Religion & Politics: USF Fall 2006

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Internet and Religion

After a few class discussions regarding the popular media, (internet, television, radio, and movies) I have truly begun to understand how important and popular religion is in all of our lives. Every person that has posted a blog on this website, has a very strong idea about how they feel about religion and its place in our society. Many of us have spoken on behalf of our own religion or lack there of. Religious or not, we have all had the ability to post our feelings on the web for millions to read. The internet has revolutionized not only our culture and how we do things in our every day lives- but it has influenced our ethics, morals, and ideals. The internet has given people with any form of access to the internet- the ability to read anything appealing to their feelings regarding a specific faith or religious identity. The internet has truly become a spiritual marketplace.

I want to explore this "spiritual marketplace" a bit more. There is the actual tangible "spiritual marketplace," and there is the marketplace one can go and find ideas and writings posted by any person relating to their faith or area of interest. As quoted in Sociology of Religion , one can "pay a visit to one of the estimated 7000 stores, both adjacent to churches and in commercial retail spaces such as malls, that sell religious (or more specifically "Christian") goods (277)." Not only can one find these tangible items in actual stores next to churches, these same items can be found all over the internet in the comfort of one's home. The internet truly gives us access to anything in seconds. Churches have begun to capitalize and make profit from using the internet. Not that making profit is a bad thing, churches do need funding, I just find it interesting to see advertisements on the internet for dating services for Catholics (Catholicsingles.com). Or having a Churches website advertise and sell religious books. Right now, as I was browsing through a Catholic website (Thecatholiccompany.com)- I got a pop up advertising the movie, The Nativity Story. I find this ironic- religion has entered not only the media and pop ups- but pop ups advertising religious movies that are being played in mainstream movie theaters. As the book quoted on page 289, the internet has created a "temple without bounds."

I don't believe this popularity on the internet is necessarily a bad or negative aspect to religious groups- I just find the internet making me and others a bit confused as to what one faith encompasses. I can type in the word "Christian" on google and find everything from KKK websites to a respectable churches website. I just find it hard to find consistency with the internet, since it gives any person the complete authority to represent a certain religion or faith "without bounds." Some of us have posted on this website ( including myself) our own individual ideas and beliefs on behalf of our faith. I recognized myself as Catholic on the very first blog I posted. Someone reading that I am Catholic and believe in religious pluralism, and that God is not the one and only God, but more of an energy will find my beliefs ridiculous. I would not be considered a true Catholic. This is where I find faultiness in using the internet for spiritual teaching or accuracy in what one's faith encompasses. Not to say free speech and reading different ideas about one's faith are interesting and appealing- I just think there is a lot of garbage that may not represent one's faith with complete accuracy and validity.

And to argue the other side, maybe more importantly than lacking accuracy- I would hope this could somehow prove that we as people have more in common than we think. Just maybe certain intersections of faiths, identities and beliefs can be positive in understanding each other. Maybe we should not be so concerned with the differences that divide us. Maybe these individual websites and ideas will bring more people to a common ground where positive discourse can be had. Perhaps human interaction is what is needed most- not interaction with a screen.

I guess I may be a bit old school in thinking that one should probably go to an actual church or gather with their community in person to discuss and learn about their religion. Human interaction is necessary and should be wanted for our society. Human interaction should be desired within any forum- religious, political, athletic, social, etc. The internet has caused a bit too much independence, enabling a lack of community in times we may most need it.

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