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Bible Engagement Blog


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Bible Engagement and Technology

Have you ever wondered what the impact of technology will be on Bible engagement in the future? When Star Trek visualized the holodeck, holosuite and holoprograms it opened the eyes of my imagination. I pictured a hologram with me in the crowd watching Elijah face off with the prophets of Baal. I envisioned bringing him a bucket of water to drench the offering and altar. Then, as God sent fire to consume the offering the sensors in my holosuit ignited feelings of heat, causing me to involuntarily shield my face.

Far fetched? Maybe not. Technology is developing by leaps and bounds. Kevin Kelly, editor of Wired, believes our technological advances will make the previous 20 years pale in comparison (cf. Business Insider).

Twenty years ago computers and the world wide web were in their infancy. E-commerce was being launched and CD-Rom drives were replacing floppy disks. Smart phones didn’t exist. Their forerunner, the IBM Simon, was available at a cost of $899 (US). It had a battery life of one hour.

Twenty years ago the Bible was mainly accessed as a printed document. Bible Gateway, a website for reading and searching for different versions and translations of the Bible, was in the early stages of making the Scriptures available online (started by Nick Hengeveld in 1993). Bulletin Board Systems (BBSes) existed but it was only in 2004 with the creation of Facebook that we could easily share Bible texts with multiple friends via social media. The YouVersion Bible App didn’t exist (Bobby Gruenewald launched it in 2008).

Gordon E. Moore, co-founder of the Intel Corporation, in a 1965 paper, observed that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. “Moore’s Law” is still proving true. In 15 years, at the current rate of Moore’s Law, the average laptop (if they still exist) will be computing at the same rate as the human brain. This will potentially pave the way for synthetic human brain transplants.

iRobot and friends will soon be impacting society in an extraordinary way. Robotics and artificial intelligence technology is advancing rapidly. We’re presently living in the decade of biotech, but the next decade will certainly be the decade of AI and robotics (cf. Mashable).

In the next 10 years “big data” (the new buzzword) will release data from language to make it machine-readable and recombine it in an infinite number of ways that we’re not even thinking about (cf. Kelly). Universal translation will become commonplace in mobile devices.

Augmented reality glasses, ultra thin flexible OLED screens and self-driving cars are on the way (cf. NBC News). A Sony engineer told me last year that televisions will be replaced by small projectors that form their own virtual screens against any physical background. And, according to two analysts with the IP & Science business of Thomson Reuters; solar power will be the largest source of energy on the planet, electric micro-commercial aircraft could serve as taxis, and research into quantum teleportation will be underway (cf. Pacific Standard).

So will there be a holographic Bible? Maybe! Oculus Rift Technology is exploring “immersive cinema … with real time story-driven VR experiences that let the viewer step inside and become part of the story.”

Microsoft’s existing technology, HoloLens, also holds potential. It enables texts and images to be placed on real world backgrounds (cf. Christianity Today). But the technology has a long way to go. Software design is outpacing hardware development. Existing holographic glasses are in their infancy. Yet even in these early stages it’s speculated that HoloLens could usher in “widespread, transformative, digitally assisted Bible study” and “a holographic Bible or Bible study library” (cf. The Christian Post).

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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Trends Impacting Bible Engagement in Canada

Bible engagement, as with everything, is impacted for better or worse by a variety of structures, beliefs, factors and norms. Understanding the culture we live in is vital if we’re to effectively connect Canadians with Jesus and His Story.  So what are some of the trends impacting Bible engagement in Canada?

Individualism and Relativism

Canada is a “Me” society. Autonomy is the measure of most things. The majority of Canadians are focused on their personal aspirations and absorbed by their pleasures. What’s “right” is largely determined by “my point of view” and “what works for you”. Personal preferences and opinions trump truth. No single viewpoint is considered superior to another.

Church Attendance

Church attendance continues to decline. Weekly church attendance in Canada has fallen dramatically since its heyday in the 1950’s (53% in 1957, 24% in 1990, 21% in 2005). Only one in three young adults who attended church as a child regularly attend church now. Church attendance and Bible engagement rise or fall together.

Trends impacting bible engagment - religious attendance graphic - rev1

Atheism

Atheism has become a significant option to religion. In the 1960’s it was frowned upon by society, but today 15% of young Canadians classify themselves as atheists. Atheists are organized and connected. When the article, “Bible Reading in Canada” was published on the jumpintotheword blog, the Society for Atheists and Agnostics, as well as other atheists, tweeted the article to their networks. In just 36 hours more than 5,500 atheists downloaded the article! Why? They were celebrating the news about the decline in Bible engagement!

