[Editor's Note: As part of the Patheos Book Club on Brandon Vogt's new book The Church and New Media, we'll be sharing three stories of 'bearing witness on the web' over the next two weeks.]
Jennifer Fulwiler, a young adamant atheist, knew all about Christians.
“I knew that they clung to fairy stories about deities and heaven, and that they foisted their beliefs on others,” Fulwiler explains in The Church and New Media (Our Sunday Visitor), a new book exploring faith and technology. “I also knew that these poor folks were made miserable by the Church, and were always happy when they abandoned it for other belief systems.”
But that was all before the Internet. In 2004, after the birth of her first child, Fulwiler began reading blogs in response to the isolation of stay-at-home motherhood. She found blogs raw and relevant to life, and the ability to comment on each blog post allowed her to connect with each author personally.
As she interacted with the online community–especially with serious-minded Christian commenters–her religious animosity began to unravel. “Here in this virtual world, where concrete ideas weren’t buried under small talk and the awkwardness of personal interactions, I saw Christian beliefs laid out with a clarity I’d never encountered before.”
It wasn’t long before Fulwiler started her own blog. “I was bursting with a desire to talk about all that I was learning,” she explains, “but was too embarrassed to tell people I knew in real life that I was reading about Jesus.”
“I needed an outlet for the overflow of my soul, and the Internet provided the perfect solution.”
Within months her blog received hundreds of comments and was packed with fascinating religious discussions on topics like suffering, prayer, and religious revelation. The commenters came from a panoply of backgrounds from atheism to Christianity, from Buddhism to Islam.
But in this ruthless intellectual environment, where misinformation and half-truths didn’t stand a chance, Fulwiler began to notice something: there was a certain group of commenters who had the best answers. And here was the surprising part: they were primarily Catholic!
Over the years, Fulwiler continued to engage Catholicism online. She read books that many of her commenters recommended. She began browsing dozens of Catholic blogs. And she opened herself to the possibility that the claims of Catholicism were true.
In 2007, Fulwiler became convinced and entered the Catholic Church. Since then, her website, ConversionDiary.com, has grown into one of the most popular religious websites on the Internet. Through her own blogs posts and comment box discussions, Fulwiler now dialogue with many people exploring Catholicism through the web.
“I began to receive emails from men and women whose conversions to Catholicism were also due almost entirely to the Internet,” says Fulwiler. “They came from all backgrounds: atheists, Protestants, Mormons, and even Muslims. As with me, it was the combination of the availability of information and the witness of online Catholics that brought them into the Church.”
For more conversation on Social Media Salvation, and The Church and New Media, visit the Patheos Book Club here.