Even I wouldn't be foolish enough to try and review the more or less countless references to religion on the web. I can't prove this, but I wouldn't be surprised to discover that religion, spirituality, astrology and the like hold a respectable ranking in the "most sites" sweepstakes. Of course people look for these sites less than they look for pornography sites, but the promoters of these sites aren't trying to make a buck. They're trying to disseminate THE WORD and for them posting as much material as possible to the web is a goal unto itself.
But though reviewing the wealth of information on both mainstream religions and on cults that can be found on the web doesn't interest me, examining the web as a religious experience definitely does. Here as well, however, just what that means is unclear. Does it mean that I want to examine how religious communities use the web? There certainly is no lack of that.
What interests me is actually something quite a bit different. I want to know if the web can be a platform on which a religious experience takes place. The Catholic Church has apparently determined that confession can't be offered or taken via the internet. It sees this aspect of religion as something that can't be done online. Charles Henderson, the guide of the About.com site on Christianity, however, has a slightly different take on the matter. Henderson asks (and yes, I admit that it's the sort of question that truly interests me) Does God surf the Net?. Among other things Henderson writes:
One of the most important passages in the New Testament is the opening several verses at the beginning of the gospel of John. "In the beginning was the Word....." "Word," refers not to the Bible, nor to any spoken word, but rather to the Logos which in Greek thought is the structure of reason that gives order to the cosmos and links all things together, both things in heaven and things on earth. Christians, of course, identify Christ as the living Word in which all things hold together. I've stated on several occasions that a contemporary paraphrase of the prologue might well read, "In the beginning was the Web."Henderson seems to be suggesting that the basic concept of holding things together, of either finding some unifying principle within a wealth of diverse objects, or of actually brining about that unification, is in some basic way a religious experience. When we put together a jig-saw puzzle, we experience a sense of satisfaction - and not only because we've finished the task. Seeing the completed whole gives us a a very real sense of fulfillment. We approach this wholeness on many fronts, not only when we struggle with a jig-saw puzzle.
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