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Note: The word scripture itself technically means writing, and "other media besides text in scripture" is an oxymoron, but here I am using the word to mean something like "sacred media".

I was watching the series Cosmos by Neil DeGrasse Tyson (itself a remake of Carl Sagan's series from the 70s). Although supposedly a science documentary - I couldn't help but notice the frequently reverential and mystical tone that Tyson takes when explaining things, and the way he treats the great scientists of history with prophetic like reverence. In the final episode, he includes a recording of Carl Sagan's famous "Pale blue dot" quote, followed by a series of injunctions by Tyson himself to be an open minded, self-critical free-thinker, and to cherish the environment and the planet - the tone was very reverential.

It's almost Tyson intended the series to be some sort of religious instruction material for those who believe that science has all the answers.

This led me to wonder:

Past religions' scripture has always been in text form, but that's because historically the only way to keep long term records was in writing. But technology now allows to keep other media in long term records as well.

Is it conceivable that future religions would include not just sacred texts, but other media as well? Would they include sacred video, sacred audio, sacred binaries, sacred computer code, etc....? What would such a future religion look like?

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    $\begingroup$ The prophet's holy selfies perhaps? His Twitter Account of Wisdom? The GitHub Repository of Sacred Knowledge? Or perhaps the most holy of treasures, His Facebook Album of Funny Gifs and Cat Videos? $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Mar 15 '17 at 21:21
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    $\begingroup$ Relics and Icons have been popular for a long time, I'm acquainted with people who seriously claim a certain movie as a religious experience, and 24hr blessings hot lines almost certainly exist. You don't even need to put a colander on your head to enjoy the sacred in all its digital glory; it's a safe bet Christianity has found every media form you have. $\endgroup$ – user25818 Mar 15 '17 at 22:07
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    $\begingroup$ they already do scientology considers certain recordings as holy and certain movies have inspired religions (jedi) $\endgroup$ – John Mar 17 '17 at 10:26

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Imagine that some future scientific experiment absolutely proves the existence of God. For example, imagine that an advancement in the current imaging technology which is currently visualizing individual atoms, someday reveals a copyright notice or an artist's signature on every subatomic particle.

The video tapes of that first enlightening moments, and the early repetitions of that experiment could easily be called sacred.

I personally think that the video of our first step on the moon (sans the silence) is sacred footage, and when the vibration from the approaching mother ship in "Independence Day" obliterated Neil's footprint... That was sacrilege.

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  • $\begingroup$ The RPG "Unknown Armies" I played in the late nineties has a porn star who ascended and became a god while working. The tapes of that event are very powerful (depending on how many copies removed from the original) and sought after. $\endgroup$ – Tim B Mar 15 '17 at 21:29
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The key to this is your misapprehension that text has always been the only medium. In practice every available medium was used. Of course limited options were available, but your most notable missing ones are either carved in stone or oral tradition. Even monotheistic religions like Judaism have both written and oral traditions.

Both of these options have problems. An oral tradition is dependent on continual survival and continuity of population, it also suffers from a high level of corruption with the generations. If people move away from the homeland they move away from the tradition or carry an incomplete tradition with them. If the population is decimated, a considerable portion could be easily lost. Stone carving also has a problem with mobile or displaced populations simply in that vast statues, carved monoliths and henges are not particularly portable. Again it suffers compared to the relative portability of the written text.

Your future religion is going to have a similar set of problems when deviating from written text. The most obvious being compatibility of hardware, backward compatibility etc. There's something enduring about the written word that we don't yet have with digital media. What would happen if your missionaries took their stacks of CDs to a planet that used laserdiscs, minidiscs or VHS. It's a dead loss for spreading the message.

A book is recognisably a book, no matter how old, a scroll or carved stone tablet the same, but what is this shiny circular thing with a hole in the middle?

Books have one last advantage. When lost and alone, in the cold and dark on a strange world, you can use it to start a fire and be saved in a much more literal sense.

However this loss of accessibility is not necessarily a bad thing in the long run. Consider why you might want the original text of your religion to be largely inaccessible to the people. Religions are born in a time and place, in a specific culture. The rules and customs don't necessarily have any relevance at all thousands of years later in a galaxy far far away*. Having the text be inaccessible means that the priest (or otherwise) can "interpret" the text to the age in which they're living, keeping the spirit of the religion up to date in a way that the ancient text can't manage.

*Who seethes a kid in its mother's milk anyway?

