CHAPTER ONE Introduction Religion in Cyberspace August E. Grant and Daniel A. Stout Yashir is working at his home desk Saturday afternoon when his smartphone issues a special chime. He quickly closes his laptop and opens his mat on the floor so that he is facing Ka’ba. He does not need the phone’s reminder of what direction to face—that direction is an established habit by now. At the same time, Mary is using her laptop to connect to the video stream from her best friend’s wedding. Her broken leg has kept her from flying the 1,500 miles to attend it, but her video connection lets her celebrate along with everyone who is there in person. Halfway around the world, Sangjae is trying to make reference to a scrip- tural passage but can’t remember the exact words. He is saved by a student who starts reading the passage from his e-reader. These three examples may seem minor in the lives of those concerned, but together, they illustrate the wave of technology that is becoming part of the practice of religion in almost every faith. Houses of worship are wired for sound, sometimes with proprietary audio and video systems. Worshippers look up references on mobile devices while listening to faith leaders, and sometimes they share what they are hearing on social media. Faith practi- tioners are linked to each other through the Internet, praying, socializing, and offering solace as easily if they were all in the same room. The purpose of this book is to explore the impact of communication tech- nology upon the major religions of the world, with emphasis on the role of the Internet, television, computers, and smartphones. Occasionally, other
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