Technology, Culture, Change, and Knowing God 3

I believe we are at a critical turning point in history. When the record of this time is written it will be told that these years, this time—our time—produced changes in culture and life more momentous than anything we’ve seen in the history of mankind. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robots stand to change everything in our lives: How we work, how we study and learn, how we prepare food and eat, how we communicate, how we travel and move about, how we access and interact with the fine arts, how we do research, how we shop and how we buy, how our money is used, how we access medical care, use our lawyers and accountants,… and hundreds of other things that we do—even how we worship and how we identify what is holy, how we identify our picture of God.

Since the Stone Age gave way to the Bronze Age, which gave way to the Iron Age, the culture of Man has been ever changing. From the taming of fire to the stick figures drawn on a cave wall by our ancestors using pigments extracted from colored plants, the culture of Man has been impacted by technology and is ever changing. 

Throughout history, disruptive technologies have transformed the way we live, work, and communicate. Among the most significant were the printing press of the 1440s invented by Johannes Gutenberg, which revolutionized the way information and ideas were disseminated and enabled the widespread distribution of books and other printed material. 

The steam engine of the 1760s powered the Industrial Revolution, enabling the mass production of goods and the growth of transportation networks. Electricity, although not invented by Thomas Edison, was popularized by him and was made practical in the late 1800s. Its widespread adoption transformed everything from lighting and communication to manufacturing and transportation. 

The telephone invented by Alexander Graham Bell in the late 1800s made communication faster and more accessible than ever before, paving the way for modern telecommunications and the Internet, which had its very earliest beginnings in the 1960s but became mature in the 1980s and again revolutionized the way that we communicate, access information, and conduct business. 

These technologies led to the rise of what we now call the digital age, with mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets transforming the way we interact with technology and leading to new forms of communication, entertainment, and commerce beginning on the early 2,000s. 

Today, AI has the potential to transform a wide range of industries from healthcare and transportation to finance and education by automating tasks and providing insights that were previously impossible. 

Each of these disruptive technologies has fundamentally transformed the way we live and is poised to make major transformations in the future. 

Last Sunday, the TV show 60 Minutes (which few people watch anymore because television has given way to streaming) aired a special on AI. Seasoned presenter,Scott Pelley said this was the first time in his reporting career that he was left speechless by what he saw. 

AI, he showed, is playing an increasingly important role in developing, for example, three-dimensional structures of proteins—highly complex molecules that play critical roles in biological processes. There are approximately 200 million known proteins in nature and determining their structure is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process that typically involves x ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. 

However, these methods are not always feasible and take a long time, it’s estimated that a postdoctoral student could take up to five years to find the 3D structure of a single protein. For 200 million proteins, that’s a billion years of activity. But these challenges are being overcome by AI algorithms that can predict protein structures based on their amino acid sequences. 

The algorithms use machine learning to analyze large data sets of known protein structures, learning patterns and relationships between the amino acid sequences and 3D structures. This is then used to predict unknown structures with a high degree of accuracy. The bottom line is that these protein structure predictions significantly help researchers to develop new drugs and therapies that target specific proteins involved in certain diseases, such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and hundreds of others, and could lead to a better understanding of the fundamental processes underlying life itself. 

We are indeed living in a pivotal time in history where such disruptive technology is rapidly transforming the way we work, live, and interact with one another. From artificial intelligence and robotics to biotechnology and nanotechnology, emerging technologies are changing the very fabric of society—and this includes the impact on religion, spirituality, and our view of God, our perception of the Divine. 

Machines are becoming more sophisticated. While some of them may be seen simply as a tool of humans, others may soon be seen as a manifestation of Divine force. This could lead to debates about the role of technology in religion and whether AI will ever replace human spiritual experiences. As more people turn to technology for guidance, inspiration, and community, there’s a risk that our spiritual lives could become increasingly disconnected from the physical world. 

At the same time, emerging technologies such as virtual reality and brain computer interfaces open up new possibilities for exploring the depth of our inner selves and our connection with the Divine. While technology has the potential to enhance religious practice and connect us in new ways, it also raises important ethical and moral questions that will need to be addressed. As we navigate this rapidly changing landscape it is essential that we consider the implications of technology on our spiritual lives and seek to better find the balance between innovation and tradition. 

