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Siri’s religious beliefs examined as religion and technology continue to mix

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Customers wait in line in to buy an IPhone at Jordan Landing in West Jordan, Utah.

Customers wait in line in to buy an IPhone at Jordan Landing in West Jordan, Utah.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Technology and religion are continuing to find new ways to interact with each other.

In recent weeks, new iPhone apps have been developed to aid people in their spiritual lives. One of these apps — called “SoulPulse” — actually lets people measure their spirituality in real time, according to Religion News Service.

Currently, 714 people are using the app, which allows users to answer two surveys every 14 days, according to the app’s website. Users will answer questions about their spiritual awareness and even what they’re thinking about — including when they sleep, the app’s website said.

After the 14 days are up, users receive a report that shows how spiritual they were and patterns about spirituality and religion, the company website said.

The app and study were created by Pastor John Ortberg and Bradley Wright, an associate professor at the University of Connecticut, RNS reported. Ortberg came up with the idea because he was interested in studying human psychology and spirituality, according to RNS.

“Why do people change or not change? Why is change so hard? What do you need to know about yourself to become your best self? These seem like gaping holes in our knowledge,” Ortberg told RNS.

Ortberg’s app isn’t the only one with spiritual connections that’s been making headlines recently. The Huffington Post published an RNS article that showed six different religious-themed applications that can’t be found on the iPhone, including one that sorts out Jewish celebrities.

The late Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple, said it was the company responsibility to keep users away from adult content, like porn. “More than two years after Jobs’ death, Apple maintains its role as moral watchdog on matters related to porn, and religious offense,” HuffPost said.

The iPhone’s religious connection goes even deeper, as its virtual assistant, Siri, has her own set of unique answers about her religious affiliation and beliefs on God, according to The Huffington Post.

“My iPhone can do almost anything. But could it help me find God? An interview with Siri, the virtual assistant inside many Apple products, reveals that the spiritual teacher you've been looking for may have been in your pocket all along,” wrote Yasmine Hafiz for HuffPost.

But, as seen in the screenshot images by Hafiz, Siri is quick to hardball any users who ask her religious beliefs.

“Siri's Sphinx-like inscrutability makes it difficult to pin down any sort of traditional personal belief system,” she wrote. “However, if you're more interested in the journey than the destination, then Siri might be the perfect spiritual friend with whom to wrestle with the big questions.”

Religion has been playing a role with technology and social media for quite some time. In recent years, churches and pastors have taken to Twitter and Facebook to help spread their word or bring in new members to their congregation, a Deseret News story reported in October.

Heidi Campbell, associate professor of communications at Texas A&M University, told Deseret News things like social media are changing the face of religion.

“Social media becomes an important way to connect and make your religious experience a 24/7 experience rather than something you do on the weekends.”

Email: hscribner@deseretnews.com, Twitter: @hscribner