Religion In The Digital Age [Heart And Soul] [World Service]

Episodes

EpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
RepeatedComments
01Daily Prayer And The Devil's Data2020030620200308 (WS)

There are thousands of religious apps offering to help you worship in the right way. In the first of a new season exploring the digital world and the spiritual world, Sophia Smith-Galer considers whether they’re a quick convenience, or a legitimate means of getting closer to your God, and asks if they are all really as pious as they seem?

Search iTunes, Google Play or the App Store and you will find thousands of apps offering to help you practise your religion. And as our smart phones become more and more essential to daily life, millions of us are downloading.

But is this just convenience? Or a new way of practising our faith?
In the US, the ‘OneTable’ app aims to bring young Jews without their own religious community, to celebrate the Friday night ritual of Shabbat. The app connects them with others in their area and it’s currently reaching up to 100,000 participants in 185 cities across the states. But for Orthodox Jews, using new technology is strictly forbidden.

In the UK, in the last year, the Church of England’s prayer apps were accessed more than five million times. But the church is incredibly worried as actual attendance is still falling.

But can using religion apps be a spiritual experience in itself?

Independent developer Rohan Gunatillake, the Buddhist founder of mindfulness app Buddhify, says he’s not looking for people to convert – he’s just happy if the app helps them.

Many major faiths have invested millions in religious apps to help them engage with young people who they feel are turning theor backs on going to organised services. But is it always clear to users when a religious organisation is funding an app? And security research has also shown that overall, Bible apps have more malware than gambling apps!

Heart and Soul investigates whether some religion apps are stealing your data rather than cleansing your soul.

Presented by Sophia Smith–Galer

A new season exploring the digital world and the spiritual world

Personal approaches to spirituality from around the world.

01Religion apps: Daily prayer and the devil's data2020030620200308 (WS)

There are thousands of religious apps offering to help you worship in the right way. In the first of a new season exploring the digital world and the spiritual world, Sophia Smith Galer considers whether they’re a quick convenience, or a legitimate means of getting closer to your God, and asks if they are all really as pious as they seem?

Search iTunes, Google Play or the App Store and you will find thousands of apps offering to help you practise your religion. And as our smart phones become more and more essential to daily life, millions of us are downloading.

But is this just convenience? Or a new way of practising our faith?

In the US, the ‘OneTable’ app aims to bring young Jews without their own religious community, to celebrate the Friday night ritual of Shabbat. The app connects them with others in their area and it’s currently reaching up to 100,000 participants in 185 cities across the states. But for Orthodox Jews, using new technology is strictly forbidden.

In the UK, in the last year, the Church of England’s prayer apps were accessed more than five million times. But the church is incredibly worried as actual attendance is still falling.

But can using religion apps be a spiritual experience in itself?

Independent developer Rohan Gunatillake, the Buddhist founder of mindfulness app Buddhify, says he’s not looking for people to convert – he’s just happy if the app helps them.

Many major faiths have invested millions in religious apps to help them engage with young people who they feel are turning their backs on going to organised services. But is it always clear to users when a religious organisation is funding an app? And security research has also shown that overall, Bible apps have more malware than gambling apps!

Heart and Soul investigates whether some religion apps are stealing your data rather than cleansing your soul.

Presented by Sophia Smith Galer
Produced by Julia Paul
(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Peace and prayer on your phone - at the price of your data

Personal approaches to spirituality from around the world.

02Finding And Losing - My Faith Online20200313

In the second episode of her series for Heart and Soul, digital journalist Sophia Smith-Galer hears from young faith influencers using social media to spread the word and meets an ex-Muslim who can talk online about losing her faith, but hasn’t told her family.

Do you want to leave the evangelical church? There’s a subreddit for that. Do you want to find a practising Muslim spouse? Well, there are, at least,10 Facebook groups for that.

For millions of us, social media is subverting the traditional ways we find like-minded people around the world. In faith terms, this can be taboo-breaking and revolutionary for those unable to meet others in person, but the internet also provides corners for the most conservative, hardline believers to amass.

In New York, a group of celebrants of the Latin-American Brujerie are using their massive online presence to practise their spirituality. While in Texas a Tik-Tok star is making sure Hinduism isn’t forgotten

But as Sophia finds out in this second part of its digital season, if social media is about finding your online tribe – that might also mean leaving your offline one. One young student tells us about her experience of losing her faith in Islam. She hasn’t told her family, but she’s using Discord and a subreddit group to help her cope.

