When technology rings a bell, When technology rings a bell, Occasional Bytes writes G Hari Kumar

Ask and you will receive. Seek and ye shall find – Bible.

Profound words that have guided so many faithful for centuries. But time splinters everything and these words are no exception. The problem now is that the word “search” is inevitably associated with the Internet and many people’s first reaction to hearing that word is to pick up their cell phones.

Whether it’s calling a plumber or finding your way to a destination, Google for information is the way for most. Hence, it is a natural extension that websites were born to connect you with powerful gods. (No, without reference to the recently unveiled Kerala ministers’ websites.)

A recent report claims that Malabar Devaswom was rebelling against sites that offered to do puja in temples in the region for a fee.

Check out the sites; it’s like looking for a delivery app that provides links to different restaurants in your area, each showing the full menu of what’s on offer. However, the temple authority in the Malabar region strongly opposed it, making it clear that it did not authorize these sites to provide the service they offer.

The news also claimed that some sites never kept their promise and pocketed the money sent by the faithful. If this is true, it is a fraud and the faithful victims could take legal action.

But if the site owners abide by their end of the bargain and the sites did what they guaranteed, there might be no room to take action against them. Their business could likely qualify as a new business model and legitimate service. The claim that the temple authorities did not approve the service is weak as any follower of the Hindu religion can get an attorney to pay the agreed fee and carry out the puja. Nowhere is it said that the faithful must do this personally.

Hence, all these sites only offer one service, such as a proxy, to do puja without being present in remote temples. “With reservations possible in multiple temples for multiple people on multiple dates,” says one site.

One thing that gnaws at here, however, is the concern that such rituals are not performed with the necessary zeal every time.

So, at least one site assures: “Our team works well with the management of all the temples listed on the website. As a result, all poojas booked through us will be performed with the same zeal and emotion as if they were booked in person at the Temple counter.

This certainty must be even more encouraging for some people, as the emotions they evoke in their friends and family often border on the uncivilized realms. After all, a postal vote is as good as a vote cast in person and is equally valid and effective. So why discriminate against an absent devotee?

The claim that these sites do not link directly to the temple administration is also shaky, as existing Internet business models show there is no need for such a thing. For example, popular food delivery services like Swiggy and Zomato do not own or have a stake in restaurants, but deliver food for a fee.

Representative image | Photo: AFP

Restaurants welcomed the new model and promptly signed up for such delivery services as it increased sales volume and revenue. Additionally, these apps offer the ability to file complaints if the items delivered were not exactly the items ordered, are below average, or have an excessive delay. This could, however, be problematic when it comes to sites that offer to help you seek the blessings of supernatural forces.

Suppose a website user complains that he has not achieved the desired result of a particular effort. It could, therefore, get a little messy and lead to hair splitting in the courts over who is responsible for the lack of results. Such a situation can evoke intricate problems, as depicted in the Hindi film Oh My God, in which a merchant sues God for his misfortunes. The court scenes in that film end up blaming the people who propagate such promises, a position in which our temple authorities would do well not to get caught.

Technological innovations and scientific progress have been in conflict with religions since the time of Galileo. And the arrival of the Internet has affected almost every aspect of our life. Religion is no exception. Many people now consider posting pictures of a deity or a prayer on their Facebook page as a substitute for prayer. And many who see such messages religiously post a greeting or whisper an amen as if it were a place of worship.

The internet, social media apps, and high-tech gadgets are making their way into religions. In the Middle East, for example, digital prayer counters are replacing Subha, the traditional rosaries. Click on this gadget instead of counting each of the hundred-bead long Subhas, and the screen will show you the total, saving you the burden of keeping a mental note of the numbers. Just like health apps that tell you how many steps you’ve taken instead of counting steps. And predictably, some veterans disagree on this.

However, not all religious authorities are Luddites. Some actively embrace change, and many godmen and spiritual leaders have become celebrities thanks to their social media following. Even some brilliant among them keep up with technology.

A church in Hong Kong said it is creating a church in the Metaverse, the virtual world that the tech giants are building. Devotees can put on headphones and visit the virtual church, and your avatar can sit on the virtual pew and listen to the virtual priest’s sermon – no need to put on the Sunday Best and go out.

This trend could spread to other religions as well and soon you (No, your avatar) will be able to visit the places of worship that arise in the Metaverse simply by wearing your VR headset while lounging on your sofa.

In Indian mythology, the gods sent avatars to help the world when their worldly creatures were in trouble.

Technology is now turning things upside down in every sphere. At this rate, we may soon send our avatars to visit the gods.

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