What effect AI has on religion is a complex and multifaceted topic with differing opinions and perspectives. AI can raise ethical and moral questions that don’t have answers, that religious leaders and theologians may need to wrestle with. As AI becomes even more advanced, it may lead to questions about the nature of consciousness and whether machines can have a soul. 

As religious communities adopt technology, AI could be integrated into religious practices in new and innovative ways. For example, AI could run prayer meetings and automate prayer times, suggest relevant religious texts, or provide personalized guidance to individuals seeking spiritual guidance. Who would not want a robotic pastor whose sermons can be truncated if desired, and robotic prayer, and even robotic counseling? 

AI could impact the way people interact with each other in religious communities. For example, virtual religious services may become more prevalent and people could connect with one another in new ways. However, some may argue that AI could weaken traditional face-to-face religious communities. 

Finally, AI could impact people’s perception of the Divine. As I mentioned earlier, some may view AI as a tool created by humans, while others may see it as a manifestation of Divine force, as something that God is behind. This could lead to debates about the role of technology and religion, and whether AI could ever replace the human spiritual experience. 

Overall, the impact of AI on religion will depend on many factors, including technological advances. What cultural attitudes in long-established religious traditions are being threatened? With every change in culture we see change in religion because religion is man-made and changes in culture automatically change religion. 

We so wish to believe that our religion is not man-made, that our religion is God’s own religion. God must be a Seventh Day Adventist, an ardent Sabbath keeper who doesn’t eat pork, doesn’t dance, and doesn’t smoke. And thank God, God reads the King James Version of the Bible. 

To Jehovah’s Witnesses, God must be a Jehovah’s Witness. To Catholics, God must be a Catholic. To Muslims, God must pray five times a day. And even though Jesus was Jewish God is not. I hate to disappoint everyone but God is not a Seventh Day Adventist. God is not a Jehovah’s Witness. God is not a Catholic or a Muslim or a Jew. God is the God of all mankind. And they that worship him, Jesus said in John 4, must worship him “in spirit and in truth.” 

Last week, Michael asked why this subject matters. What difference does it make? It was a good and penetrating question. In a New York Times article entitled “Lots of Americans Are Losing Their Religion. Have You?” Jessica Grose shows, I believe, how faith and religion are in the crosshairs of culture and emphasizes the unsteady relationship between religion, culture, and God. 

Grose is a journalist who offers her perspective on the American family, culture, politics and the way we live—she is a person deeply interested in culture and religion. Her first article focuses on the relationship between culture, religion, and a view of God. She writes: 

 In their forthcoming book, “Beyond Doubt: The Secularization of Society,” the sociologists Isabella Kasselstrand, Phil Zuckerman and Ryan Cragun describe a change in the built environment of St. Louis that is “emblematic” of the ebb of organized religious observance in America. What was once a Gothic-style beauty of a Catholic church built in the 19th century by German immigrants had been turned into a skateboard park.  

 “In the United States,” the authors tell us, “somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 churches close down every year, either to be repurposed as apartments, laundries, laser-tag arenas, or skate parks, or to simply be demolished.” (I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that my apartment was once the rectory of a church, also built in the 1800s and transformed, a couple of decades ago, into condos for yuppies who want dramatic windows and a hint of ecclesiastical flavor.)  

 It’s not just the frequency of churchgoing or temple membership that’s declining in our country: Last month, The Wall Street Journal and NORC at the University of Chicago surveyed around 1,000 American adults about the importance of different values to Americans, including the importance of religion. In 2023, only 39 percent of respondents said religion was very important to them, compared to 62 percent who said that in 1998.  

 When you look at the full results, the picture becomes a bit more complicated. Sixty percent of respondents said that religion was either somewhat or very important to them, and only 19 percent said religion was not important to them at all. The United States is still a more religiously observant country than our peer nations in Western Europe — according to Pew Research in 2018, for example, we are more likely to believe in God or some kind of higher power and more likely to pray daily.

