Pondering A Digital Afterlife

Have you ever received a Facebook notification reminding nudging you to wish Happy Birthday to a deceased friend? It’s an odd experience, almost as if the internet is nudging you to hang out with an old friend. It’s almost, because any interaction is strictly one way.

What if interaction could feel like its two way, and you almost feel like you could see the one you lost?

The below video tells the story of one guys experience playing a computer game against his dead Dads previous best, and at the same time, giving what could be the best reason to play computer games.

The voice over is pulled directly from a YouTube comment that was under a video called, “Can Video Games Be a Spiritual Experience?” Could the above be described as a spiritual experience?

I sometimes wonder what technology would look like in 20 – 30 years time. If people can have experiences like the above with what would now be consider old technology, what does the future hold?

In fact, is (what we might consider) a future technology already happening?

I read a theory a few months ago, that you could argue that human beings are separated into two separate states. One is our physical bodies. The other is our identities, or our souls.

Most (if not all) religions have a concept of an afterlife. A place where the soul lives on, but what if our earthly identity could be captured?

Eternime is one example of a company with plans to help your digital identity live on. They plan to combine everything you put on social media, photos from smart phone, email, and so on – the aim being to create a digital version of yourself, that will be accessible after you die.

According to the BBC website:

“Depending on the facts it has collected, the avatar will be able to offer anything from basic biographical data to being an engaging conversational partner,” says Marius Ursache, Eternime’s founder.

It is set to launch next year, and according to Eternime, more than 37,000 people have already signed up for the service.

Its not just a service like Eternime where this is possible, there is also Facebook.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure how I feel about this.

On one hand, I’m not going to be around for ever. Could there be some comfort in having a “digital dad” available online after I’m gone? But what if the service fails? Wouldn’t that be some sort of “second death”? In fact, at the time of writing this on The Church Sofa, the Eterni.me website is down with the error message: “The server is temporarily unable to service your request due to maintenance downtime or capacity problems. Please try again later.”

Doesn’t the idea of a “second death” sound creepy?

Does the whole thing sound a little creepy? People I’ve spoken to have commented on how weird it sounds. Is weird, because it sounds unnatural? And is it so unnatural, that we’re in danger of not just playing God, but going full blown Black Mirror? 

If this new Black Mirror future, is in fact now, how would this impact the church and its teaching? Particularly how we communicate about the afterlife? Somewhere between Heaven and Hell, is there a place for a digital limbo dependent on service contracts?

(A version of this post first appeared on The Dads Sofa)

Ideas For Your Easter Church Service.

Are you leading worship during Easter? Have you started planning for it yet? If not, is it because you’re still looking for an idea of what to do? If so, The Church Sofa can help with out list of Top Ideas for a Easter Church Service:

  1. Pain Experiment: See how painful it is to have nails hammered into you… thinking about it, maybe you should ask for a volunteer*.
  2. Watch the last couple of episodes of Rev. Say nothing more.
  3. Tear church curtains in two. Spend the rest of the year hiding from the Church Wardens / Deacons.
  4. Lead a discussion in the relationship between The Cross and  defence against vampires.
  5. Walk to Church by carrying a huge wooden cross. Try not to be late.
  6. Go to a local park with a couple of people from the church, let everyone go to sleep while one person prays. (Might be best to avoid any Roman soldiers if you do this)
  7. Watch “The Passion” as part of a family service*.
  8. Walk into an upright coffin:

*NO. DON’T DO THIS!**

** NO! REALLY DON’T DO THIS!!!

As always, The Church Sofa team do not hold any responsibility at all if you try and do any of the above!

Any other ideas (serious, or silly) to share?

A Way To Rate A Funeral

It was one of those questions that I wasn’t sure how to answer: “How was it?”. The “it” in question was a funeral. My mind flashed through a few different answers before, saying something deep and meaningful like, “errrr…. it was alright”. This got me thinking, how do you describe how good a funeral is? Is there a rating system for funerals?

Turns out, having a guide for rating a funeral is weird.

Therefore, please let me introduce the Church Sofa Guide to Rating a Funeral.

1 / 10: Lazarus
2 / 10: Its a wet wet day. The coffin is made from cardboard…
3 / 10: Someone slipped on the graveside. Joined the deceased underground.
4 / 10: The previously mentioned soaking wet coffin gets dropped…
5 / 10: Someone forgets to check the “deceased” for signs of fireworks in their pockets… Just before a cremation…
6 / 10: A nice little funeral, with a few nice people, with a nice vicar, leading a nice service, on a nice day, in a nice town…
7 / 10: A State Funeral.
8 / 10: One of those funerals with everyone you know there, INCLUDING, the people that matter.
9 / 10: Something combining a state funeral, with everyone you know there, INCLUDING, the people that matter – AND you have a heck of party afterwards!
10 / 10: Darth Vaders funeral.

