Driving past a tall-steeple church the other night, Inoticed something new on its roadside sign. There,just below the fancy writing announcing thecongregation's name, was a website address. It was the first time I'd seena website address painted--permanent and official--on a churchsign. "There's a gutsy group," I thought.

Why? Because the Internet will ultimately destroyorganized religion as we know it, and in its wakewill take down whole city blocks of such tall-steeplechurches. To which I say, "Bring it on."

The Internet is empowering people to spread their beliefs, tomeet other like-minded folks, to feed their curiosityabout new faiths, even to pray and worship--allwithout the blessing of religious leaders orthe confinement of brick buildings. We are seeing aradical democratization of religion leading to a new Reformation.

Don't like what the Pope has to say about women aspriests?

Want to link youngHindus trying to create an American faith unfettered by the constraints ofancient Hinduism?

Need a place for questioning Christians to hash out their concerns without the embarrassment of disagreeing withchurch doctrine?

Want to brush up on yourTorah knowledge, but dislike your rabbi's take on the subject?

Now you have the Internet.

At the moment, the Chinese government appears to be winning its waragainst the Buddhist group Falun Gong,after some of that group's leaders were jailed thisweek. That won't last. Falun Gong's teachings are allover the Internet. People worldwide are trying them out, and peoplein China will find them too.

Meanwhile, the Internet will force organized religion into becoming morecaptivating,lest it lose audience to the web. Once people getinside churches, synagogues and temples, they'll haveto find inspiring sermons, gorgeous music and engagingdiscussion--because if they don't, people will surelyfind it on the Internet.

This competitive pressure will energize traditional religion. Would youkeep shopping at your local mall if it were the same boring collection ofstores you've been looking at for 20 years? Nope. You'd be buying a lot morestuff on the Internet. Store owners are quickly realizing they have tocompete--and to do that, they must present us with shopping "experiences." Thus, the entertainment and dining complexes, the strobe lights, the coffee bars in book stores-even, at my local mall, simulated stock car racing.

"Humbug," you say. "Religion is about eternal things. It shouldn't beconstantly subject to redefinition and catering to the latest fashions."

But that ignores history and how much of what we think of as traditionactually started as a new effort to captivate the masses. Protestantreformers used the melodies of popular drinking tunes to craft new hymns.The cathedrals of Europe, the magisterial temples ofAngkor in Cambodia, and the Ka'ba in Mecca were all built as innovative waysto glorify God.

I love the Internet. I love thevirtual tours of sacred places. I love the theologicalquests and the online prayer requests. I love thesnippy websites trashing everyone from Jerry Falwellto the Pope to the Dalai Lama.

I love it that the authority--and let's face it, muchof it has been autocratic, self-satisfied and pious--is breaking down.

On the Internet, we will feed our curiosity. We will cometo know each other. We willpray together, maybe stop fighting every once in awhile and learn from each other.

We will hear and see broader, richer religious offerings thanwere ever before possible. Our curiosity will make us go deeper, with othersand within ourselves.

We will become more spiritual, not less.

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