64% of Internet Users Go On-line for Religious Purpose

( [email protected] ) Apr 09, 2004 02:42 PM EDT

Through out this week, Christians have been keeping themselves busy preparing for Easter and according to a new survey, it was revealed that millions of Christians are using internet to plan for Easter.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project conducted a survey, which reveled that 82 million Americans use internet for religious or spiritual purposes. Amazingly, the number is 64 percent of the 128 million Internet users in the United States.

The survey also found that:

• 38 percent have sent and received e-mail with spiritual content.

• 35 percent have sent or received online greeting cards related to religious holidays.

• 17 percent have looked for information about where to attend religious services.

• 11 percent have downloaded or listened to religious music online.

``The Internet and religion are contradictory,'' said Stewart Hoover, a journalism professor at the University of Colorado and co-author of the survey, ``The Internet is technical, commercial, rational, demands conscious attention and its entertainments are thought to be violent and materialistic. Religion is thought to be the opposite: emotional, spiritual, authentic, deeply meaningful, steeped in values. Religious use of the Internet, such as we've seen here, crosses such boundaries.''

The survey also found that people use internet to grow more in faith they already believe in rather than to seek for a new religion.

``The early expectation was that the Internet would be used in anti-institutional ways,'' said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Project. ``While there's some of that going on, it's much more the case that devout people who are happy with the traditional church experience are using the Internet to augment it.''

The popularity of these types of activities means that people are using the Internet for ``personal religious'' activities, Hoover says, which could change the nature of institutional American religion.

Hoover also expects that many churches will benefit through online recruiting and evangelism if they set up good online system where people are allowed to interact with one another through their websites.

``You direct your own course through the Web, unlike reading a book, watching films or going to church. On the Web, you set your own agenda,'' Hoover said. ``Churches are going to have to adjust to that.''

Christian college students are also actively engaged in practicing spirituality through internet. Scotty McLennan, dean for religious life at Stanford University, said that most of the 30 denominations on campus use internet to exchange e-mail about religious events, post wedding guidelines and church activities, surf the Web for Bible commentaries, and so on.

``Since we're becoming a very Internet- and computer-literate society, and religion is important to many people, it's not surprising they'll use the Internet to pursue their religious interests,'' McLennan said.