Opinion: Coronavirus is forcing Silicon Valley to digitise religion

And very early investors in start-ups are literally referred to as “angels.”  In the past decade, while technologists built an app for every part of human life, religions operated on websites seemingly plucked from 1997. Whether it was the market (too old), the founders (too secular) or the business model (too fragmented), very few technologists seemed interested in building companies for several billion of the world’s faithful. But now, pastors, priests, pandits and rabbis are forced to perform their services to empty halls and embrace technology. And as states squabble about how many people can occupy a pew or whether services can be held at all, pastors are Zooming from their kitchen counters. Video: Cuomo to Allow Religious Gatherings for Up to 10 People (Bloomberg) Hallow, a Catholic-aimed prayer and meditation app that is in what the Valley calls the seed stage of early investment, puts the parable’s ever-growing mustard seed to shame; it saw a 100 percent increase in weekly downloads in March and April, and a 2,000 percent jump in users praying on the app after Pope Francis called for a global rosary for covid-19 victims. In fact, according to Jeanet Sinding Bentzen, an associate professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Copenhagen, Internet searches for “prayer” across 75 countries doubled in March for every 80,000 newregistered cases of covid-19. As the virus grew exponentially, so did other “quarantine categories” of grocery delivery, virtual events and telemedicine companies — seemingly tailor-made for people cloistered in their homes. There are five basic acts in Islam that its believers follow: Shahadah (sincere recitation of the Muslim profession of faith), salat (five obligatory prayers every day), zakat (giving the mandatory amount in charity to the poor), sawm (fasting the entire month ofRamadan) and Hajj (holy pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia). Followed by almost 500 million people worldwide, it was founded on the teachings of Gautama Buddha who believed in a moral life and emphasized on developing wisdom and understanding. Bauddha Dharma (Buddhism) literally translates to “Religion of the Buddha” or “Way of the Buddha.” It originated at the beginning of the 19th century and is practiced mainly in Brazil. It is based on African beliefs – a mixture of Yoruba, Fon and Bantu – with some elements of Christianity, and has about two million followers. The religion, with an estimated one million followers, spread globally with the popularity of one its most famous adherents: Bob Marley. The adherents of the faith are strict vegetarians, owing to their belief that all living beings have souls and deserve compassion. The Zoroastrians worship in a Fire Temple or Agiary, and regard Avesta as their holy book and Ahura Mazda as their supreme being. There are over one million Pagans estimated to be living in the United States, according to a survey by the Pew Forum onreligion. Adopting the traditional Chinese idea of yin and yang, constituting the harmonious balance of the universe, the Caodaists engage in practices such as prayer, nonviolence, and vegetarianism. But perhaps technology fits neatly into many faiths’ rich tradition of suffering in solitary prayer, echoing the saints and prophets in all sects whose religious awakeningstook place in literal and figurative deserts. Millennia of history show that the model works, and at last, a holy trinity is in place: isolated people hungry for attachment, religions desperate for growth in an online world, and technology investors searching for the consumer niches yet to digitize. Eventually, religious institutions will have to reckon with whether digitizing leads to a more solitary faith foreveror increased interest in the IRL community from which it sprang.