Are Americans finding God in cyberspace?

A survey shows that millions are using the Internet for religious purposes.

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Will the church of the future be on line?

We seem to be heading that way, says think-tank president Ron Sellers who points to recent findings that among American adults who use the Internet, 44 percent use it for religious purposes. 

“This is particularly common among younger Americans,” says Sellers, who heads up Grey Matter Research in Phoenix, Ariz. ”There is tremendous diversity in how the Internet is used for spiritual purposes, including interacting with religious leaders on social media, visiting church websites, going online for religious instruction, reading religious blogs, and numerous other methods.”

And that bothers Rector David Grant Smith of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in New York.

“I have to believe that people can sincerely experience God in just about any setting,” Smith recently told the Voice of America’s Religion Project. “But I do worry about the online experience cheapening our human connections.”

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“Smith is used to helping people along the sometimes bumpy path of belief. With a membership of around 110, Smith has the luxury of genuinely getting to know his parishioners – their experiences, hopes and battles,” notes the VOA report. ”The Internet, he says, has become a forum for spiritual exploration:

And thanks to numerous search engines, people are able to type in a few words that deal with spirituality or religion, and then they have at their fingertips a globe of information on that one topic. For someone who loves information overload, it’s heaven. For somebody who really has a hard time parsing through large volumes or possibilities, it could be a patch of hell.

Associate professor of religion at Ithaca College Rachel Wagner calls that experience of having the world at your keyboard fingertips “a taste of infinity” – an experience that the told VOA comes as close as humans have ever gotten to omniscience:

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