The Internet, Community and Religion
Internet, as stated by Hine (2013), is a worldwide medium of information transfer that aids in time saving since the duration taken to convey a message from one joint to the other is relatively short. With the fast globalization that is taking place, people can conveniently link with their friends and relatives across the world without spending money on transport related costs. For this medium to function, there are various resources that combine to execute the communication. They include computers, network, the end users (human beings) among others. In the modern day, internet has gained popularity in various sectors dominating the communication industry due to its efficiency and reliability.
Today, most religions have resolved and embraced the use of the internet as a way of reaching out to many believers across the globe irrespective of their geographical locations and this has greatly promoted the convenience of receiving religious teachings as observed by Cox and Ikeda (2009). Additionally, the embrace of the use of the internet has resulted to major cultural changes due to the adoption of new ways of life.
However, van Eeten and Bauer (2009) noted that there are some challenges and implications of using the internet. This article will critically analyze the effects of internet-mediated activities of information communication to the general community and people’s faith/religion (both negative and positive) and suggest the possible remedy for the same challenges, especially the cyber crimes as observed by Sen Gupta (2013).
Internet and The Community
According to Shu and Chuang (2011), globalization has resulted to the vast use of the internet and this has resulted the world becoming like a small village and as a result, major changes in the different community set up has been experienced. First, individuals in communities that have embraced the use of the internet are well equipped with knowledge, which enables them to be up to date with the happenings around the world.
This has enabled them to develop socially by allowing them to abandon cultures and practices that are harmful such as female genital mutilation and embrace practices that are beneficial to the community and results to peace and cohesion as noted by Tsatsou (2011). The use of internet also promotes the economic standards by creating new business ideas and creates new job opportunities for the majority of the populations. In addition, people’s unique ways of life and ways of living has been appreciated in the different parts of the world through accessing information in the internet.
On the other hand, (Almeida et al, 2015) noted that the use of internet has been blamed for the accessibility of vast raw information by people and especially the young generation, which has resulted to erosion of culture in communities and abandonment of ways of life that had been treasured and was considered part of the community. This has also been associated with the increased crimes including cyber crimes, money laundering and terrorism among the populations of the world as observed by (Awan and Blakemore 2011, Fomenko (2015).
The Internet and Religion
As mentioned in the introduction part, Fink (2011) noted that internet has a number of benefits to the religion fraternity in the entire world although the different religion have embraced this technology at varying levels with the Christians being the most users of this medium as a domain of accessing God.
Through this online medium, Campbell (2012) observed that people of the same religion can easily keep in touch and worship together always even if they stay in different locations in the world. Since majority of the religions believe that geographical setting is not a limit to serving God the hand has serves as a major bridge that fills the gap between distance and convenience of performing their duties.
As a result, the internet has made it a reliable for religions to maintaining its followers throughout since they are influenced to participate in the service from anywhere without necessarily having to physically meet as also noted by B. Sriram (2015). In Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet, the experiment carried out on the online church proved that many people enjoyed attending a church service online since the actively participated throughout the service as compared to the physical church attendance as also noted by Wei and Blake (2010).
Internet also caters for the constantly growing human population by enhancing sermon delivery since people are not required to scramble for strategic sitting positions in a church building for them to receive the sermon of the day due to large magnitude of individuals attending the service and lack of proper sound systems to relay the information to everybody. With the use of internet, people can follow the service at the comfort of their houses thus pulling more people closer to God.
Clergies can also prepare for the service easily since nowadays the digital versions of the Bible and other related materials are easily accessible through the internet as observed by Jacobs (2007). This reduces the heavy task of browsing through the Bible pages manually to locate a certain verse and saves on the time of preparation making it easier to convey rich messages to the believers.
Pastors can also benchmark what their fellow preachers are doing across the world hence improving on the standards of message delivery and fostering cohesion among the church fraternity since the internet is a public domain and (Ziegeldorf et al, 2013) notes that privacy is not a priority. It also encourages exchange programmes among preachers through frequent crusades and revivals to strengthen the bonds between the participating countries. By services being conducted online, people are able to appreciate diversity of religions hence promoting harmony, peace and unity among members of a given society as stated by van der Laan (2009).
People experience their daily life in a more peaceful way as compared to the traditional days where religion wars were rampant due to misunderstanding among individuals and lack of knowledge about diversity of religions and freedom of worship, noted Heidi (2012). The adoption of internet use has enhanced awareness in people’s perception of Christianity as well as how to live with people of different opinion in the society.
The use of internet has enhanced technological adoption process since members of a given church can browse for modern instruments, infrastructural designs among others in order to attract more audience as it is the norm with human beings who prefer relevant technology in line with the period of existence. It also maintains relevance with the drastically changing social behavior and the generation gaps between the technologically updated age and the old age with relied most on the analogue approach of operating.
As much as internet has resulted to major contributions in religion today, McDonnell (2010) observed that there are numerous challenges associated with its use and especially in congregational set up. First, members can easily be tempted to divert their attention during the service to different things on the internet. The most common challenge is the issue of concentration and socialization commonly among the youths who use online platforms such as face book, twitter, Skype among others to link with their friends and discuss non-church related issues hence making the intended purpose irrelevant as stated by Näsi and Koivusilta (2013).
According to religious fundamentalists, Marty and Appleby (2004) view modernity, which is characterized by change in technology, as a concept that is heretic, which is a reaction to the modernity as noted. Additionally, the use of internet gives members freedom to access limitless sites including secular platforms which erodes the community’s cultures and religious values as stated by (Dror, 2003, as cited by Barzilai-nahonk and Barzilai, 2004) ). This is because the community has no efficient control over what an individual can access and what not to access making internet the source of challenges to religious growth.
According to (Bays et al 2015), for some of the conservative religions, the use of internet is prohibited as a countermeasure mechanism since it is believed that the believer can easily access other religious information and this may result to the conversion of that particular individual. As a result, anyone who violates this rule is excommunicated from the congregation and has to face the consequences.
Due to some of these strict rules combined with the communities cultures, Nie (2013) notes that some populations have stagnated in their situations for ages and with no hope of rising above these challenges and situations any time soon unless they embrace the change that is in their midst. When new changes are embraced and used, it in-turn trigger the mindsets of the people and result to their attitude change and consequently embrace of new ways of life.
For any community to realize growth and development amongst them they should embrace the new technologies that are coming up. Since majority of the technologies that are evolving come with up with a number of benefits as well as challenges, both the communities and the religious groups should be open enough to embrace the benefits that it brings with it and formulate ways of dealing with the challenge as noted by Newman (2010). Vacca (2013) suggested need of being careful with security issues when using the internet to avoid unnecessary shortcomings associated with the internet. It is only through this way that development can be realized and challenges mitigated.
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