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Analyse how everyday life is now experienced through Internet-mediated activities of information and communication with reference to Community and faith/religion.

A 1500 word essay on the following: Analyse how everyday life is now experienced through Internet-mediated activities of information and communication with reference to Community and faith/religion.
Instruction:
analyse how everyday life is experienced through Internet-mediated activities of information and communication on Community and faith/religion.

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RITUALS AND PIXELS
EXPERIMENTS IN ONLINE CHURCH
SIMON JENKINS
Back in the late 1970s, I was among a group of theology graduates who launched a small
magazine called Ship of Fools. We subtitled it, ‘the magazine of Christian unrest,’ because we
wanted to ask critical questions about the church and satirise the unintentionally laughable
side of the Christian faith, both historically and in the contemporary world.
The Scottish politician Nick Fairbairn used to say: ‘One of the great difficulties of
Christianity is that it keeps falling into the hands of the wrong people.’ We wanted to debate,
satirise and create laughter about that, from a committed faith position. We believed that selfcriticism
is an important part of faith.
On April Fools Day, 1998, we relaunched Ship of Fools as a net magazine (at
http://shipoffools.com). We immediately found the net very conducive to what we wanted to
do – much more conducive than print had ever been. Entering the net was like entering a new
world for us, a world which was more fluid in terms of communication, and where your
readers (to use the old language of print) became active participants in what you were doing.
Ship of Fools very quickly became popular not just as an online magazine, but as a virtual
community. Each month it currently attracts over 130,000 visitors, who look at 2.7 million
pages.
The community dimension of Ship of Fools is delivered via bulletin boards. The boards
function like a genuine community, with people getting to know each other, pray for each
other, meet up in real life, and sometimes marry each other, too. There have been six
marriages I know of, and I was Best Man at one of them.
In 2002, one of our members, whose alias on the boards was Miss Molly, was diagnosed
with terminal lung cancer. She decided to share the last three months of her life with us, in a
thread she posted called ‘Fields of Gold’, named after the song by Sting. ‘It will be a sort of
diary,’ she said, ‘a place to post my musings, and a place where I will try to answer any
questions you may have about this time in my life.’
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Figure 1: Ship of Fools website.
The response from the community was amazing. The hospital where Miss Molly was being
treated received so many bunches of flowers, cards and other gifts that the nursing staff asked
her if she was a film star. She received practical and emotional support during those months,
including a quilt which was put together by a team from pieces sent from all over the world.
After three months, and almost 1,000 posts on the thread, Miss Molly died.
This episode had a very powerful effect in strengthening the bonds of the community.
Looking at events such as this, over the nine years we’ve been running online community,
we’ve often asked ourselves if we could ever be a church, or ever run as a sort of alternative
church online.
But we always reached the same answer of No, essentially because we believed that
running an act of worship online would need a greater sense of place than we had. We felt
that the key difference would be to have somewhere that looked and felt like sacred space,
and which gave a visible metaphor for people meeting together. And that was something we
just did not have.
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The Ark: Internet reality gameshow (2003)
The following year, in 2003, we were able to realize a big project which created 3D space
online. Here was the concept we followed:
‘Have you ever found yourself wondering what it would be like if you got some of the best
known characters of the Bible together in a bar for a drink or two? How would they get on,
these saints and sinners, these heroes and villains of the Bible? Would Moses compare beard
lengths with John the Baptist? Would Eve offend Paul with her figleaf costume? It’s
inevitable that some of the great saints would find it hard to spend even a few minutes in each
other’s company.’
That was the key idea at the heart of the project we called The Ark. This was how it
worked. Twelve real people, sitting at their computer screens round the world, logging in and
playing the role of a biblical saint or sinner, onboard a virtual Ark for 40 days and 40 nights.
The divine dozen would play games, complete tasks, overcome crises, discuss the big issues
of the day and argue over whose turn it was to muck out the gorillas. All in full view of a
global audience, watching them on the Internet.
In this project, we were funded by the UK’s Jerusalem Trust, and worked with
Specialmoves, a new media agency in London. We put out a call for contestants in the three
months before we launched, and over 1,000 people round the world responded, wanting to
become a Bible hero.
Out of all our applicants, we eventually chose our 12 Arkmates. Six were from the UK;
four were from the US (from New York, Washington DC, New Orleans and California); and
the final two were from Canada. They included three priests, two youth workers, a teacher, a
psychologist and an astrophysicist.
The contestants all logged into the game to play it live and were in full control of their
online avatars. They keyed in what they wanted to say, hit return, and their speech appeared
onscreen in floating speech bubbles. They could move their avatars around via point and click
and do a good amount of gesturing.
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Figure 2: The Ark Chapel.
The Ark was online every day for an hour in the evening over 40 days, so it was a longrunning
story. Up to 4,000 people per day logging into The Ark environment, either to watch
the live action, or follow recorded highlights, or just to explore for themselves.
The Ark was quite a large environment, with seven rooms on two floors, plus two lower
decks for storage and animals, which included pairs of elephants, alligators, zebras – and a
single tyrannosaurus rex. Gradually the contestants were voted off The Ark by our audience,
with each contestant walking the plank, until just one of them stepped ashore on Mt Ararat to
claim fame and a fortune of £666. The Ark still remains online, and can be visited and
explored at: http://ark.saintsimeon.co.uk.
We learned many things from running The Ark gameshow, but two really stand out…
First was the contestants’ emotional involvement in the game. This was expressed in their
immersion in the 3D world, the strong relationships which developed between the contestants,
and the way they bonded with their online identity. ‘It was one of the strangest, most intense
experiences I’ve ever had,’ said the person playing the role of Esther. ‘I didn’t think the
interactions would feel so real,’ said the contestant playing Simon Peter.
The second standout point was this. Each Sunday during the game, we turned The Ark’s
spacious living room into a chapel, and gave three of the Arkmates the task of preparing
Divine Service for everyone else to join in. When we saw how this worked, with preaching,
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Bible readings, prayers and discussion, it planted an idea in our minds that this might be a
way to realise the idea of online church. How would it be if we detached the chapel from The
Ark and ran it week by week as a virtual church? What we saw happening in The Ark’s
chapel eventually grew into Church of Fools.
Church of Fools (2004)
Church of Fools wasn’t the first attempt to run religious services online in a 3D
environment. That had been happening for some time inside existing virtual worlds,
especially when people wanted to get married online. The first-claimed such marriage
happened inside AlphaWorld, one of the oldest virtual worlds on the net, and took place on
May 8th 1996 between Janka and Tomas, a young couple living in the US.
Janka and Tomas spent several weeks planning their wedding, constructing the special
pavilion for the event, making avatars for themselves, sending out invitations and… well, you
get the idea. Just like a ‘real-life’ wedding, there was a lot to do. They also had to think about
crowd control, because their wedding, being a first, was likely to attract a lot of people, some
of whom might want to wreck it.
The event lasted three hours, and participants reported that it felt like they had ‘been
somewhere and done something’. After the online ceremony, Tomas, who was in Texas,
drove 3,100 miles to Tacoma, Washington, to be with his bride – which was said to be the
longest delayed ‘you may kiss the bride’ in history!
Just three weeks before we launched Church of Fools in May 2004, a Catholic Mass was
attempted in a huge cathedral inside Second Life. This was an unofficial Mass, of course,
because the service wasn’t backed by the Catholic Church.
Rafin Grimm, who built the church, appeared in an avatar with splendid angel wings, and
led the Lord’s Prayer. The service followed the liturgy for the Roman Mass, and included the
giving of the peace, although it stopped short of blessing virtual bread and wine. After the
service, Grimm told the worshippers who had gathered: ‘I didn’t build the church for anyone
to have the Catholic religion forced on them…It was not meant to convert, just to let you see
what a Mass is generally like in the Catholic church.’
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Figure 3: Church of Fools.
OmegaX Zapata, who led the Mass, said, ‘I am certainly not a real minister, nor do I do
this sort of thing in real life…I wanted to bring more real-world things into Second Life so
people could experience them if they couldn’t in real life.’ As far as is known, services didn’t
continue inside the cathedral, so this was a unique event.
When we came to build Church of Fools, it was different in many ways from what had
come before. We were building a dedicated church environment (in Shockwave), rather than
adding something to an existing online world. Church of Fools was self-contained as an
environment and a project. We had also decided to run it as a three-month experiment to see if
sustained online church was possible, and if it would have any value. For all we knew, it
would be dull and wouldn’t work very well, and then we could all forget about it and go
home. We had three underlying aims:
1. We wanted to try translating church into the medium of the net. It was to be a
genuine experiment, seeking visitor feedback, to find out if online church is a viable
way to ‘do church’.
2. We wanted to create moments of genuine depth and spirituality, helping people feel
they were connecting with God, themselves and others.
3. We wanted to educate and inform people who would never darken the doors of a
church about Christian worship and fellowship. We hoped to break down the barriers
people have about going to church.
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Just as the Methodist church leader John Wesley took his preaching out of churches and
into the fields and streets in the 18th century, we wanted to take church to where people are in
the 21st century – on the Net.
In keeping with the Wesley connexion, we were sponsored by the Methodist Church of
Great Britain – and also by the Bishop of London – and that was a huge plus. It was good to
be backed by real-life churches which had an interest in the virtual world, too. Although we
were non-denominational, we wanted to be in the mainstream of trinitarian orthodoxy, and so
we planned to use Anglican, Celtic and other liturgies in running our services.
The Church of Fools environment
We had plenty of discussion about what Church of Fools should look like, and considered
modern as well as ancient styles of architecture. But since we wanted to appeal to people who
never went to church, we decided that we wanted a church which said ‘church’ as soon as you
saw it. Which meant pointed arches, stained glass, pews and other familiar items from historic
church architecture.
Since our church was going to appear in the medium of computer games, we thought this
ecclesiastical style would create atmosphere and give the whole thing a playful, experimental
edge. And we were curious to see how people would respond to such a religious-looking
environment. The whole building was able to accommodate just over 30 visible avatars,
which made the building look quite full.
The church sanctuary contained the spaces you would normally find in a sacred Christian
building. There was a nave, with wooden pews for seating. There was a chancel, which
contained an altar with a cross, a pulpit and a reading lectern. Out of these three objects, we
only used the pulpit and the lectern, but it was valuable to have the symbol of the cross as a
visible sign of what we were doing.
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Figure 4: Church of Fools chancel.
As one of our aims was to help create genuine moments of spirituality in Church of Fools,
we decided to enrich the environment by adding a modern equivalent of ‘stations of the
cross’. The church was basically designed for corporate worship, for everyone to join in, but
these stations would offer an opportunity for individual prayer and reflection. We included six
stations in total, three on each side of the nave.
Each station had an image from the passion of Christ, painted or sculpted by a
contemporary artist. The images were taken from an exhibition called ‘Presence’ which had
toured six English cathedrals earlier in 2004. If you clicked on one of the stations, a second
window opened to show a large version of the image, plus two or three paragraphs of text
offered as a meditation on it.
The stations gave us the opportunity to add both visual and verbal content to our
environment, and they also signalled that we were attempting to create a form of sacred space,
even if the overall context of the environment was cartoon-like and had the feel of a computer
game.
Church of Fools also had a downstairs which we called the crypt. While the atmosphere of
the sanctuary was formal and religious, the crypt was much more informal, a place where you
could hang out, socialise, meet friends and debate with others. There was plenty of room here
to sit down. One group of three chairs came to be called ‘Atheist’s Corner’, because three
atheists from the Netherlands regularly visited and sat there. They told us they enjoyed the
church as a place where they could have intelligent debate about the issues which mattered to
them.
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Figure 5: Church of Fools stations.
Figure 6: Church of Fools crypt.
In terms of human interaction, Church of Fools was primarily a text-based environment.
We had a limited amount of sound, which included church bells, hymn tunes and the ambient
sound of an echoing church. But people spoke to each other by keying words into a control
panel. You could choose whether to speak out loud so people immediately around you could
hear, or to whisper to just one person. The control panel also included navigation, so you
could move your character around, and read notices of future services.
Of course, we knew that the church would be used by people who wanted nothing more
than a 3D chatroom, but because we also wanted to run public services of worship, we had to
find a way to privilege the speech of people leading services. The protocol we established was
that ordinary speech among visitors appeared as white text which scrolled up from the bottom
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of the screen. But speech by people leading services appeared as speech bubbles above the
head of their avatar, and gradually floated upwards. This visual distinction gave visitors a
very clear signal about what was happening in worship services.
Figure 7: Church of Fools control panel.
Avatars which could cross themselves
Everyone who successfully logged into Church of Fools appeared in the environment as a
cartoon-like avatar. Visitors were able to choose from a selection of male and female avatars
with a variety of hair and skin colours, and dressed in different clothes styles. The avatars
could talk to each other, walk around, sit down on a pew or chair, or kneel on the ground.
