Articles added since July 27

Since I started up my archive of academic articles related to online religion I kept adding to it. Since July 27  it grew by 41 articles. you can read the abstracts on the webpage or in the csv file. But for ease of references here is their list, linking where you can find the full versions.

Conference on Media, Religion and Culture 2010

The 7th International Conference on Media, Religion and Culture will be held in Toronto from August 9 – 13, 2010, hosted by Joyce Smith of the School of Journalism at Ryerson University. Below I list all the sections and papers from the program (PDF, as of August 2) that are explicitly pertinent to this blog and had abstracts available. (Apologies for the unusual length of the post.) Many other presentations will touch on the topic, of course. The conference can be viewed online live. (more…)

Patheos: The Future of Religion

Patheos is halfway through its series on “The Future of Religion.” First a word about Pathoes from their “about” page: “[it] is the premier online destination to engage in the global dialogue about religion and spirituality and to explore and experience the world’s beliefs.” Based on the further description (see below) it seems they position themselves as the new; a place to:

  • Explore religious beliefs and histories through a deep library of accurate, balanced information on the world’s religions, as well as through unique interactive lenses that allow visitors to compare, contrast and explore religions and belief systems in new and innovative ways
  • Enrich the global dialogue on religion and spirituality through responsible, moderated discussions on critical issues across religious traditions, in the site’s unique Public Square
  • Experience religious traditions, both online and off, through a variety of multimedia applications and online directories
  • Engage in intra-faith discussion through religion-specific portals, designed to provide a forum for discussion and public interaction

And now about their Future of Religion series:

As new forms of worship and belief continue to evolve in the twenty-first century, we have asked thought leaders from a variety of religious traditions to talk about the future of religion. What trends will influence how people across the spectrum of faiths worship and practice? What are the challenges and opportunities that will confront faith leaders? What are the controversial issues? Will cooperation or conflict between religions be dominant in the years ahead? What reform movements will shape the future of belief?

Essays will tackle such subjects as race, interfaith relations, blogging, theological controversies, gender issues, proselytizing, music, emerging movements, politics, and film.

For each week they have between a dozen and 20 articles from prominent and/or interesting representatives of the religion discussed that week. Readers can comment right below the articles and the comments will show up on Facebook as well.

Here are some essays pertinent to the “online religion” topic:

I will post links to more relevant articles at the end of the series, after all of them appear online.

Lytle: Virtual Incarnations (2010/07)

An interesting article appeared in the July issue of Religious Education by Julie Anne Lytle of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It, titled “Virtual Incarnations: An Exploration of Internet-Mediated Interaction as Manifestation of the Divine,” is interesting to me because this is the first scholarly article I encountered that is clearly written from a strong religious perspective. See the abstract:

As faith communities are moving online and creating virtual churches, one widespread critique is the disembodied nature of online relationships. Citing fears of engagement with others who are misrepresenting themselves, many argue that virtual churches are not “real” and Internet-mediated communications (IMC) should not be incorporated into faith formation. However, with the exception of those who lived and walked with Jesus, most of humanity knows God and feels God’s presence through “virtual incarnations.” This article identifies the essential communicative and expressive aspects of physical relationships that manifest the Divine and some of the ecclesial ramifications of virtual church.

Is Apple Really A Religion?

Last week I posted about Heidi Campbell‘s article on iPhone4 as religion. Since the, on Friday, she posted another entry on her blog as a reaction to a furry of emails by angry Mac fans. They reacted not to the academic article, not even to the article in a popular magazine, but to a misquote of Campbell’s words on Fox News. She explains it all in her post. The short version is that the journalist deduced that she was making the claim that “Apple is a religion.” based on the following written answer she gave to a question:

“The religious like behavior and language surrounding Apple devotion/fandom could be interpreted as an example of ‘implicit religion’, where secular activities/rituals & artifacts take on sacred like attributes due to how they are used and viewed by some fans. Implicit religion demonstrates technology use can take on a religious role or quality in postmodern culture when it substitutes for belief and behaviours once attached to religion and religious practice.”

American Muslims Make Video to Rebut Militants

The Saturday issue of The New York Times had an article about a YouTube video and the people behind and in it. The piece opens with these lines:

A recent spate of arrests of Muslims accused of terrorism in the United States has revealed that many of them were radicalized by militant preaching they found on the Internet.

Sheik Hamza Yusuf is one of nine influential American Muslim scholars appearing in a YouTube video repudiating radicalization.

Now nine influential American Muslim scholars have come together in a YouTube video to repudiate the militants’ message. The nine represent a diversity of theological schools within Islam, and several of them have large followings among American Muslim youths.

Then it goes on sharing some of the words from the video and the background of those who said them. Here are the quotes from the article that are relevant to my topic: online religion.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, director of the Center for the Study of Terrorist Radicalization at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said of the video: “It can be a powerful outlet. It is the kind of thing that, formatwise, is matching what’s being done by the jihadist groups.”

