Introduction 5 Digital Technologies and Worship Ritual and tradition are central to communities, and the faithful have developed practices, sacred and secular, that accompany participation in the life of the faith. Temples, churches, synagogues, and mosques use print tech- nology for sacred texts, prayers, hymns, and even routine communication among congregants—i.e., the church bulletin. With a few notable excep- tions, electronic technologies have become just as common, as they are used for sound amplification, lighting, broadcasting, and recording. Although many faiths exclude some forms of technology from regular worship and prayer, it is much more frequent for them to use digital technologies when they facilitate religious practices. Digital technologies are also used to extend houses of worship into the larger world, permitting adherents to make offer- ings, participate in ritual prayers, and worship in the car as they listen to a service on a podcast. Digital Technology and Prayer There may be no more universal religious practice than prayer. Whether it is the personal prayer of an individual seeking indulgence or forgiveness, or the communal prayer that is the heart of most religious rituals, people pray around the world. Technologies offer some subtle and some radical changes to the practice of prayer. “Books” of prayers are readily available in a variety of formats, providing guidance and specific messages to help focus rituals and requests. Compilations of prayers can be distributed using almost any digital medium, providing guidance, comfort, and direction for anyone seek- ing divine intervention, inspiration, etc. Digital technologies can change the conception of communal prayer, allowing people to connect with others regardless of where they are or what they are doing. As digital technologies evolve, they may well play increas- ingly important roles in prayer. Consider, for example, how candles (now an ancient technology) were and still are a mechanism for focusing and deliver- ing prayers by Roman Catholics. Technologies from radio waves to laser beams may become the electronic equivalents of lighting candles. Digital Technology and Religious Institutions Most religions record events in the lives of members in some way, includ- ing births, deaths, marriages, and other transitions. These records have almost always been kept on the best available technology, starting with parch- ment and books, then moving to paper and filing systems, and now encom- passing all types of databases. Indeed, as discussed here in the chapter on big data, one area in which organized religions may be most affected by digital
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