We also gave the avatars a menu of 12 gestures, which became very important in social
behaviour and also in ritual actions during services. Three of these were specifically
‘religious’ gestures. This is how they were shown on the gestures menu, which appeared next
to the avatar when it was clicked:
> bless
> cross self
> hallelujah
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In the ‘bless’ gesture, the avatar raised its hand to bless the people in front of it; in the
‘cross self’ gesture, the avatar made the sign of the cross on its body and bowed its head;
while in the ‘hallelujah’ gesture, the avatar flung its hands in the air and arched its back.
Keyboard shortcuts for the gestures allowed visitors to speak and gesture at the same time.
Looked at ecclesiologically, some of the gestures are mutually contradictory, because
Christians who make the sign of the cross are not normally seen throwing their hands in the
air to shout ‘hallelujah!’ But as we were an ecumenical project, we wanted to offer options to
people of all expressions of the Christian faith. As the project progressed, we found Christians
from a variety of churches using all the available gestures.
Alongside the three ‘religious’ gestures were nine socialising gestures, some of which were
gradually adapted to become ritual actions in the church services. These nine gestures were:
> clap
> hands on hips
> laugh
> point
> pull hair out
> shrug
> scratch head
> shake hands
> wave
The power of gesture and avatar body language was apparent as soon as the environment
was opened. On the day the development team was first able to go into the church, we entered
the sanctuary as avatars and started to explore. One of the team members came up to me and
said, ‘I think we should pray, as this is a church.’ I said, ‘Of course, let’s pray everyone.’ We
gathered our avatars by the chancel steps and one by one our avatars knelt to pray.
As the prayers started to appear on the screen – ‘Thank you God for this place’ – I
immediately knew that this not only felt like prayer, but was actually prayer. Even though it
was being done in a virtual space, and we were separated by hundreds and even thousands of
miles geographically, what we were doing was authentically praying together. At this point, I
knew that our experiment would lead to genuine expressions of spirituality and would be
exciting and worthwhile as an attempt to do church on the Net.
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Figure 8: Church of Fools Service.
Over the 12 weeks Church of Fools was live, most of our regular visitors had the
experience of bonding with their avatars. If you were a daily visitor to Church of Fools, the
experience of walking your avatar, sitting it on a pew next to other avatars, and using it to
pray or talk to others, forged an emotional bond between you and the cartoon character. The
avatar became ‘me in the church’.
One Church of Fools regular visitor described it like this: ‘Typing the command to cross
myself and then seeing myself do it was as real and meaningful as doing so with my physical
hand. I would find losing that immediate feedback of my gestures a real loss.’
Of course, Church of Fools was not unique in that; it’s a common experience of computer
gamers. But it underlines how real this experience was for those who took part. The visible
actions and gestures of the avatars was also very significant in fostering a sense of spirituality,
and even a sense of the holy, during the course of the experiment.
Although only 30 people could be logged into the church at any one time as a visible
avatar, we allowed for large numbers of people wanting to enter the church. Anyone who
arrived after the church was full could log in as a ‘ghost’, with a semi-transparent avatar
capable of speaking and performing gestures. If you were in the church as a ghost, no one else
could see you or your speech, although you could see all the visible avatars, their
conversations, and everything else that was happening in the church. There were sometimes
200-300 ghosts in the church at one time, all of them able to see and read conversation, but
not able to fully take part. This informed the way we ran services, which is described below.
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Launch day for Church of Fools
We were serious about running Church of Fools as an actual church. In fact, one of our
earliest ideas about setting up an online church was to allow people to join only if they left
their ‘real life’ church first. They could be part of the online church on condition that it was
the only church to which they belonged. We wanted people to commit to the idea that online
church could be a genuine expression of Christian community.
That idea was left behind as we developed Church of Fools, but we were committed to
running genuine services every Sunday in the 3D environment. We therefore invited some
real preachers to occupy our virtual pulpit, and made some customised avatars which were
modelled on their appearance.
Figure 9: Bishop of London Avatar.
We made an avatar for Richard Chartres, the Anglican Bishop of London, who preached at
our opening service; for US evangelist and sociologist Tony Campolo, who also delivered a
sermon, on ‘Why many people hate America’; and for Canon Lucy Winkett of St Paul’s
Cathedral, London. Ten other church leaders from a number of Christian denominations also
preached for us, using generic avatars.
On Day 1 of the project, May 11th 2004, we launched at a Christian exhibition just outside
London. The church was full of the avatars of invited journalists from the Times, the BBC
and CNN, and the Bishop of London sat next to me and dictated his sermon, while I rattled it
into the environment on a keyboard. In his sermon, he talked about ‘setting out into the cyber
ocean aware that the Spirit of God is already brooding over the face of the deep.’
We had a technical hitch, of course. A second minister was there to lead the service while
the Bishop preached. He was the Revd Jeremy Clines, and was at his computer 200 miles
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away from us in York. Everything started well. The avatars of the Bishop and the minister
processed up the aisle together at the start of the service, and then disaster struck. Just as Revd
Clines was about to deliver the opening words of the service, his avatar suddenly walked over
to a wall and froze. It turned out that his computer had crashed. The Bishop, like a true
professional, simply took over and led the service.
The Times journalist wrote about the service: ‘Personally, I found that after 44 years of
deference in church, it was heaven being able to wear a low-cut t-shirt and tight blue jeans to
church, and even better to be able to type ‘zzzzzzzz’ as the bishop preached (even though it
was a good sermon).’
The opening of the church attracted huge media interest. And that in turn attracted large
numbers of visitors. On Day 9 of the project, we were featured on Slashdot, a site for techies
and programmers which often generates enough traffic to basically melt your server. That
day, we recorded 41,000 visits to the church in one 24 hour period, which we reckoned made
us the most popular church in the world on that day. On average, we recorded 7,337 visits per
day during the first 52 days of the project. In other words, we were drawing cathedral-sized
congregations to our little church.
Running the online church services
Our original plan for Church of Fools was to run one service a week, on Sunday evenings,
with a full liturgy, prayers, readings, a hymn and sermon. But due to the demand of our
visitors, we soon started running daily services of morning and night prayer in UK time, and
eventually also ran an evening service for US visitors, and other ad hoc services during the
day and night.
The services began by ringing the church bell. This was a sound file of a single cathedral
bell which tolled about 10 times, and it became our ‘call to prayer’. When visitors sitting in
the crypt heard the bell, they dashed upstairs to the church sanctuary for the service. Despite
increasing problems from hackers and trolls as the experiment went on, there was a sense of
reverence in the services. A typical comment from a visitor was: ‘I was touched by how
everyone “fell silent” for the duration of the service.’
Different members of the administrative team, who had been given ‘warden’ powers (see
more on this below) led the services, and they developed and wrote their own liturgies, or
conducted services in a more informal way. We quickly learned what worked for online
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church: short services, very short sermons, prayers and creeds broken down for audience
participation, and plenty of opportunities for visitors to contribute with their own spoken
words and gestures.
One of the service leaders, Late Quartet, reported back on what he found most effective in
the early days of the experiment: “So far I have been happiest at the impromptu services of
Night Prayer at the point when we recite the bit of Psalm 134 which goes, “Lift up your hands
towards the sanctuary”. I look down the aisle of the church and there will be about 30 avatars
all waving their arms in the air in unison!”
We were surprised when a key component in services turned out to be the Lord’s Prayer.
Although this prayer of Jesus is a standard feature of ‘real life’ church services, it is not the
central act of worship which it quickly became in Church of Fools. Visitors were invited to
say the prayer ‘in the language and version you know best’, and what followed was a rapid
scrolling up of text on the screen, as 20-30 people all keyed in the words of the Lord’s Prayer,
often in several languages. For example:
Lillys: Our Father, who art in heaven
Choris: Our Father, who art in heaven hallowed be thy name
Babybear: Ein tad, yr hwn wyt yn y nefoed
Jeff: Our Father in heaven
Peter22: Pater Noster qui es in caelis
Lillys: hallowed be thy name
Karen: thy kingdom come
Ilkku: your kingdom come your will be done
The experience of praying the Lord’s Prayer together focused attention on our togetherness
in prayer and worship, despite our distance in terms of geography, culture, language and faith
expression. The people sitting on either side of you in a Church of Fools pew could be from
Melbourne and Kansas City, and yet here you were, sitting in the same imaginative space, and
being able to talk and pray together, even though you would probably never meet each other
face to face in the physical world. Theologically speaking, it was like the coming together of
the church on the Day of Pentecost, showing the unity of the church regardless of time and
space. And it had big emotional impact.
One of the journalists who was at our first service, Giles Wilson from the BBC website,
later wrote about this experience. ‘When Bishop Chartres announces the Lord’s Prayer,
everyone in the church starts typing it, some in traditional form, some modern, some in
French, some in Latin. Although it feels slightly daft, suddenly any notion that this is a game
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is gone. These people are praying together, and that is as real as if they were standing in the
same room. That they are in a dozen different towns and countries seems a trifling matter.’
Over time, we adapted two of the avatars’ socialising gestures for use in our services. One
of them was the ‘pull hair out’ gesture, where avatars would grab their hair and pull it out.
Originally, we had included this as an amusing way of showing frustration and anger, but we
began to use it as part of public prayer, as a symbol of lament for the suffering of the world:
Leader: Let’s pray for the people of the third world
for people with no food, no clean water
for people who have seen their homes demolished
for people devastated by war
Please use the ‘tear hair out’ gesture as we think of them.
Lament is a feature of the Old Testament, but it figures hardly at all in modern, ‘real life’
worship. It worked very well in this use of a visual gesture in Church of Fools.
The other socialising gesture which we adapted for use in services was the ‘shake hands’
gesture. We used this when we ‘prayed for the ghosts’ – for visitors who were logged in as
ghosts, and who couldn’t fully participate in the services. At a particular moment in the
services, we asked the congregation to shake hands in mid-air as a way of greeting the ghosts:
Let’s pray for everyone in this church
for the people standing next to you
for those you can see around you
and also for those we can’t see,
who are here as ghosts tonight
walk into the aisles
shake hands with our invisible friends
and pray God’s peace on them
and then give your peace to those you can see
‘The whole ghost thing is rather beautifully symbolical, I think,’ said one visitor. ‘The fact
that we’re worshipping with unseen multitudes, while it’s happening literally in Church of
Fools, would be good to remember in real life churches too!’
And some ghosts got creative: ‘I could only get in as a ghost until recently. It gets
frustrating not being able to interact, but I found a cool way to. When I ran across someone
kneeling, I would kneel next to them and pray for whatever they were praying for. Sometimes
they were praying “out loud” and sometimes not, but I would just pray for them.’
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The response of visitors
What was the response of visitors to Church of Fools? From the moment we opened, we
had problem visitors, of course. We knew this would happen, so we had appointed several
church wardens. In the wardens’ console was a special button marked with the word ‘smite’.
Clicking on a user, and then clicking this button, would ‘smite’ them out of the church into
logged-out hell! We thought it best to take an Old Testament approach to wardening.
The wardens’ job description, though, was to welcome people and to keep order. At times,
the keeping order side predominated, and our wardens basically became security personnel,
which became a time-consuming and stressful duty for them.
One of our first problem customers was a visitor called ‘Satan’ who installed himself in
our pulpit and started demanding the worship of everyone in the church. I stood my avatar
below the pulpit and asked him what he was doing. ‘Who is this who dares approach the Evil
One?’ he thundered. ‘Well…I’m one of the church wardens,’ I replied, ‘with the power to
smite you out of the church.’ ‘Ah’ he said, and then started to apologise. I confess it was
rather disappointing to have Satan saying sorry to me in church.
After that, we frequently had people shouting ‘Praise be to Satan!’ in the church. I even
received an email one day from a Satanist apologising for the behaviour of his fellow
Satanists. ‘I have been Satanist all my life and would never have pulled any such thing,’ he
wrote. ‘So, for all the immature twits within the Satanic community, you have my sympathies
as I truly hope to see you fix the problem soon. Best of luck, sincerely, Satanist with a heart.’
This was one of the most heartwarming offers of support during the church’s problems with
disruptive visitors.
We had many problems of people playing with and subverting the space, which ranged
from amusing to challenging. They included:
> blocking doorways
> preaching in the pulpit
> using kneeling to suggest oral sex
> worshipping the vending machines
But we also had some very serious problems with organised groups of trolls and ragers,
who posted the times of our services on their websites, and then arrived in big numbers. Some
simply wanted to cause disruption (by setting visitors against each other, or by shouting
sexual and racist insults), while other groups attempted to hack into the client- or server-side
code with the aim of causing more serious problems.
Online – Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet 3.1 (2008)
112
This created some big dilemmas for us. One of our core aims was to attract and welcome
people who would never normally enter a church, and here we had exactly those people. We
did not want to make everything ‘nice’ and force people to behave in a reverential, churchlike
way. We did not want to put in a swearing filter, for instance, where every time someone
said ‘shit’ it would appear on screen as ‘hallelujah’ – which is what happens on some
Christian chat sites: ‘Go to hell’ gets translated to ‘Come to Bible Study’.
