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A Quick Question

How can I get "that online religion?"

The quick answer:  
By going online...!

The longer answer:   Once people learn how popular online religions is (e.g., that "God" has over one million web sites), the first question they almost always ask is, 'Why is the Internet such a popular medium for religion?’ I like to reply by pointing out the similarities between the experience of going online and that of entering a religious building. One of the main goals of religious architecture (temples, churches, et al) is to draw or thrust sensitive, interested people into an encounter with the transcendent by altering their sense of time and place. In the process, religious architecture makes the invisible, infinite meaning goods of religion more tangible, more real in the visible, finite world.

Although largely unintentional, the Internet provides countless people with an experience of timelessness and even placelessness when they go online. Each semester, when I query my students about their Internet use, almost all indicate that they routinely log onto a computer only to look up and find out that over an hour or two has passed. Online, they find it not only possible but easy to lose track of when and where they are. While other factors are important to the preponderance of online religion, the emotional, sensual similarities between religious architecture and computer communication contribute significantly to online religion’s popularity.

Intriguing Facts about Religion Online:

Practical Implications of Online Religion:

"Each generation must articulate ideas of the divine that are credible, that are meaningful against the backdrop of the socio-cultural landscape of the day for the sacred to have substance. Mishandling or skipping of this endeavor brings on an eclipse of the divine. The encounters with the divine told about by past generations took place within their daily lives. 

Moses saw a burning bush on the mountain near where he tended sheep. The angel Gabriel came to Mohammed in the desert through which the caravans on which he worked passed. Jesus taught in the plains, hills, and cities, where people gathered. Each was responded to by people in his day as an in-breaking of the transcendent that made the divine believable…., in spite of its pitfalls and dangers, religion in Cyberspace offers a valuable countervailing presence to the market commodification of everything in sight. Governments cannot provide this. Religion/s can. 

Existentially, the aspiration for intelligible expressions of the transcendent motivates billions. Corporations cannot satisfy this longing. Religion/s do. They specialize in the limited, finite, human attempts to make sense of these encounters. Mystically, humanity’s search for a direct encounter with the divine has been fulfilled by the widely accepted stories of encounters of a rare few in human history. 

Would we cut off Cyberspace as a place where this might occur? In mythic terms, that would be an act akin to leveling the mountain before Moses could see upon it a non-consuming fire."

—From Give Me That Online Religion 
by B. E. Brasher

Project Description:

An ongoing, decade-plus qualitative study of religion online. The investigator has tracked the development of online religion on an ongoing basis from 1990 to the present. Research efforts included.

  • locating and analyzing 'official' and unofficial religious web sites,
  • identifying and analyzing online rituals (e.g., prayer, marriages and funerals)
  • interviewing traditional and new religions web designers,
  • interviewing those who access religious web sites or participate in web rituals,
  • interviewing web designers who sponsor anti-religious sites,
  • investigating emerging trends in online religion or spirituality such as trans-religious prayer, and cyber-spirituality.

Web site: http://www.abdn.ac.uk/onlinereligion/online%20religion.htm

For more information, see Give Me That Online Religion by Brenda E. Brasher, Jossey-Bass, 2001. 

To read more about Religion and the Internet, visit the section of our web site devoted to the topic. 

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