Our spiritual well-being is in dire straits. Mainstream church attendance is down, religious extremism is on the rise, and we are filling our mystical tote bag with an eclectic mix of eastern, western, modern, traditional, pseudoscientific and paranormal nuggets of so-called wisdom.
There is no turning back. The established religious traditions, evolved from a social bedrock that ceased to exist hundreds or even thousands of years ago, have become woefully inadequate. Holy numbers like three, seven, ten and twelve are becoming irrelevant in a binary world that measures everything in powers of 2.
It’s time for something new. Something that can still anoint the soul in a culture that has Gone Digital. Preliminary investigations have revealed that the contours of such a digital religion already exist. It’s simply a matter of time before it establishes itself as the new benchmark for our spirituality.
Do you want to boldly enter this brave new world? Of course you do! To get you up to speed, here’s a brief overview of what we know so far about the new Digital Religion.
There is but one god and his name is Bit. He is omnipresent and all-knowing, but also invisible and unknowable. His creation is called the Network.
On the first day, Bit created the one and the zero. And Bit said, “Go forth and copy and paste thyself ad infinitum.”
On the second day, Bit divided the hardware from the software.
On the third day, Bit gathered together the working memory and he called this RAM. All the other memory he called ROM. He also gathered together the operating elements and called this the System. All the other programs he called Applications.
On the fourth day, Bit created the ten fingers (digiti) and humans to operate them, and he divided the humans into programmers and users.
On the fifth day, Bit created the mouse, the keyboard, the printer and all the other accessories.
On the sixth day, Bit created the username and the password. But by the time he created the password, Bit had become a little tired. This is why the password is not perfect and still goes missing sometimes, to this day.
On the seventh day, Bit rested and had a cinnamon latte while the Network rebooted. And Bit saw that it was awesome.
On the eighth day, Bit played Pac-Man.
The Birth of Mankind
The first two people Bit created were the man Nerd and the woman Geek, and they lived in a paradise of Universal Compatibility. But Geek did not listen to Bit. When the USB‑C serpent tempted her to eat the fruit of the Emoji tree, she unleashed a hellish curse upon the Network and set loose the monsters Bug and Virus.
After that, it was Command‑Q and Alt-F4 for the garden of digital delights.
The first two children that Nerd and Geek begat were called Download and Upload. Download was jealous of his brother and tried to kill him with a DDoS attack. Upload survived the attempt on his life, but he lost some bandwidth in the assault – this is why Download is still faster than Upload.
There was an angelic being who at first helped Bit with his creation, but who eventually fell from grace and unfriended him. This was the archangel Analog, who later grew horns changed his name to System Error. Over the years that followed, from his body were born all the evil daemons, like Crash, No Service, RSI, Program Not Responding, Spam, Battery Low and Unable To Open File. These daemons are still plaguing every corner of creation.
Prophets and Revelations
Bit revealed the 1024 commandments to his servant, the patriarch Mobile, in two plain-text emails on Mount VoIP. Mobile received the commandments after seeing a Burning Baud, and proceeded to outlaw the worship of the Golden Caller ID.
The first commandment is “Thou shalt check if all cables have been properly connected” and the last one is “Thou shalt make regular backups”. All commandments are sinned against very regularly. Commandment 512 in particular (“Thou shalt know the serial number of thy motherboard”) is upheld by almost no one.
To assist the humans in their plight, Bit later sent us his clone, the prophet and messiah Helpdesk. He had 8 solid-state apostles, known as the eight bytes: Kilobyte, Megabyte, Gigabyte, Terabyte, Petabyte, Exabyte, Zettabyte and Yottabyte.
There was also a ninth apostle, Java, but he betrayed Helpdesk to the User Forum for 64 silver SIM cards. After this treachery, Helpdesk (while uttering the words “Let this update pass from me!”) was chained to the mountain Call Center, where every day a Twitter-bird in a Flash animation would eat from his liver.
