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Public Version of REL 161 Religion in the New Media

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Religion in New Media

Religion in New Media shows up in at least three different ways: Direct, Indirect, and Ritualistic forms.
This page draws on concepts from including the concept of religio.

Direct forms of Religion in New Media:

Direct forms can be “missionary:” this is where a religious community uses new media for its own purposes of spreading its message (think something like , or ; building community with its adherents (think a Facebook or Twitter group/community, Slack Channel, Bulletin Boards, websites for a specific faith community), and drawing on new media for building practice (this of something like or the “” Podcast).
Direct forms can also be representative: taking place when there are shows or new media representing religious groups (regardless of whether these representations are accurate or not) that are not made explicitly by those religious groups. In some recognizable way it still has still direct religious references and overtones. Something like the second season of the TV show Fleabag, the movie Calvary, or the play the Book of Mormon are all examples.

Indirect Forms of Religion in New Media:

Indirect forms are secular expressions of religious-like themes, topics, morality, ethics, etc. Here is where we see religio at work outside of designated “religious communities.” Religio is about attitudes, beliefs, and practices that bind people together - what in a show, an app, a text do we see binding people together that is not explicitly religious? The Apple TV show is one of the examples we used in class to talk about a show that deals with themes like this but is not religious.

Ritualistic Forms of Religion in New Media:

“I’d rather have a website than a meeting house.” Quaker Minister Peggy Morrison

“The Medium is the message.” - Marshall McLuhan
Under the ritualistic form of is not just the message, it becomes the practice, the liturgy, the tool, or extension of yourself, your community. There is a blurring of lines between the technology and humanity. Apps on our phones and computers now come with their own “communities,” discord servers, Twitter accounts, different levels of “supporters” who pay for the services. Consider apps like ,
, (users of Roam call themselves ). The Ritualist form of points to the explicit , fan communities, fan fiction of whatever New Media is under consideration. Another aspect of this is the ways in which these apps seek to keep your attention on that at all times. “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.” (The Social Dilemma). Or to put it more poignantly, Jaron Lanier says,
“It is the gradual, slight, imperceptible change in your own behavior and perception that is the product.”
This is to see how emerging technologies are engineered to impact and shape human behavior for the profit of large companies.

Places of worship, in particular, have been increasing their usage of forms of new media throughout the pandemic in order to keep membership up. Although the streaming of services did exist before COVID-19, lockdowns forced the popularity by keeping people from practicing their religions in-person at places of worship. However, as the pandemic has begun to relent, many churches and the like have kept their online services because the interactive nature of new media allows them to reach new audiences. Additionally, as more and more places use social media, organized religions are deepening their connections with the younger population.

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