We wanted Church of Fools to be an antidote to the dull, safe environment church services
so often are, and we wanted there to be genuine debate between people of different faith
positions, and of no faith at all. But for people who were there only to cause trouble, we had
to use the smite button. And we had to step up our security software, because there was a real
danger that we could lose the hacker war. In the worst period, when trolls were swarming
through our doors at a very high rate, the wardens could find themselves having to smite as
many as 100 people in an hour.
On the positive side, a large number of people who visited the church wanted to share
problems, talk about ethical and theological issues, or simply find out more about church
online. Several of our trolls also gradually came to respect the church and became valued
regulars. Here are some of the positive situations which arose, as described by members of the
wardening team:
“I have been chatting to a guy who feels hated by God. He seemed to think that God
was going to zap everything into shape. He wanted me to pray with him. We chatted for
quite a while, and I hope that having someone to talk with and pray with will have
helped him.”
“Was in a group conversation yesterday about the gender of God (initiated by someone
ID-ing as Wiccan who worshipped a goddess). Almost everyone in that group was a
programmer or systems analyst logged in from work.”
“I chatted to quite a distressed girl, and then `sat` and held her hand through late night
prayer, which was really lovely. To begin with I wondered if she was just telling me
stuff and making it up, but I think she really was a troubled lass, and it was good to talk
to her.”
Online – Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet 3.1 (2008)
113
During the time we were online, we carried out an online survey to discover who our
visitors were and what they thought of Church of Fools. Some 2,400 people took part, and
here are the headline figures:
> 58% of visitors were male – which probably reflects the game-like environment.
> 50% of visitors were under 30.
> 39% of visitors were not regular churchgoers (if they went to church at all, they were
only there for Christmas, Easter and family occasions).
> 48% of visitors were from the US; 27% were from the UK, and 12% were from
continental Europe.
People who heard about us were initially divided in their opinions about the value of online
church. Some said that a virtual church could never replace the real thing, and that it was
scandalous that we were even attempting it. Others thought that the Internet was too important
for churches to ignore, and that the different denominations should try planting churches in
cyberspace. Many people entered the church thinking (as we had) that the whole thing would
be too trivial to consider seriously, but found themselves surprised…and maybe even surprised
by God.
‘Church of Fools is an oasis in my day,’ said one regular visitor from Georgia in the US. ‘I
often leave my “ghost” alone, kneeling at prayer in the church while I work nearby.’
Another visitor from North Carolina wrote to us: ‘I have a friend who had a crisis this
week. No way would he ever go to a real church. But he went to yours and said his first
prayer in many years. You are providing a valuable site for him and others who might never
go to a traditional house of worship.’
Online – Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet 3.1 (2008)
114
Postscript: St Pixels
In conclusion, here are a few words about where the Church of Fools project has gone
since it closed in September 2004, and where it is now.
When we closed our doors at the end of our three-month experiment, we did not know
what would happen next. But what had happened during the time we were open was that a
small community of people had grown around the 3D church. That community has continued
via a bulletin board website, despite the loss of 3D, and is now called St Pixels.
St Pixels has its own website, and about 1500 people have registered as members.
Currently, there is no 3D church environment there, but we are developing our own software
to reopen in 3D by the end of 2007.
Of course, it takes money to build community software such as this, but we have received
fresh support from the Methodist Church of Great Britain, who want to see us establish St
Pixels as a long-term church on the Internet, and as a self-sustaining project. The members of
St Pixels are already providing good levels of financial support, which are helping pay the
costs of keeping the church online.
The software we have developed includes many different media, such as blogs, discussion
boards, a chat room, and soon, the 3D environment which will become the media focus of the
community. St Pixels can be found at this address: http://www.stpixels.com.
Online – Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet 3.1 (2008)
115
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE
SIMON JENKINS, M.A., is the Editor of Ship of Fools (shipoffools.com), an online
magazine and community which explores Christianity in the contemporary world in a critical
but committed way. He has been involved in several online experiments in religious
community online, including Church of Fools and St Pixels (stpixels.com).
Adress: Simon Jenkins
14 Hillcrest Road
London W3 9RZ

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272
Bulletin of Science,
Technology & Society
Volume 29 Number 4
August 2009 272-277
© 2009 SAGE Publications
10.1177/0270467609336309
http://bsts.sagepub.com
hosted at
http://online.sagepub.com
How the Internet Shapes Religious
Life, or the Medium Is Itself the Message
J.M. van der Laan
Illinois State University
The Internet has become a resource for everyone for everything. It is accordingly now also a source of sermons and
much more for pastors of churches in the USA. In consequence, the Internet shapes and alters how pastors and
parishioners practice their religion. Because “the medium is the message,” as Marshall McLuhan observed, Internet
sermons necessarily reflect and convey something of their Internet source. So, too, the nature and content religious
life changes and takes on the characteristics of its new source of inspiration, the Internet. As the dominant expression
of technology today, the Internet reveals technology ultimately and in the words of Jacques Ellul as “the real religion
of our time.”
Keywords: Internet; websites; religion; resource; information; inspiration; customer; marketplace; sermon; products
As anyone must know today, the Internet is awash
with information. It is also generally acknowledged
that such a condition is undeniably desirable and
good, but we would do well to think again about that
perception. We should not forget how Claude Shannon,
a pioneer in computer technologies, first defined
information as “any communicated message, regardless
of its meaning” (summarized by Woolley, 1993,
p. 69). Indeed, information, as James Gleick (1987)
points out in his book on chaos theory, corresponds to
neither knowledge nor meaning. Its basic units
were not ideas or concepts or even, necessarily,
words or numbers. This thing could be sense or
nonsense—but the engineers and mathematicians
could measure it, transmit it, and test the transmission
for accuracy. (p. 255)
Certainly, the vast array of computer-mediated messages
communicated and streaming over the Internet
exemplify that undifferentiated con-fusion of sense
and nonsense. Even so, the Internet has come to be
regarded and to function as the key repository and
source of information now uncritically understood to
be something invariably intelligible and meaningful.
At the same time information subtly transformed into
knowledge, the Internet became the primary and all but
sole source of knowledge, indeed all knowledge. (Ask
any of our high school or college students or neighbors
or even yourself if any other option really exists.)
According to Hubert Dreyfus (2001), “the Internet is
not just a new technological innovation; it is a new type
of technological innovation; one that brings out the
very essence of technology” (p. 1). If the essence of
technology, he goes on to explain, “is to make everything
easily accessible and optimizable, then the
Internet is the perfect technological device” (pp. 1-2).
We might say it epitomizes technology. Technology,
and its current quintessence the Internet, now permeates
every aspect of contemporary life. It consequently
shapes, determines, and redefines religious
life today as well, and its effect is by no means subtle.
(By religious life, I restrict these comments chiefly to
American protestant Christianity.) It comes as no surprise
then that even pastors of Christian churches in
the United States turn to the Internet for inspiration,
for resources, for sermon material, even for entire,
finished sermons. And parishioners or congregants
in turn are treated to the fruits of such pastoral
Internet browsing, so-called research, or purchases.
What I want to explore here is how pastors and
parishioners rely on technology, specifically the
Internet, as their guide to understand, define, and
practice their religion. With this essay, I take a close
look at Internet resources and “inspiration” for preachers
and what that means for contemporary religious
life in the United States.
Not long ago, I heard a pastor begin a sermon
with a telling remark that went something like this:
“As I was doing research for my message this past
week, I found some pertinent material on the Internet.”
I have to admit that for some time now my personal
radar has been suspecting Internet sources for many
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van der Laan / Internet and Religious Life 273
of the sermon anecdotes and illustrations I have been
hearing in church services, so I was especially interested
in that pastor’s remark. The pastor in question
went on to explain what he had found, which was
really only some good quotations related to his theme,
made by various famous personages. By the way, that
service also included an accompanying picture slideshow
and PowerPoint presentation, which I suspect
were part of a whole package and which I will discuss
as well shortly. What struck me as noteworthy was the
pastor’s use of the Internet as a source of material for
the sermon and probably the service also. Granted,
pastors could, before the advent of the Internet, avail
themselves of various books written specifically to
provide help for sermons. But the Internet takes such
help to another level altogether. Quotations, anecdotes,
and exemplary illustrations for sermons found
on the Internet are only the tip of a remarkable iceberg,
and icebergs, even metaphorical ones, present
grave dangers to all kinds of navigation.
A cursory Internet search immediately reveals an
abundance of easily and readily available material,
from sermon helps and illustrations to whole sermons
and an extensive array of other ancillary resources for
pastors in the pulpit. (In passing, let me quickly add
that many pastors might well deliver better sermons
if they read from good ones authored by someone
else, but that is another matter for another investigation.)
I have not looked at the quality of the materials
and sermons available on the Internet, but if the rest
of the Internet, or what the comedian Al Franken
(2003), has ironically called “the prestigious Internet,”
is anything to go by, I don’t have very high expectations
for the Internet supply of sermons.
A relatively quick and short search of the Internet
produces a number of results such as sermonsearch.
com, sermoncentral.com, eSermons.com, biblecrosswalk.org,
higherpraise.com, bible.org, sermonlinks.
com, searchgodsword.org, sermonsnet.com, sermonmall.com,
preachingtoday.com, preachingtodaysermons.com
(the last two both from Christianity Today),
and my personal favorite, preachersgoldmine.com, to
name only a few.1
Sermonsnet is designed to serve a
Baptist constituency, while searchgodsword informed
me that it could help me “jazz up” my messages with
“Sermon Jazzers” and could even supply me with “200
FREE ‘full-text’ Sunday Sermons” (that’s almost 2
years worth of sermons). Sermonsnet offers what looks
to be a sermon for every occasion. The Web site shows
a bulleted list of available materials, including expository
sermons, topical sermons, seasonal sermons,
series sermons, revival sermons, evangelistic sermons,
soul-winning sermons, funeral sermons, Easter sermons,
Christmas sermons, Thanksgiving sermons,
New Testament sermons, and Old Testament sermons.
Sermoncentral’s site offers a menu that includes
a “pastor’s resource kit” and options to search that
site for both PowerPoint presentations and sermons
one might want to use at the next worship service.
While eSermons offers “thousands of professionally
published sermons,” preachersgoldmine promises “a
monthly outline paper” for “324 preachable sermons.”
(It’s good to know they’re not unpreachable.) One could
have sermons by such well-known names as Mike
Huckabee, Bill Hybels, Rob Bell, and Rick Warren (all
at preachingtodaysermons) or Max Lucado, Charles
Swindoll, and Jerry Fallwell (at sermoncentral).
Many of these resources come at a price, and most
of these sermons are available through subscription.
For preachersgoldmine, it’s $25 a year; for sermoncentral,
$119.50 a year or $14.95 a month. For eSermons,
there are various options starting at $64.95 a
year for a package, including “Sermons, Illustrations,
Eulogies, Commentaries, & Dictionary,” with an extra
$29.95 each for worship and bulletin aids, dramas,
and children’s sermons. Sermonmall charges $49.95 a
year, while a year’s membership at PreachingToday
costs $69.95 and provides such help as “series builders,
full sermon outlines and transcripts by many of
today’s best communicators and thousands of title
suggestions.” Christianity Today’s preachingtodaysermons
offers regularly priced Sermon Packs ranging
from $7.90 (for 2) up to $51.35 (for 13), not to mention
individual sermons like Rob Bell’s “The Flames
of Heaven” or Mike Huckabee’s “Practice of Patience”
for $4.95. On its FAQ page, PreachingTodaySermons
announces that “Shopping at PreachingTodaySermons
is designed to be fun and easy!” Similarly, preachersgoldmine
announces that its sermon outlines are
“designed to be a time saver.” Just like everything else
on the Internet. In addition, the preachingtodaysermon
Web site has a page with helpful hints like “How
to Use Other People’s Sermons With Integrity.”
Without doubt, such readily available Internet
resources are only in such supply because there is a
corresponding demand for them. Likewise, the whole
Internet sermon enterprise (industry?) appears to be
very much devoted to the generation of income.
With that in mind, I call attention in passing to the
highly successful Maurilio Amorim, the founder of
The A Group, which on its Web site announces that it
is “a full-service marketing and PR firm specializing
in Christian and non-profit areas.” Readers may have
seen a few references to him in an even-handed New
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274 Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society
Yorker essay by Frances Fitzgerald (2007) about a
Connecticut megachurch. On his own Web site,
Amorim identifies himself as the man who owns “a
marketing, branding firm that specializes in churches
and Christian publishers. . . .” With its focus on marketing
and branding, such individuals and business
enterprises redirect the interests of churches to advertising
and material successes in the form of expansion
and growth. Of course, such marketing is designed to
result in expansion and growth, and expansion and
growth result in increased revenues. (I won’t discuss
whether there are any inherent contradictions between
increasing revenues and the words and life of Jesus
Christ as recorded in the New Testament.)