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  • $\begingroup$ "The most obvious being compatibility of hardware, backward compatibility etc." How is this different from the fact that most Muslims can't read Arabic or most Buddhists can't read Pali? The devout just rely on translated versions of their scripture. $\endgroup$ – Alex Kinman Mar 15 '17 at 21:44
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexKinman, they're growing up immersed in the culture from birth, the oral culture, a new and future religion has to expand, which means it must do its best to be accessible to the people of their age. These religions were born in the local language of their period. That they're now less accessible is less of an issue as they're well established. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Mar 15 '17 at 21:48
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Absolutely Yes

If other forms of media besides text like pictures existed back when a major prophet was around there would definitely be pictures taken and when a group like the Council of of Nicaea rolls around they would decide which versions of which pictures would be the best to include in the religious documents. This would of course lead to controversy over why they did not include certain pictures in the holy text much like we see today why certain letters and prophecies that are not included in the Bible.

Experts in Ancient File Types

Including things like images would lead to problems as file types change over time (much like languages do). We have people who study ancient Greek and Hebrew so that they can read source documents. In your world I see there being experts who study archaic and ancient file types like bmp, png, and jpg. They would help interpret old files and translate them into whatever the file types are of the current generation. This would lead to various versions of the images much like versions of the Bible. This would lead to people saying things like this:

Personally I prefer the jp2 edition, it has the best interpretive algorithms for accurately rendering the image.

Or

If you want to truly understand the images, you have to look at the original bmp of the image. All other versions do some amount of interpretation to get those higher resolutions, and so will never be as accurate.

Study Images

Much like how there are study Bibles, there would likely be study images. These pictures would have annotations on them to point out subtle details in the images. They could include variations of color correction and filters to help highlight and draw attention to minor background events happening in the picture.

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Anytime Now

Right now, people have video blogs for their preaching and sermons. It is very probably that an entirely independent, new, 'following' will arise and be on Youtube/Internet as early as today. New Age just barely missed the boat on being founded on Youtube (and the Internet) although they certainly use that media.

Smartphones, computers and pads will be able to access videos, archive them, and bring them up again for historical record.

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Let's back up a step. What is "scripture"? Speaking primarily from a Christian point of view, "scripture" is the message that we believe was given to us by God and that we view as authoritative to define our religion. I think many other religions would say similar things, but not all. Some religions don't really have a body of writing that they view as authoritative. But using that definition ...

Religions throughout history have used media other than text. Many or most religions have created music, sculpture, painting, architecture, and theater. But I don't know of any religion that says that these non-text media are part of their "scripture" per se. That is, Jews and Christians and Muslims and others write songs or paint paintings to portray things from their scriptures or to celebrate their faith, but they don't view these as authoritative. If two Christians had a disagreement about who was present at some event discussed in the Bible, they might carefully study the text of the Bible to find their answer. But they wouldn't look to a painting of the scene or a play about the event. That wouldn't be considered authoritative, just the theory or interpretation of the person who produced that media.

Likewise, religious groups in countries with modern technology routinely use radio, TV, movies, and the Internet. But these are not viewed as scripture.

That said, I find it is easy to imagine a future religion considering a video of a sermon by their founder as scripture. Why not? As a Christian, I believe that God revealed things to people over the course of several thousand years, and those revelations have been collected into the Bible. Why could he not reveal further things at some time in the future? If he did, I don't see why he couldn't use movies or streaming video. (Some Christians say the Bible is now "closed" and so there will be no future revelation, but that's an entirely different question that I don't want to get into here.)

"Sacred computer code" is a bit of a stretch. What would it do? Sacred accounting software? A sacred video game? A program that tracks your sins in a database? But maybe I'm just not being imaginative enough.

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  • $\begingroup$ "Sacred computer code is a bit of a stretch" --- is it? Consider the dietary laws of Jews and Muslims, or the Yoga practices one hand, and consider the so-called internet of things and a future were software is pervasive and part of every single aspect of our lives on the other, in such an environment is the idea of sacred code that far fetched ? $\endgroup$ – Alex Kinman Mar 16 '17 at 20:31
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexKinman Hmm, okay. I suppose one could imagine a religion with complex rules about something -- like Jewish kosher laws or Sabbath rules times ten -- that are embedded in software. So that if you want to know if you are allowed to eat chicken with alfredo sauce on the Tuesday after a full moon, you don't have to know all the details behind the rules, you just select what you want to do from dropdowns and it says yes or no. Interesting concept. $\endgroup$ – Jay Mar 16 '17 at 21:13
  • $\begingroup$ I mean we already kind of have "sacred computer code/program" in a sense. "Hello World" is pretty much the universal first tutorial to every single computer language since the 70s. Implementation varies depending on language, but everyone who has programming experience knows what to expect when they see "Hello World". $\endgroup$ – Visfarix Apr 4 '17 at 21:44
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tl;dr. There is already modern day scripture if you look hard enough, and it seems to be approximately converging on what you say.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is an example of a church that believes in receiving new scripture continuously. This makes it a good example of what future scripture would look like.

