Outsourcing prayer as a hardware routine

Paul Raven @ 23-03-2009

This is something straight out of a Philip K Dick story… or maybe a Douglas Adams novel. Worried that your hectic lifestyle doesn’t leave enough time for prayer? Concerned that your panoply of Earthly duties might detract from your devotionals? Never fear – the good people of Information Age Prayer have got your back:

Information Age Prayer is a subscription service utilizing a computer with text-to-speech capability to incant your prayers each day. It gives you the satisfaction of knowing that your prayers will always be said even if you wake up late, or forget.

We use state of the art text to speech synthesizers to voice each prayer at a volume and speed equivalent to typical person praying. Each prayer is voiced individually, with the name of the subscriber displayed on screen.

Somewhere there is a room full of computers* that sounds like a chorus of Stephen Hawkings reciting the Beatitude… which is a pretty weird thought for a Monday morning. Or any morning, come to think of it. And hey, just in case you were thinking that Information Age Prayer was some sort of cop-out or shortcut:

At Information Age Prayer we think our service should be used like a prayer supplement, to extend and strengthen a subscriber’s connection with God. Traditional prayer is an integral part of this connection and should never be forgone, even after signing up.

I think my brain is broken. More coffee is needed… [via Pharyngula]

[ * – The more I think about this room-full of chanting computers, the more I suspect that it may not actually exist. ]


Are religious skeptics bound for demographic doom?

Edward Willett @ 05-03-2009

fertility goddess In science fiction, there has long been an assumption (not present in all stories, but certainly present in many) that in the future religion will have been consigned to the dustbin of history; that it simply cannot continue to withstand the onslaught of scientific evidence against the existence of a deity.

Demographically, however, it is the believers who have the edge, at least in the U.S. Drawing on data from the General Social Survey, “widely regarded as the single best source of data on societal trends,” blogger The Audacious Epigone notes that believers out-breed non-believers (Via FuturePundit):

From GSS data, I looked at the reported ideal family size* and the actual number of children had, by theistic confidence, among those who had essentially completed their total fertility (age 40-100):

Theistic confidence Desired Actual
Don’t believe 2.26 2.23
No way to find out 2.25 1.95
Some higher power 2.18 1.98
Believe sometimes 2.37 2.34
Believe with doubts 2.34 2.31
Know God exists 2.58 2.64

He also finds among younger people, between the ages of 18-30, the number of children desired is also higher among those who “Know God exists” than any of the other categories, and says:

It is not that secular people cannot keep up with religious folks. They simply do not want to. In the numbers game, though, the results are what matter. The question regarding Steve Sailer’s suggestion that the future may belong to groups who are able to procreate the most is whether or not secularizing social trends are able to overcompensate for greater fertility among the religious.

Does the future, then, belong to believers, or will secular society suck the religion out of their children’s souls before they themselves grow old enough to breed? And how would/should this demographic data impact the fictional futures of SF writers?

(Image: Goddess of Fertility, Museum of Anatolian Civilisations, Ankara, Turkey, via Wikimedia Commons.)

[tags]religion,atheism,demographics,population[/tags]


Ghoti

Sarah Ennals @ 22-02-2009

Ghoti - Does Not Equal

Does Not Equal is a webcomic by Sarah Ennalscheck out the pre-Futurismic archives, and the strips that have been published here previously.

[ Be sure to check out the Does Not Equal Cafepress store for webcomic merchandise featuring Canadians with geometrically-shaped heads! ]


Never mind Darwin: hockey players as religious icons

Edward Willett @ 13-02-2009

Rocket Richard Paul’s recent post on Darwin as a religious icon made me think of this story (Via PhysOrg):

Since January 2009, Olivier Bauer has pioneered the world’s first course examining the link between hockey and religion. As a professor at the Université de Montréal’s Faculty of Theology, he also just compiled and coauthored a textbook examining the Canadiens as a religion, “La religion du Canadien de Montreal” (Fides, 2009)…

In English, the Montreal Canadiens are referred to as the Habs, but in French the legendary hockey team is often known as the Sainte-Flanelle (the Holy Flannel). The nickname of its new young goaltender Carey Price is Jesus Price and he is thought to be the savior of the team.

Canadiens fans also talk about the ghosts of the old Montreal Forum. French-Canadian broadcaster Ron Fournier is the prophet and his listeners are disciples. All these religious connotations intrigued Bauer.

“If the Habs are a religion should we fight it because it’s a form of adulation?” asks Bauer. “Or should we use it to highlight that certain values transmitted by the Habs can correspond to Christian values?”

Of course, this is a little different from setting up someone like Darwin as a quasi-religious figure: Bauer is connecting adulation of a hockey team directly with the fact that Quebec is historically predominantly Catholic–not hockey as a new religion, but hockey infiltrating an existing religion.

Apparently Bauer isn’t the only researcher who has looked at the links between the adulation of sports teams and religion: others have studied baseball in the U.S. and soccer in South America and Europe. But Bauer thinks the passion for the Montreal Canadiens is particularly intense, with people visiting the Saint Joseph’s Oratory to pray on game days.

Then there’s this:

Bauer’s course is being taught in three parts with the help of invited Swiss Professor Denis Müller, an ethicist and theologian specialized in soccer. The first part of the course addressed relics. For instance, some people believe to have been cured from disease after touching the jersey of Hall of Famer Maurice Richard.

Personally, I think you’d be more likely to get a disease by touching an old hockey jersey, but then, as a Canadian with almost no interest in hockey, I’m unquestionably an infidel.

(Image: Statue of Maurice “Rocket” Richard in Gatineau, Quebec, via Wikimedia Commons.)

[tags] sports,hockey,religion,Canada[/tags]


Darwin as a religious icon

Paul Raven @ 13-02-2009

Charles Darwin portraitIt is, of course, the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, which is a cause for celebration if you’re of a scientific mind. But how much celebration is really appropriate? [image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Responding at the Guardian to artist Damien Hirst’s gushing foreword to a new edition of The Origin of Species (as well as to Darwin’s unfortunate position in the middle of the tug-o’war between fundamentalist religion and militant atheism) Andrew Brown wonders whether the pedestal on which we’ve put Darwin is too high – and whether some of his more fervent supporters, in using him as an icon against religion, have in fact made a religion of him:

treating Darwin, or any other scientist, as a wonder-worker just turns science into a priesthood. That doesn’t do anyone any good, neither scientists nor the rest of us. Darwin was a good man and his theory was a great one. But believing it, even understanding it, won’t make the goodness and the greatness rub off on the believers.

To be honest, the whole battle between the crusading atheists and their target pockets of the irrational is starting to worry me in just the same way as the fundamentalist sects. I’m an atheist myself, but I work on the principle that if I object to having someone else’s ideology crammed down my throat, they probably won’t like me doing it to them either.

And, as a matter of pragmatism, persecuting the irrationally religious does little beyond creating martyrdom, and the last thing we need is more people fixated on that.


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