Worshiping at the Church of The World Wide Web

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My mother was Irish-Catholic. She went to a Catholic school run by nuns and got her knuckles rapped with a ruler by the Sisters on a regular basis. Every day before classes started there was a full mass. She literally attended church seven days a week. As a kid, until I went away to college she took me to church every weekend.

Fast forward to today. Instead of church every morning, kids go to their phones every morning to see what happened in ‘their world’ overnight. My mother could quote passages from the bible. My kids can quote videos from YouTube. When my mother was a kid the Ten Commandments told you what you did wrong. Today the internet told me I wrote YouTube wrong because I didn’t capitalize the T.

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Once, somewhere on the internet, I read a meme that said, “Why don’t churches have wi-fi? Because they don’t want to compete with an invisible power that actually does something.” Aaah, very funny, but what does the invisible power that is the internet actually do? Once recently I was trying to craft a Caitlyn Jenner joke for #ThePhilFactor, not at the expense of or making fun of Caitlyn Jenner, but a joke that would get a laugh just because I worked in the current media frenzy flavor of the day. I swear it was not at all offensive, but my son immediately said, “Dad, you can’t make fun of Caitlyn Jenner.” I contend that twenty years ago any seventeen year old boy in the world would have made a crude joke or expressed some other insensitive sentiment. I believe because the internet has made everything in the world accessible and understandable my son is tolerant and understanding of not just other lifestyles than his own, but other religions as well.

On the world wide web some people worship traditional religion in new ways and some people choose to worship themselves in ways that weren’t possible two decades ago. Religions are often known for prophecies, predictions of what will happen. In 1968 artist Andy Warhol said, “In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.” Thanks to the internet that prediction has come to pass. Andy Warhol may have been a weird artsy type, but seriously, can you think of any religious prophecy that was ever that accurate?

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The constant selfies, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Instagram, look at me, look at me culture of the internet has created a virtual church where we all worship ourselves. On the surface most people will decry that as blatant unhealthy narcissism. Religions ask you to worship their God and ask at the same time that you be the best you that you can be. The internet doesn’t ask you to worship anything, but often people on the internet do. If a selfie is a cry for attention and someone who needs attention to feel good gets that attention, isn’t that good? In the past when anxious, sad or different people sat alone in their rooms, or as the jokes go, in their mom’s basement, they felt alone. Now they can reach out to the whole wide world from their room and get positive affirmation, confidence, and find others just like them with the same interests.

I don’t believe that the internet has replaced traditional religions. I believe that the two can co-exist. I also believe that the internet has become the church of the world, and that’s not a bad thing. Some will say that the internet gives people access to all sorts of bad influence and information. To that I say, haven’t more wars been started in the name of religion than anything else? The internet is neither good nor evil. It’s a tool and people can choose how they use it. If I have a hammer, I can choose to pound enough nails in enough boards to build a church, or I can hit someone in the head with it and kill them.

Sorry that I was all out of funny today. What started me on this line of thought was that yesterday I spent a large portion of my day making sure my family was well connected to the world wide web and it occurred to me that this weird, invisible entity that didn’t exist for most of us twenty years ago is now very important to us. If you have thoughts on the subject I’d love to hear them in the comments. Have a great weekend! ~Phil

17 responses to “Worshiping at the Church of The World Wide Web

  1. Phil, I like that you feel that the Internet has made your son more accepting, Phil. I hope seeing how hatred affects people by seeing faces on cell phones and all does work it’s magic.
    When I was a teen, my parents thought by watching Viet Nam and Civil Rights marches would help us to hate war and see suffering. Unfortunately, there are people who still hate, burn churches and act bigoted. My Dad, all loving saints and God probably weep in heaven. (No, I am not a “holy roller!” 🙂

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  2. Very perceptive. I agree that your son is showing unusual [from my ancient perspective] kindness in regard to Caitlyn. Times are different in so many positive ways– and you’ve nailed it: this is a result of having instant access to the www. Which, if I’m not mistaken, religion is using more and more often to connect with the flocks.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Awesome post – you’re absolutely spot on! The church of narcissism – love the idea!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Enjoyable and thought provoking read. Oh and the Caitlyn Jenner question? She more than most understands the battles between man and woman. She’s been both.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Phil, I think I like your more serious side just as much as I like your funnies and more informative posts. These thoughts of yours mirror alot of what I think….I can see both good and bad in the internet….I’m still not entirely comfortable with my teen having free reign over all he does on the internet and I do still try and keep a pretty close eye on things there. That said, it seems to me each day the internet creeps just a little bit more into our daily existence…each day there’s a little more dependence or another reason why we head to it……I guess we’re not totally sunk in yet, but definitely our relationship to the internet is an evergrowing thing!