Mr. Magid [leader of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society] said in an interview: “This is the beginning of a greater effort. Imams have to be virtual imams, answering questions on the Web, having blogs. We have to have open discussions for youths to talk about what is frustrating them.”

And now the video (that has a viewcount of about 10000 right now):

The launch of

The official website for the “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints“, aka Mormons has been for at least a decade. (According to its whois record it was registered exactly 12 years ago today.) On July 14 the church launched (That domain was owned by Mormons for 15 years and here is a copy of its first incarnation.) The details, goals and tools of the relaunch were written up by Peggy Fletcher Stack in the The Salt Lake Tribune. (I learned about it at the PEW forums religion in the news service.) Here are some highlights from the article:

…Now the nearly 14 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is attempting to revolutionize the way Mormons find converts and it’s all online.

This involves experimenting with blogging missionaries, self-produced member profiles and stereotype-bursting videos

…However, the electronic universe also is uncontrollable, an aspect that has traditionally been tough for the hierarchical church but one that organizers readily acknowledge.

…The online missionary effort began in 2001, with the launch of, a site aimed at telling outsiders what Mormons believe.

…Two years ago, the church expanded the site to add a chat function and called its first online-only missionaries,

…The president of the Rochester mission is one of the “Facebook friends,” Wilson said, so he will know what missionaries write.

…the church has rolled out additions to, which currently showcases 15 video portraits and 2,000 written profiles of Mormons across the globe; there are another 75 videos and 13,000 more profiles ready to be posted.

…”We want to show people how Mormons live their faith. We want them to be authentic and transparent. That is the way misperceptions disappear.”

Haemony: The Practice of Religion in Cyberspace (2009)

Last November a YouTube user, Haemony–or as I learned based on the link she provided Tiffany Christian, who is a graduate student in Oregon–posted a series of videos on “The Practice of Religion in Cyberspace.” She described the videos as:

This video log is the culmination of a term-long project for a class of mine at the University of Oregon. My goal with this project was to investigate some of the ways people practice religion (specifically, neo-paganism) in cyberspace in order to assess the “artificiality” of the spirituality.

My opinions here are my own, created by my own research and aided by various published scholars. I do not claim to speak for the entire neo-pagan community.
Berger, Helen A., and Douglas Ezzy. “The Internet as Virtual Spiritual Community: Teen Witches in the United States and Australia.” Religion Online: Finding Faith on the Internet. Ed. Lorne L. Dawson and Douglas E. Cowan. New York: Routledge, 2004. 175-88. Print.
OLeary, Stephen D. “Cyberspace as Sacred Space: Communicating Religion on Computer Networks.” Religion Online: Finding Faith on the Internet. Ed. Lorne L. Dawson and Douglas E. Cowan. New York: Routledge, 2004. 37-58. Print.

Here are the three videos:

In this segment she explores the value of text-based ritual over image-based ritual.


As I am collecting scholarly articles on the topic of online religion to read I realize that I will need a system to organize them. For now I created a simple spreadsheet on Google Docs. Right now I have 53 articles listed in them. My plan is that I will read one by one the 41 that is available to me and post my reactions, observation about each. I will probably keep adding articles to the list though. For now I am quite omnivorous and want to read everything I can find on the topic. Later I might narrow my appetite.

A note on the Google Docs version. The document has many columns such as title, authors, publication date, source, URL, availability, my blog URL (if it exists) date added to the spreadsheet and abstract. In the version I am working on it is is easy to sort by any of these. However others could sort it only if I share it with the whole world, but that would mean anyone could edit it. I am not ready for that. Instead I published it as a webpage and also made the CSV version available. If you download this latter and open it with your spreadsheet software that you can sort it anyway you want. At a (much) later point when I create a website dedicated to this topic there will be a simple webpage version of the list that anyone would be able to sort without having to download a file.

Finally, in order that I could find the list fast I added it as a webpage to this site. At the top of the page, right at the About: button from now on you will see a link to the page. I hope eventually it can be useful for others. For now it only has the most recent articles and some of the classics.

Campbell’s iPhone4 as religion

Heidi Campbell posted a new entry on her blog in which she points out that The Atlantic has a piece in which an article is quoted that she co-authored. The article, written with Antonio C. La Pastina, appeared in the June issue of New Media and Society:

How the iPhone Became Divine: New Media, Religion and the Intertextual Circulation of Meaning

This article explores the labeling of the iPhone as the ‘Jesus phone’ in order to demonstrate how religious metaphors and myth can be appropriated into popular discourse and shape the reception of a technology. We consider the intertextual nature of the relationship between religious language, imagery and technology and demonstrate how this creates a unique interaction between technology fans and bloggers, news media and even corporate advertising. Our analysis of the ‘Jesus phone’ clarifies how different groups may appropriate the language and imagery of another to communicate very different meanings and intentions. Intertextuality serves as a framework to unpack the deployment of religion to frame technology and meanings communicated. We also reflect on how religious language may communicate both positive and negative aspects of a technology and instigate an unintentional trajectory in popular discourse as it is employed by different audiences, both online and offline.