As we head into a new year, the guardians of traditional religion are ramping up efforts to keep their flocks—or, in crass economic terms, to retain market share. Some Christians have turned to soul searching while others have turned to marketing. Last fall, the LDS church spent millions on billboards, bus banners, and Facebook ads touting “I’m a Mormon.” In Canada, the Catholic Church has launched a “Come Home” marketing campaign. The Southern Baptists Convention voted to rebrand themselves. A hipster mega-church in Seattle combines smart advertising with sales force training for members and a strategy the Catholics have emphasized for centuries: competitive breeding.
I don’t see the internet as a threat to religion. It is a threat to the old school ‘believe what you are told to believe’ style religion. The funny thing is that very similar arguments were made about the printing press.
I think that religion is inbred. It is part of our make up to want to believe in something bigger than ourselves and to organize around that belief so we can talk with like minded individuals. The internet won’t kill that, but it will make those communities more diffuse and less likely to be centered on a big brick building on Main St.
We are decoupled from absolute authority; privy to maddening amounts of information; and hip to the fact that, for the most part, we are just information, mostly bad information.
Religion is boring
Posted by Pastor_Alex on 01/22 at 03:15 PM
Religion as many people practice it is outdated software. It no longer fits well with the hardware that surrounds us. That doesn’t mean that we don’t need something that will function in the same way as that old software in our new situation.
Right now there is no legal way of boosting your empathy for others -except through meditation as Buddhist monks practice.
How many places can you find the cross generation interaction that a lot of people will tell you is necessary for full development? One of them is in a church.
Where can you find a place where you can introduce millionaires to street people and have them converse as equals? I think you are noticing a trend here.
Religious practice is technology for achieving change in human beings. It isn’t clean and it isn’t well used. There are lots of people abusing it. But most of us don’t blame the computer when someone uses it to spread kiddie porn or hate. Why do we blame religion when it is people who make a mess of it.
There will always be religious practice, it will just be disguised as something else.
What religion should do in case you ask.
Religion well used will create critical thinkers not blind followers. It will enable us to give our efforts to a larger cause than our own fleeting happiness. It will make us more empathetic and more ethical.
Posted by Intomorrow on 01/22 at 06:01 PM
One reason to appreciate religion is that—taking a decent Christian church as an example—a house of worship can be and often is the closest one can get to socialism. For example, the Catholic church nearby here is indistinguishable from a social democratic organisation. Take away the pro- “life” boilerplate, the anti-gay rhetoric, and the hustle-bustle (probably more hustle than bustle) of the outside world pales in comparison. Here in the Midwest the burghers are quite practical, yet business Rules the secular world, commercial values rule Supreme.
Another factor: the intentional communities I witnessed beginning 45 years ago faded away—with the sole exception of religious intentional communities.
The caveat is the above is damning faith with faint praise, it is saying the public is so unintelligent and foolish the public often needs religion for guidance; such makes a virtue of necessity: people simply can’t along so they need the pretentiousness of a guy nailed to a crucifix in taking on the sins of humanity.
Presecular religion will die, but religion certainly is not limited to the presecular. http://lincoln.metacannon.net/2012/06/post-secularism-and-resurrecting-god.html
Posted by SHaGGGz on 01/22 at 11:42 PM
@Alex: “Religion well used will create critical thinkers not blind followers. It will enable us to give our efforts to a larger cause than our own fleeting happiness.”
Yes, and a car with a flat tire well used will get you home. The notion that people who accept claims that require a special, heightened level of credulity will be more given to critical thought and less given to blindly following than people who do not accept such claims… taxes my credulity.
Posted by Intomorrow on 01/22 at 11:55 PM
“Presecular religion will die, but religion certainly is not limited to the presecular.”
Now you’re cooking with gas. Plus, one can upload into a presecular substrate if one wanted to- though it is difficult to imagine how one would want to do so; however there is no accounting for taste. Which segues into another critique of religion: what we call religion isn’t merely metaphysics and so on but also aesthetics, heuristics, etc; when we attempt to go into it we get lost in abstractions. It is of the heart not the head.
At any rate, if one were truly ‘dedicated’ (obsessive) one could colonize other planets to start religious communities off the Earth, free from intrusions. One can live in intentional communities on Earth yet the problem of interference from the outside will be ever-present. You could live a spiritual life in the Caymans, say, but later on satanists may conceivably move nearby.
