Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

Table of Contents | Cover Page  |  Editors  |  Contributors  |  Introduction  |  Web Version


Most established religions have a presence on the World Wide Web, from the level of worldwide organizations to individual churches. The present American dominance of the Internet means that non-Western religions are underrepresented online, although virtually any belief has some degree of Internet presence. For example, the Yahoo! Internet Directory lists 6,951 WWW pages on Christianity, 859 on Judaism, 303 on Islam, and 213 on Buddhism. USENET News has more than 150 religion discussion groups.

The Internet provides inexpensive avenues for worldwide proselytization, and small groups or even individuals potentially can reach millions. Well-financed organizations may produce more professional WWW sites, but their potential viewing audience is no larger than that of a fledgling religion. Pluralistic authorship means that any proponent of a particular belief system can offer his or her personal interpretations, often competing with authorized canon.

Opponents to and dissenters from religious groups also can express their views widely, leading to particularly vibrant debates. Through Web pages, an opponent of a particular church can disseminate critical materials as widely as the church. Also, many discussion forums are unmoderated, and a USENET News group ostensibly created to provide a meeting place for believers often becomes a forum for confrontation between believers and nonbelievers.

The Internet also has spawned new religions based solely in cyberspace. Some of these movements are amalgamations of other religions, creating global interfaith organizations (e.g., "ORIGIN, the Meeting Place of All Religions"). Some are wholly new creations, usually stressing globalization themes and universal philosophies (e.g., " 'All', the Universal Religion"). Many exclusively on-line religions are based on the transformative or transcendental potential of the Internet itself, borrowing concepts from the science fiction writer/cyberspace theorist William Gibson and memetics (i.e., ideas act as viruses, a notion attributed to the evolutionary theorist Richard Dawkins). Parody religions, such as Kibology, are also popular on the Internet.

Michael H. Peckham


" 'All', the Universal Religion" <http://www.netzone.com/~dgganon/All1.html >

J. Baker, Christian Cyberspace Companion (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1995)

"Chaplain On-Line Home Page" <http://www.infi.net/~rllewis/chaplain.html )>

"Church of Perpetual Change(Agere)" <http://www.ceridwyn.com/cpc/ >

"Church of Scientology" <http://www.scientology.org >

"Church of Scientology vs. the Net" <http://www.cybercom.net/~rnewman/scientology/home.html >

"The Church of Virus" <http://www.lucifer.com/virus/ > "First Church of Wintermute" <http://Gridley.AAACNS.Carleton.edu/harrisws/wintermute/ >

T. Geller, "Deux ex Machina," Net 1, 7(1995):51-55

W. Grossman, "alt.scientology.war," Wired , 3, 12(1995):172-177, 248-252

"Kibology" <http://www.autobahn.mb.ca/~gary/kibology.html >

"Kibo's Page" <http://www.nutcom.com/~ken/kibo.html ">. "ORIGIN, The Meeting Place of Religions" <http://www.rain.org/~origin/ >

"Yahoo! Society and Culture/Religion" <http://www.yahoo.com/Society_and_Culture/Religion/ >.

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