Friday, March 07, 2003

Virtual faith
Lisbeth writes of a Virtual diocese. It is an interesting post with some intriguing points about communication and religion, but I would like to comment on the use of "virtual", particularly in relation to faith and religion. I have not read the book Lisbeth refers to, so this is purely based on her post and my thoughts as I read it.

In my opinion, the digital communities and digitally mediated communication has a much larger immediate impact on our fleshy selves than religion has. Religion is a system of symbols, built on trust and cultural expressions, and as such no more and no less tangible than the online experiences and event. The churches which have stood there for centuries, in some cases millennia, are incredible expressions of what people can do within a structure of social connections, but so is the internet! The hard-ware which makes up the net has the same function as a church: a structure where people can get together and communicate. Communication and Communion comes from the same root and means pretty much the same thing: something to be done together, an act of sharing - which is what the world wide web is about as well. So how can a digitally mediated diocese be virtual? In my opinion it is as real as any other, and if it needs to be distinguished from non-computer-mediated groups that should be done for instance by positioning it to for instance the "space" it exists in: cyber diocese, net diocese, or if it expresses a particular religious dogma, by recognizing that; as with the Baptistes, Lutherans or Catholics. I am however not comfortable with the use of a word that indicates that it is any more or any less "real" than other groups who share a faith.

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