Another very popular and successful venture is
Lifechurch.tv, founded by Craig Groeschel (also mentioned
in the New Yorker piece). Lifechurch.tv is a
so-called “multi-site church” that comprises six campuses
across the country. It manages this domain by
using and relying on video and satellite technologies
so that what Dreyfus calls telepresence necessarily
plays a major and pivotal role in that ministry.
Although related to this investigation, a more extensive
examination of telepresence leads too far away
from its focus. Suffice it to say that presence has long
been an essential of primary importance to Christians,
whether it be the presence of the Lord, presence of the
kingdom, or real presence. Telepresence consequently
presents a fundamental problem, for the most part
unacknowledged or ignored, because there is no
embodied presence in an actual physical environment.
As Dreyfus (2001) notes, it prevents “direct contact
with reality” (p. 54). Especially problematic, telepresence
precludes any eye-to-eye contact. What Dreyfus
observes about the professor in a telelecture applies
also to the pastor in a telesermon: The pastor is “a
prisoner of the camera operator and the sound engineer”
(p. 64). The person who telepreaches cannot
directly interact with or respond to his or her distanceaudience,
and that audience needs to be no more
engaged with the telepresent pastor than with a television
show or movie. George Steiner (1989) alerts us to
additional problems when he contrasts “real presence,”
where words have meaning and stand in relation to
reality, with the cynical notion of “real absence,”
where “the truth of the word is in the absence of the
world” (p. 96); that is, words have no actual relation to
reality. That comment describes telepresence, where
there is an actual absence as well.
Like other sites serving Christian customers, the
Lifechurch.tv Web site (open.lifechurch.tv) offers many
and various resources. On that site under Resources,
the menu lists several choices, two especially germane
to the present considerations: one labeled Message
Series, the other Message Topic. The Message Series
Web page presents more than 50 different options, each
with a brief and catchy abstract describing a topic.
Many of the messages were devoted to sex (some titles
were “Porn Sunday,” “Satan’s Sex Ed,” “Goin’ All the
Way,” “God Love Sex,” and “The Sex Files”). About as
many other topics tended to fall into the self-helpthrough-positive-thinking
category (titles included
“Fearless,” “Parenthood,” “Baggage,” “Difficult
People,” “Life Development Plan,” “Fear,” and so on).
I picked and clicked on one of the possibilities,
titled “TXT” (short and catchy for the not-muchlonger
TEXT, I assume). A mouse-click on “TXT”
revealed that it is a 3-week series about the Bible. For
that series, Lifechurch.tv can provide several other
accessory materials: (a) a graphic for the church bulletin;
(b) an invitation to insert and include in the bulletin;
(c) a loop video that can be displayed on screen
during the message, behind the speaker or pastor, to help
“theme” the environment; (d) a video to open the series;
and (e) a “tease” video for each week that can be used to
tease the next message or the pre-/postexperiences.
Another mouse-click on Week 3 of the “TXT” series
indicated that I could get (a) a message DVD, (b) a
message outline for people to follow along with the
teaching, (c) a message transcript with a word-for-word
transcription of a single message, and (d) a set of small
group questions. It was unclear whether the so-called
Message Series was geared to an actual sermon series,
a church-education program, or both. In any case, I’ve
experienced something very much like that package in
recent church services, where, as I mentioned, the
message was accompanied by picture and PowerPoint
slides on a large screen behind the pastor that “themed”
the church service environment.
As often as not, Internet resources and materials for
pastors and churches are, as noted, available for a
price. Not to be left behind (pun intended) in the adoption
and adaptation of new technologies for its subscribers
and constituency, Christianity Today, generally
highly regarded in the Christian community, apparently
attempts to live up to its label in the age of the
Internet as Christianity for today with a Web site and
Web pages for much more than its periodical. At the
preachingtoday site, one finds the following enticement:
“If you sign up for a premium membership,
you’ll have over 8,000 sermon illustrations. . . .”
Memberships that come at a price, in fact a premium,
whether literal or figurative, give pause for
thought. Many Internet resource sites for pastors and
churches, like so much else on the Internet, come at a
cost. But what cost? Might the price be too high?
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van der Laan / Internet and Religious Life 275
Might the price be a deal with a devil of sorts, a
Faustian bargain that requires the soul as collateral?
What happens to churches and pastors and Christian
religious life when those involved rely increasingly,
maybe soon predominantly, on such Internet sources
and resources? My sense, and fear, is that religious
life changes not for the better but for the worse, when
the Internet becomes not only the default but the first
source to turn to for something so important to
Christian religious life as the worship service and the
sermon, typically the vehicle for what Christians consider
the word of God. Religious life begins to dilute,
to fade, to deteriorate.
When worship services and sermons can be had as
pre-fab packages, when pastors can get and employ
preselected illustrations, not to mention whole readyto-preach
sermons, then the food for religious life
resembles all the other packaged, processed foods on
the shelves of our supermarkets. It’s no longer food
but a food-like substance, a far cry from real food. In
the same way processed food lacks substance and
even proves harmful to physical health, so too processed
sermons lack substance and prove harmful to
religious and spiritual health. The worship service
takes on a phony and artificial character. Certainly,
the sermon is sullied, and the word becomes wooden.
One would be hard-pressed to find inspiration and
profound meaning in such a message.
What lurks inside the preaching of a sermon
downloaded, and often purchased, from the Internet
is a fundamental dishonesty as well. Granted, my
experience is limited, but in spite of tips about how
to use such sermons with integrity, I have yet to hear
a pastor say, “I bought this sermon on the Internet” or
“today’s service makes use of a package of materials
taken from such and such an Internet site.” Is it simply
the quick and easy fix for a pastor who has too
little time or no inclination to prepare a sermon and
service through study, reflection, prayer, and meditation,
once the essential ingredients for a message
understood to be the word of God for the lives of
believers? For that matter, how can a ready-to-serve
Internet sermon truly speak to a specific, local congregation
with its own particular problems and needs?
Even if made to order (like the papers students can
buy over the Internet and hand in for their coursework),
such sermons written by anonymous strangers
can hardly qualify as honest and sincere.
The user-friendly Internet sermon caters to customers
and conforms to the marketplace. What that means
for sermons and religious life is unsettling. As John
MacArthur has observed about megachurch theology
in general,
salesmanship requires that negative subjects like
divine wrath be avoided. Consumer satisfaction means
that the standard of righteousness cannot be raised too
high. The seeds of a watered-down Gospel are thus
sown in the very philosophy that drives many ministries
today. (as quoted in Fitzgerald, 2007, p. 55)
Without doubt, his criticisms would aptly describe a
sermon taken from an Internet site. After all, the prefab
Internet sermon must necessarily remain generic
and strive for the lowest common denominator to
appeal to the largest and broadest demographic possible.
One size has to fit, if not all, at least as many
as possible. Prepackaged Internet sermons inevitably
lack vitality, cease to inspire, and turn insipid.
And so does religious life as a whole. Of course,
great sermons with broad applicability exist and
deserve to be widely disseminated, read, and heard.
But something else is also at stake when Internet sites
market and sell sermons. “Money-changers” have, so
to speak, entered “the temple.”
When churches market and brand themselves in the
image of consumer capitalism, when sermons themselves
become marketable products, products that can
be had for a price, the content of sermons and of religious
life necessarily changes and suffers. It becomes
adapted to and reflects its source—in this case, the
Internet. If Marshall McLuhan’s (1964) famous dictum
asserted over 40 years ago in Understanding Media
still holds, and I believe it does, that “the medium is the
message” (p. 7), then the message of the Internet sermon
is the Internet or technology in general, as the
Internet is the chief embodiment of technology today.
In addition, McLuhan understood that “the formative
powers in the media are the media themselves” (p. 21).
Hence, the formative power of the sermon available on
and from the Internet is not the content of the particular
sermon per se but rather that of the Internet.
Those religious people who used to be in but not of
the world, who used to be known as the people of the
Word (the logos) and the Book (the biblia), become
people of the Internet and of technology instead. In The
Technological Bluff, Jacques Ellul (1990) explains how
people deify the technical device. It is universal and
spectacular; it defies my attempts to master it; it performs
what would usually be called miracles; to a
large extent it is incomprehensible. It is thus God. We
are justified to give up any attempts to control it and
simply ask for its services. (p. 346)
That description extends in particular to the Internet
and to its new role in religious life. Of course, the
Internet is universal and spectacular; that is one of its
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276 Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society
chief claims, if not attributes, and its special appeal.
Like God, it is incomprehensible and entirely impossible
to master, not even by means of the most
advanced and efficient search engines. We might add
that also, like God, in a sense, it is omniscient, omnipotent,
and omnipresent. The other name for the
Internet, the World Wide Web, suggests as much. It
performs miracles too, so to speak: The most amazing
information lies at our fingertips and appears with
lightning speed. Last but certainly not least, we realize
we cannot control it and request services, in this
case sermons and more from it, much as we once
prayed to receive guidance and good gifts from the
deity. When pastors turn to the Internet for their sermons,
and they must certainly do so, or there would
be no such resources so readily available, widely
advertized, and for sale, they no longer receive their
inspiration from God but from the computer, the
Internet, in a word, from technology.
The word religion originates in the Latin language.
Its root ligare means “to bind,” its prefix re- “back,”
hence to bind back. The idea of binding oneself or
being bound to someone or something in the word religion
takes on a new and ominous significance when
linked with the Internet or the World Wide Web. In their
abbreviated forms, the Net or the Web subtly, yet surreptitiously,
reveal an essential characteristic. Nets and
Webs ensnare, capture, and hold the prey. Like religion,
the Internet or the World Wide Web binds us back to
itself. In the same way, the Net or Web now replaces
religion as our source of knowledge, inspiration, and
meaning. Even though we know and learn to beware of
Internet sites and sources, to question the validity of
information retrieved and received from such sites
and sources, we still turn to the Internet and rely on
its plenitude of information (if not grace). (I don’t
know how many times I’ve heard students say that
Wikipedia is an unreliable source yet use it as their
source of first resort and choice.) “The real religion of
our time” is, Ellul (1964) indicates in The Technological
Society, “the dominant forces of the technological society”
(p. 418), and the dominant expression of those
forces and that society is now the Internet.
The domination of technology in the world today
compels the Church to adapt to and to adopt in ever
greater measure whatever technology has to offer.
Given our current devotion and relation to technology,
there must be, in all likelihood even implicitly, the
sense that the sermon taken from the Internet must be
inherently better, because it has been found, retrieved,
and received from the computer, from the Internet,
from the beneficent hand of technology (almost like
divine inspiration or revelation of the past—and in
spite of the minds and hands that actually supplied the
sermons to the Web sites in the first place). If a person
thinks religiously, Ellul (1980) notes, he or she “seeks
primarily to make the new form of religion chime
with this universe,” namely, with technology (p. 318).
Echoing a widely held conviction pervading our
society as a whole, the Church naively thinks it need
only use technology wisely and appropriately. So,
too, the Church thinks technology is value neutral, in
and of itself neither good nor evil. And the Church
thinks it can, following the example of the Reformer,
Martin Luther, simply “baptize” technology for use in
Christian religious life. But how can one see clearly
how to do that from within the technological environment
in which we all exist? According to Ellul, “the
process of technological growth causes, by itself,
either the destruction or the assimilation of the alien
universe” (p. 318). That is, technology either destroys
or assimilates the religious universe that was previously
alien to it. But, he cautions, we have “no place
from which to evaluate this process” (p. 318). In other
words, from our location within the technological
society, we have no vantage point from which to recognize
or analyze how technology has affected us.
The 21st-century Christian Church forgets or
ignores its ancient mandate and fundamental obligation
to challenge and question the world, a world now
governed and shaped by technology, a world that conforms
to the values of technology. The Church, Ellul
(1977) asserts in The Politics of God and the Politics
of Man, must be “the question that God puts to the
world,” but the Church cannot be such a question
when it participates in the great celebration and festival
of technology. In its embrace of technology, arguing
that it must do so to reach a 21st-century
technological society, must “meet people where they
are,” the Church relinquishes its obligation to confront
the world and its values. Instead of challenging technology,
the Church harmonizes with it. Ellul (1964)
alerts us as well in The Technological Society to
“the subjugation of . . . new religious life to technique”
(p. 423). As he points out, “it was formerly
believed that technique and religion were in opposition
and represented two totally different dispensations”
(p. 423). Of course, that opposition has
disappeared, and there is now only one dispensation, to
appropriate that old theological term: It is that of technique
or, to use the more common term, technology.