 But it would be incorrect to say that nones don’t retain any trappings of religious observance, like belief in a higher power or performing certain rituals. It doesn’t even mean they never attend church. As Zuckerman, one of the authors of “Beyond Doubt” and a professor at Pitzer College, explained to me over the phone, when social scientists talk about religion, they do it in terms of “the three B’s: belief, behavior and belonging.” If someone asks you about your religion and you say you don’t have any, Zuckerman said, “that tells me nothing about your beliefs, and that tells me nothing about your behavior. It just tells me how you identify.”

She goes on to write:

 None of us have set foot in a temple or church in years. My mother and I both said we would identify as Jewish. My father — who has two Jewish parents and was bar mitzvahed — said he’d identify as “nothing” and instead likes to joke about erecting a statue of Athena in his yard. My husband, who was baptized Episcopalian but didn’t always go to church regularly growing up, said he would identify as Christian. My 10-year-old said she didn’t know what she would say. These responses, especially my dad’s and my husband’s, were surprising to me.  

 Since I started reporting this story, I’ve been asking members of my unobservant family what they’d say if a pollster asked them what their religious affiliations are. (Aware of the caveat that both sociologists I talked to noted: Responses are often shaped by how the question is asked.) 

 My goal: to inject some nuance and specificity into this discussion, since I feel like it can be and sometimes is dominated by partisans who want to argue that the decline in religiosity is either uniformly good or bad for society. My own feeling is one of profound ambivalence. I have no interest in going back to temple and little trust or appetite for organized religion. But I feel passionately about being Jewish, and a little heartsick about not knowing quite how to pass along my ritual and history to my children. I do wonder about what may be lost by not having a community connected by belief, but I’m not quite sure what that is, or if replacing it is possible, or even desirable.. 

 Because this topic is so much more complicated than “Americans used to be religious and now we’re not,” I’m making this the first newsletter in a series where I’ll explore the contours of our current relationship with religion, and try to unpack how we got here and what’s changed over the past several decades.  

The story of the woman at the well in John 4 is a window into what God thinks about man-made religion, and about the effects of culture on religion Jesus is with the woman at a well. They have a long discourse about drawing water, then the woman says to him:

 “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and yet you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one must worship.” Jesus said to her, “Believe Me, woman, that a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, because salvation is from the Jews. But a time is coming, and even now has arrived, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:19-24)

 The story teaches us that religion is man-made, with human traditions and customs that may not necessarily reflect the true nature of God’s religion. In speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well Jesus broke all sorts of cultural and religious norms: Jews and Samaritans did not associate with one another, neither did women talk to men. 

The woman asked Jesus whether the correct place for worship was Mount Gerizim (where the Samaritans worshipped) or Jerusalem (where the Jews worshipped). Jesus responded that the time was coming when true worshipers would worship the Father “in spirit and in truth,” not in a specific location or according to a particular set of man-made rules. This indicates the true religion is not bound by physical or cultural constraints, but is instead a matter of the heart and sincere connection with God. 

Jesus was pointing out the true nature of God’s religion: One that is not limited to specific rituals, practices or physical locations, but instead is rooted in a deeply spiritual connection with God and a sincere desire to live in accordance with his truth. This is in contrast to the man-made aspects of religion that can often be based on cultural and historical traditions, rather than a true understanding of God’s nature and his desire for us. 

In addition, the story of the Samaritan woman provides insights into the relationship between religion and culture. At that time there was a sharp cultural and religious divide between Jews and Samaritans based on historical and cultural differences that had developed over centuries and led to deep-seated animosity between the two groups. In the story, Jesus challenges this cultural and religious divide by speaking with a Samaritan woman. He disregards Jewish cultural norms and breaks all cultural barriers in showing that love and respect can transcend cultural and religious differences. 

Furthermore, when the woman asked Jesus about the correct place of worship, he responds that true worshipers will worship in spirit and in truth, not in a specific location or according to a particular set of cultural or religious rules and rituals. This suggests that religion should not be bound by cultural norms and practices but should be grounded in a deep spiritual connection with God. 

