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Questions about God? There's an app for (and against) that

TJ Luoma, @tjluoma

Many iPhone users have become accustomed to using their devices to settle arguments.

  • Arguing over the best route to take for your weekend getaway? Pull out the Maps app or one of the many iPhone GPS apps.
  • Found someone who doesn't believe that Inigo Montoya and Jason Gideon are played by the same actor? Fire up the IMDB app.
  • Disagreement over when Star Wars was released (or re-released)? Head over to or one of the many Wikipedia apps.
It's one thing to argue over facts and dates, but can iPhone apps help settle arguments about the existence of God? A recent NY Times article showed that some folks on both sides of the question are making an effort.

On the side of religious skeptics are applications like Bible Thumper, the Atheist Pocket Debater, and mAtheist. For those who are certain they can convert others to faith, if only they find the right argument, there are apps such as Doubt Busters, God Tools, or Jesus Evangelism Tool by Mobile Jesus. (As an aside, I think developers of these sorts of apps may want to avoid the word "tool" in the title, or they're just asking for people to twist the meaning.)

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The idea of apologetics has been around for ages, but I have doubts that any of these apps -- on either side of the debate -- will change anyone's mind. Arguments of these sort tend to be very persuasive mostly to people who already hold the perspective being argued.

The Times article cites Fast Facts, Challenges & Tactics as claiming that "[the] Bible's 66 books were written over a span of 1,500 years by 40 different authors on three different continents who wrote in three different languages. Yet this diverse collection has a unified story line and no contradictions."

As someone who has both read and studied the Christian Bible, the claim that there are "no contradictions" made me sputter. The problem with such a grandiose claim is that once you find one exception, the argument is undermined. Indeed, the article goes on to point out at least one apparent contradiction between Genesis 32:30 and Exodus 33:20.

Will the level of discourse be improved by these apps? I find it hard to believe. Instead, each side will have easier access to "sound bites" to throw back and forth at each other. Will either cause benefit from its supporters trying to use these apps to convince others? Probably not. Will that stop people from trying? I doubt it.

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