Then there’s religious VR as well…
SHaGGGz, your credulity is being taxed as a consequence of your excessively narrow understanding of “religion”. Of course there are many stupid religious ideas. By far most humans are religious and have been for as long as history, so to the extent humans are stupid, their stupidity is more likely than not to be reflected in their religion rather than in its absence. This shouldn’t be even remotely surprising.
Posted by SHaGGGz on 01/23 at 12:44 AM
@Lincoln: My understanding of religion narrows it to avoid diluting it to the near-meaningless notion that anything that allows humans to transcend themselves is religion. My conception emphasizes the sort of dogma that renders beliefs impervious to falsification, namely the kind that relies on closed information systems, as described in this article.
Posted by TElden on 01/23 at 12:07 PM
I don’t think that the internet will hurt religion. The whole theme of your article is that the internet spreads truth and once people know the truth they will abandon religion. That is surely not true. First, the internet spreads falsity and misinformation about many subjects including religion as much as it spreads truth. Second, I believe all religions have some truth in them and that people are blessed to learn those truths. Third, I have no problem with the internet helping to expose and get rid of scammers, con-artists, and abusers of religion for their own gain—this will make those who teach truth even more visible and precious. For sincere people, everything is about the search for truth. Does God exist or not? Does He have a loving nature or a tyrannical nature? Are some religions more “true” than others? Are some churches more “true” than others? These are questions that deserve a life-long search for more truth.
Posted by Phillip C. Smith on 01/23 at 12:47 PM
You indicate that “the Mormon Quorum of the Twelve Apostles…should be very worried.” I would not use the expression “very worried” but many of us in the Church are concerned that so many of our Heavenly Father’s children are not seeking to find and follow him. This was the same situation that existed when Jesus Christ, the God and Savior of this world, lived on the earth. He noted that the path to heaven and eternal life would be found in this life by but few persons. When many left Jesus on one occasion one of his disciples Peter said when asked if he also would leave “to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.” (The New Testament - John 6)
Those of us who believe that we have found and are trying to follow the path that God would have us follow to find joy in this life and one day return to him and heaven of course sorrow that so few find it. We believe, nevertheless that it is the path that leads to true happiness. If this is right the final outcome direction is known and we only hope that as many as possible will find and follow the path to true happiness. That most do not in this life can be compared to those who choose unhealthy choices which eventually lead to unhappiness. We sorrow for rather than worry about these.
Posted by jkinak on 01/23 at 01:53 PM
It is interesting that many of us who have rejected humanism like this as an answer, also know that fundamentalism is humanism (in that man can find all in all in scripture rather than seeking Truth from the Author in a personal first Contact manner). The Bible is the truth about the truth not the Truth itself, the Truth is a Person. Many of us still believe this truth came to earth as Jesus of Nazareth, 2,000 or so years ago, and we know the bible then to be a first contact manual replete with minor mistakes from the technical writers.
As an atheist you can reject this out of hand of course, nevertheless for those who still believe in the basic tenets of the church and know that the opposite is true of MS Tarico’s concluding statement, “God is just what happens when humanity is connected. Humanity connected is God.” Reality is that God wants humanity connected to Himself and everyone else (“love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself” is greatest commandment according to the bible). The bandwidth of this connection — love—simply, utterly and above all else — is the most open of all information systems. The internet has and will continue to help this truth to be spread in a global manner.
Posted by Intomorrow on 01/24 at 12:00 AM
Have no idea what the Web will do to religion. Do know I will listen to what the religious have to say about moral codes. But whatever ethical coding they have to offer, I wont listen to speculation concerning for example Heaven or the Return of Christ (at any rate if Jesus returned He would probably be killed all over again).
Am no longer interested in hearing fairy tales; the religious can preach their fairy tales to their children- not those outside their families who have little/no interest in such fictions. The fact that men are so bloodyminded is what religion is all about: by pretending the world is filled with love (when the opposite is true) the Christian can transcend reality—with the caveat the world surrounding him can’t be entirely ignored.
Spray Lysol on a septic tank, it still remains a septic tank.
What I was attempting to say to Henry is that dreaming the impossible dream is acceptable if one doesn’t mistake the dream for reality. Upon waking in the morning, one quickly realises one’s dreams of the night were not real; one who is dreaming the impossible dream ought to realise one’s impossible dreams—impossible daydreams—have no materiality.
Pastor Alex, you’re dead wrong. Religion is dying. Spirituality, which is what I believe you are actually defending, not religion, is going to be divorced from religion soon.
I’ve tried to explain this repeatedly, and no-one ever wants to comprehend the distinction.
