From Bible apps to kosher phones, how digital tech is changing religion

While it may seem like technological society is pushing us away from religion and ritual, it might actually be pulling us closer.
Pope Francis arrives to lead the general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican on May 30, 2018. (Max Rossi/Reuters)
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While it may seem like technological society is pushing us away from religion it might actually be pulling us closer to religion and ritual.

Pope Francis has weighed in on the stereotypical relationship between tech and religion. He's said: "what would happen if we treated the bible like we do our mobile phones?" 

The Pope is also on Twitter daily, sharing sentiments of the Catholic faith to his over 17 million followers.

When people want to understand religion in the  21st  century their first place to go, is not the local mosque or church, they call on Rabbi Google or Imam Google, or Pastor Google."- Heidi Campbell
According to Heidi Campbell, a professor who studies digital religion at Texas A&M University, the religious app market is thriving because it increases the accessibility of religion.
Heidi Campbell is a professor of communication at Texas A&M University where she studies new media, religion, and digital culture. (Nathan Crick )
 

With the use of the Internet and mobile devices, "it's easier to explore a tradition that is outside of your experience," Campbell told Spark host Nora Young.  

"When people want to understand religion in the 21st century their first place to go, is not the local mosque or church, they call on Rabbi Google or Imam Google, or Pastor Google."

Campbell theorises digital religion is the relationship between religion and how we use or practice traditional faith and rituals through our devices and technology.

Take The Bible App by YouVersion for example, it was one of the first Christian apps on the market, and remains the most popular one today, with over 300 million downloads. 

For Yosuf Ali, a software developer and computer science student, how he uses religion can be seen in the ways he adapts his applications to serve his religion. Ali created Reminders Tab, a Google extension that he says is quite simple and was inspired by his Muslim faith.
Reminders Tab is a Google Chrome extension created by Yosuf Ali that replaces the default new tab with a Muslim sentiment or quote.

"It's an extension that every time you open up a new tab, lets you view a random reminder, and a reminder being either a verse from the Quran or a hadith," Ali told Spark.  

"I use some religious apps, the ones that you would typically find most Muslims using, like apps that would allow you to know when the next prayer time is for example." said Ali.  

Campbell argues that this access also allows people to search out religious information and have experiences of worship without visiting a physical space.

"Digital media allows people to transcend space and time, and especially for people where worship events were a one-day embodied activity." said Campbell.

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