My mother was Irish-Catholic. She went to a Catholic school run by nuns and got her knuckles rapped with a ruler by the Sisters on a regular basis. Every day before classes started there was a full mass. She literally attended church seven days a week. As a kid, until I went away to college she took me to church every weekend.
Fast forward to today. Instead of church every morning, kids go to their phones every morning to see what happened in ‘their world’ overnight. My mother could quote passages from the bible. My kids can quote videos from YouTube. When my mother was a kid the Ten Commandments told you what you did wrong. Today the internet told me I wrote YouTube wrong because I didn’t capitalize the T.
Once, somewhere on the internet, I read a meme that said, “Why don’t churches have wi-fi? Because they don’t want to compete with an invisible power that actually does something.” Aaah, very funny, but what does the invisible power that is the internet actually do? Once recently I was trying to craft a Caitlyn Jenner joke for #ThePhilFactor, not at the expense of or making fun of Caitlyn Jenner, but a joke that would get a laugh just because I worked in the current media frenzy flavor of the day. I swear it was not at all offensive, but my son immediately said, “Dad, you can’t make fun of Caitlyn Jenner.” I contend that twenty years ago any seventeen year old boy in the world would have made a crude joke or expressed some other insensitive sentiment. I believe because the internet has made everything in the world accessible and understandable my son is tolerant and understanding of not just other lifestyles than his own, but other religions as well.
On the world wide web some people worship traditional religion in new ways and some people choose to worship themselves in ways that weren’t possible two decades ago. Religions are often known for prophecies, predictions of what will happen. In 1968 artist Andy Warhol said, “In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.” Thanks to the internet that prediction has come to pass. Andy Warhol may have been a weird artsy type, but seriously, can you think of any religious prophecy that was ever that accurate?
The constant selfies, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Instagram, look at me, look at me culture of the internet has created a virtual church where we all worship ourselves. On the surface most people will decry that as blatant unhealthy narcissism. Religions ask you to worship their God and ask at the same time that you be the best you that you can be. The internet doesn’t ask you to worship anything, but often people on the internet do. If a selfie is a cry for attention and someone who needs attention to feel good gets that attention, isn’t that good? In the past when anxious, sad or different people sat alone in their rooms, or as the jokes go, in their mom’s basement, they felt alone. Now they can reach out to the whole wide world from their room and get positive affirmation, confidence, and find others just like them with the same interests.
I don’t believe that the internet has replaced traditional religions. I believe that the two can co-exist. I also believe that the internet has become the church of the world, and that’s not a bad thing. Some will say that the internet gives people access to all sorts of bad influence and information. To that I say, haven’t more wars been started in the name of religion than anything else? The internet is neither good nor evil. It’s a tool and people can choose how they use it. If I have a hammer, I can choose to pound enough nails in enough boards to build a church, or I can hit someone in the head with it and kill them.
Sorry that I was all out of funny today. What started me on this line of thought was that yesterday I spent a large portion of my day making sure my family was well connected to the world wide web and it occurred to me that this weird, invisible entity that didn’t exist for most of us twenty years ago is now very important to us. If you have thoughts on the subject I’d love to hear them in the comments. Have a great weekend! ~Phil