In 2014 there are more iPhone apps than there are people who live in Montana. Suffice it to say, there’s pretty much an app for most of the world’s pressing problems, whether it be an app that lets you message a pithy “Yo” to your friends, stops you from drunk dialing a friend/boss/lover on a boozy Saturday night, or (profoundly!) turns your phone into a moody rain storm for whenever you feel like embracing that twenty-first century malaise.
Just as interesting, though, is the number of apps that cater specifically to religious groups — ranging from the thoughtful, like Ramadan Fasting Timings 2014, to the ridiculous, as with Ordain Thyself. But if the ongoing appification of everything occasionally rings absurd — and even meaningless — then take solace in the existence of these well-meaning apps, which aim to improve your interior life, whether you’re a Buddhist, Catholic, heathen, or just looking for a vogue way to organize and enhance your spirituality. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it does give a sense of the range of apps available for people of many different creeds.
Like Instagram, essentially, but for prayerful people (read: Christians). Based around a similar concept of connecting people with others, Instapray is an app that lets you pray for both friends and strangers — allowing you to tag specific people or use hashtags — as you post “prayers” on your feed. Follow people, create your own profile, message other people, and submit your own prayer requests. Ever wanted to hashtag Jesus in a numinous way? Well now you can!
Muslim Pro is a good example of an app that can help effectively organize your religious schedule. The app keeps track of prayer times for whatever time zone you’re in; you can also set the juristic method to either Standard or Hanafi, and according to various calculation methods. Muslim Pro is a bit of an everything-in-one app, not only notifying you at appropriate prayer times, but it also features azans, a compass (Qibla locator), the Qur’an in numerous languages, a Halal restaurant finder, and an Islamic calendar. Muslim Pro is impressive if only for the amount of features it packs into a single app, which is free (though it comes with an option for a paid upgrade).
Laudate is the self-described “#1 Free Catholic” but if you’re not yet sold, consider its comprehensive features: you can view the Stations of the Cross, keep track of your own prayers, and there’s just about every essential Catholic prayer here (Latin and English). In Laudate, you’ll find both the New American Bible and the Douay-Rheims Bible. There’s also links to Catholic radio and there are daily readings and a virtual rosary for all your Hail Mary’s (particularly the wayward among you). And if you’re wondering why there hasn’t yet been an app that comes with all the Vatican documents right at your fingertips, then look no farther.
Bible Gateway is an easy-use, multi-purpose Bible app, and one of the better ones. You can both read and listen to the Bible in a number of different languages. One of the nicest features lets you bookmark and highlight your favorite verses and take marginal notes. You can compare different translations, read thoughtful commentary alongside the text, and easily navigate through multiple sections of the Bible. Furthermore, Bible Gateway offers preset Bible reading assignments, with daily readings and email reminders. Great for legalistic and casual readers alike.
Sikh World will tell you most everything there is to know about Sikhism. In this Android app, you can stream live kirtans from India, listen to ragas, read about Sikh martyrs and warriors and read/listen to the Nitnem. One of the most interesting features of the app is the ability to listen to live kirtans from the Golden Temple in Amritsar and the Hazūr Sāhib in Nanded. Also included is a glossary of Sikh terms and detailed information about Sikh gurus. Whether you’re practicing or would just like to learn more about the faith, there’s likely no greater wealth of Sikh-related information in an app than on Sikh World.
Truth & Life
This is a study/audio Bible, but in a slightly different vein than Bible Gateway. This dramatized audio production is voiced by an award-winning cast, which includes Sean Astin, Kristen Bell, Brian Cox, and John Rhys-Davies. The cast is, admittedly, probably the main draw but likely makes for entertaining listening sessions. You can also read/listen to the Bible in chronological order. It also includes the Ignatius Press Study Bible, which features introductions and outlines for every book, extensive commentary and footnotes, and numerous essays — all easily navigable on your iPhone or iPad.
Talmud readers, rejoice! Now you can read the Schottenstein edition on your phone or tablet. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced Talmud scholar, ArtScroll will aid you in your studies. You can read both the Hebrew and the translated sections alongside each other in multiple different reading views, and you’ll also have access to the Daf Yomi program. Mazel tov!
