Building on the concept of religion as a software stack (part 1), we can start to reimagine the way we view religious dissent, change, and evolution. This perspective allows us to take some of the emotional sting out of words like “apostate” and “disfellowship” and replace it with the language of technology and progress.
When a software stack is found to have bugs or outdated components, developers do not castigate the program for its imperfections. Instead, they identify the issues, debug, and release updates to improve the system. Sometimes, entire components of the stack are marked for deprecation – they are flagged to be phased out and replaced with something better.
In this context, let’s explore the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ practices of shunning or disfellowshipping. “No longer serving Jehovah” can be reframed using our tech analogy. Individuals who leave can be seen as systems administrators who have identified bugs in the software stack hosted in their minds – they’re not ‘leaving’ so much as ‘updating’ or ‘upgrading’. They have identified issues such as untruths, cover-ups of child abuse, and other harmful practices, and have chosen to transition towards a better version.
Jehovah’s Witnesses teach about a coming judgement marking the end of the current system and the establishment of a new one. Perhaps the role of Jehovah’s Witnesses is not to form the backbone of the new system, but to serve as a transitional phase of the old one. Those who leave are not rejecting the faith but pushing for an essential software update. When the ‘update’ is seen as harmful by the current system – when the individual is shunned or disfellowshipped – this is not unlike a system resisting an update that it views as incompatible or threatening.
In a blue-green deployment, a new version of the software is brought up alongside the old one, and the system gradually transitions over. Perhaps the future of our religious ‘software’ is something like this. We need to create a safe and supportive space for this new version, learn from the bugs in the old system, and navigate our transition with empathy and understanding.
The Bible, a book that the Witnesses hold as central to their faith, mentions in Revelation 18:4, “Get out of her, my people”, which, while problematic in its gendered language, provides an interesting metaphor for our tech analogy. It’s as if this passage is signalling the final step in a blue-green deployment, where instances begin to drain from the old stack and are brought over to run the new stack, complete with a new name and version.
The key to a successful transition is flexibility, open dialogue, and a readiness to embrace change. As we continue to adapt our religious systems to our evolving needs and realities, we must remember that the goal of any ‘system’ – religious, technological, or otherwise – should ultimately be to uplift, empower, and unify.
As always, wishing you all the best on your journey,