Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

Table of Contents | Cover Page  |  Editors  |  Contributors  |  Introduction  |  Web Version


Application of science to the solution of human problems.

The use of technology traditionally has been viewed as somewhat problematic by theologians and religious leaders. On the one hand, technology brings forth new practices and procedures that pose ethical dilemmas. Such is the case with the development of effective artificial birth control methods, which official Roman Catholicism has condemned as contrary to natural law. The use of fetal tissue to aid Parkinson's patients, medical abortion, freezing of human embryos, and artificial insemination are also the subject of ethical concern and controversy within a number of faiths. On the other hand, technology is seen as providing an alternative meaning system to traditional religion. In part, the secularization thesis in fact argues that as people come to place their faith in society's ability to gain mastery over the natural world using scientific means, religion becomes a less meaningful force. In this regard, technology also might be seen as an alternative to magic and superstition.

In 1979, the World Council of Churches—a body that represents a majority of the world's Christian faith organizations—met to consider the question of the relation between faith and technology. Among the concerns addressed were the problems to which technology should be properly applied, ethical concerns arising from present and future use of technology, the equitable sharing of technology and science so as to ensure a just world distribution of resources, and new expressions of Christian thought and action on the subject of technology as the pathway to an equitable, sustainable society.

Despite the obvious tension between technology and religion, there is growing evidence of increasing reliance on technology in the everyday affairs of religious organizations. Religious radio and television programming—the so-called electronic church—is now an established feature of North American broadcasting. In both Canada and the United States, religious organizations, either individually or in cooperation with one another, have established commercially viable television stations. Religious organizations, such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), rely heavily on satellite technology for internal communication. Many churches also now maintain a presence on the Internet.

W. E. Hewitt

return to Encyclopedia Table of Contents

Hartford Institute for Religion Research   hirr@hartsem.edu
Hartford Seminary, 77 Sherman Street, Hartford, CT 06105  860-509-9500