Religion 2.0: Dialogue for the Masses

July 25, 2008

Author: Jude Townend

Source: Daily News Egypt

Interfaith dialogue is nothing new, but new technology is changing the way it's done. Before, the average Muslim Pakistani might never have crossed paths with a Jewish Israeli; a Nepali Buddhist might never dialogue with a Christian American. On the World Wide Web, however, social interactions that before were limited are now commonplace. It's like internet dating for the world religions.

Religious communities have been testing the online waters gradually, having already created e-church services, places of worship built in the virtual world Second Life and countless social networking groups dedicated to promoting beliefs. Clergy have also learned to use the web to amplify their messages — Sunday sermons are now a mouse-click away from being downloaded onto an iPod. But these ventures limit religious dialogue to one's own community, and highlight doctrinal differences rather than interfaith co-operation.

However, over the last few years, the internet has undergone a transformation from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0. Whereas the former model consolidated publishing power in the hands of a few editors, Web 2.0 has empowered bloggers to directly publish their own content and online users to start their own conversations. This evolution from top-down communication to people-to-people interaction has implications for the interfaith community as well.