A sure sign of a church’s credibility, as with any visible social organization, is that we can find out who belongs in that church. We can name the members and thereafter reach our own conclusions. This thought crossed by mind when online I came across an entity calling itself The Church of Google. Although stacked with information for the convert on how to join and what to believe, the website of this church (and it may only be a website) gives no names. Presumably only a signed-up Googlist (their word) can find out who else belongs to this Gnostic sect, but then only once he starts sending messages on the Church’s list. There is something disconcerting about being converted to a belief by someone you don’t even know.
The Church of Google gives nine proofs for why Google is a replacement god. In brief they are: 1. Google is the closest thing to an Omniscient (all-knowing) entity in existence, which can be scientifically verified. 2. Google is everywhere at once (Omnipresent). 3. Google answers prayers. 4. Google is potentially immortal. 5. Google is infinite. The internet can theoretically grow forever, and Google will forever index its infinite growth. 6. Google remembers all. 7. Google can “do no evil” (Omnibenevolent). 8. According to Google Trends, the term “Google” is searched far more than the terms “God”, “Jesus”, “Allah”, “Buddha”, “Christianity”, “Islam”, “Buddhism” and “Judaism” combined. 9. Evidence of Google’s existence is abundant. There is more evidence for the existence of Google than any other God worshiped today. ‘Worshipped’ is spelt with one P.
Turning Google into an idol is child’s play, if you are a Googlist. But while the Googlist’s appeal to scientific logic for any of his beliefs is to be respected, it is worth applying the equally scientific and logical Not Test to these nine proofs: 1. Google is not the closest thing to an Omniscient (all-knowing) entity in existence, which can be scientifically verified. 2. Google is not everywhere at once (Omnipresent). 3. Google does not answers prayers. 4. Google is not potentially immortal. 5. Google is not infinite. The internet cannot theoretically grow forever, and Google will not forever index its infinite growth. 6. Google does not remember all. 7. Google can “do evil” in the wrong hands and is not omnibenevolent. 8. According to Google Trends, the term “Google” is searched far more than the terms “God”, “Jesus”, “Allah”, “Buddha”, “Christianity”, “Islam”, “Buddhism” and “Judaism” combined. Hardly proof that these other terms are not searched far more often by people in general in this and other sources. And isn’t Google the main portal for such searches? Which mathematically means that all searches of any nature have to made via Google. 9. Evidence of Google’s existence is circumstantially abundant. There is not more evidence for the existence of Google than any other God worshipped today.
As a logician once put it, opposites cancel. If the world you live in sees Google every day, you may arrive at the conclusion that Google is at the centre of existence, rather as earth dwellers once knew with certainty that the earth was the centre of the universe. You may well think that Google made all of this up, when in fact Google wouldn’t exist were it not for the pre-existing information for which Google is no more than a biblical index. ‘Google is my Bible’ is a claim that is only meaningful to someone who knows what a Bible might be.
Even the small print in these proofs reveals that your average Googlist has not read very deeply. “Google is virtually everywhere on earth at the same time,” we are told, as though computers were a form of life matter, like leaves of grass. “With the proliferation of wi-fi networks, one will eventually be able to access Google from anywhere on earth, truly making Her an omnipresent entity.” Truly not. And how come an IT It has become Her? This seems to betray dangerous mythological tendencies in the author of these rational proofs.
Nor is your Googlist conversant with basic religious language, as if that wasn’t obvious already. For example, we are told that “Google answers prayers. One can pray to Google by doing a search for whatever question or problem is plaguing them. As an example, you can quickly find information on alternative cancer treatments, ways to improve your health, new and innovative medical discoveries and generally anything that resembles a typical prayer.” Although some readers may think this definition of prayer not worth taking seriously, I will observe that the Googlist seems to think that prayer is all about asking for something with the absolute certainty that it will be given to him, pronto. There seems to be an awful lot of take with very little give in the world of the Googlist.
Other small print reveals the Googlist’s innate humour. For example, Google is potentially immortal because “She cannot be considered a physical being such as ourselves. Her Algorithms are spread out across many servers; if any of which were taken down of damaged, another would undoubtedly take its place. Google can theoretically last forever.” A poetic vision of sorts, though there is something to worry about in a proof that is still, and possibly can only ever be, at the theoretical stage.
California gives itself permission to let one hundred religions bloom, so I suppose the Church of Google is kind of inevitable. Perhaps the strangest piece of theology from these Googlists is the belief that “Google is the closest humankind has ever come to directly explaining an actual God”. No explanation for this assertion is provided. They go so far as to say that “She exhibits a great many of the characteristics traditionally associated with Deities … in a scientifically provable manner.” This Borgesian form of Gnosticism is probably what inspires the Googlists to believe that Google will eventually contain all knowledge. One guesses that the hidden and supreme deity in all of this is science itself, albeit science as defined by a Googlist.
At the end of the Church of Google site is the firm and reassuring statement that “We are not affiliated with Google Inc.” (it is still not disclosed who ‘we’ are) as well as a special link to a site called How To Get Your Ex Girlfriend Back. Neither of these signs of the times give me any confidence that the Church of Google is the way to go.