Guest post: Chris Matyszczyk finds that the Web accommodates all kinds of bloggers, including a nun who says she is "wildly enthusiastic about our mission of putting communications technology at the service of the Gospel."
One of the more rewarding things about the Web is that it allows you to snoop a little into other people’s lives without knocking on their door and asking to borrow some sugar.
So I thought I’d step technologically over the thresholds of America’s minds and learn a little about what people are believing this days. You know, in a God kind of way.
Even though it is a long time since I was ordered to go to Church on Sundays or my life would be ended by an immediate celestial thunderbolt, I will try to be as objective as I possibly can.Let’s start with Sister Anne Flanagan. Sister Anne, who lives in a convent above a Catholic bookstore in Chicago, is the authoress of nunblog, and has become something of a minor Madonna in the religious community for embracing technology like a hedge-fund manager cuddles a killing.
She is a veritable tech fiend who uses as her URL not the obvious nunblog.com, but the very cryptic http://romans8v29.blogspot.com/.
This is a Biblical reference that encourages us to be more Christ-like, something about us being predestined to be conformed to the image of the Son of God. (Personally, I have the facial growth and five of the six letters in my name, so I am doing my best.)
Sister Anne declares that when she reads about a new piece of technology or a new Web site she rushes off to church and says: “Jesus, look at this! There are these people who have come up with this application, and these minds that have thought to put this together!”
She believes that she is on this earth to point these things out to God and say: "Look at these people! Bless them! Give them direction! Give them ideas! Make sure they can use their ideas in a way that contributes to the good and to the health of society." She hopes, sincerely, that everyone in the world of tech can feel little waves of inspiration coming from her.
Naturally, Sister Anne would prefer it if you were moved by her waves of inspiration, but not so moved by the waves of abortion. On October 13, she blogged: "Hurray!" Gore found his niche. (I liked him up until the late 80's when he sold his soul to Naral.)” (Naral, in case the acronym escaped you, are the devilish folks from the National Association for the Repeal of the Abortion Laws. The “pro-choice” people.)
Sister Anne’s feel for technology is so divine that she is even using Amazon’s honor system to try and get readers to pay for a new water-heater for her convent.
What of the other side?
I Googled ‘Satanist Blogger’. And the number one entry was Dwindling in Unbelief. Dwindling is the pen name of Steve Wells, the editor of the "Skeptic’s Annotated Bible." Dwindling shows no interest in chatting to his readers, and certainly none in praying for the programmers and developers of the world to design according to Satan’s will.
No, Dwindling is a diehard left-brainer. He seems to spend all of his dark efforts trying to count how many people were, in his estimation, killed by God in the Bible and how many by Satan. Should you be interested in this strange calculation I suggest you wander off to his site as I intend to remain utterly Swiss on this subject. However, I hope that everyone can be fascinated by Dwindling’s attempt to explain his approach to statistical significance:
“No attempt was made to include the victims of Noah's flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, or the many plagues, famines, fiery serpents, etc., with which the good book is filled.”
I think there are two conclusions one can reach from this examination of the religious/technological paradigm.
1. Sister Anne has gained a deep understanding of social networking. She realizes that, in order to achieve her goals, she must find those with whom she can have a mutually fulfilling relationship. In as far as her vows allow her.
2. Dwindling Steve Wells may well have been struck by an immediate celestial thunderbolt. His tallying of the casualties in the Bible was posted on August 9th 2006. That was the last ever post of the number one entry for the Google search ‘Satanist Blogger.’This should serve as a chilly warning to Benjamin P. Wing, chief software architect of the text editing software, XEmacs, and currently a student of computational linguistics at the University of Texas in Austin. Benjamin P. Wing for some reason chose the online persona--www.666.com.
My guess is that Mr. Wing chose the three sixes not for its "Book of Revelations" association with the "beast," but for the more purely mathematical harmony it expresses. I am told by a greater mind than my own that the sum of all the numbers on a roulette wheel equals 666 and the first 144 digits of Pi equal 666. (Thanks, Dan and Wikipedia.) We can only wait to see if Mr. Wing will contact us to, as it were, confess all.
Chris Matyszczyk has spent most of his career as an award-winning creative director in the advertising industry. He advises major global companies on marketing and creativity. Chris has also been a journalist, covering the Olympics, SuperBowl and other sporting events. He brings a non-techie's perspective to the tech world and a sharp wit to the rest of the world. Check out his "Pond Culture" blog.