Hubert Dreyfus (2001) directs our attention to
Søren Kierkegaard’s understanding of true religious
life, specifically true Christianity based on the
Incarnation, as “an unconditional commitment to
something finite, and having the faith-given courage
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van der Laan / Internet and Religious Life 277
to take the risks required by such a commitment. Such
a committed life gives one a meaningful life in this
world” (p. 122, Note 42). Arguing from Kierkegaard’s
attack on the mid-19th-century press, Dreyfus concludes
that today the Internet is the ultimate enemy of
unconditional commitment, but only the unconditional
commitment of what Kierkegaard calls the
religious sphere of existence can save us from the
nihilistic leveling launched by the Enlightenment, promoted
by the press and the public sphere, and perfected
in the World Wide Web. (p. 89)
Sobering words of warning for a pastorate and Church
that rely more and more on the Internet. Ultimately,
Dreyfus (2001, p. 102) reminds us, the Internet promotes
the demise and elimination of meaning. What
could be worse for a Church that ostensibly exists to
point to meaning?
Citizens of the technological society cannot, must
not, and dare not criticize technology, which by definition
is its very foundation, is necessarily its most
important and revered possession, indeed its summum
bonum and most sacred reality. To do so would be, in
effect, to blaspheme. At the end of The Technological
System, Ellul (1980) concluded that “the human
being who uses technology today is by that very fact
the human being who serves it” (p. 325). That comment
casts light on what may well be most troubling
about the intersection of religion and technology,
about churchmen and -women who use the Internet
for sermons and so much more. Who, if not the
Christians, should know that no man can serve two
masters?
Note
1. The following information was retrieved from the Web sites
discussed here on June 23, 2008. To simplify the references, I do
not provide elaborate Web addresses for those sites, as they are
easily found using the names cited here.
References
Dreyfus, H. L. (2001). On the Internet. London/New York:
Routledge.
Ellul, J. (1964). The technological society (J. Wilkinson, Trans.).
New York: Knopf.
Ellul, J. (1977). The politics of God and the politics of man. Grand
Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
Ellul, J. (1980). The technological system (J. Neugroschel,
Trans.). New York: Continuum.
Ellul, J. (1990). The technological bluff (G. W. Bromiley, Trans.).
Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.
Fitzgerald, F. (2007, December 3). Come one, come all. The
New Yorker, pp. 46-56.
Franken, A. (2003). Lies and the lying liars who tell them: A fair
and balanced look at the right. New York: Dutton Books.
Gleick, J. (1987). Chaos: The making of a new science. New York:
Penguin.
McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding media: The extensions of
man. New York/Toronto/London: McGraw-Hill.
Steiner, G. (1989). Real presences. Chicago: University of
Chicago Press.
Woolley, B. (1993). Virtual worlds. A journey in hype and hyperreality.
New York: Penguin.
J.M. van der Laan is a Professor in the Department of
Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at Illinois State
University. He studies and writes about German literature,
in particular, Faust, but also about the role of technology in
contemporary culture as well.
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Give me that online-time religion: The role of
the internet in spiritual life
Katelyn Y.A. McKenna a,*, Kelly J. West b
a Department of Psychology, New York University, 6 Washington Place, 10003 New York, NY, USA b Northern Michigan University, USA
Available online 19 October 2005
Abstract
Online religious forums allow individuals to meet and interact with others who share their faith,
beliefs, and values from the privacy of their homes. Active membership in traditional religious organizations
has been shown to fulfill important social needs and to be associated with a number of benefits
for the individuals involved. The survey study we report here found that many of the self and
social benefits derived from participation in local religious institutions also accrue for those who take
part in virtual religious forums. These interactive online forums were found to attract both those
who are actively engaged in their local religious organizations and those who are unaffiliated.
2005 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
All religions, arts, and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations
are directed toward ennobling mans life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical
existence and leading the individual towards freedom.
– Albert Einstein
1. Introduction
The Internet has become a staple of everyday life and for many it has become a staple of
spiritual life as well. Nearly two-thirds of American adults who use the Internet 82
0747-5632/$ – see front matter 2005 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
doi:10.1016/j.chb.2005.08.007
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 212 998 7789; fax: +1 212 995 4966.
E-mail address: kym1@nyu.edu (K.Y.A. McKenna).
Computers in Human Behavior 23 (2007) 942–954
Computers in
Human Behavior
www.elsevier.com/locate/comphumbeh
million people – have engaged in faith-related activities online (Hoover, Schofield, & Rainie,
2004). And there is a wealth of religious information to be found online: A Google
search on the word ‘‘religion’’ turns up more than 32 million websites, and searches on
‘‘Christianity’’ and ‘‘Judaism’’ 6 million and 2 million, respectively. As Brenda Brasher
(2001, p. 9) notes, ‘‘One of the best-kept secrets of cyberspace is the surprising amount
of religious practice that takes place there’’.
The events of September 11, 2001, placed a spotlight on the Internets connection with
spirituality as two things became clear. First was the information that the hijackers had
used the Internet to plan and coordinate the terror attacks. The second was the fact that
millions of people turned to the Internet in the wake of the attacks to send and receive
spiritual comfort and to learn more about Islam (Larsen & Rainie, 2001). In the post 9/
11 world, people of all faiths are increasingly using the Internet for spiritually-related
activities (e.g., Bunt, 2003; Hoover et al., 2004; Kalb, 2003). This has sparked a flurry
of interest and speculation about how people are using the Internet for religious purposes
and what are the outcomes of such use.
There are a variety of ways in which people can use the Internet to pursue and express
their faith. Research by Hoover and colleagues (2004) through the Pew Internet
and American Life Project suggests that perhaps the most popular activity is sending
(or receiving) email with spiritual content 38% of 128 million Internet users have done
so. That activity is closely followed by sending and receiving online greeting cards related
to religious holidays, and using the Internet to read news accounts of religious
events. People also use the Internet to seek out information about their own and
others religious practices and beliefs, with many looking for information about how
to celebrate religious holidays. The study also found that a smaller number (17%)
sought information about where they could attend religious services (see Hoover
et al., 2004).
Increasingly, local congregations are putting up websites and coordinating churchrelated
activities online. There are also hundreds of thousands of interactive discussion
groups devoted to various aspects of religion that are not tied to a specific place of worship.
Some of these discussion groups are quite narrow in their focus while others are more
generalized. For instance, there are more than 35,000 online discussion groups and prayer
circles related to health and faith on Beliefnet, a popular interfaith website that hosts discussion
groups on every faith-related topic imaginable (Kalb, 2003).
The study we report here focuses on those who belong to interactive online religious
forums that are not connected with a local place of worship. We chose to focus on such
discussion groups for two reasons. Firstly, we were interested in discovering whether such
groups indeed tend to attract those who are unaffiliated with any local religious organizations
as some have suggested may be the case (e.g., Brasher, 2001) or whether the members
of such groups tend to be those who are also more active (and perhaps more evangelical)
in their home parishes. For instance, the study conducted by Hoover and colleagues (2004)
suggests that evangelicals engage in more religious surfing than do others. Secondly, we
were interested in examining the consequences of group involvement as opposed to more
solitary activities such as information seeking. Deaux and her colleagues (e.g., Deaux,
1996; Ethier & Deaux, 1994) have argued for the role of active involvement in a group,
or the subjective importance of the identity, as a mediator of the benefits of identification.
In other words, our investigation examines the question, does involvement in an online
religious group yield the same self and social benefits as have been found to be associated
K.Y.A. McKenna, K.J. West / Computers in Human Behavior 23 (2007) 942–954 943
with involvement in traditional religious organizations (e.g., participation in ones church,
temple, mosque)?
2. Benefits of belonging to traditional religious institutions
2.1. Fulfilling important social needs
Places of worship have long served needs of members beyond simply providing a place
for them to express their faith. Importantly, they are places to meet and mingle with others
who share the same beliefs and values in ones community and to fulfill important social
needs. Thus, research has shown that church members tend to possess larger social support
networks than do non-members (Pargament, 1997). Francis and Kaldor (2002) conducted
a survey with 310,000 Australian churchgoers and found that a significant percent
(24%) reported that their closest friends were fellow congregationalists and an additional
46% reported having some close friends within their church. Argyle (1996) suggests that
friendships developed through ones place of worship may provide an especially powerful
form of social support. He offers three reasons why this may be so: Firstly, worship generates
shared emotions, secondly, connecting with others who share ones important beliefs
can be extremely powerful, and, finally, ones religious community offers love and
acceptance that may be lacking elsewhere in ones life.
2.2. Altruism and community involvement
Membership in a religious organization is associated as well with feelings of belonging
to, and greater involvement in, ones wider local community. For instance, 37% of all volunteer
activity in America is church-related (Samuelson, 1994) and congregations contribute
more money to community causes than do corporations (Goodstein, 1993). An
American Gallup poll found that those who attend a place of worship on a weekly basis
gave 3.8% of their income to charitable causes, while non-attenders contributed 0.8%
(Myers, 1992). This same survey found that the highly spiritually committed reported
doing volunteer work among the elderly, infirm, and poor (46%) more so than did the
highly uncommitted (22%).
2.3. Mental health and happiness
Church and temple attendance is also correlated with improvements in mental health
(e.g., Strawbridge, Shema, Cohen, & Kaplan, 2001). Elderly church-goers, for instance, reveal
fewer depressive symptoms than do those who do not attend (e.g., Levin & Chatters,
1998). At least among the elderly, those who actively participate in their religious institution
have been shown to be happier and to experience greater life satisfaction (e.g., Myers,
1992). Pollner (1989) found that feelings of being close to God were correlated with happiness
and satisfaction independently of church attendance. Kirkpatrick (1992) found that
activities such as personal prayer are experienced by the participant as a kind of social
relationship and that such private activities give similar benefits to those obtained from
having social support in ones life.
944 K.Y.A. McKenna, K.J. West / Computers in Human Behavior 23 (2007) 942–954
2.4. Identity and self-esteem
According to Tajfels (1982a) theory of social identity, the central motivational impetus
for identifying with a group was the gain in self-esteem that such identification brought. As
Beit Hallahmi and Argyle (1997) point out, religion is most often ascribed, not chosen, and
in many cultures this identity label is impossible to remove. Ascribed or chosen, ones religion
can be a powerful source of ones personal identity and group identity and, as such, a
source for self-esteem (Beit Hallahmi & Argyle, 1997; Rosenberg, 1979). The majority of
studies do show a positive association between religious involvement and self-esteem, with
only a few finding no association (see Beit Hallahmi & Argyle, 1997).
However, social categorization is closely tied to self-esteem management and social
identification. As Tajfel (1978, 1982b) has shown, people develop strong feelings of affiliation
and in-group solidarity (and accompanying out-group discriminatory behavior)
based only on the most tenuous of connections. That is, people tend to over-value the
in-group and denigrate the out-group and thereby experience an increase in self-esteem.
As Beit Hallahmi and Argyle (1997) point out, religious identity may be more forceful
than other kinds of group identities an individual may claim because of the idea – central
to every case of religious ideology – of being one of the ‘‘chosen,’’ and thus superior.
Indeed, religiosity is strongly connected with ethnocentrism, discrimination, prejudice
and anti-democratic ideas (see Beit Hallahmi & Argyle, 1997 for a review). Thus the same
process that produces many of the beneficial effects of religiosity is also responsible for
some of the destructive effects of religion.
3. Identity importance and online belonging
Many of the benefits (e.g., increases in social support, self-acceptance) associated with
belonging to traditional social groups have been shown to also accrue for those who take
an active part in an identity-important virtual group (e.g., Cummings, Sproull, & Kiesler,
2002; McKenna & Bargh, 1998). As with traditional groups, there are many reasons an
individual may be motivated to take part in an identity-relevant group online.
3.1. Motivations for joining an online group
As mentioned above, in Tajfels (1982a) original model of social identity, the central
motivational impetus for identifying with a social group was the gain in self-esteem
brought about through such identification (Deaux, 1996; Hogg & Abrams, 1990). According
to this theory, so long as the group adds positive features to the individuals social
identity, the individual will continue to be a member of the group. Yet, should a religious
group identity contribute negatively to an individuals self-esteem, he or she may be unable
to discard that identity and no longer identify with the group. As Beit Hallahmi and
Argyle (1997) point out, because religion is usually proscribed and not chosen, disidentification
with ones religion is not always possible.
Should an individuals religious identity be a salient component of the self and yet, for
whatever reasons, his or her identification needs are not being met within the local community,
the individual should remain highly motivated to seek out and identify with a
group of similar others. The Internet, with its wealth of available groups devoted to virtually
every shading of religious belief, provides individuals the opportunity to readily
K.Y.A. McKenna, K.J. West / Computers in Human Behavior 23 (2007) 942–954 945
identify and connect with others whose beliefs and values more closely match their own
than may be the case locally. Even should others within ones local community have such
similar beliefs, it can be difficult to identify and connect with them if they, too, are eschewing
locally available places of worship. It may equally be the case that there are, indeed,
locally available places of worship that ‘‘fit the bill’’ but pragmatic reasons, such as a busy
schedule, prevent one from taking an active part. Participation in online groups is not limited
to specific days and times but rather, like personal prayer, can be undertaken at any
time of the day or night at the convenience or need of the individual. Still others may take
an active part in their local religious community but crave more involvement within the
religious community.
