God? There’s An App For That

Although I’m not of Catholic faith, I’m familiar with the concept of confession. To understand the theological benefits behind confession, consider for a moment the way in which confession was explained to me: the glass metaphor. Imagine there is a glass present between God and every individual. Whenever an individual commits a sin, the glass between them is tainted and the connection is blurred. Confessing then would be the act of wiping clean the glass between you and God and can be done by simply admitting your sins to cleanse your soul. But since when did the glass between God and us become the scratch-resistant glass face of an iPhone?

Catholic officials recently approved “Confession: A Roman Catholic App” — Little iApps LLC’s newest application for the iPhone and iPad. For just $1.99 via iTunes, the app promises users a “personalized examination of conscience” with “password protected profiles and a step-by-step guide to the sacrament.”

And “Confession: A Roman Catholic App” isn’t the only app of its kind. There are presently a number of apps on the market similar to this one. There are apps that mimic the experience of speaking to a real priest through a darkened screen, as well as apps that permit users record confessions in their own voice, upload them and share them with the world, as well as listen to the “anonymous” confessions of others.

Does anyone else besides me notice something incredibly wrong with the last app I just mentioned? An app that allows you to share your confessions with the world is completely counterintuitive because strangers would be judging you based on criteria irrelevant to religion. If anything, the app should be considered an online discussion forum, not a confession. A church should not be something that fits into the palm of your hand and is convenient for you. The whole point of attending church is to take time out of your busy schedule to address your spiritual needs. These religious apps are in a way mocking the very reverence that a church is supposed to hold. What the confession app is trying to achieve is not a form of redemption — it’s paradoxically an evil against itself.

A couple of dollars in the back pockets of the creators is really the only thing that the confession apps achieve. Not surprisingly, the app-makers aren’t alone either, as there is an overall growing trend of commercializing religion. Think of those shiny iPads that have the capacity to hold hundreds and hundreds of books compacted into a 9.5-by-7.5 space. A student in my humanities discussion class was telling us how she sees her pastor flipping through his eBook version of the Bible during services. This is where I start to worry and say that the sphere of religion and sphere of technology appear to be dangerously mixing together. It’s getting to the point of the church-scene during the movie “Four Christmases” where the pastor runs to a podium under flashing neon lights while Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll” plays on the loudspeakers.

We’ve all heard of separation of church and state. Perhaps it’s time we look into a separation of church and technology. Don’t get me wrong — I agree that there are wonderful things to be done with cutting-edge technology in the sphere of religion, just as Pope Benedict XVI mentioned in his World Communication’s Day address. However, there needs to be boundaries in place so that modern methods don’t become substitutions for actual religion. For example, if the Pope chooses to Tweet, that’s fine by me. However if people begin to think status trends warrant the creation of new religions, then that raises a serious red flag.

Could it be that everything in the world will soon minimize into a clickable folder within a folder within a folder? While it seems a bit extreme, imagine a state of religion where one click of a button will baptize your child and print out a certificate — transaction complete. The point is that these instant actions devalue and eliminate the concept of tradition, and religion without tradition becomes a menial practice. As we progress in technology, religious institutions should create cautionary boundaries to make sure that those who are religious don’t unknowingly sidestep into becoming followers of technology.

Sri Ravipati is a first-year literary journalism major. She can be reached at lravipat@uci.edu.