General Conference talks are considered to be a form of scripture, especially if the author of the talk is a prophet. President Uchtdorf included in his talk Fourth Floor, Last Door a couple images. This may not have been produced by him, but since he included them, you could consider them part of the scripture. This is just one example; many talks are including images and even some video. Indeed, the recordings of the talk could be considered sacred videos, which go all the way back to 1971.

More generally, all those that produce media for the church are supposed to seek the wisdom of God in producing it. Therefore, you could consider anything produced by the Church as being impure forms of scripture. If this is the case, you have have many images, videos, and even binaries that could be inspired. They could even be canonized someday, if the prophets consider it to have scriptural accuracy. This isn't as far fetched as you think, when you consider that we do not know who even wrote all the books in the Bible. Joseph Smith-Prophet of the Restoration has been used in missionary work for a while, after all. The prophets of the church also have social media accounts. Although not everything the prophets say is scripture automatically, they probably have quite a bit of inspiration as well.

And actually, there is an even better example: the facsimile's in the book of Abraham, Facsimile 1 for example. Given that it is directly referenced by the scriptural text, has an explanation that is scriptural text, was probably drawn by Abraham (given that the was an astronomer and therefore probably good at drawing), and is included in the Pearl of Great Price, which is canonized scripture, I think its safe to say that it is in fact a sacred image. The funny thing is that its actually considered to be the oldest scripture by the church, even older than Genesis presumably. The facsimiles are more of an exception than the rule though; no other currently avaible ancient scripture has images.

If you want to know what future scripture looks like, the closest thing you can get to is modern day scripture.

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Religions have always and will always use mediums to their best capacities, just like every other portion of society. Thus, it is not only natural that there will be scared media other than text, but in fact I think it is almost certain that there will be such media.

Text can record a very coarse sense of the meaning. Poets have weaned amazing amounts of power out of these written words, but in the end they have their limits. If you had an audio recording, you can capture the intonations of the voice. Intonation has always been a very powerful thing. For example, I have been told that ideally one would not read the Quran, but experience it with the proper intonations. Intonation can capture jest and seriousness and awe and reverence in a way that text simply cannot. This is why we will sit in auditoriums to hear JK Rowling read her books to us. We want to hear the intonations that the author intended.

Video can capture even more. Interestingly enough, while we could have plenty of flashy videos designed to wow audiences, I find the subtle is far more important for conveying messages along the lines of religion. One great subtlety is in the eyes. You can see so much in the eyes of someone as they speak. I still see something utterly horrific in the dead eyes of Dr. Oppenheimer during his famous recording quoting the bhagavad gita as we ushered in the nuclear era. There's something there that to this day I cannot quite pin down in words but can experience every time I watch his face.

There is an opposing trend in some places. Some groups elect not to leverage modern media for their message. Martial artists, for example, often refuse to publish videos of themselves because they fear people will try to interpret what they see when they watch it over and over and miss the intended message completely. However, this is always a transient process that results from change. We eventually find new ways to leverage our new mediums, and then they find their way into everything we do, including religion.

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Yes, just as religions have in the past. To expand on Jay's statement: "Religions throughout history have used media other than text. Many or most religions have created music, sculpture, painting, architecture, and theater.", consider the use of money and architecture also.

Many religious leaders are found on the coins and bills of the period, along with various religious symbols and epitaphs.

Perhaps the very specific placements and alignment of buildings and monuments are part of a religious record....the ancient pyramids across the globe, Stonehenge and other some circles, burial mounds in the Americas, some other monuments designed with astronomical considerations in mind.

Other media include the countless monuments and relics that pay homage to various deities in many, many countries. They are found standing or hung not only in our churches, but in our parks, schools, libraries, lawns, homes, and closets.

Some might also consider our own bodies as media with the adornment of religious jewelery and tattoos.