Hogg and Abrams (1990), among others, have argued that self-esteem is not the only
motivation (or benefit) possible for group belonging: uncertainty reduction, power, selfefficacy,
greater self-knowledge, and so forth are others. As Beit Hallahmi and Argyle
(1997) have argued, all of these motivations for group identification are likely to be operative
in the case of an individual with a religious aspect to his or her personal identity.
3.2. Active participation: the critical variable
As Deaux (e.g., 1996) has shown, identification with a social group alone is necessary
but not sufficient to bring about the benefits of group belonging. Rather, the extent to
which one takes an active role in the group is a crucial factor in whether or not such benefits
will accrue. In line with Deauxs findings, McKenna and colleagues (e.g., McKenna &
Bargh, 1998; McKenna, Green, & Smith, 2001) found that for those who actively participated
in identity-important online groups (as opposed to those who engaged in passive
participation), the online group identity became more important to their sense of self
and this resulted in a number of self and social benefits. For instance, increased identity
importance resulted in greater feelings of self-acceptance, and decreased feelings of social
isolation and cultural estrangement.
In the study we describe below, we examined whether a similar process would unfold
for those to take part in religious forums on the Internet. We also examine the role that
church involvement, personal prayer, and religious surfing may play in this process. On
the basis of work by Deaux and her colleagues and that of McKenna and Bargh, we
hypothesized that among the individuals who identify with a religious social group
via the Internet, those who participated actively in the group would benefit more in
terms of feelings of self-esteem and life satisfaction, increased social support, and a
strengthened sense of faith and trust than do those who do not. Whereas identity importance
and group participation are more or less reciprocally linked in Deauxs model,
McKenna and Bargh found evidence for a directional Participation ! Importance
relation.
3.3. Method
3.3.1. Sampling of groups
Online discussion forums devoted to Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu beliefs
were selected to be the focus of this study. To identify relevant groups, key-worded
web searches were conducted using both umbrella terms (e.g., forum + Buddhism, listserv
+ Christian) and targeted terms (e.g., forum + orthodox + Judaism, ‘‘discussion
946 K.Y.A. McKenna, K.J. West / Computers in Human Behavior 23 (2007) 942–954
group’’ + Catholic). Searches were conducted through the Google and Yahoo search engines,
the Beliefnet forum site, and MSN and Yahoo Groups.
The forum sample population was restricted to groups meeting the following criteria:
(1) the group was not associated with a physical place of worship; (2) a minimum of 25
members had contributed messages to the group within a one-month period; and (3)
the groups main purpose was the discussion and practice of the religion in question, rather
than of one particular aspect or issue of the religion or related life issue. This last criterion
was particularly important for two reasons. First, our aim was to study online groups that
are readily comparable to their offline equivalents and to one another in their character
and focus. Second, we wished to insure that other potentially influential factors and processes
were not also at work among the groups selected for study, as might be the case, for
instance, had we included narrowly focused groups such as faith-and-health related discussion
groups, groups devoted to discussing the religious roles of women within Islam, and
so forth. We identified 672 groups meeting all three criteria and a randomly selected subset
of 100 groups was chosen for the study.
3.4. Measures
The survey contained 44 items designed to assess the relationship among: (a) involvement
in the online group, ones local congregation, and ones private religious practices
(b) the importance of the group to identity, (c) faith or trust in others, (d) sense of life purpose
and happiness, (e) social support, and (f) the extent to which these online religious
activities have encouraged one to help others in ones physical community. We strove to
keep the questionnaire brief to encourage a high response rate (i.e., reducing the time burden
on our volunteer respondents).
Four items measured the frequency with which participants attended places of worship
in their local communities, participated in online religious forums, engaged in personal
prayer, and surfed the Internet for religious information, respectively. These items used
a 5-point scale, ranging from almost never (1) to more than once per week (5).
Drawing on McKenna and Barghs (1998) research, three items were used to assess the
importance of membership in the online religious forum to the respondents social identity.
On response scales ranging from not at all important (1) to very important (7), respondents
rated how important the online religious forum was to them, the importance they placed
on interaction with other members of the online group, and the importance they placed on
the way the other members of the online group perceived them. Responses to each of these
items were averaged to compose the importance index.
In order to measure ones sense of trust in others, we included the five dichotomously
scored items of Rosenbergs (1957) Faith in People Scale.
Six items were drawn from Crumbaughs (1968) Purpose in Life Scale. Using a 7-point
scale, respondents were asked to rate: (a) how worthwhile their life had been were they
to die today, (b) their ability to find a meaning, purpose or mission in life, (c) the extent
to which the world fits meaningfully with their life, (d) the degree to which their
daily tasks are a source of pleasure and satisfaction, (e) the extent to which they find
life exciting, and (f) the degree to which they have discovered clear-cut goals and a satisfying
life purpose.
The 8-item short version of the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire (Hills & Argyle, 2002)
measured the respondents feelings of happiness and life satisfaction. We originally inK.Y.A.
McKenna, K.J. West / Computers in Human Behavior 23 (2007) 942–954 947
tended to create an index composed of all 8 items, however, the inter-item correlations
proved insufficient to justify the inclusion of all the items in this index. Therefore, only
the 3 items that correlated sufficiently were averaged to create the Happiness and Life Satisfaction
Index (see Section 4).
Social support was measured in two ways and we initially intended to create two distinct
indexes, with one reflecting support from ones offline social network and the other
from ones virtual community. In order to tap offline social support, a set of 2 items assessed
respondents sense of having a strong, socially supportive network in life. On 7-
point scales respondents rated the extent to which they felt they could turn to family
and friends when they encounter problems or difficulties in life, and the extent to which
they feel they can turn to members of their religious institutions, family, or friends for advice.
The Online Social Support Index was to be comprised of online-specific variations of
the above two items, as well as a question assessing the extent to which the respondent felt
he or she had actually received support or advice from the online group that had been
helpful and effective. However, as is discussed in greater detail in the section on results
and discussion, a single index of Social Support was created, composed of these 5 items.
We also included several items designed to assess whether participation in an online
religious forum has a direct effect on members lives and behavior. We thus included a
question asking explicitly whether their participation in the online group had led them
to take a more active part in offline community helping projects (e.g., food drives for
the poor, volunteer work). Two questions asked whether they had: (a) learned anything
through their group participation that they had used to help family members or others
in their physical community, and (b) the extent to which they felt they had been able to
help others within the online group itself. Two additional questions measured the extent
to which the respondents online activities had served to strengthen their faith and their
sense of connectedness to others who share their values and beliefs.
Finally, the questionnaire included demographic questions about age, gender, religious
affiliation, and marital status. Participants were also asked to separately indicate whether
or not other members of their family and other members of their place of worship (e.g.,
their church, synagogue) also took part in the online religious forum in question.
3.5. Procedure
A message was posted to each of the 100 groups informing potential participants that
we were conducting a study about religion and requesting their participation. A link to the
webpage containing the survey was provided in the body of the message. The majority of
the groups used some form of moderation and permission for the posting was obtained
from the moderators of all such groups prior to posting. Because a considerable number
of the group moderators (in 17 of the 100 groups surveyed)1 stipulated that the participation
request be posted no more than once to their respective groups, the call for participation
was made only once to each group, regardless of moderation, in order to treat all groups
equally.
1 Although we had gained prior approval for our posting from the moderators of all groups with a system of
moderation in place, the moderators in an additional 4 groups removed the call for participation from the
message board within 24 h of it being posted after members of their group complained that it was ‘‘SPAM’’.
948 K.Y.A. McKenna, K.J. West / Computers in Human Behavior 23 (2007) 942–954
4. Results and discussion
4.1. Sample characteristics
The sample was composed of 81 men and 126 women. The age of respondents ranged
from 18 to 74, with the average age being 38 years. 56% of respondents identified themselves
as Christians, 16% as Jews, 11% as Muslims, 4% as Buddhist, and 2% as Hindus.
A further 4% selected the ‘‘other’’ category and 7% elected to not respond to this question.
The survey sample consisted of members of at least 16 different denominations under the
above categories. For example, under the umbrella of Christianity, we had respondents
identifying themselves as adhering to Catholic, Protestant, Episcopalian, Baptist, Mormon,
Jehovas Witness, Church of Christ Science, and Born-Again Christian strains of belief.
The majority of participants were married (54%) or in a committed relationship (9%),
while 24% reported being single and 9% were currently divorced or widowed.
Asked to asses ones personal religious beliefs and practices as compared to the average
person in ones local community, the sample was almost evenly distributed along the range
from very conservative to very liberal (see Table 1). A sizeable proportion of the sample
reported that some of their fellow congregation members also took part in the same online
religious forum (36%) or that other members of their immediate and extended family regularly
participated in the online group (15%). The frequency with which participants
engaged in religious activities varied substantially (see Table 2).
4.2. Creation of indexes
The three items comprising the Importance Index were significantly intercorrelated
(average r = .67, all ps < .01)=”” with=”” an=”” associated=”” reliability=”” coefficient=”” (cronbachs=”” alpha)=”” of=”” .80.=”” the=”” more=”” important=”” actively=”” interacting=”” with=”” other=”” group=”” members=”” was=”” to=”” them,=”” table=”” 1=”” conservatism=”” of=”” participants=”” own=”” religious=”” viewpoint=”” as=”” compared=”” to=”” perceived=”” local=”” (physical)=”” community=”” norms=”” very=”” conservative=”” 21%=”” moderately=”” conservative=”” 23%=”” average=”” 11%=”” moderately=”” liberal=”” 21%=”” very=”” liberal=”” 23%=”” table=”” 2=”” frequency=”” of=”” engaging=”” in=”” religious=”” activities=”” attend=”” religious=”” services=”” (e.g.,church,=”” synagogue)=”” (%)=”” engage=”” in=”” personal=”” prayer=”” (%)=”” participate=”” in=”” online=”” religious=”” groups=”” (%)=”” surf=”” for=”” religious=”” information=”” (%)=”” almost=”” never=”” 29=”” 10=”” 5=”” 2=”” several=”” times=”” a=”” year=”” 4=”” 4=”” 4=”” 4=”” 1–2=”” times=”” a=”” month=”” 17=”” 4=”” 3=”” 17=”” weekly=”” 37=”” 6=”” 17=”” 21=”” more=”” than=”” once=”” a=”” week=”” 12=”” 76=”” 70=”” 55=”” k.y.a.=”” mckenna,=”” k.j.=”” west=”” computers=”” in=”” human=”” behavior=”” 23=”” (2007)=”” 942–954=”” 949=”” and=”” the=”” more=”” importance=”” they=”” placed=”” on=”” the=”” other=”” members=”” perceptions=”” of=”” them,=”” the=”” more=”” important=”” their=”” membership=”” in=”” the=”” online=”” group=”” became=”” to=”” their=”” sense=”” of=”” self=”” and=”” identity.=”” the=”” 5=”” items=”” measuring=”” trust=”” intercorrelated=”” on=”” the=”” low=”” side=”” (average=”” r=”.36,” all=”” ps=””>< .05;=”” cronbachs=”” alpha=”” of=”” .63)=”” but,=”” as=”” this=”” is=”” a=”” much-used=”” scale,=”” were=”” deemed=”” adequate=”” to=”” justify=”” the=”” creation=”” of=”” the=”” trust=”” index.=”” all=”” 6=”” items=”” comprising=”” the=”” purpose=”” in=”” life=”” were=”” significantly=”” intercorrelated=”” (average=”” r=”.71,” all=”” ps=””>< .01),=”” and=”” the=”” purpose=”” in=”” life=”” index=”” had=”” an=”” associated=”” reliability=”” coefficient=”” of=”” .83.=”” however,=”” the=”” 8=”” items=”” of=”” the=”” oxford=”” happiness=”” questionnaire=”” (hills=”” &=”” argyle,=”” 2002)=”” did=”” not=”” intercorrelate=”” sufficiently=”” to=”” form=”” a=”” single=”” index=”” (average=”” r=”.11).” therefore,=”” the=”” happiness=”” and=”” life=”” satisfaction=”” index=”” was=”” created=”” from=”” the=”” 3=”” items=”” that=”” did=”” significantly=”” correlate=”” (average=”” r=”.46,” ps=””>< .01;=”” cronbachs=”” alpha=”.72).” these=”” three=”” items=”” reflected=”” the=”” degree=”” to=”” which=”” respondents=”” agreed=”” with=”” the=”” statements=”” (a)=”” i=”” feel=”” particularly=”” pleased=”” with=”” the=”” way=”” i=”” am,=”” (b)=”” i=”” feel=”” that=”” life=”” is=”” very=”” rewarding,=”” and=”” (c)=”” i=”” feel=”” satisfied=”” about=”” everything=”” in=”” my=”” life.=”” two=”” additional=”” questions=”” correlated=”” moderately=”” (r=”.30,” p=””>< .01)=”” and=”” were=”” averaged=”” to=”” form=”” the=”” alertness=”” index.=”” these=”” two=”” questions=”” reflected=”” the=”” degree=”” to=”” which=”” respondents=”” agreed=”” with=”” the=”” statements=”” (a)=”” i=”” feel=”” fully=”” mentally=”” alert,=”” and=”” (b)=”” i=”” can=”” fit=”” in=”” everything=”” i=”” want=”” to.=”” the=”” remaining=”” 3=”” items=”” were=”” treated=”” as=”” separate=”” outcome=”” variables=”” in=”” the=”” analyses.=”” as=”” noted=”” above,=”” we=”” originally=”” intended=”” to=”” create=”” two=”” indexes=”” reflecting=”” perceived=”” social=”” support=”” from=”” ones=”” online=”” and=”” offline=”” social=”” networks,=”” respectively.=”” however,=”” there=”” was=”” significant=”” intercorrelation=”” between=”” the=”” items=”” meant=”” to=”” tap=”” support=”” in=”” these=”” two=”” domains=”” (average=”” r=”.53,” all=”” ps=””>< .01).=”” the=”” discovery=”” that=”” such=”” a=”” large=”” percent=”” of=”” our=”” respondents=”” also=”” had=”” members=”” of=”” their=”” offline=”” social=”” network=”” taking=”” part=”” in=”” the=”” same=”” internet=”” group=”” led=”” us=”” to=”” question=”” whether=”” we=”” were,=”” in=”” fact,=”” measuring=”” distinct=”” constructs.=”” it=”” seemed=”” likely=”” that,=”” when=”” asked=”” about=”” their=”” offline=”” support=”” network=”” they=”” may=”” have=”” been=”” including=”” online=”” support=”” received=”” from=”” offline=”” friends=”” (e.g.,=”” those=”” they=”” also=”” know=”” through=”” their=”” place=”” of=”” worship)=”” and=”” that=”” the=”” opposite=”” may=”” true=”” when=”” asked=”” about=”” online=”” social=”” support.=”” therefore,=”” we=”” constructed=”” a=”” single=”” index=”” of=”” social=”” support,=”” comprised=”” of=”” the=”” three=”” questions=”” regarding=”” online=”” support=”” and=”” the=”” two=”” questions=”” addressing=”” offline=”” social=”” support=”” (cronbachs=”” alpha=”.74).” 4.3.=”” structural=”” equation=”” modeling=”” procedure=”” to=”” test=”” the=”” hypothesized=”” mediational=”” model,=”” we=”” conducted=”” a=”” structural=”” equation=”” modeling=”” analyses=”” of=”” the=”” relations=”” between=”” engagement=”” in=”” the=”” separate=”” religious=”” activities=”” (church=”” attendance,=”” personal=”” prayer,=”” online=”” surfing=”” for=”” religious=”” information,=”” and=”” participation=”” in=”” an=”” online=”” religious=”” forum),=”” importance=”” of=”” group=”” identity,=”” trust,=”” sense=”” of=”” purpose=”” in=”” life,=”” happiness=”” and=”” life=”” satisfaction,=”” alertness,=”” social=”” support,=”” and=”” helping=”” behavior.=”” the=”” model=”” tested=”” is=”” shown=”” in=”” fig.=”” 1.=”” a=”” saturated=”” model=”” was=”” estimated=”” including=”” all=”” possible=”” paths=”” (paths=”” not=”” shown=”” were=”” non-significant=”” at=”” p=””> .10) and the disturbances in the outcomes
were free to covary. That is, our estimation procedure permitted any direct effects
of participation in the various predictive activities (i.e., those not mediated by identity
importance) to emerge. Identity importance is included as an index variable rather than
as a latent variable represented by the three separate importance-related items because
those items were related to the outcome variables in unique ways, as well as through
the variance the items share.