Immigration

Nearly 21% of the Canadian population (6.8 million people) are foreign born. In some cities visible minorities are actually the majority. More than 50% of the population of Canada’s largest city, Toronto, were not born in Canada. Most newcomers to Canada come from Asia. The largest visible minority in Vancouver, with 28% of the population, are from Chinese descent.

Community Cohesion

Ethnicity, divergent interests and different worldviews are increasingly isolating Canadians from their neighbours. Individualism is fostering private life at the expense of the community. Canadians are not really expected to know one another. Technology supports this trend. We read about the “gathering” of communities via the Internet, yet in most cases these people never meet in person.

Affluence

Canada is ranked sixth in the world for the highest quality of life and ranked ninth for purchasing power per capita. Since 1990 there has been a rising income inequality in Canada. Thirty-four percent of Canadians saw their wealth increase last year by about 14% while 38% of Canadians saw their wealth decrease by an average of 23%.

Trends impacting bible engagment - income inequality grahpic - rev1Rise of the “Nones”

Many Canadians are leaving religion in favour of a more individualized spirituality. The fastest growing “religious” group in Canada are people who identify their religious affiliation as “none”. The percentage of Canadians who identified themselves as having no religious affiliation is 24% (2011). In 1971 just 4% of Canadians were religiously unaffiliated. The rise of the “nones” cuts across all demographic groups and is evident among all age groups in all regions of the country. [Note: While “Nones” say they’re not affiliated to a religion, they’re surprisingly religious. Most of them do not identify themselves as agnostic or atheistic, 40% believe in God, 20% of them attend religious services annually, and more than 10% pray weekly]

Other Religions

Since 1981 there has been a 7% increase in the number of Canadians who belong to other religions – Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism. Taken together, one in ten Canadians adhere to these religions. Before 1950 there were virtually no Muslims in Canada (less than 0.01%). In 2011 there were more than 1 million Muslims (3.2%).

Trends impacting bible engagment - population by religion graphic - rev2Mainline Protestant Decline

Reshuffling of dominant denominations has occurred over several decades. Mainline Protestants (Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian, United) are no longer in the spotlight. Eastern Orthodox Christianity is growing. Protestant Evangelicals and Catholics, though polarized religiously from society, occupy the religious centre stage.

Worldview

Canadians value peace, order, tolerance, good government, healthcare and social equity. In large part Canadians have a strong liberal tilt on ethical matters and define morality by what justifies their lifestyle. Increasingly, and usually without the guidance of organized religion, Canadian society is dramatically reinventing, refining, or undermining (depending on your point of view) morality.

Technology

While Canadians have a love hate relationship with technology, 86% say technology makes them more efficient in the workplace and 74% say technology improves their quality of life. Eighty-three percent of Canadian households have home access to the Internet (2012) – nearly double the worldwide average.

Religious Behaviour

There is a widening divergence of religious behaviour between Canadians born inside and outside the country. Canadian born persons who do not attend religious services increased by 15 percent between 1985 and 2004 whereas there was no decline in attendance at religious services among first generation immigrants. Attendance at religious services is higher among Canadians born outside the country than among those born inside the country.

Education

In the 1970’s, by an eight point gap, Canadians with higher levels of education were less likely to have a religious affiliation than Canadians with lower levels of education. In 2011 this had narrowed to a two point gap – 23% of college graduates had no religious affiliation verses 21% of those without a college degree.

Social Media

On a per capita basis Canada has the most social networking users in the world. Nearly 50% of Canadians use social media at least once a month. Facebook has cornered the market – signing up 93% of Canadian social media users. Social media is changing the way people interact, but the implications and impact of these changes are not yet known.

Have your say. What would you add to the above list?

 Sources:

Angus Reid

eMarketer

Canadian Bible Engagement Study

Canadian Internet Use Survey

Forum Research

Fotolia Research

Gallup Poll

Gini Coefficient

God and Society in North America

Haemorrhaging Faith Study

Human Development Index

Parliamentary Information and Research Service

Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Statistics Canada General Social Survey

Statistics Canada 2011 National Household Survey

World Bank 

© Scripture Union Canada 2014