A series of tubes that go straight to God

bookWashington Post Foreign Service writer Kevin Sullivan had a lengthy piece on religion and the Internet today. The article is full of details about how Indian Hindus use the Internet in their religious devotion. Here was one of the early paragraphs:

The Internet has become a hub of religious worship for millions of people around the world. Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs and people of other faiths turn regularly to Web sites to pray, meditate and gather in “virtual” houses of worship graphically designed to look like the real thing. Some sites offer rites from baptism to confession to conversion to Judaism.

Has become? Interesting choice of words. I can do no better than repeat what one of my colleagues said about the story:

In other “news” today … Edison invents light bulb, Farnsworth invents television. Um. ’scuse me, but wasn’t something similar happening a few years ago with prayers sent via Internet to the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem?

Countless books have been written about religion and the Internet, some of them over 10 years old.

I’m not saying the Post story isn’t interesting, but honesty requires a better reason for the piece than that the Internet has become a hub for religion.

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  • Jerry

    I do think that the note that God is now almost as popular as sex on the internet (measured by Google hits) is an interesting one. And the story does offer an interesting window into Hindu religious practice.

    But I have a really hard time believing that God listens to paid prayers performed by a third party. If the story had talked about the nature and meaning of prayer, it would have had some depth. And I’m sure a theologian could have been found to say that such prayer was not meaningful and another who would have said it was ok, and maybe a third to say it was better than not praying

  • BluesDaddy

    Yep, I got on the internet in ’94 precisely because it was a “hub for religion” at that point. Started my own website in early ’95. If I can count, that was 12 years ago.

  • http://hereisangela.com angela

    Try this from Christian blog The Point:

    Saranam.com allows Hindus from around the world to purchase pujas, special prayers to gods for specific areas of concern–family, wealth, health, happiness, etc.

    Saranam.com is a part of the booming trend in cyber religion. Between 1999 and 2004 the number of website dealing with religion jumped from 14 million to 200 million. And searches for “God” on Google now return about 396 million hits.

  • Stephen A.

    And if the Internet was around a few hundred years ago, the Vatican could have sold Indulgences online, too.

    Seriously, I agree with the criticism that religious people using the Internet is “old news” and not really newsworthy. Jerry, above, is also right in saying that a bit more time (on the phone or IM, or email) could have yielded a richer, more informative story that talked about what NEW was being done online, religiously.

    Then again, not spending the time to “get” religion (and get it right) is the crux of the problem, isn’t it?

  • http://www.geocities.com/matrixism2069 Risa

    Well he does reference recent research. Perhaps that is was the impetus for this article.

    I think that it is interesting that not only is the internet used as part of traditional religions like Hinduism, Judaism and Christianity but it has also facilitated the creation of new religions like Matrixism, Jediism, etc.


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