950 K.Y.A. McKenna, K.J. West / Computers in Human Behavior 23 (2007) 942–954
4.4. Activity participation and identity importance
In line with our a priori predictions and previous research (e.g., Deaux, 1996; McKenna
& Bargh, 1998; McKenna et al., 2001), the importance of the online forum to the respondents
identity was substantially greater for those who participated actively in the group.
Those who participated more actively found the group itself and interaction with other
members of the online group to be more important to their lives. Those who more frequently
engaged in personal prayer also found their membership in the online forum to
be more identity-important. However, interestingly, neither the frequency with which a
respondent attended local religious institutions, or the frequency with which he or she
sought out religious information on the Internet (outside of the forum in question), proved
to be predictive of the importance of the online group to the respondents identity. This
suggests that the identity importance of the online group is not simply a reflection of a
more global sense of respondents religious identity. That is, it is not the case that those
who are more actively involved in religious activities of all kinds are more likely to find
the online group more important in their lives.
4.5. Consequences of identity importance
The next step of the model calls for identity importance to mediate between group
membership and its benefits. Fig. 1 shows that the more important ones membership in
the online religious group, (a) the greater was the sense of having a strong social support
network, (b) the more likely was the individual to engage in community helping projects,
Online
Participation
Engaging in
Personal
Prayer
Church
Attendance
Importance of
Online group
To Identity
Offline community
Helping
Strengthen faith
& sense of
connection to others
Increased social
support
Faith in people
Sense of Purpose
In life
Life satisfaction
.48***
.21**
.14*
.22**
.18*
.35**
.64***
.76***
.16*
.15*
*** p < .001=”” **=”” p=””>< .01=”” *=”” p=””><. 05=”” fig.=”” 1.=”” process=”” model=”” of=”” identity=”” importance.=”” k.y.a.=”” mckenna,=”” k.j.=”” west=”” computers=”” in=”” human=”” behavior=”” 23=”” (2007)=”” 942–954=”” 951=”” (c)=”” the=”” more=”” likely=”” the=”” individual=”” was=”” to=”” feel=”” that=”” his=”” or=”” her=”” faith=”” and=”” connection=”” to=”” god=”” and=”” with=”” others=”” of=”” similar=”” beliefs=”” had=”” been=”” strengthened,=”” and=”” the=”” greater=”” was=”” the=”” individuals=”” (d)=”” trust=”” in=”” others,=”” and=”” (e)=”” feelings=”” of=”” having=”” a=”” clear=”” purpose=”” in=”” life.=”” the=”” degree=”” to=”” which=”” the=”” online=”” group=”” is=”” important=”” to=”” ones=”” sense=”” of=”” identity=”” did=”” not,=”” however,=”” have=”” a=”” mediational=”” effect=”” on=”” the=”” individuals=”” sense=”” of=”” happiness=”” and=”” life=”” satisfaction.=”” the=”” lack=”” of=”” reliable=”” direct=”” paths=”” between=”” participation=”” in=”” the=”” online=”” group=”” and=”” personal=”” prayer,=”” and=”” social=”” support,=”” community=”” helping,=”” connection=”” to=”” god=”” and=”” others=”” of=”” the=”” same=”” faith,=”” trust,=”” and=”” purpose=”” in=”” life=”” demonstrated=”” that=”” it=”” is=”” because=”” of=”” the=”” increase=”” in=”” identity=”” importance=”” that=”” one=”” reaches=”” this=”” greater=”” state=”” of=”” openness=”” with=”” others.=”” further,=”” the=”” items=”” measuring=”” community=”” helping=”” and=”” connection=”” to=”” god=”” and=”” those=”” who=”” share=”” ones=”” faith=”” were=”” explicitly=”” phrased=”” in=”” terms=”” of=”” being=”” consequences=”” of=”” online=”” forum=”” membership,=”” not=”” of=”” prior=”” conditions=”” on=”” which=”” participants=”” could=”” have=”” differed.=”” these=”” effects=”” are=”” in=”” harmony=”” with=”” deauxs=”” (1993,=”” 1996)=”” and=”” mckenna=”” and=”” barghs=”” (1998)=”” postulated=”” mediational=”” role=”” of=”” identity=”” importance=”” for=”” the=”” positive=”” effects=”” of=”” group=”” membership=”” on=”” the=”” self=”” concept=”” and=”” for=”” the=”” behavioral=”” consequences=”” of=”” group=”” identity.=”” 4.6.=”” direct=”” effects=”” of=”” offline=”” group=”” involvement=”” in=”” line=”” with=”” previous=”” findings,=”” church=”” attendance=”” was=”” significantly=”” correlated=”” with=”” greater=”” trust=”” in=”” others=”” (e.g.,=”” schoenfeld,=”” 1978),=”” a=”” greater=”” sense=”” of=”” having=”” a=”” purpose=”” in=”” life,=”” and=”” a=”” greater=”” sense=”” of=”” happiness=”” and=”” life=”” satisfaction=”” (e.g.,=”” myers,=”” 1992).=”” that=”” is,=”” there=”” were=”” direct=”” effects=”” of=”” participation=”” in=”” a=”” physical=”” place=”” of=”” worship=”” that=”” were=”” in=”” addition=”” to,=”” and=”” not=”” mediated=”” by,=”” the=”” identity=”” importance=”” of=”” the=”” online=”” religious=”” group.=”” 4.7.=”” the=”” effects=”” of=”” blending=”” ones=”” social=”” circle=”” in=”” addition=”” to=”” testing=”” the=”” above=”” model,=”” we=”” conducted=”” subsidiary=”” analyses=”” to=”” examine=”” what=”” effect,=”” if=”” any,=”” participation=”” in=”” the=”” online=”” group=”” by=”” members=”” of=”” the=”” individuals=”” offline=”” social=”” group=”” (family=”” members=”” or=”” members=”” of=”” ones=”” congregation)=”” would=”” have=”” on=”” these=”” outcome=”” variables.=”” a=”” multivariate=”” analyses=”” of=”” variance=”” (manova)=”” demonstrated=”” that=”” having=”” members=”” from=”” ones=”” local=”” congregation=”” also=”” taking=”” part=”” in=”” the=”” online=”” group=”” did=”” not=”” affect=”” any=”” of=”” the=”” outcome=”” variables=”” in=”” the=”” model.=”” interestingly,=”” however,=”” the=”” presence=”” of=”” family=”” members=”” in=”” the=”” online=”” group=”” did=”” strengthen=”” several=”” of=”” the=”” effects=”” noted=”” above.=”” specifically,=”” when=”” members=”” of=”” a=”” respondents=”” family=”” also=”” participated=”” in=”” the=”” online=”” religious=”” group,=”” there=”” was=”” an=”” increase=”” in=”” the=”” strength=”” of=”” the=”” importance=”” of=”” the=”” group=”” identity=”” (f(1,187)=”12.41,” p=””>< .001).=”” these=”” members=”” also=”” felt=”” that=”” their=”” sense=”” of=”” faith=”” and=”” connection=”” to=”” others=”” of=”” like=”” mind=”” had=”” increased=”” more=”” as=”” a=”” result=”” of=”” their=”” group=”” participation=”” (f(1,187)=”12.05,” p=””>< .001),=”” than=”” those=”” who=”” did=”” not=”” have=”” family=”” members=”” participating=”” in=”” the=”” group.=”” finally,=”” those=”” with=”” family=”” members=”” also=”” taking=”” part=”” in=”” the=”” online=”” forum=”” reported=”” having=”” a=”” stronger=”” sense=”” of=”” having=”” a=”” purpose=”” in=”” life=”” (f(1,187)=”4.34,” p=””>< .05)=”” and=”” more=”” faith=”” in=”” others=”” (f(1,187)=”9.35,” p=””>< .01).=”” 5.=”” general=”” discussion=”” it=”” appears=”” that=”” many=”” of=”” the=”” same=”” benefits=”” associated=”” with=”” membership=”” in=”” a=”” traditional=”” religious=”” institution=”” are=”” also=”” associated=”” with=”” membership=”” in=”” a=”” virtual=”” group=”” devoted=”” to=”” ones=”” religious=”” beliefs.=”” just=”” as=”” with=”” religious=”” identification=”” and=”” involvement=”” in=”” ones=”” local=”” 952=”” k.y.a.=”” mckenna,=”” k.j.=”” west=”” computers=”” in=”” human=”” behavior=”” 23=”” (2007)=”” 942–954=”” religious=”” community,=”” virtual=”” religious=”” communities=”” are=”” important=”” to=”” the=”” daily=”” lives=”” of=”” their=”” members=”” and=”” virtual=”” identities=”” become=”” an=”” important=”” part=”” of=”” the=”” self.=”” importantly,=”” many=”” of=”” those=”” taking=”” part=”” in=”” these=”” discussion=”” forums=”” are=”” not=”” active=”” church-goers.=”” thus=”” participation=”” in=”” these=”” virtual=”” groups=”” allows=”” these=”” individuals=”” to=”” reap=”” important=”” self=”” and=”” social=”” benefits=”” that=”” they=”” would=”” otherwise=”” be=”” missing=”” out=”” on.=”” now,=”” however,=”” these=”” ‘‘lost=”” sheep’’=”” are=”” able=”” to=”” reconnect=”” with=”” and=”” strengthen=”” their=”” faith=”” through=”” the=”” virtual=”” fold.=”” it=”” remains=”” to=”” be=”” seen=”” whether=”” religious=”” participation=”” on=”” the=”” internet=”” by=”” the=”” previously=”” uninvolved=”” will=”” translate=”” down=”” the=”” line=”” into=”” increased=”” religious=”” involvement=”” in=”” their=”” physical=”” communities.=”” research=”” on=”” other=”” kinds=”” of=”” virtual=”” groups=”” (e.g.,=”” mckenna=”” &=”” bargh,=”” 1998;=”” mckenna=”” et=”” al.,=”” 2002)=”” suggests=”” that=”” such=”” may=”” well=”” be=”” the=”” case.=”” it=”” is=”” clear=”” that=”” what=”” happens=”” in=”” one=”” group=”” or=”” sphere=”” affects=”” behavior=”” in=”” the=”” other.