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Bringing Religion Into The 21st Century

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BRINGING RELIGION INTO THE 21ST CENTURY

GOD CHECK OUT THESE TACTICS

I have a friend called Darren who is training to become a vicar. Now my friends and I always thought that it was a strange career path to take, the only benefit we could see was free tea and cake whenever you want, but is that really worth working on a Sunday?

Still he's a strange bloke and has pursued his chosen path with great tenacity, currently working as a hospital chaplain while training for his collar. Having a friend of that persuasion means that we hear stories about others of his ilk and when it comes to technology they turn into horror ones.

If you have ever heard the urban myth about the person who picked up the mouse and tried to speak into it, Darren has met one who actually did it. My favourite story was about a nun who put the mouse on the floor thinking it worked like a sewing machine pedal, this from the group that gave us Sister Mary.

Anyway, this I thought cannot be a worldwide religious phenomenon as I was right, let's start with the Catholics. The Vatican set up its first radio station in 1931 with the help of Marconi himself and also has its own country code .va. Their own web site is available in 6 languages, which is less than the pope is fluent in, but sits on servers called Gabriel, Michael and Raphael.

Not to be outdone the Muslims have moved into mobile technology. If you have ever travelled to a Muslim country, you may agree with my favourite part, which is the call to prayer. This is normally sung from up top of a minuet and rings out across Muslim cities across the world five times a day. You always know when you are truly miles away from England when you are sitting at dusk outside a café in the middle of no-where when the call to prayer rings out. The old Muslim men you have been drinking tea and talking in very broken Arabic with excuse themselves politely to go to pray. The times change with the differing times of the rising of the Sun so the call to prayer in its traditional style is the easiest way of knowing when you have to go so to devote yourself so to speak.

However this is not always easy to hear and is not allowed in this country I believe and so a UK Muslim website has recently launched an SMS call to prayer service that sends a text message to your mobile phone when you should be going to the mosque. They soon expect to send this out to 125,000 alerts a day. Now that's a cool use for the mobile.

The Protestants, not to be outdone, broadcast services over mobiles in Hanover Germany and now have 1400 people listening in via the mobile every Sunday. I suppose that if the sermon gets dull you can always turn your phone off. Not surprisingly however it is in America that the Churches have really taken the web to their heart with more religious web sits, and to be fair more religions, than any other country. A recent AOL case study found that they were even going into teenage chatrooms to preach via that route and try to get them into Church on Sunday.

So its 10 out of 10 for religions across the world for use of technology, from the mobile call to prayer to hacking into chatrooms and giving teenagers guilty conscious, there's no escape. As for Darren, having worked out how to use the video a few years ago he is still resting on those laurels and preaching by WAP may be a way off for him yet. Beware old boy, the others are getting a head start on you.

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