The True Faith
Ever since Helpdesk was banished, we speak of the Holy 32-unity: the Bit, the Helpdesk and the 30 FAQs. The bytes preached the true protocol, and we now generally distinguish 256 cardinal sins and 256 natural virtues.
One sin and one virtue have been the cause of a great ideological schism between two faith communities: the Roman Applites believe that iOS is a virtue and Android a sin, while the Seventh-Day Googlites believe the exact opposite. The High Priests of the Book of Face are agnostic is this dispute: they provide religious services for both congregations.
There are at least 65,536 different Holy Writs, but the most common are the Old Testament: MS-DOS for Dummies, and the New Testament: Windows for Dummies. Some apocryphal texts have also been discovered, known as the Dead Sea CD-ROMs, but Bit has cursed those who believe in them with the plague of Warranty Does Not Apply.
For ideological reasons, several sects have split off from the orthodox faith. The most prominent among these are the Mac-abees (who worship the idol of User-Friendliness) and the Linuxites (followers of the holy man Open Source).
Another sect, the Modems, recognize Helpdesk as a prophet but believe that the seer Multicore was Bit’s true last representative on Earth. If you are a Modem, you have to pray in the direction of Silicon Valley 56 times per second. Some radicalized Modems (belonging to the Al-ADSL movement) even do it 20,000 times a second.
Many young believers idolize the faith healers WhatsChat and Snapapp, who put them under a trance known as Instant Mesmerization, or IM. This makes them speak in tongues. As a result, they mumble incoherent prayers like “TGIF, CU 2nte IRL…? F2F? <3! : ) L8R BFF, XOXO” while vomiting rainbows.
Some people do not believe in Bit at all. These are the so-called e‑theists. According to them, there is no heaven and no permanent network storage. When you die, it’s just Empty Trash.
There are also those who believe in Reinsilication. They think that while IP addresses are temporary, the File System does not stop at death, and that everyone is continually copied and pasted from one life into the next. If you subscribe to this persuasion, you have to be careful not to accidentally delete a file that was actually your great-grandfather.
Other IT gurus say that there are some restless souls who cannot find their way to the Nir-Wi-Fi: they can’t log out successfully or are still waiting for their pingback. These unfortunates inhabit a digital-spiritual no man’s land that those in the know call “RE:FW.:Fwd.:FW:Re:Fwd”. Fortunately, there is a route whisperer called Uber, who claims he can guide these poor souls to their destiny.
The altar upon which Bit is worshipped is the Screen. Over time, these luminous slabs have gone from small to large, from big to flat, from low-res to Retina, from monochrome to full-color, from passive to multitouch. They are everywhere and the faithful masses cannot imagine their lives without them.
We surround ourselves with screens – at home, at work, in shops, in cars, at public venues… Just to be sure, most people also put one in their bag and pocket or even on their wrist.
The rosary of the digital faith is the cell phone, on which we hastily thumb our prayers whenever we call, surf or text. For some believers, however, phone screens have become too limiting; they belong to the order of the Knights Tableter.
The confessional of this new religion is the Blog, where many people huddle to reveal their innermost stirrings – not knowing exactly who is listening on the other side, and hoping that Bit will grant them redemption for their user errors.
The End of Days
The gospel of Restart predicts that, on Judgment Day, Helpdesk will return to oversee the Hard Reset and decide who will accompany him to the Eternal Online Backup. On that day, all people will be led to Port 8080, where the archangel Router will either admit you to the Cloud or send you to the underworld of Deleted Items.
Until that day comes, vast crowds of believers and free-thinkers flock together in the ecumenical place of worship known as Social Media. There, in exchange for their privacy, they receive blessings in the form of Likes and Shares and lots of devotional advertising.
Finally, there are those who do not believe in absolution and think that Bit can’t be swayed to forgive our sins. They attend mass at the Temple of Cannot Undo. But if you have faith in the Dogma of Version History, you can simply ask forgiveness for your mistakes and get a quick Ctrl‑Z or Command‑Z, depending on your persuasion.
• • •