Religion is the dogma, the mythology, and the fables, which you are demanded to believe no matter how nonsensical they may be.
Spirituality is a scientifically based set of practices and disciplines that enable individuals to grow and harness abilities that we all share but have largely never learned how to use. Divorced from the mythology, these practices can enable “super” human capabilities.
Religion, as pointed out by the article, is a system of control imposed by a memeplex intended to perpetuate the memeplex. it effectively enforces a social control mechanism that prevents individuals from questioning, and does so by “providing all the answers” to every question.
Science is INHERENTLY fatal to such systems, because it is a system to discover TRUE ANSWERS, and as such, it provides alternatives to the “complete world view” of religion. As the “world view” of science continues to discover the actual mechanisms of how “reality” works, it continues to disrupt the “virtual reality” of religions.
Does this mean that religion has nothing good in it? Not at all. merely that the “good” is mixed up with the “bad” and BECAUSE the religion INSISTS that you cannot selectively choose which parts are beneficial or non beneficial, to accept the “Religion” requires a cognitive dissonance that is becoming harder and harder to reconcile with reality.
Take Christianity for example: To call yourself a “Christian” regardless of denomination, you MUST (no exceptions allowed) believe that Christ a) existed, b) died for man’s sins, and c) rose from the dead.
Is there ANY Christian out there willing to dispute that these are 3 ESSENTIAL INDISPUTABLE FACTS that you MUST BELIEVE in order to claim to be a Christian?
The problem is, to accept these as facts requires you to ignore the reality that there is ZERO evidence for the existence of Yeshua Ben Josef. Not one single credible historical source exists that mentions him, or any of the events of his life, such as the massacre of the infants or even his crucifixion.
Secondly, to believe that Yeshua “died for our sins” requires multiple other secondary beliefs, first and foremost, that “sin” even exists as a concept. I won’t even go into the ridiculousness of accepting the existence of sin, as it would take far too long to do here (I might write an article on it soon) However, to accept that Yeshua was a sacrifice, you have to accept that there is a vengeful deity who will ruthlessly condemn all humans to a “lake of fire” for their “sins” and only through an act of human sacrifice can he be appeased.
Thirdly, you have to believe that in the absence of any form of medical care, a badly abused and broken human body somehow repaired itself fully within 3 days, against all known evidence to the contrary. And that’s giving Yeshua the benefit of the doubt that he was actually deceased, instead presuming that he was merely comatose and appeared dead.
These are MYTHS and to accept them as REALITY is ABSURD and contrary to ALL ESTABLISHED SCIENTIFIC FACT.
But they are what make up RELIGION.
That believe Yeshua taught love, forgiveness and non-judgemental acceptance of every human being as your “relative/family member/sibling” is not even in the same category as believing that he “died for our sins” and yet, you are expected to accept both as equally factual by religion.
And note, I am fully willing to accept the existence of beings of a “god-like” stature, especially since we as transhumanists are working towards turning humanity into them, but to believe that such beings would demand the worship of humans is just silly.
I’m sorry Alex. I know that you feel an urge to defend “religion” or else you would not call yourself “pastor” but the reality is that “religion” and “spirituality” are not, and never have been, the same thing. And Valerie is 100% correct that the internet is it’s deathknell. The myths will be put where they belong, and the useful psychological techniques for disciplining ourselves and understanding our connections and place in the larger universe will be extracted. We don’t need the “just so stories” anymore.
Posted by Henry Bowers on 01/25 at 09:22 AM
Ice wishes to distinguish dogma from spiritual effectiveness; fair enough. But in reality (this thread’s word of the day), there is nothing more liberal than dogma (to gloss Chesterton), and therefore nothing less imposing. Forced belief would contradict the freedom of man that religion endeavors to highlight. Dogma glimpses the incredible, and announces that which man plainly lacks the authority to change or contravene. To insist upon this coherence is not to force anything, but to maintain the integrity of a definition: a safeguard which science is unable to provide.
And so to Intomorrow’s “materiality.” This is the distinction Ice also overlooks. Science can say nothing about the materiality of the instruments it uses to discover “true answers” about materiality. To insist that science-as-spiritual will uncover truth, is to adopt for science the kind of teleology that is rejected when offered from the lips of the religious.
Agreed, Henry. Religion is dying (and always has been dying) only if we understand it as dogmatically as have religious fundamentalists throughout the ages of human history.
Posted by Intomorrow on 01/26 at 12:41 AM
Materiality does greatly matter at a transhumanist site.