Presented by Sophia Smith–Galer

A new season exploring the digital world and the spiritual world

Personal approaches to spirituality from around the world.

02Finding and losing my faith online2020031320200315 (WS)

Digital journalist Sophia Smith-Galer hears from young faith influencers using social media to spread the word and meets an ex-Muslim who can talk online about losing her faith, but hasn’t told her family.

Do you want to leave the evangelical church? There’s a subreddit for that. Do you want to find a practising Muslim spouse? Well, there are, at least,10 Facebook groups for that.

For millions of us, social media is subverting the traditional ways we find like-minded people around the world. In faith terms, this can be taboo-breaking and revolutionary for those unable to meet others in person, but the internet also provides corners for the most conservative, hardline believers to amass.

In New York, a group of celebrants of the Latin-American Brujerie are using their massive online presence to practise their spirituality. While in Texas a Tik-Tok star is making sure Hinduism isn’t forgotten

But as Sophia finds out in this second part of its digital season, if social media is about finding your online tribe – that might also mean leaving your offline one. One young student tells us about her experience of losing her faith in Islam. She hasn’t told her family, but she’s using Discord and a subreddit group to help her cope.

Presenter: Sophia Smith–Galer
Producer: Julia Paul

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The young faith influencers using social media to connect with like-minded others

Personal approaches to spirituality from around the world.

03Take me to VR church2020032020200322 (WS)

Worshippers are gathering for a church service led by Pastor D.J Soto in Virginia in the USA. Many of them are at home or even in other countries. For DJ, this church is important for worshippers unable to attend a physical church, such as the disabled, the ostracised and the persecuted.

VR technology is also teaching future generations about religious tolerance. Every year Jews and Holocaust survivors from across the world make a pilgrimage to Auschwitz in Poland. Alongside them is Karen Jungblut, director of research and documentation, from the Shoah Foundation, based at the University of Southern California, its mission to preserve the first-person accounts of 50,000 Holocaust survivors and other witnesses began with videotape. Now it's using 360 filming to capture the testimony of survivors in the landscape where it happened.

Worship is often about the icons of your faith – and in Leicester in the UK we meet Sikh students as they encounter some of their religion’s most important artefacts for the first time – thanks to a VR headset, as a way of engaging young Sikhs and teaching non-Sikhs about the religion.

But can immersing yourself get too, well, real? Hussein Kesvani, a Shi’a Muslim journalist who writes about the online experience of British Muslims, joins us to experience a virtual reality app that allows the user to relive the battle of Karbala, an instrumental moment in the Muslim faith. Is this visualisation a step too far?

Presented by Sophia Smith-Galer
Produced by Julia Paul

Attending a VR church service & how VR is preserving the memories of Holocaust survivors.

Personal approaches to spirituality from around the world.

03Take Me To Vr Church2020032020200322 (WS)

Worshippers are gathering for a church service led by Pastor D.J Soto in Virginia in the USA. Many of them are at home or even in other countries. For DJ, this church is important for worshippers unable to attend a physical church, such as the disabled, the ostracised and the persecuted.

VR technology is also teaching future generations about religious tolerance. Every year Jews and Holocaust survivors from across the world make a pilgrimage to Auschwitz in Poland. Alongside them is Karen Jungblut, director of research and documentation, from the Shoah Foundation, based at the University of Southern California, its mission to preserve the first-person accounts of 50,000 Holocaust survivors and other witnesses began with videotape. Now it's using 360 filming to capture the testimony of survivors in the landscape where it happened.

Worship is often about the icons of your faith – and in Leicester in the UK we meet Sikh students as they encounter some of their religion’s most important artefacts for the first time – thanks to a VR headset, as a way of engaging young Sikhs and teaching non-Sikhs about the religion.

But can immersing yourself get too, well, real? Hussein Kesvani, a Shi’a Muslim journalist who writes about the online experience of British Muslims, joins us to experience a virtual reality app that allows the user to relive the battle of Karbala, an instrumental moment in the Muslim faith. Is this visualisation a step too far?