In essence, John 4 teaches us that while culture and religion are often intertwined, they are not synonymous. Culture may be influenced by the way we practice our religion but it should not be the determining factor. True religion should be based on a sincere connection with God and a desire to live in accordance with his truth regardless of culture or religious differences. 

How does the story of the Samaritan woman challenge our assumptions about the relationship between culture and religion? In our own religious communities are there areas or practices that could be improved upon or changed? Jesus says true worshipers will worship in spirit and in truth, not in a specific location or according to a specific set of rules. What does it mean to worship God in spirit and in truth? 

How do you understand the concept of spirit and truth in the context of religion and culture? And how does this differ from manmade rules or traditions? In what way? Do cultural practices or traditions within religion help to define and strengthen our faith? Are there aspects of our culture that may distract from our ability to connect with God? Is technology a help or a hindrance in this regard? 

How can we recognize the man-made aspects of religion in our lives? Should they all be avoided or is there benefit in positive value in them? What steps can we take to cultivate a deeper spiritual connection with God? How can we work to break down cultural barriers within our own religious community? And what role does empathy and understanding play in building bridges between different cultural and religious groups? Or even differences within our own faith community? And in what way? 

Can we balance the cultural and spiritual aspects of religion? Is it possible that we can remain rooted in our cultural traditions while still cultivating a sincere connection with God? Can the changes of culture and religion be controlled, or are we at the mercy of technology and change? 

What are your thoughts about the role of culture and our religious experience and our view of God?

Donald: I would suggest that we attempt to separate the conversation about whether America is more religious today from the conversation about technology, because we are measuring whether we are religious or not by the same ruler we used to use when we were younger. If that ruler doesn’t change, then yes, there’s no question about it: We’re less religious. 

We go from spiritual, religious, and “is our view of God changing?” God is different than our view of religion and maybe our view of spirituality. So I would suggest we try to hold back. There’s no question that society is changing radically and certainly AI has a significant role to play in that. But I think that before November, when ChatGPT was introduced on a broad scale, we could have had a conversation about religion changing in America. 

The role of religion changed radically in Europe a long time ago. Very few people attend church, if that’s your ruler. Someone sees beauty in an old, rustic church based on their ruler, whereas you and I might see its architecture as not very functional. That’s the ruler. So if people aren’t attending that church, we would say we’re less religious, the people that were there no longer feel the need that religion in their life. Well, maybe it’s just because the form of their spirituality is changing. 

As long as we use that same ruler, acquired perhaps decades ago, then yes, we’re going to say things are not what they used to be, not as good as they used to be. It is difficult to adapt to a different measuring stick. I read about shepherds and herding and God is my shepherd and green pastures—things I’ve never really seen. It just seems to me we need to be careful, that because it doesn’t look the same it isn’t the same.

C-J: For me, it boils down to religion has always been a way to control a group of people in a given society in a time in history. It coalesces community, it defines the rules of the road. It adds ritual and expectations of time and place. It seals you into the covenant of that community’s rites of passage. But we’re at a place now where there is not tangible in this digital world of community and expression. So now we have to go back to what Jesus spoke about at the well. 

We don’t know if that literally took place, but the message is very clear: They that worship the Father do so in spirit and in truth. And for me that’s overlaid by the intervention of the Holy Spirit, being my intercessor. I identify as a Christian, because that is my root and I think it has great value in terms of morality. However, if I looked at the history of the Christian faith, I would be embarrassed at the atrocities. In the name of this Christian God, how many thousands of people were butchered, innocents killed, misogyny running rife? The list is long. 

However, when I see how God has guided me in spirit, in my walk with God, all those things drop off. All the things that come with humanity, the things that make me in some ways less moral than I would see in nature. Mostly, in nature, you only kill for survival. Humans kill for pleasure, or something went crazy in their head—they were squashing anger and just exploded. 

On the other hand, I think that people who come into the world in a culture that is based on a belief system and allow that tradition and all the things that go with it, with or without a text, it informs them when they need to get counsel about their relationships in terms of hierarchy, keeping the tribe healthy. Children help their parents, there is a respect, the strong make provision through hunting and farming to support the community. The message is propagated to sustain that belief system. 

