Electric Religion: Faiths Embrace Digital Frontier

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By Antony Brennan
(for ISKCON News)

Although multimedia and the Internet are no longer new to preachers, the continued development and increased availability of digital communications is giving rise to a new surge in electronic religion.

The rise of digital computing and the Internet have afforded the preacher remarkable new opportunities to communicate with seekers and devotees alike. In his book on the subject “Ten Strategies for Preaching in a Multi Media Culture,” Thomas H. Troeger surveys how evolving forms of communications over the centuries have shaped the way that the preacher is able to present the message.

Troeger provides an analysis of strategies for getting your message across in an age of mass media and computerisation. He maintains that preachers need to learn how to deliver their messages with content and substance in an age when the medium has gone digital.

The technologies growing up around the digital media quickly become enablers for increasingly effective communications. There are web sites that allow people with a digital camera and a computer to stream lectures live across the world. There are hand held devices that let you watch and hear these web casts wherever you are. Some of the technologies allow you to observe and participate in activities and programs in temples all over the world.

As reported online at Telegraph.co.uk, the Reverend Leonard Payne, vicar of a remote parish in Suffolk, has been overwhelmed by the response after he posted some of his homilies on the Apple iTunes store. “We were stunned. Within a short period of time, over 2,400 people had downloaded one of the sermons.”

The web site Krishna.com attracted more than 130,000 visits in the last month. At the time of writing the most viewed article in the last seven days on Dandavats.com had received 38,918 views. When His Grace Hridayanda Goswami in the U.S. gives a live video lecture to devotees watching on the Internet in Sydney, Australia the capacity for other people to watch and participate at the same time, anywhere Internet access is available, is potentially unlimited.

There are thousands of web sites all over the Internet that host Krishna Conscious pictures, videos and audio files for viewing and downloading. These sites are maintained by devotees and contain darshan, talks, lectures, kirtans, bhajans, discussions, debates, opinions and all manner of communication amongst seekers and believers from almost every country imaginable.

On his website, Internet blogger Greg Kendra mentions a survey last year by the Pew Internet & American Life Project which found that more people used the Internet to look for religious and spiritual information than to download music, participate in online auctions or visit adult websites. The study indicated that last year about 28 million people found religious or spiritual information online.

Kendra also mentions a list updated recently by the podcast directory Podcast Alley showing that podcasts in the ‘religion and spirituality’ category are the fourth highest among 21 categories, more than in sports, news and politics.

It is not surprising that in a message delivered at a recent Vatican synod, Catholic bishops have declared they want the word of God to be heard through iPods. They said the printed text was no longer sufficient when communication had been transformed by technology.

The bishop’s message, as reported in an ’The Age’ Australian newspaper, said the voice of the divine word must also resonate over the radio, internet channels with virtual online distribution, CDs, DVDs and iPod.

The field of preaching is being radically transformed as the pace of development in digital media increases. The Internet population continues to increase and preachers in many religious traditions are entering the field of digital communications. Those who first come to terms with the digital wave will have access to more spiritual seekers than any ever before possible.

Religion, whilst transcendental and ecstatic, has now also become electric.

Read more here at ISKCON News

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