Advances in the Study of Information and Religion




Faith is a term which defies precise definition, yet as a concept it has rich and deep semantic meaning. Faith is a universal spiritual concept associated with all of the World’s religions. Through historical study, we can trace the history of faith within and across those religions. Is it possible to see faith from an information perspective or can faith be understood only as tacit knowledge and belief? The research question which this work addresses is: Is it possible to create a single visual representation of faith that is meaningful to and understandable by members of many religious faiths? This paper explores the representation of faith across religions through the visual presentation and mapping of semantic markers. Semantic markers are defined as meaningful concepts that trigger an association with a core idea. Semantic markers of faith are derived from sacred religious texts using natural language processing (part of speech tagging) and grammatical concept extraction. Sacred texts are identified for each religions including: Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Taoism. The markers and their relationships are visually mapped based on the frequency of occurrence. Semantic markers are represented as word clouds. Word clouds are created for each religion individually, and as a single combined cloud for all religions. The individual word clouds illustrate the role of faith in the religion based on the richness or sparseness of the semantics. Through comparisons, the individual clouds also highlight variations in the role of faith across religions. The composite word clouds for all six religions illustrate the common elements of faith.