Signs of spring
Ottawa mural consultation

Praying Computers

Recently in the Globe & Mail I found a note about the Information Age Prayer site. Not an April Fools prank, as far as I know, whois shows the domain registered in Chesterville, PA since March 3rd of this year. 

For $4.95 a month they will say three prayers a day for you. Or more accurately their computers will prey pray. The company states, "We use state-of-the-art text-to-speech synthesizers to voice each prayer at a volume and speed equivalent to [a] typical person praying. Each prayer is voiced individually, with the name of the subscriber displayed on screen." They add, "it gives you the satisfaction of knowing that your prayers will always be said even if you wake up late, or forget."
I looked at the site - there's a sale on Prayers for World Peace, only $3.95 a month. Or spend $3.95 every month to pray for Economic Stability.

Some might say this is a rip-off, but the consumer believes they are buying a real product, and getting a benefit from it. Recent studies suggest there is little agreement on the effectiveness of prayer to heal (or not), but I would think the consumer would not likely want to get into that. Challenging the effectiveness of prayer might imply that they lacked faith. Now if someone had a similar service at 99 cents a month (maybe via the Itunes store) then I would say this $4.95 (US) one was a rip off. If the expense bothers you, what's to prevent you from downloading prayers and setting up your IPOD to play them at fixed intervals?

At any rate, there's nothing new about paying for prayers. The churches have long had a policy of letting you buy indulgences, or at least grant them only after a "suggested' donation had been made. These indulgences were like credits to be balanced off against various sins. I know when I was a card-carrying Catholic we paid the priest to say Mass for us in Latin, the concept being he was more qualified to intercede with God on our behalf. Now at least the Mass is in English (or whatever native tongue) and the gathering is more of a participatory event.

We all have friends and relatives that say they will pray for us - whether we want it or not. And they pray with little concern over whether it's to our god or theirs. Perhaps the various deities have some sort of exchange set up for this, to deal with misdirected prayers. When my mother was a little girl she had an aunt that told her she prayed every day that my mother would be chosen to be a nun, chosen through a visit by some sort of celestial visitor. My mother was both terrified and annoyed.

But back to this online service - if I hadn't read about it before today's date I would have suspected a prank. Especially when part of their Terms of Use states: " Each prayer is voiced individually, with the name of the subscriber displayed on screen. If the prayer is for someone else, then that name is displayed on screen instead. Your privacy is protected, all prayers are not audible outside of the Information Age Prayer location. While it is certain that God hears the prayers, we cannot guarantee that other supernatural beings do not overhear or otherwise obtain knowledge of them."

I assume the name is on the screen so that the prayer is credited to the right soul. Otherwise the only person going to heaven would be the support tech in the lab. And would be going quicker than a techie supporting a porn site I would assume. I wonder too at the disclaimer regarding eavesdropping supernatural beings - have they had complaints already that some were listening, or had hacked in?

Yet more thoughts  - I would think ear protection would be needed in the lab, especially if the techie was an atheist. In addition to Protestant and Catholic prayers, the service also caters to Muslim and Jewish faiths. I wonder (because I can't stop myself) , do they take this further? Do some servers face Mecca?  Are some Kosher? 

Perhaps in the distant future, in a world dominated by the American religious right, this concept could be expanded to use the distributed computing power of BOINC.



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)