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  6. Instead of going out to church
    Why not just do an internet search
    It’d save us all a lot of time
    If we could all worship online.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A lot of folks find it very hard to understand if you don’t want your face on the Internet. I’ve had to ask several people to remove photos, and once even a video of me on You Tube! Privacy seems an alien concept in all this.
    I completely agree about youngsters being more tolerant. My teenage daughter won’t have any hint of judgemental comments – even remarks which are clearly jokey. There was a programme on TV recently called “Acceptable in the 70s”. It was shocking how commonplace sexism and just sheer wrongness was! But we all survived and can (mostly) adapt to this modern world.

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  8. Ok, as a Christian I thought I should find this a little offensive, but I think it makes sense. I still don’t think of the internet as a religion, but I see your point. I guess to me it’s more like, we don’t (all) worship chocolate, but it makes many, many people feel good when they eat it. We don’t (all) worship language, but without it, we’d have trouble.

    And yet, we treat the internet as a tool we could not live without nowadays. It is the air we breathe, I know I feel agitated when I’m away from it too long, which is probably a bad thing, but considering it’s usually the only time I get any sort of social interaction besides getting yelled at by my family (I know, at least I have a family to yell at me) I am sort of attached to it. In fact, for years it was the ONLY way I communicated with non-relative humans, besides maybe my doctor and a very small handful of other people. So yeah, I’m quite grateful to be living in a time when the internet is available for me.

    But back to the language comparison. We don’t typically worship language itself, but we do use it daily, and would be pretty lost without it. The internet is the best thing since the written language I guess. Still, I don’t feel I worship it. I’m lost-ish without it, yes, but I’m lost without language too.

    But, like how we tend to view religions, the internet does influence our daily actions, motivations, thoughts, etc. Again, I view it as a tool, but I still see the similarities.

    I know you said the internet lets us focus on ourselves a lot, but I think that’s just a mask we wear. I think what we really want from the internet is a connection to other people. When we say, “Hey, look at me!” we’re not posting it for our eyes only, we want others to look. It may be that we want their attention on us, but the fact remains that we want the attention of others, not ourselves. We want to interact, and we are using our images, words, and whatever else of ours to get that attention from others. True, sometimes it doesn’t matter who the other people are so much, but we still aren’t doing it just for ourselves, we want others’ approval.

    Ideas, funny pictures, online courses, music videos, animal gifs, whatever, are all from other humans, and they make us feel understood in some way. That’s what we’re really doing online, trying to form a connection. The internet is our “safe” tool to do so, because we can walk away if we feel judged online, and just go somewhere else. But you can’t just skip town if your classmate or coworker judges you.

    Sorry this is so long. I’ll be quiet now. I just don’t see this as a religion, although I do indeed see similarities.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I see both sides. I think that if a child has great parenting, and limited/supervised internet access while too young, then the internet is exactly as you say. Children learn more and can be more tolerant of others. I am not surprised your son shows the good side of parenting and the internet, Phil.

    But if the good modeling or high expectations or supervision are absent, bad practices spread poison more effectively than pre-internet: Racism, sexism, hatreds and isms of all sorts. I think ageism is more open, unashamed, and common since the internet. The same younger online folk, female and male, who decry sexism, and who are proud of how open-minded they are about homosexual and bi- and trans-gendered folks, and people of all shades, and all faiths–supposedly–will turn around and use “retard” as an insult, and make disparaging comments about how ugly or stupid anyone over a certain age is–particularly females, I’ve noticed–and make anti-Christian comments.

    There is a broader youth culture that is spread and shared rapidly online and more resistant to change, I think, than the pre-internet one was. Much is good, but much not. The biggest ill is the vicious anti-female imagery, pornography of a style that debases women, and verbal abuse.

    The internet is NOT a “safe” tool for most females, Phil. I am older and toughened, and have had no problem evaporating irritating little trolls, but were I my 14-year-old self, I would have backed off from even the mild–an entirely unprovoked, except by my gender–insults I have received.

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