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Advances in the Study of Information and Religion

Abstract

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are “word-based” faiths. All three are derived from texts believed to be revealed by God Himself. Orthodox Judaism claims that God has said everything that needs to be said to humankind—all that remains is to interpret it generation by generation. Historic Christianity roots itself in “God-breathed scriptures” that are “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” Islam’s Qur’an is held to be a perfect reflection of the ‘Umm al-Kitab – the “mother of Books” that exists with Allah Himself. In addition, both Christianity and Islam share the concept of “The Word” – a concept that moves the idea of communication beyond mere linguistics. Both the Scriptures and the attendant writings of these faiths (i.e., the Talmud, creeds and traditions) are all word-based documents, in many cases taking centuries to forge. This essay explores the Abrahamic faiths’ characterization of “The Word” in textual form and the implications for this characterization in the culture of modern media. What is the prognosis for the future of such emphases in societies that are increasingly characterized by graphics-based media as opposed to text-based literacy? What, if anything, is lost in a media-based literacy? How are critical thinking and cognitive processes with respect to scriptural hermeneutics affected by a digital environment? How are credibility and authority maintained when the playing field is leveled for both novice and expert? Can the purveyors of the Abrahamic faiths maintain the richness of their past literary emphases and, if so, how might this be done?

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