Streaming ServiceIn 2014, Pope Francis famously described the Internet as a "gift from God", remarking that technology created unprecedented achievements of dialogue and understanding among disparate peoples.

For those of us who believe in a personal God, how should we see the relationship between technology and the divine, if there is any at all? Avoiding this as a Theology question, let's consider it a Religious Studies one, which means the object is not to state some fact about God but to say there's some consensus among the religious traditions.

One view may be that God opposes technology, instead asking humanity to put their faith exclusively in miracles and the afterlife rather than trying to improve the state of their own lives on Earth and control their own destiny. The three Abrahamic faiths of Christianity, Islam and Judaism tell parables of the consequences of recklessly using knowledge and discovery.

Such parables are unmistakable and indeed do condemn discovery and human material achievements as sinful. All three aforementioned religions speak of the misuse of the so-called Tree of Knowledge, and the arrogance of building the Tower of Babel. The latter is the most obvious one, being a parable of using engineering or perhaps worldly accomplishments in general rather than spirituality to reach the heavens. But does God condemn the technology itself, or the arrogance behind creating it?

One might point out that with the current use of space rockets, humanity has reached the heavens using engineering. Was God outsmarted? No one was smitten by God for such an act. Not even the atheistic Soviet Union suffered very serious consequences from this use of science. And despite this ballistic technology also enabling nuclear weapons to travel across the world (perhaps we have inflicted sufficient punishment on ourselves already in that regard) humanity endured.

Take a cursory look at the ancient Greek religion, and you will find the myths of Prometheus, Pandora, Daedalus and Icarus all speak of discovery, engineering and crude ancient science angering the gods and provoking their wrath. It is a common theme all throughout religious traditions.

A cynic might say such parables were put together by ancient clerics who saw the architects, scientists and engineers possibly encroaching on their authority and popularity. Such was clearly not the case in the Medieval period, when the clerics in fact were the scientists and they expressed a belief God had mandated them to create and discover.

blocking faithHowever, if we believe the Bible and the Qur'an are cautioning us against the overzealous application of engineering to solve humanity's problems, we must see that the same books also tell of good uses of technology. There are even instances of God commanding works of engineering to be created, where they fit with the divine plan. The Book of Genesis, while containing the same parables against discovery and creativity already mentioned above, also has the parable of God ordering the creation of an unprecedented vessel by Noah, who appears to have been selected for his engineering skill.

On a more historical note, it is clear how technology has aided in the actual spread of religious traditions, in particular Christianity. Today, the creation of the Internet has been compared with Johannes Gutenberg's invention of the printing press between 1436 and 1439. This enabled the Bible to be recreated and circulated on a large scale for the first time, enabling people who had previously only received religious instruction from Catholic clergy to instead study their holy book for themselves.

Sudden availability of the Bible to the layman set off a wave of dissatisfaction with the Church in those days, and ultimately led to the Protestant Reformation. Since that time, all publishing has witnessed a technological arms race, becoming faster and faster. It has made us all more capable of rapidly circulating calls for protest and enlightenment. But to those who consider their holy book - whether the Bible or the Qur'an - to be the word of God, a great thanks must be owed to technology. Indeed, a sincere believer in a personal God must even consider that technology to have been endorsed or planned by divine agents somehow.

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