“Online religion” becoming more common

Facebook and other online platforms are becoming more prevalent in American religious culture. Religion and Ethics Newsweekly (complete with a shiny new web design) looks at the phenomenon with a particular focus on a Boston pastor’s challenge to his congregation to live by the rules of Leviticus for a month and then blog about it at their Facebook group and then looks at the pluses and minuses of online religion.

SEVERSON: Critics of online religion say it might work for an individual, but it doesn’t foster family togetherness.

SEVERSON: Charles Henderson, who is now the editor of CrossCurrents Quarterly, says the Internet should not replace the real thing.

Mr. HENDERSON: I think that the experience online has to be considered as a supplement to real friendships and real community life in local congregations. It’s not a replacement for that kind of real community, although some people do use it as a substitute for religious community. I don’t think that is the ideal.

SEVERSON: But for Cathleen Falsani and others like her, the old-time church is being replaced, for now, by religion on the Internet.

Ms. FALSANI: You know, I was finding that I was getting more hurt by congregational life than I was being fed and that I could find that elsewhere and still be safe spiritually. And so this is a beautiful thing for someone like me to have, and I’m not the only one who’s experienced that in the group.

SEVERSON: Although most churchgoers still prefer religion the old-fashioned way, an increasing number, especially those under 30, are exploring religion online. A study in 2001 by the Pew Research Center found that one-in-four adults use the Internet for religious and spiritual purposes. That was seven years ago. Today, the number is probably considerably higher.

The whole transcript, and video, is here.

The Anglican Cathedral in Second Life has an uncredited cameo at 1:58 in the piece, by the way. And the Episcopal Cafe group on Facebook, now 925 members strong, is here.

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