=”” those=”” who=”” belong=”” to=”” online=”” religious=”” groups=”” and=”” who=”” take=”” an=”” active=”” part=”” in=”” them=”” are=”” more=”” likely=”” to=”” engage=”” in=”” community=”” volunteer=”” activities=”” and=”” to=”” feel=”” that=”” their=”” faith=”” has=”” been=”” strengthened=”” through=”” their=”” online=”” participation.=”” and=”” having=”” family=”” members=”” also=”” taking=”” part=”” in=”” the=”” same=”” online=”” religious=”” forum=”” not=”” only=”” strengthens=”” the=”” importance=”” of=”” online=”” group=”” identity=”” for=”” the=”” individual=”” but=”” also=”” the=”” benefits=”” gained=”” from=”” his=”” or=”” her=”” participation.=”” individuals=”” who=”” take=”” part=”” in=”” online=”” religious=”” communities=”” benefit=”” from=”” gains=”” in=”” social=”” support=”” and=”” feel=”” more=”” connected=”” to=”” others=”” who=”” share=”” their=”” faith.=”” as=”” with=”” those=”” who=”” attend=”” church=”” or=”” temple=”” frequently,=”” these=”” active=”” online=”” participants=”” also=”” experience=”” a=”” greater=”” sense=”” of=”” purpose=”” in=”” their=”” own=”” lives=”” and=”” they=”” have=”” greater=”” trust=”” and=”” faith=”” in=”” others.=”” that=”” said,=”” however,=”” it=”” is=”” important=”” to=”” keep=”” in=”” mind=”” that=”” while=”” religiosity=”” has=”” long=”” been=”” found=”” to=”” be=”” associated=”” with=”” greater=”” trust=”” and=”” faith=”” in=”” others,=”” that=”” trust=”” and=”” faith=”” often=”” only=”” applies=”” to=”” others=”” who=”” share=”” ones=”” religious=”” beliefs=”” and=”” values.=”” the=”” dynamics=”” of=”” online=”” groups=”” do=”” differ=”” in=”” significant=”” ways=”” from=”” face-to-face=”” groups=”” (see=”” mckenna=”” &=”” seidman,=”” 2005)=”” and=”” the=”” deindividuating=”” effects=”” of=”” online=”” communication=”” make=”” it=”” easier=”” to=”” disagree,=”” to=”” make=”” negative=”” or=”” aggressive=”” comments,=”” and=”” to=”” take=”” more=”” extreme=”” positions=”” than=”” one=”” might=”” if=”” interacting=”” with=”” others=”” in=”” person.=”” one=”” can=”” easily=”” see=”” how=”” this=”” tendency,=”” if=”” coupled=”” with=”” social=”” categorization=”” processes,=”” could=”” well=”” lead=”” to=”” some=”” very=”” destructive=”” effects=”” of=”” online=”” religious=”” expression=”” and=”” identification=”” indeed.=”” references=”” argyle,=”” m.=”” (1996).=”” the=”” social=”” psychology=”” of=”” leisure.=”” harmondsworth:=”” penguin.=”” beit=”” hallahmi,=”” b.,=”” &=”” argyle,=”” m.=”” (1997).=”” the=”” psychology=”” of=”” religious=”” behavior,=”” belief=”” and=”” experience.=”” new=”” york:=”” routledge.=”” brasher,=”” b.=”” e.=”” (2001).=”” give=”” me=”” that=”” online=”” religion.=”” san=”” francisco:=”” jossey-bass/wiley.=”” bunt,=”” g.=”” r.=”” (2003).=”” islam=”” in=”” the=”” digital=”” age:=”” e-jihad,=”” online=”” fatwas=”” and=”” cyber=”” islamic=”” environments.=”” london:=”” pluto=”” press.=”” crumbaugh,=”” j.=”” (1968).=”” cross-validation=”” of=”” a=”” purpose=”” in=”” life=”” test=”” based=”” on=”” frankls=”” concepts.=”” journal=”” of=”” individual=”” psychology,=”” 24,=”” 74–81.=”” cummings,=”” j.,=”” sproull,=”” l.,=”” &=”” kiesler,=”” s.=”” (2002).=”” beyond=”” hearing:=”” where=”” real=”” world=”” and=”” online=”” support=”” meet.=”” group=”” dynamics:=”” theory,=”” research,=”” and=”” practice,=”” 6,=”” 78–88.=”” deaux,=”” k.=”” (1993).=”” reconstructing=”” social=”” identity.=”” personality=”” and=”” social=”” psychology=”” bulletin,=”” 19,=”” 4–12.=”” deaux,=”” k.=”” (1996).=”” social=”” identification.=”” in=”” e.=”” t.=”” higgins=”” &=”” a.=”” w.=”” kruglanski=”” (eds.),=”” social=”” psychology:=”” handbook=”” of=”” basic=”” principles=”” (pp.=”” 777–798).=”” new=”” york:=”” guilford=”” press.=”” ethier,=”” k.=”” a.,=”” &=”” deaux,=”” k.=”” (1994).=”” negotiating=”” social=”” identity=”” when=”” contexts=”” change:=”” maintaining=”” identification=”” and=”” responding=”” to=”” threat.=”” journal=”” of=”” personality=”” and=”” social=”” psychology,=”” 67,=”” 271–282.=”” francis,=”” l.=”” j.,=”” &=”” kaldor,=”” p.=”” (2002).=”” the=”” relationship=”” between=”” psychological=”” well-being=”” and=”” christian=”” faith=”” and=”” practice=”” in=”” an=”” australian=”” population=”” sample.=”” journal=”” for=”” the=”” scientific=”” study=”” of=”” religion,=”” 41,=”” 174–186.=”” k.y.a.=”” mckenna,=”” k.j.=”” west=”” computers=”” in=”” human=”” behavior=”” 23=”” (2007)=”” 942–954=”” 953=”” goodstein,=”” l.=”” (1993).=”” put=”” kindness=”” back=”” into=”” public=”” policy,=”” coalitions=”” urge.=”” washington=”” post,=”” p.=”” a19.=”” hills,=”” p.,=”” &=”” argyle,=”” m.=”” (2002).=”” the=”” oxford=”” happiness=”” questionnaire:=”” a=”” compact=”” scale=”” for=”” the=”” measurement=”” of=”” wellbeing.=”” personality=”” and=”” individual=”” differences,=”” 33,=”” 1073–1082.=”” hoover,=”” s.=”” m.,=”” schofield,=”” c.,=”” &=”” rainie,=”” l.=”” (2004).=”” faith=”” online.=”” available=”” at=”” http://www.pewinternet.com.=”” hogg,=”” m.=”” a.,=”” &=”” abrams,=”” d.=”” (1990).=”” social=”” motivation,=”” self-esteem,=”” and=”” social=”” identity.=”” in=”” d.=”” abrams=”” &=”” m.=”” a.=”” hogg=”” (eds.),=”” social=”” identity=”” theory:=”” constructive=”” and=”” critical=”” advances=”” (pp.=”” 28–47).=”” new=”” york:=”” springer.=”” kalb,=”” c.=”” (2003).=”” faith=”” and=”” healing.=”” newsweek,=”” pp.=”” 44–56.=”” kirkpatrick,=”” l.=”” a.=”” (1992).=”” an=”” attachment-theory=”” approach=”” to=”” the=”” psychology=”” of=”” religion.=”” international=”” journal=”” of=”” the=”” psychology=”” for=”” religion,=”” 2,=”” 3–28.=”” larsen,=”” e.,=”” &=”” rainie,=”” l.=”” (2001).=”” cyberfaith:=”” how=”” americans=”” pursue=”” religion=”” online.=”” available=”” at=”” http://=”” www.pewinternet.com.=”” levin,=”” j.=”” s.,=”” &=”” chatters,=”” l.=”” m.=”” (1998).=”” research=”” on=”” religion=”” and=”” mental=”” health:=”” an=”” overview=”” of=”” empirical=”” findings=”” and=”” theoretical=”” issues.=”” in=”” h.=”” g.=”” koenig=”” (ed.),=”” handbook=”” of=”” religion=”” and=”” mental=”” health=”” (pp.=”” 33–51).=”” san=”” diego:=”” academic=”” press.=”” mckenna,=”” k.=”” y.=”” a.,=”” &=”” bargh,=”” j.=”” a.=”” (1998).=”” coming=”” out=”” in=”” the=”” age=”” of=”” the=”” internet:=”” identity=”” demarginalization=”” through=”” virtual=”” group=”” participation.=”” journal=”” of=”” personality=”” and=”” social=”” psychology,=”” 75,=”” 681–694.=”” mckenna,=”” k.=”” y.=”” a.,=”” &=”” seidman,=”” g.=”” (2005).=”” you,=”” me=”” and=”” we:=”” self,=”” identity=”” and=”” interpersonal=”” processes=”” in=”” electronic=”” groups.=”” in=”” y.=”” a.=”” hamburger=”” (ed.),=”” the=”” social=”” net:=”” the=”” social=”” psychology=”” of=”” the=”” internet.=”” oxford=”” press.=”” mckenna,=”” k.=”” y.=”” a.,=”” green,=”” a.=”” s.,=”” &=”” smith,=”” p.=”” k.=”” (2001).=”” demarginalizing=”” the=”” sexual=”” self.=”” journal=”” of=”” sex=”” research,=”” 38,=”” 302–311.=”” myers,=”” d.=”” g.=”” (1992).=”” the=”” pursuit=”” of=”” happiness.=”” new=”” york:=”” morrow.=”” pargament,=”” k.=”” i.=”” (1997).=”” the=”” psychology=”” of=”” religion=”” and=”” coping.=”” new=”” york:=”” guilford=”” press.=”” pollner,=”” m.=”” (1989).=”” devine=”” relations,=”” social=”” relations,=”” and=”” well-being.=”” journal=”” of=”” health=”” and=”” social=”” behavior,=”” 30,=”” 92–104.=”” rosenberg,=”” m.=”” (1957).=”” occupations=”” and=”” values.=”” glencoe,=”” il:=”” free=”” press.=”” rosenberg,=”” m.=”” (1979).=”” conceiving=”” the=”” self.=”” new=”” york:=”” basic=”” books.=”” samuelson,=”” r.=”” j.=”” (1994).=”” heres=”” some=”” good=”” news,=”” america.=”” washington=”” post,=”” p.=”” a=”” 21.=”” schoenfeld,=”” e.=”” (1978).=”” image=”” of=”” man:=”” the=”” effect=”” of=”” religion=”” on=”” trust.=”” review=”” of=”” religious=”” research,=”” 20,=”” 61–67.=”” strawbridge,=”” w.=”” j.,=”” shema,=”” s.=”” j.,=”” cohen,=”” r.=”” d.,=”” &=”” kaplan,=”” g.=”” a.=”” (2001).=”” religious=”” attendance=”” increases=”” survival=”” by=”” improving=”” and=”” maintaining=”” good=”” health=”” behaviors,=”” mental=”” health,=”” and=”” social=”” relationships.=”” annals=”” of=”” behavioral=”” medicine,=”” 23,=”” 68–74.=”” tajfel,=”” h.=”” (1978).=”” differentiation=”” between=”” social=”” groups:=”” studies=”” in=”” the=”” social=”” psychology=”” of=”” intergroup=”” relations.=”” oxford,=”” england:=”” academic=”” press.=”” tajfel,=”” h.=”” (1982a).=”” instrumentality,=”” identity=”” and=”” social=”” comparisons.=”” in=”” h.=”” tajfel=”” (ed.),=”” social=”” identity=”” and=”” intergroup=”” relations=”” (pp.=”” 483–507).=”” cambridge,=”” england:=”” cambridge=”” university=”” press.=”” tajfel,=”” h.=”” (1982b).=”” social=”” psychology=”” of=”” intergroup=”” relations.=”” annual=”” review=”” of=”” psychology,=”” 33,=”” 1–39.=”” 954=”” k.y.a.=”” mckenna,=”” k.j.=”” west=”” computers=”” in=”” human=”” behavior=”” 23=”” (2007)=””>

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