Thursday, November 10, 2011

What Makes a Religious Authority Figure?

The use of websites created by religious communities has created changes, and thus created issues offline along with those changes in the practices of religious authority. Among many of the changes is the question of who has a hierarchy role within a religious communities on and offline. There are now new perceptions of who is a religious authority figure. According to Cheong author of, Authority, “the internet challenges authority by expanding access of religious information that can undermine the plausibility structure of a religious system”. Search engine websites on the internet now make it easier for one to find information regarding a variety of traditions, such as sacred scriptures, that in the past may have not been provided for the public, but only to certified religious authority figures. With the availability of religious information on websites it is assumed that it has diminished the power of those who are a certified or an ordained religious authority figure, and gives authority to those who are not certified or a self proclaimed religious figure. This creates a crisis in traditional theology of who has religious authority as new forms of web-based authorities emerge. With traditional authority threatened, there are assumptions that search engine websites create a way for uncertified people to become a religious authority figure with their knowledge of religion gained from the Internet. Which diminishes the knowledge of those who are a certified religious authority figure.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Christian Websites

How do offline Christian communities respond to rituals preformed or practiced online? Within the last couple of decades religion practiced online has become increasingly popular among Christian communities which has altered their traditional understanding of the Christian community (Campbell, 2007). There are websites devoted to forming a Christian community online. Christian Websites provide a range of opportunities for the people who wish to participate, such as, providing a optional place to worship if one is on vacation or away from their offline Christian community, according to Carrigan, author of “Seeking God in Cyberspace: Religion and the Internet.” I will be focusing my case study on Christian websites that are devoted to bringing Christians together to form a community and as a place perform rituals online. By dedicating my case study to Christian websites I can investigate how offline Christian’s respond to rituals preformed online, which will help me explain my research question of: how offline Christian communities respond to rituals preformed online.,r:1,s:0&tx=108&ty=80

Friday, October 28, 2011

Religious Idenity Online

Does digital media strengthen or weaken individual's ability to construct or perform their religious identity? New digital media has created multiple channels through which individuals can express themselves or connect with others in numerous ways. In my opinion, digital media strengthens an individual’s ability to perform their religious identity. Much of a persons identity in the current era is expressed not only offline, but online as well with the increased use of technology over the last decade. According to Lövheim, author of "Identity", for many individuals, digital media is used for “self-reflection and social interaction, to enhance ones personal views of religion.” Creating an identity online through the use of religious websites provides an easily accessible connection with a particular religion of ones choice where they can establish themselves within the community. Thus forming a religious identity. For example, a social network website allows for the individual to create their own identity. There one can express religious beliefs and portray their ideal version of them self.  According to Lövheim, “an online identity is established or concealed by the information one wishes to be presented” through a website or another medium of communication of self-expression. Through digital media, one can reflect and express their religious beliefs and thus, through digital media one can strengthen their ability to perform their religious identity.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

St. Pixels' Online Community

According to Hutchings (2011), author of “Considering Religious Community Through Online Churches”, there are multiple definitions of what a community is. “There are variations in medium, practice, community expectations and perceptions of privacy generate unique ethical considerations and opportunities for collaboration” (Hutchings, 2011, p 4). In the St. Pixel’s online Christian church, community to them is the “practice of sharing life, they do this through a network of blogs, forums, chat room events and offline meetings” (Hutchings, 2011, p10). They live out their form of online community by treating the Internet space as sacred. St. Pixels values respect, honesty and companionship in order for the participants to “seek God together” (Hutchings, 2011, p5). St. Pixels provides a space for blogging where participants come to share ones feelings with one another, which helps build relationships among the community members. In a chat room, the community comes together to worship the divine, which is meant to compare to a church service held offline. Once relationships have developed online, participants are encouraged to come together offline where they can physically meet one another. The offline impact of the St. Pixels community has a positive effect on their particular religious tradition. The offline community sets the rules and the foundation of the online community. Leaders want the online space to be considered as scared, as the offline space is, where respect and relationships are valued and important. St. Pixels provides a space where individuals can come and fulfill their religious needs online that they may have not has the chance to do so offline. A community is formed not only online, but offline as well. Through their fundamental belief of “seeking God together” by creating relationships through blogging, chat rooms, offline meetings, and other mediums to connect and build a Christian religious group.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Rituals Performed Online

Rituals performed online has become increasingly popular over the last several years among religious communities. Virtual rituals have opened the door to fulfill certain needs for individuals and religious communities to grow and interact with one another. According to Connelly, author of “Virtual Buddhism: Buddhist Ritual in Second Life”, there are several reasons to why one would engage in virtual rituals in order to fulfill their needs. In the Buddhist community there are a lack of religious centers or teachers available to the participants who desire to be apart of community and wish to perform rituals. For many, virtual rituals “provide meaningful experiences, an opportunity to engage with others who are apart of the same community. While online, there one can learn more about the Buddhist religion and participate in rituals that may not be available to the participate offline” (Connelly). Online rituals have created an environment that fits ones needs to be apart of a community due to the easily accessible environment to gain knowledge and interact with one another. The environment is also created to feel like the offline sacred space of where the ritual is preformed. Providing a “highly visible experience and an auditory mode of communication.” Whether the ritual is preformed online or offline, according to Connelly, “both provide an opportunity to gain merit through action, which is the ultimate goal of Buddhism.”

Friday, October 7, 2011

"Approaching Rituals Online"

This week, I attended the Digital Religion Symposium & Workshop, where I listened to Christopher Helland’s speech on “Approaching Rituals Online.” He has studied and explored the vast religious rituals people perform while on the Internet that is created by different religious communities. According to Helland, a ritual is a very diverse thing, of substance and function. “A ritual is purposeful engagement with the scared (whatever the sacred maybe for those involved).” Online rituals are preformed on a virtual space where people can attend while on the Internet. This may look something like the virtual community of “Second Life”, where people are avatars and can perform almost any activity they desire while in a virtual world. The virtual space is considered as a sacred place, because it is where participants go to perform ritualistic activities. Those who come in and disturb the ritual service are blocked out and are not allowed back in due to the rituals importance. Religious communities such as, the Catholic religion, have created virtual ritual spaces online. As technology has developed, the Catholic cathedrals or churches architecture have been created to have more visible details like being in the actual place of worship. According to Helland, rituals are dynamic and always changing thus, is why rituals are accepted to be preformed on a virtual space. 

Here is an example of where a virtual ritual may take place:


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Digital Media & Community

In every religious community there are beliefs to how digital media is integrated and used. In my individual blog, I will be focusing on how different religious communities use digital media. I am curious to explore how the different communities integrate new media into their community and to what extent it is used.