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The Internet as Distributor and Mirror of Religious and Ritual Knowledge

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Since the early 1990s, religious movements appeared on the Internet and introduced new forms of communication in ritual and dogma. Their Internet sites present different dogmatic, institutional, and other aspects of their religion; provide interactive communications and religious services; or simply sell religious items. This paper puts forth the argument that the gaining of ritual and dogmatic knowledge is losing its dependence on direct social interaction in a spatial community, and increasingly relies on Internet-based discourse in religious newsgroups and other discussion forums. Nevertheless, for migrant communities in the diaspora (Zoroastrians, Hindus, and adherents of Afro-American religions), the Internet appears to be offering a new opportunity for re-establishing the spatial bonds of the lost religious community. In other cases such as that of the Wicca religion, this greater independence of traditional religious and social hierarchies encourages the development of fragmentary and syncretic forms of religion.


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