Any other suggestions?

What Does Heaven’s Waiting Room Look Like?

I found myself in the waiting room at my Health Surgery the other day, due to the wonderful NHS I wasn’t there long, but for some reason I was there long enough to wonder, what would Heaven’s Waiting Room look like?

  1. Instead of Magazines you have 1970s Bible tracts.
  2. Inspirational messages displayed on the screens.
  3. Give any handyman / janitor / cleaner you see loads of respect. He / she may also be God (or Morgan Freeman).
  4. Any staff you see actually look angelic.
  5. The lights are all a little bright.
  6. If you see him, don’t stare at Beetlejuice. And definitely don’t say his name three times.
  7. A keyboard instrumental track of Shine Jesus Shine playing gently in the back ground. On repeat.
  8. A voice randomly interrupts the music with the following announcement; “We apologise for the delay, please do not panic, you are not in Limbo, we repeat, you are not in Limbo. “
  9. There are only two doors out of the waiting room.

Any other ideas?

(image from imperfectvisions on flickr)

Robin Williams’s death: a reminder that suicide and depression are not selfish

a reminder that suicide and depression are not selfish

After reading one take on suicide and depression online, I found this article on Robin Williams’s death from The Guardian fantastically refreshing:

News broke today that Robin Williams had passed away, due to apparent suicide following severe depression. As the vast majority of people will likely have already said, this was terribly heart-breaking news. Such aniconic, talented and beloved figure will have no shortage of tributes paid to him and his incredible legacy. It’s also worth noting that Robin Williams was open about his mental health issues.

However, despite the tremendous amount of love and admiration for Williams being expressed pretty much everywhere right now, there are still those who can’t seem to resist the opportunity to criticise, as they do these days whenever a celebrated or successful person commits suicide. You may have come across this yourself; people who refer to the suicide as “selfish”. People will utter/post phrases such as “to do that to your family is just selfish”, or “to commit suicide when you’ve got so much going for you is pure selfishness”, or variations thereof.

If you are such a person who has expressed these views or similar for whatever reason, here’s why you’re wrong, or at the very least misinformed, and could be doing more harm in the long run.

Depression IS an illness

Depression, the clinical condition, could really use a different name. At present, the word “depressed” can be applied to both people who are a bit miserable and those with a genuine debilitating mood disorder. Ergo, it seems people are often very quick to dismiss depression as a minor, trivial concern. After all, everyone gets depressed now and again, don’t they? Don’t know why these people are complaining so much.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; dismissing the concerns of a genuine depression sufferer on the grounds that you’ve been miserable and got over it is like dismissing the issues faced by someone who’s had to have their arm amputated because you once had a paper cut and it didn’t bother you. Depression is a genuine debilitating condition, and being in “a bit of a funk” isn’t. The fact that mental illness doesn’t receive the same sympathy/acknowledgement as physical illness is oftenreferenced, and it’s a valid point. If you haven’t had it, you don’t have the right to dismiss those who have/do. You may disagree, and that’s your prerogative, but there are decades’ worth of evidence saying you’re wrong.

Depression doesn’t discriminate

How, many seem to wonder, could someone with so much going for them, possibly feel depressed to the point of suicide? With all the money/fame/family/success they have, to be depressed makes no sense?

Admittedly, there’s a certain amount of logic to this. But, and this is important, depression (like all mental illnesses) typically doesn’t take personal factors into account. Mental illness can affect anyone. We’ve all heard of the “madness” of King George III; if mental illness won’t spare someone who, at the time, was one of the most powerful well-bred humans alive, why would it spare someone just because they have a film career?

Granted, those with worse lives are probably going to be exposed to the greater number of risk factors for depression, but that doesn’t mean those with reduced likelihood of exposure to hardships or tragic events are immune. Smoking may be a major cause of lung cancer, but non-smokers can end up with it. And a person’s lifestyle doesn’t automatically reduce their suffering. Depression doesn’t work like that. And even if it did, where’s the cut-off point? Who would we consider “too successful” to be ill?

Read the rest over at The Guardian website.

Has this whole matter hit home a little hard. Contact The Samaritans, or find someone else to talk to. Please.