If the medium is the message, then what can we make of digitized religious texts? In The New Yorker, Macy Halford explores the implications of media and technology for religion:
Publishers Weekly recently reported that we are in the midst of a “Digital Bible Explosion.” Apps of the Bible are now more frequently downloaded than Angry Birds, and the sacred texts of other religions aren’t far behind: there’s an iQuran, iTorah, and a digital Book of Mormon. There are devotional apps of other sorts as well. For Catholics, there’s EZPray, the Vatican-endorsed iBreviary, and Confession (which leads you through a personalized “examination of conscience” to prepare you for the sacrament); for Muslims, there’s Islamic Compass, which promises to give “the most accurate prayer times”; for Jews, there’s a combination Siddur and Zmanim; for Protestants, there’s Daily Jesus (a daily quote generator), Bible Blocks (a Tetris-like game that rewards players with a Bible verse between levels), and my favorite, Granny’s Bible Dojo (Granny cracks boards with karate chops, and helps you learn the order of the books of the Bible).
This list barely scratches the surface: as PW reports, numerous religious publishing and software companies were developing digital platforms well before the advent of the iPad; some have been at it for more than twenty years. And some of their apps are extremely sophisticated: QR codes embedded throughout the Life Essentials Study Bible link to video and audio sermons; Batoul Apps’ beautiful Quran Reader features audio recitations, commentary, translations, bookmarks, and note-taking capability; YouVersion contains over a hundred and fifty different Bible translations in forty-five languages. It’s free (like many, though not all, of the apps), and has been downloaded more than thirty million times.
The question of how, exactly, digitized texts will change religious practice has been a pressing one in religious communities for at least a decade. (A recent article in Christianity Today wondered whether the People of the Book shouldn’t be rechristened the People of the Nook.) But the era of digital religion is only now poised to begin in earnest, ushered in by technological advancements—the widespread adoption of tablets and smartphones—and by religious leaders eager to harness the power of that technology to inspire and instruct their flocks.
Read the rest of this article at The New Yorker.