Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | March 1, 2008

Faith 1.8 Beta Release

The Financial Times (“FT” or “The Pink Paper”) has two articles of interest today. Beginning with a free(!) trial subscription some years back, I stayed with it for the international coverage, the writing, the depth and breadth of articles and did I say the writing? FT seems increasingly to have become the paper of record… replacing the one-toned Wall Street Journal.



Here are some clips from the first article is “Faith 2.0″ covering and its impact, but I encourage you to read the whole thing.

“The Pew Internet & American Life Report found that nearly two-thirds of internet users have gone online for religious reasons. “Religion occupies a huge amount of the cyber-landscape,” says Susan Harding, an anthropology professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz. On that landscape, Beliefnet has emerged as a sort of spiritual Wal-Mart, with everything under one roof, and easily accessible.”

“The spiritual landscape is radically different to what it was 20 or 40 years ago,” he says, laying out three key changes that have benefited Beliefnet. The first was a boom in the market for religious media – a trend borne out by a visit to any big book store. The second was a greater willingness among people to change or adjust their religion to something other than what they practised while growing up. The third, and perhaps most dramatic, was demographic. “The main thing driving this spirituality boom is the ageing of the baby boomers. If you plot when people tend in their lifecycle to be most interested in spirituality, it’s a very predictable path,” Waldman says. He sketches a graph on a scrap of paper that shows spirituality increasing on a diagonal slope as people confront illness, the death of parents and – ultimately – their own passing.”

“While religious scholars marvel at the conversations and outpourings the internet enables, some express misgivings. “There is an ideology embedded in this – the idea that we can all get along,” says Mark Silk, a professor of religion at Trinity College, Connecticut, in a tone that makes clear he finds the notion naive.”

“The great religions have tackled great problems and come up with great solutions to them. They’re challenging. They’re hard,” says Boston University’s Stephen Prothero. “The kind of stuff Americans gravitate toward now is not so challenging, not so hard. It aims at things like happiness instead of salvation and enlightenment. In that sense, [Beliefnet is] watered down.

I find this both encouraging and discouraging, but over-all a balanced article. Over-all, I think it suggests the importance of the internet, but also its limitations.

After some heavy sledding, there’s always gotta be a little levity! So the second article is more entertaining. It’s on beards, and written by an Orthodox fellow (Peter Aspden) with a good sense of humor. After some heavy lifting… it’s always worth a little levity. Enjoy.



  1. Wow…interesting article…and I agree with you…on one hand it is encouraging. At least people are logging on for religion. I would have thought religion would be a distant second to porn.

    But the rest of the article was a bit creepy. I suppose some people have to go through various belief things before they ultimately get to Christianity (and if they are diligent…perhaps they’ll find Orthodox Christianity). But my sense of BeliefNet (from reading the article…I don’t go there) is that it lacks substance and, as a result of its religious diversity, is more like trying to grab hold of jello. I guess it feels good but you really can’t eat it that way.

    Then there was that whole boomers are getting old, facing death and finding religion thing. I suppose there is some truth to that. But I still hate boomer generalizations…because they are painful…and I am a boomer…

    Now about those beards…did you grow one? We have a couple of young converts in our parish who latched on to the beard thing. For me it seems a bit obvious…but probably no more obvious than my boomer accoutrements which I did not abandon when I became Orthodox. I mean if we are going to have to stand through all those services…I need my Birkenstocks!!!

  2. No beard. My better half wouldn’t have it. So that’s that! We can only push the envelope so far. And in my household, becoming Orthodox didn’t just push the envelope… it Fedexed it across town… after first sending it around the star system…. if you know what I mean. But I’m coping.

    Yeah, I’m not comfortable with a lot of things in the piece.

    But found the stats on folks going on line looking for spiritual growth actually a good sign… and something that shouldn’t be dismissed.

    Something that is dismissed is the notion that maybe we aren’t going to all become wondrous glowing saints… but preserve the Church’s faith for those that will. Maybe that’s a small ambition and worthy in its own right. Maybe it is enough. At least I think it worked for so many of the Children of Israel before the Nativity! – maybe it can work for us, too.

  3. I loved the article on the beards. A good chuckle and sorely needed. But, forgive me, I particularly laughed at the quip that the envelope was not pushed but fed-exed across the planet! How well I am familiar with that!

    As for, my mother is an avid reader who is constantly forwarding some such drivel from there. I find the “light cream” of sites like difficult to swallow. But I do agree that people are hungry for spiritual food and seek it out. We need to be better prepared to feed them.

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