October 7, 2009

In light of the recent controversy over freedom of religion in Australia, I thought it would be interesting to delve into how religious debates have been played out in the cyber realm.

Some groups have embraced social networking sites as a way to reconnect with a disaffected and secular youth culture.

Take ‘Faithbook for example:

“A new group called Faithbook hope that they can use the social networking site to improve relations between different religious communities.”

“The Faithbook project was created by Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand of the Reform Judaism movement with the aim of promoting debate and constructive dialogue amongst different religions and developing interfaith relations.”

Certainly the opportunity for dialogue between various religious groups and discussion of religious issues is a good thing. Such discussion can increase tolerance and prompt people to reconsider their own views, discarding them in light of new evidence or becoming stronger in their beliefs from reevaluating them. Now that schools and other similar institutions are increasingly become religion-free zones, the internet could be an excellent forum to continue these discussions.

However, in my experience, discussions of a more serious nature on Facebook often disband into petty arguments, chaos and flaming‘.

Perhaps there is a need for greater moderation of internet forums to protect those of any belief from having their views attacked and or ridiculed by users who can hide behind a cloak of anonymity.

Religious leaders, such as Rabbi Dov Greenberg, are skeptical however, about the possibilities of real, constructive religious discussion online:

“Facebook and all electronic communication is less personal, and it is harder to connect,” Greenberg said. “Facebook is a wonderful tool to advertise the events, but it is not the best venue to discuss them.”

Quote Courtesy of ‘”Faith and Facebook: When Social Networking and Spirituality Collide“.