But today, we have not given the last two generations a foundation of discernment. We haven’t given them anything except for “This is truth in this moment,” where you can do whatever you want: Your truth is your truth. You don’t have to be a member of this sliver of society. You can join others who think like you, even if it’s bizarre to me, even if it’s harmful to the collective, whether it’s political, spiritual, relationships. Personal, intimate relationships are now defined in such a category. 

I would hesitate to bring new human life into this world because where would you begin to tell a young person what discernment means, and when they’re looking at something: “What is that?” If it’s profoundly different than my little family, how am I going to teach my child that other person’s truth and my truth with discernment and look at both of them and which one is more beneficial, not just to yourself, but to this collective community, which might be halfway around the world. 

So, for me, it’s not about the shiny jiggling keys. It is about the wolf in the camp. And the wolf in the camp is not having a foundation that will sustain (this is a very large word and it means different things to other people) the soul of humanity. Today is Earth Day. And yet I look around and I listen to NPR about all the ways that humanity is destroying the earth. No other creature on the planet has done harm to this planet—its home, Mother Earth, as much as humanity out of its greed. 

I was listening to a commentary that until humans are willing to surrender the things they want for what their need is… take no more than what you need, be mindful of generations, seven out—that’s about 200 years. Until we are no longer living in the moment. “Well, it felt good at the time.” Until we understand we need, that foundation that is so critical in all belief systems to preserve the species and to create an environment that is healthier, less challenging and difficult to live in, and that we have these increments of positive evolution instead of this constant war. Learning that you have to have grace and diplomacy. 

The foundation in most belief systems is to create peace, to respect others, to contribute, to be beneficial, and to live a life of service. That’s pretty basic. You look at the Ten Commandments, that’s pretty much it. But what we have today is this bombardment of information, the shiny keys. Do I need to know everything that comes across my phone or everything I hear on the radio or something that I’m interested on the TV? I have to have discernment. 

And that’s taught by the time we’re five years old, we have a pretty good sense of right and wrong, we have a pretty good sense of what will do harm and what will not. “Don’t touch that stove. Don’t go over there.” Learning how to read, learning language, that discernment. Certainly by the time of seven, we say in education all the time: Look at that child of seven years and you’re going to see that child as an adult.

David: Culture does shape things and because technology changes culture it’s going to affect how children are shaped. I admire Adventist culture, in part because of the way it raises children: It cares about their education, it spends time with them, and so on, while the rest of the world by and large abandons kids to their iPads by age seven, and that’s where they’re getting their culture. 

I agree about the trappings of religion and culture and worship. Jesus himself pointed out that prayer, perhaps the most basic form of worship, should be done in a closet. In other words, shut out your culture—shut it right out—when you worship. If you want to have a relationship with God, develop it in the closet, not in the cathedral or any other man-made object.

Joyce; I’m not crazy about AI. I think what you get oftentimes is just an opinion, somebody’s opinion. You don’t really know the person. You get online and are bombarded with opinions. For example, my neighbors are Muslim. They are such wonderful people but I only know that because they’re my neighbors—we visit, we share food. They’re ending Ramadan, they’re going to have their family over to celebrate. They have my heart. I really don’t care what their traditions are only because I have met them and I love them. 

That makes me interested in how they conduct their lives. The young man’s wife is still in Pakistan with their new baby that’s only four months old. They’ll be coming here within the next six months. They’re going to live next door. Another son will be coming from Pakistan. So the whole family is going to buy a home together. I think that’s beautiful. These people know how to work together, they know how to compromise. I learn a lot from them. 

But if we didn’t share food and we didn’t share experiences, I don’t know that I would love what they do so much. I might think they’re a little nutty for all wanting to live together. But you know what: I understand their closeness. I so respect what they’re doing. If technology can enhance that, then beautiful. But if it tries to take the place, or we allow it (which we have, in a lot of cases) to take the place of human interaction, we’re in trouble.,

Michael: I would like to summarize what I think Dr. Weaver is trying to say: That religion is in peril. And I agree. 

