Lesson 4: Faith and Technology

Bob wrote,

“How rarely we start with the admonition ‘in all we do and say about this let us always keep the beacons of faith, hope, and love before us to guide us.’ We seem rather to be driven primarily by our prior experiences, predilections, and prejudices to which, in the end, we may give some kind of a Christian gloss. .. I’m dubious about how often we are guided by the moral virtues of justice, courage, prudence, and temperance, but for me the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love are even more absent. Before we agonize how to define them, I think we have to find a way to get them into the conversation itself. Why do Christians so often ignore these principles as either irrelevant or idealistic in facing specific moral questions?”

I think Bob is asking why citizens don’t act morally and why church members do not act like Christians. Right! I hope he does not expect me to answer those questions, at least not to answer them definitively.

However, it might not be a bad idea to offer a finding from my studies of religion and technology. I am convinced part of the problem is the nature of modern technology itself. For instance, information theory is based on eliminating all meaning and value, so we can store and process vast amounts of data efficiently. That has led to many wonderful achievements. In other words, the success is based on ignoring moral and religious issues.

However, ignoring these issues has meant we lack the wisdom to use all this knowledge well. Our technology has also led us into awful tragedies, such as the oil spill, the nuclear meltdown, and the financial crisis. You might want to blame human error, but the tragedy would never have been so gigantic without modern technology. And to complicate the matter, cognitive scientists report the portion of the brain that takes in and processes information has grown and the portion that uses proven information for judgment has shrunken in this situation.

Many people observe we need to regain morality and religion, but that’s about as far as they go. Few want to give up the pleasures granted by the successes of technology, so they immediately follow their observation with seemingly pragmatic comments, such as “but that is no way to run a railroad” and head off toward another train wreck.

So to answer Bob’s question, I think the only way we get morality and religion back into the conversation is to relearn how to use them and then to speak up ourselves. It will depend on ordinary people sharing their ideas of how to get beyond the self and present moment in which we have entrapped ourselves. Our political, business, and religious leaders are not going to offer much help. They have all become engineers rather than philosophers. They use information theory’s binary process to address real life situations: yes and no, like and dislike, friend and enemy. They empty all the content from faith, hope, and love as they offer only vacuous feel-good advice.

One way we can begin putting morality and religion back into the conversation is to examine what content is packed into faith, hope, and love.

Tags: Faith, Love, Hope, Technology, Information

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