respect.

This may seem a wildly unpopular opinion now. But, I’m confident it will pick up some steam by 2030.

I realize that the technology and religion are two concepts that for many people don’t belong in the same conversation at all. But, given the fact that it makes most people uncomfortable tells me that it is a necessary discussion to be had.

Take my grandpa, for example, who was extremely bummed he couldn’t attend his Sunday services after becoming practically immobile. Lo and behold, a church in his city began broadcasting their services and almost every time I talk to him now, he can’t wait to share what his new pastor is discussing.

There’s a different confluence of technology and religion that can satisfy everyone’s varying needs. After all, isn’t the goal of religion to make us better people… sounds awfully familiar to the goal of technology. Nonetheless, this isn’t for any one person to decide.

In these rapid advancing times, is there a need for technology in religion?