When you ask people who say they are spiritual but not religious what they mean, they start describing psychology rather than spirituality. It’s very hard to define what is spiritual. I think religion can define it better than psychology, but the problem is that religion gets entangled so much with culture that it loses its essence, its spirituality. So I guess the question is: How do you focus more on the spiritual aspect of religion? I don’t think AI would be a danger to that.

Don: That’s what Jesus said at the well, wasn’t it?—emphasizing spirituality over man-made religion. Well said.

Jay: Really well said. As religion becomes more wrapped, more embedded in the culture, it loses the aspects of its spirituality. That’s really interesting. Our own cultures are getting broader and broader and broader and broader over not much time. We’re exposed to way more than we were ever exposed to before. We travel to places we’ve never been able to travel to before. We’re able to speak with people we were never able to speak with before. And so the culture gets broader and broader and broader and broader. 

We are plugging religious systems that are hundreds of years old into these ever expanding cultures. Have those religious systems which, in their infancy, may have been much more about spirituality, now become more about culture? As a born Seventh Day Adventist, I’m happy to say that the cultural part of Adventism works for me really well. It feels good, it works well, it helps my life move along just fine. 

Has being a Seventh Day Adventist become more about maintaining the cultural experience than the spiritual experience? We find it hard to define “spiritual experience.” I agree with Michael that we tend to describe it in terms of psychology. How do I maintain the spiritual foundation of a religious system hundreds of years old in this ever expanding culture we find ourselves in? Is it even possible?

Donald: I bumped into an old acquaintance I had not seen for two or three years, who was very connected to the organized church in my community. She knew I know lots of people who no longer attend church, but are spiritual, and she was looking to me for an answer. Her sense of whether these people are spiritual was based upon whether they attended church—that’s her ruler. 

We need to be careful with that ruler. There’s something wonderful about attending church with people you care about. If Joyce had just learned about Muslims from the media, her feelings would probably be quite different than they are for the Muslims with whom she shares a yard fence. There is something wonderful about going to church together and sharing your spiritual journey together, but Jason is spot on: When religion goes beyond religion things get to be pretty scary. And you can’t measure spirituality very well.

C-J: I think whenever there’s a major disruption in an established culture that encompasses or is defined by a religion, such as when Moses took the people out of Egypt and they were in the desert for a period of time, initially, it was like, “We’re free, we’re free!” as the story is told. But they needed a God, even though they had all these provisions—water, food, everything. They had plundered the Egyptians, but they needed a God, they needed a place, they needed something concrete, so they created the golden calf, borrowed from the culture of Egypt. 

In more modern times when we look at political disruption and war, whether it’s in one country or in many countries like World War 2, where people are the threats. “Who can we identify easily? We’ll take the Jews, we’ll take anybody that stands in our way. We’ll decimate their culture.” But in that process, a remnant remained, and the remnant wasn’t just the stories or a text or a tradition: They went back to their old identity, as Native Americans remain close to nature, nurturing God’s provision of a planet, community, kindness, and sustaining one another through times of terrible oppression. One piece of bread, but it belongs to you. You tear it in half and share it and that half is torn in half again. 

To me that is representative of spirit, the provision that is within us to sustain others. That is so skewed now it’s unrecognizable.

Kiran: Here we describe religion in terms of building each other up and showing kindness and compassion for one another. but in India religion is about my blessings, my health, my wealth—myself. There’s not so much about community. Islam seems to be about salvation, health and so on. 

Religious culture here is completely different from religious culture in India. Christian culture has evolved. It was different during the Catholic era, different during the Protestant era, and now evangelicals (Pentecstals especially) and nondenominationals are the fastest growing churches in many countries. 

Demographically, teens aged 13-19 comprise the fastest growing church online, on Twitch, a video gaming website. Groups of players talk about spiritual things while they play. It is one of the fastest growing churches in the teen democratic. They wear no formal dress, they don’t sing hymns, there’s no music. They just sit and discuss things of the spirit. They adopt pseudonyms such as God and Smack.

If a culture makes it hard to meet spiritual needs, people change it, and that’s okay. We’ve been changing it ourselves. The transition period may be hard. but the world is no longer what it was before. We worry about such things but teens don’t. They jump into it and are much happier than we are. 