And since this question does not specify only current real-world answers, an interesting possibility could be our very own DNA as a medium. A high-tech society might be able to find a way to encode their religious beliefs right into the building blocks of our bodies. Hmmm...this is what we believe a person should look like, and the personality traits they should have, and the capabilities and limitations they should have as they strive for enlightenment.... we shall try to "write" the DNA to make this possible....

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Existing religions are less scriptural you seem to be assuming

I will argue that religions going forward will not look like the great religions of before (great meant strictly in the sense of having a lot of followers or influence). Already in the West we underappreciate the differences between the familiar religions (i.e. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism) and those of other parts of the world. Those three religions are inextricably linked to each other through their origins, and there is a reason that they are commonly conceived of as 'Religions of the Book.'

But away East, Buddhism doesn't really have a comparable corpus of divinely inspire tomes (not least because they don't have a comparable view of divinity of Godhead). The same can be applied in varying ways to the other well-known or well-followed religions of the East. I am not a follower, student, or expert of those religions, so I will decline to comment further on exact differences; but suffice to say, the centrality of Scripture in the Religions of the Book is different from other religions in the world.

Modern 'religions' won't look at all like the old kind

(HEAVY CONTROVERSY WARNING !!!!!)

Do you believe in global warming? Why? Some scientists published some studies about it. They have all this evidence that the world is heating up and that this is going to be a disaster for humanity and the Earth. Can you explain to me in detail why their argument is true or do you take the scientists on....faith?

Do you think that people who oppose gay marriage should not be allowed to speak at public events? I mean, that is definitely mean-spirited, and it oppresses those who are gay by denying them basic rights. What is the justification for believing that gay marriage should be available to all? The moral justification is the Golden Rule, say many. Why is the Golden Rule 'true'?

Here is the point: If you believe in global warming, and I tell you that global warming is a hoax; or if you believe in gay marriage and I tell you that gays should not be allowed to marry, you will likely be offended. How is your reaction any different than if I told a Christian that Jesus was a con-man or told a Muslim that Mohamed was a pig?

Given the great variance in religious practices among people around the world, what is religion other than a set of commonly held beliefs held on faith? Belief that taxes or communism or government is bad, that global warming is a threat, that personal sexual freedom is good, or that anti-trans or anti-Black Lives Matters attitudes are a crime are basically that: tenets held on faith. The belief in a 'God' figure isn't really a central concept of religion, Abrahamic bias notwithstanding. Again, I am no expert, but if you take a look at Eastern religions, or even the familiar pagan polytheism of Greece or Norseland, the idea of an omnipotent god is not really that common.

We have no rigorous evidence that taxes are bad, or that anti-trans people are evil, and the great majority do not have or do not understand the evidence that global warming is real. Therefore many of our strongly held beliefs have the character of religion.

To answer your question then: is there a 'Bible' of global warming or a 'Koran' of gay rights? No, there is not. There is simply a set of mutually reinforcing social messaging on the topic, that spreads orthodoxy and fights heresy. You can get your modern religion through any communication medium out there.

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    $\begingroup$ «Can you explain to me in detail why their argument is true or do you take the scientists on....faith?» the former, of course. I suggest Potholer54 on Youtube to explain it. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Mar 15 '17 at 22:54
  • $\begingroup$ @JDługosz Many people think they understand being better than they do. Especially when it comes to their religion :) $\endgroup$ – kingledion Mar 15 '17 at 23:06
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, it's very hard to get across the idea that the scientific method is not faith but the very opposite. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Mar 15 '17 at 23:10
  • $\begingroup$ You can of course figuratively call anything a religion as in "football is religion around here". However, there is a certain set of definitions commonly understood to apply to religion in the English language. I doubt that too many people turn to "the religion of global warming" for questions about death, the meaning of life, or how to live a moral life. I am afraid the OP may have had something other than "stuff I am not an expert in" when he used the word religion. $\endgroup$ – Solanacea Apr 3 '17 at 21:09
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    $\begingroup$ @JDługosz Anytime you accept an argument or statement because you trust the source, you are accepting that argument or statement from faith. This is using a much broader definition of faith- definition 1 on google- "complete trust or confidence in someone or something." Your comment is talking about definition number 2: "strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof." Every ethos argument or statement relies on faith: be it a published article in Nature or a person recounting a personal experience. These definitions ought be included! $\endgroup$ – PipperChip May 5 '17 at 19:53
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I would say that this is already hapening the bible and other religions text has already been converted to audiobook form and they O'Lakes lots of Bible apps you can get online as technology becomesolutions more advanced they may replace the traditional print form.

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