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Our local newspaper, usually not interested in religion, last week printed an article by Aleks Krotoski about the effect of the internet on religion. This included (with my emphasis):

Online, contrary to Nietzsche’s allegation, God is most certainly not dead. The web is littered with sacred spaces and, if anything, He (or She or It) is released from traditional doctrine to become everything to everybody…

The importance of the web in everyday life means religious organisations must migrate their churches and temples to virtual real estate in order to stay relevant and to be where the people are. Religious leaders have websites, blogs and Twitter feeds, there are email prayer lines and online confessionals, social networks for yogis and apps that call the faithful to prayer. “Being web-savvy should be a required skill for religious leaders in general,” says Sister Catherine Wybourne, prioress of the Holy Trinity Monastery in Oxfordshire, and @Digitalnun on Twitter…

There’s another potentially destabilising force at work: what has traditionally been behind closed doors in ecclesiastical councils is now online, challenging the control leaders once had over doctrine and their flocks. Just as the Reformation was ushered in by the printing press in the 16th century, allowing people to access the texts for themselves and distribute their interpretations widely, the web has helped proliferate different interpretations and articulations of religions and we have witnessed the emergence of new communities and faiths. Individuals now have a much more autonomous role in deciding whom to approach as a source. “Those people may have official, traditional credentials or they may be Rabbi Google,” says Campbell.

“Religious leaders will have to get used to the idea of being more accountable and transparent in their dealings and of having to engage, on equal terms, with those who stand outside the traditional hierarchies,” says Wybourne.

Here is Aleks Krotoski’s interview of Sister Catherine Wybourne (@Digitalnun) prioress of the Benedictine Nuns of Holy Trinity Monastery, a community in Oxfordshire with an online presence that includes online retreats, blogs and virtual prayers.

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