The problem with AI is that a lot of kids now ask Siri or Google to solve their math problems, instead of asking their parents, They’re learning math that way instead of from a parent. What if they did the same in learning spirituality and AI leads them to conclusions different from their parents’? Who controls the AI? What if it were controlled by a cult? What if they don’t install filters and allow everything?

We have to think seriously about the spiritual implications of AI on children.

David: We seem to assume that our spirituality depends upon somebody pushing us, when we’re children, towards God. I think I might argue that we are not so dependent; that God is inside us as the eternity set within the heart when we’re born and we’re capable of having a relationship with God without any external pressure or trappings or organization to lead us there. 

There are certainly things that can distract us. Christians would argue that the devil wants to distract us from that relationship with God so he dangle shiny baubles to distract attention away from God. So perhaps we don’t need to worry, because it’s always been this way.

Yes, technology is distracting kids’ attention away from what their parents are saying but at the end of the day faith suggests that it doesn’t make any difference. God planted the Holy Spirit within us when we were born. Culture is a different story. But in the spiritual sense, perhaps technology doesn’t matter.

Donald: But where does morality come from? Is it already in you when you’re born? Does the child have a sense of what’s moral and immoral, or is that something its parents and society teach it? Who tells me it’s not right to steal something? Do you think I’d have any guilt if I was not taught by my parents to feel guilty?

David: Yes, I do. I think you would.

Michael: Culture teaches you even if your parents don’t. If stealing is okay in your culture, then it is okay. It wouldn’t be labeled as immoral. But stealing is immoral if the culture says so. It used to be immoral to be gay but now it’s not—the culture has changed. 

If your parents taught you as a child that being gay is immoral, by the time you’re an adult you may feel some dissonance but most children seem to adapt very well to these changes. They don’t feel obliged to follow what their parents taught them. 

So it seems like culture might be a stronger indicator of what is moral.

Donald: I would completely agree with you. We’re watching it change in front of our very eyes. You don’t have to go to jail if you steal less than a certain amount of money. So I’m not sure I know right from wrong. “Can I can get away with it?” now seems to be the reason why some people steal or don’t steal.

C-J: That’s apparent on the outside. But going back to what Michael was saying: The LBGTQ community is a very small and difficult world. You take a lot of risks being in that community, outside of its protective boundary. You’re saying they don’t think too much about it but if they were in it, it would be very different. 

We just go, “Well, people get to live the way they want. They don’t do any harm to me,” or “What is it? It’s kind of interesting. It’s an anomaly. Let’s look at it and if it’s for me, then maybe, and keep moving.” But when you become an adult, that fence gets pretty small. 

You can’t really just experiment and behave a certain way. Desperate people do desperate things. In war, I would not feel guilty for stealing to feed my children. I would not feel guilty if I had to prostitute to make sure my children had a bottle of water. 

But I think that there again, that’s a disruption, where the other is possibly under the heading of “As we march forward,” or “As we spread out so thin that we can no longer connect the dots.” We know the dots are there. We know that there differences, but they don’t impact me as much. There’s more space between the molecule. 

It’s a dangerous thing when we say that’s the way it is today, when we don’t take responsibility when we don’t lay a foundation, we don’t make clear the rationale behind the rules. Go out and see what you can learn. Sure, you can read anything you want. I don’t want a seven year old looking at porn. I don’t want anybody to see others as objects, as not having a sense of humanity and purpose and divinity within that peace of God. It’s just wrong. 

Do I think that we need, unfortunately, to pick up what parents don’t do anymore and let them find it on the internet, like Kiran said, or among themselves? Do you remember growing up in sex education in school? Girls were in one room, boys were in another room. The topic was very narrated. You read from a text; you didn’t just wing it. You didn’t ask questions, you just disseminated information the way you wanted it to be heard. 

Adults are not taking responsibility. 

Don: Next weekI’d like to explore further the statement of Jesus that God is a spirit and those that worship him must worship him in spirit in truth. I’m trying to parse out the question Michael asked: How do we separate, or define, religion and spirituality? It does occur to me that the more our spirituality is supplanted by religion, the more dangerous we become as people. Much bloodshed and distress caused by mankind has been done in the name of religion.

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