The Relationship Between Technology and Religion

Topics: Religion, Technology, Science Pages: 5 (1623 words) Published: February 25, 2014


Scholars have often debated the relationship between technology and religion. Recently, however, a paper written by Genevieve Bell, titled No More SMS from Jesus: Ubicomp, religion and techno-spiritual practices, catalyzed the research in this area. In it, Bell gives an informative analysis regarding the interaction between technology and religion, as well as a compelling argument regarding how ubiquitous computing (and technological design in general) does not account for the common religious and cultural needs, and thus, will have to begin incorporating it into its design (Bell 2006). In this paper, I will formulate my own opinion regarding Bell’s information as well as his conclusions regarding the relationship between technology and religion. I generally agree with Bell’s conclusions, however, my thesis stresses a more encompassing relationship between the two, that is, that change in technology and religion go hand in hand. However, religion is observed to be a core and resilient element in society, and as a result, more demand must be placed on technological design to account for religious contexts, otherwise technology will shortchange itself. I will do this by analyzing different empirical observations and inferring the above pattern of relationship. We will begin by synthesising the ideas presented in Bell’s work, and then proceed to contributing our perspective regarding it. Bell notes in the beginning of his work, in regards to ubiquitous technology, that the “design deployment for spiritual practice remains notably absent” (2006, 145). Furthermore, “technologies rapidly scaled only at the point that they were invested with spiritual significance.” (Bell 2006, 145). These two initial points are vital, for it builds off background research, and stresses the implication that the relationship between technology and religion leans more heavily towards religion, being the prime controller of the dynamics between the two. Bell’s empirical research shows this relationship more clearly, claiming that 64% of Americans use the internet for religious and spiritual reasons, as well as the important fact that technologies (such as cellphones) are being naturalized or used exclusively for religious reasons, such as cell phone blessings, prayers/confessions, and religious notifications and features (Bell, 2006). Such features include online pilgrimages, online Qing Ming rituals, as well as online religious institutions. These observances weave the fabric of this relationship quite well, and show that it isn’t a matter of religion adapting to technological advances, but religious beliefs and systems imposing its norms and logic upon technology. However, other examples of religious logic imposing itself upon technology, is simply the rejection of technology by religion in the first place. Bell shows that often time, religious factors primarily influence the acceptance or rejection of technology (Bell 2006). Thus, it is clear that, in the light of the above observances, that the relationship between technology and religion (or cultural logic), is more heavily determined by the religious logic present, and thus technology must take this into account by re-appropriating design. “Nature of certain kinds of religious practice and expression suggest that always-on connectivity and constant updating might not be desirable features of a computing system.” says Bell (2006, 154). The modern implications of technological design almost imply the lack of existence of a spiritual life, and constant bombardment of connectivity, and thus, in light of the previous observances, that is, that religion is a core part of the interpretation and functioning of technology in society, reprioritizing of technological design is key. It is key to understand that the relationship between technology and religion is cyclical, though leaning heavier towards influence from religion due to the above observances. Due to that “the need to...
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