Perfect for both neophytes and long-time practitioners of meditation alike, the Mindfulness App will help you find your daily “calm.” With the Mindfulness App, you can choose between guided meditation (including by a number of famous instructors) and different meditation practices. What’s especially helpful about the Mindfulness App is that it, even with its simple timer, it forces you to take a hiatus from life. In a recent study, it was found that a majority of men and a quarter of women prefer to be electrically shocked than to be alone with their own thoughts. Perhaps meditation will cure our millennial anxieties.
Pray As You Go
Pray As You Go is a daily prayer session, featuring roughly 10-minute sessions that combine scripture, music, and questions for reflection. “Produced by British Jesuits,” the app declares, Pray As You Go is meant to be a framing device for organizing your prayer life, offering daily scriptural substance. Through its brief sessions, the app is meant to be a starting point for engaging with your faith and scripture on a daily basis. There’s no doubt that the app brings an air of Ignatian rigorousness to its approach to faith.
I Ching: Book of Changes
Fairly simple, this app comes with Brian Walker’s translation of the classic Chinese text. In this app, you can throw coins and receive sage advice whenever! You can also keep a journal and read thoughtful hexagram interpretations. As reviewer V K put it, “It’s a great comfort to me to have rational and wise viewpoints at literally the “touch of a button” when I want help in my thinking or emotional support.”
39 Self Help Classics
Whether you’re a humanist or not, the 39 Self Help Classics app promises to improve your personal and professional life by consulting various philosophies and texts, all of which are gathered in this compact app. Everything from “Western Philosophy,” “Communication & Expression,” “Eastern Philosophy,” and “Business & Strategy,” this collection of 39 works seeks to gather the best in self-help over the centuries. A worthy compendium of time-tested texts, if nothing else.
Pocket Torah is exactly as its title says: it includes the entire text of the Torah and Haftarah in both Hebrew and translation. It also comes with audio which can be activated whenever, so you can always be sure of the proper Hebrew pronunciation. Pocket Torah’s other significant feature is its Tikkun view so that, “you can choose whether you want to see the Hebrew as vowelized text or as it appears in the Torah with crowns and without vowels.”
alQuran is a comprehensive Quran app — the entire Quran is included here, along with a number of translations (over 100) and commentaries. There’s a lot of nice touches in this app (e.g., searching, bookmarking, and so forth). It also has an easy-to-use interface and verbal recitations, especially suited for memorizing verses.
Buddha Vacana began with a collection of verses from the Buddha Vacana book, and now features a number of other books. Included are 365 verses from the Pali Canon and other Buddhist texts (one for every day of the year). This daily reader is “provided free for the benefit of all sentient beings,” its description explains. You can set what time you receive your daily message, which will arrive via a “soothing bell charm.”
Art as Therapy
Alain de Botton published his book Art as Therapy just last year, and now de Botton and his companions at The School of Life have turned it into an app. De Botton is well known for also writing the book Religion for Atheists and he continues his unique strain of “religious” humanism with this book/app which holds art to a somewhat utilitarian function. The app is simple but interesting. There are six categories: Self, Love, Work, Politics, Free time, and Anxiety. Under each category there are multiple statements summarizing basic problems. Sample: “I’d like to get less selfish.” When you click on the phrase, it takes you too Esaias Boursse’s painting “Interior with Woman Cooking” (1656) with a description below that moves from a simple description of the painting to the more general/existential problem that the painting expresses/deals with. The app is essentially de Botton’s book in praxis, and is worth the free download if only for the pretty paintings and interesting commentary.
Wiccan and Witchcraft Spells
According to its 1,971 voters, this is a 4-star app. Wiccan and Witchcraft Spells features hundreds of spells, symbols, and a comprehensive guide to Wiccan beliefs and culture. You’ll find spells for numerous categories, including “Love, Job, Money,” and so forth. There’s also Wiccan jokes and humor and a new moon phase calculator for those of you who lack an accurate biorhythmic lunar clock.
Atheist Pocket Debater
For the more argumentative-inclined atheists out there, there’s the Atheist Pocket Debater, should you ever find yourself in a heated altercation with your religious friends. Now you can read about topics like the “First Cause Argument” and “Lack of Historical Evidence for Existence of Jesus” right from your smartphone. Perhaps if nothing else, the app makes for interesting reading, whether you’re an atheist looking to reconsider your perspective or a religious person wanting to engage with an opposing argument.
Image via Johan Larsson.