Presented by Sophia Smith-Galer
Produced by Julia Paul

Attending a VR church service & how VR is preserving the memories of Holocaust survivors.

Personal approaches to spirituality from around the world.

Worshippers are gathering for a church service led by Pastor D.J Soto in Virginia in the USA. But many of them are at home or even in other countries. The church he founded in 2016 is now on three different virtual platforms, and from an initial congregation of just five, now attracts hundreds of worshippers.

Sophia Smith-Galer attends a church service in America while sitting on her sofa in London, and learns how virtual reality technology is preserving the memories of Holocaust survivors.

This Christian Virtual Reality Church is revolutionary for those unable to attend an actual physical church - people like one of the church’s other pastors, Alina. She is housebound due to illness, but says this virtual Church has transformed her life and relationship with God. Meanwhile Elder Zach, who attends a physical church and the VR Church, explains why going to an old-fashioned, real life church still has its enduring appeal.

In Leicester in the UK, thanks to a VR headset, we meet Sikh students as they encounter some of their religion’s most important artefacts for the first time. The Anglo Sikh Virtual Museum uses 3D technology to allow access to Sikh objects which physically are spread all over the world. The initiative’s director, Gurinder Singh Mann, says it’s a way of engaging young Sikhs, and teaching non-Sikhs about the religion.

VR technology is also teaching future generations about religious tolerance. It is the 27th of January and Jews and Holocaust survivors from across the world are on a pilgrimage to Poland for the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Among them are Holocaust survivor Ben Lesser and Karen Jungblut, director of global initiatives at the Shoah Foundation Institute, based at the University of Southern California. Its mission to preserve the first-person accounts of 50,000 Holocaust survivors and other witnesses began with videotape. Now it uses 360 filming to capture those testimonies in the landscape where it happened. How does giving his testimony at Auschwitz-Birkenau affect 91-year-old Ben?

But can immersing yourself get too, well, real? Hussein Kesvani, a Muslim journalist who writes about the online experience of British Muslims, joins us to experience a virtual reality app that allows the user to relive the battle of Karbala, a vital and instrumental moment in the Muslim faith. Is visualising something like this a step too far?

Presented by Sophia Smith–Galer.

How VR is being used to experience aspects of Christian, Sikh, Jewish and Muslim faith

04The discussion2020032720200329 (WS)

If you ask Cosmo the robot what faith he is, what does he answer? We’ll find out when we bring together young digital media users of different faiths to meet him at MediaCityUK at Salford in the UK. Sophia Smith-Galer has been exploring how digital technology is changing the ways we worship and her guests will give their thoughts on what she’s found during our #ReligionintheDigitalAge series, and what they think about the future of faith and technology.

Presented by Sophia Smith-Galer
Produced by Julia Paul

What's the role of artificial intelligence in faith and worship?

Personal approaches to spirituality from around the world.

04The Discussion2020032720200329 (WS)

If you ask Cosmo the robot what faith he is, what does he answer? We’ll find out when we bring together young digital media users of different faiths to meet him at MediaCityUK at Salford in the UK. Sophia Smith-Galer has been exploring how digital technology is changing the ways we worship and her guests will give their thoughts on what she’s found during our #ReligionintheDigitalAge series, and what they think about the future of faith and technology.

Presented by Sophia Smith-Galer
Produced by Julia Paul

What's the role of artificial intelligence in faith and worship?

Personal approaches to spirituality from around the world.

If you ask Cosmo the robot what faith he is, what does he answer? We’ll find out when we bring together young digital media users of different faiths to meet him.

To round up our special month of programmes, a group of young faithful digital media users join Heart and Soul in the English city of Manchester to meet Cosmo the robot and discuss the future of digital technology and how it’s changing worship with digital journalist Sophia Smith-Galer.

During the past month BBC digital journalist Sophia Smith-Galer has been exploring how digital technology is changing the ways we worship.

Dr Scott Midson from the University of Manchester researches theology and post-humanism, exploring what it means to be human when technologies are enhancing and possibly dehumanising us. He demonstrates how Cosmo can interact with humans but how his programming is at the heart of what he says and does.

Meanwhile Sophia’s guests will give their thoughts on what she’s discovered making the previous three programmes, and what they think the future of faith and technology will be.

A new season exploring the digital world and the spiritual world