“... many of us in the Church are concerned that so many of our Heavenly Father’s children are not seeking to find and follow him. This was the same situation that existed when Jesus Christ, the God and Savior of this world, lived on the earth. He noted that the path to heaven and eternal life would be found in this life by but few persons. When many left Jesus on one occasion one of his disciples Peter said when asked if he also would leave ‘to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.’ (The New Testament - John 6)
Those of us who believe that we have found and are trying to follow the path that God would have us follow to find joy in this life and one day return to him and heaven of course sorrow that so few find it. We believe, nevertheless that it is the path that leads to true happiness. If this is right the final outcome direction is known and we only hope that as many as possible will find and follow the path to true happiness. That most do not in this life can be compared to those who choose unhealthy choices which eventually lead to unhappiness. We sorrow for rather than worry about these.”
My judgment call is that religion someday will die and that the Web will have a role in ending religion. I agree with Valkyrie that religion offers ‘Just So’ stories. Until persons can be returned to life through science I will presume Jesus is thoroughly dead, only his legacy remains. Though Jesus’ legacy must be important or Jesus would not be discussed so much notice how writing such is damning Christ with faint praise: writing Jesus is important because we refer to Him frequently is well-nigh tantamount to saying because J. Lo and Jennifer Aniston are mentioned so much they must be important.
Lincoln, the following also damns religion with faint praise
“By far most humans are religious and have been for as long as history, so to the extent humans are stupid, their stupidity is more likely than not to be reflected in their religion rather than in its absence”
It is saying:
stupid religious people would be just as stupid—or even more so —without religion than with religion.
What I dislike intensely about the religious is their smarm, esp. how they talk down to the homeless:
“you poor wretches, too bad you are down and out in the gutter; but our consciences are clear, we give you homeless shelters and soup kitchens.. so tough luck and better luck in the future. We have our families to worry about, we do not really love you or even care all that much about you—but that is the way the cookie crumbles.
Intomorrow, did you intend the irony in your post? Just-so stories expressed condescendingly? In any case, only among the religiously anti-religious is such a characterization of religion considered objective enough to justify anti-religiosity.
Posted by Intomorrow on 01/26 at 04:27 PM
I do appreciate religion, however am not obliged to like religion for the same reason you or anyone else does. What is appealing is religious escapism, succor given to the sick/dying, and so forth. Nothing more.
Don’t want to underestimate relgion yet also do not want to overestimate.
No one can predict the future, but IMO as religion is less important today than it was in 1913, it will be less important in 2113 than it is now—and the Internet will have something to do with the diminishment. That is my judgment call. A thousand years ago, in 1013, religion was real, believers would look in the sky ad see God’s face; later on, Joan d’ Arc actually thought God was speaking to her.
Intomorrow, religion is less important today only when understood from a presecular perspective, and I don’t see much justification to insist on a presecular understanding of religion.
Posted by Intomorrow on 01/27 at 12:46 AM
It isn’t actually religion itself I’m worried about, it is the religious themselves; don’t know what they are thinking—if you don’t know what someone is thinking then how can you assess what they say?
Posted by Intomorrow on 01/27 at 10:27 PM
... Lincoln, must hasten to add nothing whatsoever against you personally- but I am sick ‘n tired of Midwestern stagnation. To put it baldly: if these ladies and gentlemen want nature and the past so much, by golly, let them keep it. Arguing when one is young is virtually unavoidable yet who wants to argue with luddites when one is in his or her Golden Years? For brevity’s sake, this is what I wrote at Transhumanity.net; it sums it up:
“there’s no promises, only encouragement. Religions can promise, not us. As Churchill, we promise blood sweat toil and tears—the rest are options.”
Posted by rms on 01/31 at 05:06 AM
For the Internet to help people escape from churches,
they need to be able to use it anonymously.
This demonstrates how identification requirements (such
as those of Facebook and Google+) are dangerous.
Posted by Intomorrow on 01/31 at 05:44 AM
Good point, rms, men do in fact want power even more than freedom, thus anonymity is crucial in evading the clutches of the many (millions) of control freak churches.
My point is how when we change religion de novo—and we do—we change the definition of religion. Same goes for socialism: the definition of socialism in 2013 is not the same as it was in 1848.The LDS church of today is not the church of Joseph Smith; Smith would not recognise today’s LDS. If he were to return to life he would not consider it to be LDS—at least not at first—it would take him quite a while to get used to it.