"Social networking" websites like Facebook are now being used regularly by hundreds of millions of people around the world to connect with each other. "Social commerce" web sites like Groupon have now emerged connecting consumers with local stores and national supply chains. What else is out there? Take note of the growing number of "social religion" networking sites.
As people meet and start to get to know each other in more depth, the conversation always seems to finally get around to one's values and beliefs. People will start to cautiously open up and carefully talk about their beliefs, their fears, religious affiliations, heaven hell, and their conceptual understanding of God – or their lack of understanding or belief. What we're now starting to see is these same conversations and sharing about one's religion and beliefs moving onto the web into "social religion" web sites.
Some of the key features these "social religion" web sites generally include the ability to:
· Join online user groups or communities that share common beliefs or religious affiliations;
· Create personal profiles and share selected information and opinions about one's religious beliefs with 'friends';
· Upload pictures or 'streaming' webinars or videos on a wide range of religious topics;
· Hold online discussions about a wide range of religious beliefs and issues in public forums;
· Share information about favorite religious organizations, activities, churches, pastors, speakers, web sites, educational materials, software tools, and much more.
The following are just a few examples of the many "social religion" web sites that have already emerged to meet a wide variety of needs of people from various faiths in this country and round the world.
- iChristianLife – is a social networking site established in collaboration with Global Media Outreach (GMO) to reach out to the global community of new or potential Christian believers.
- Northland Church – a 'distributed' Christian church web site providing a wide range of social networking capabilities and tools for its members to share information, access education and training materials, and reach out to new and potential believers everywhere.
- HisHolyPlace – a moderated social networking site for Christian believers to join.
- MuslimSocial – a social networking site connecting Muslims, allowing them to share beliefs, ideas, post blogs, and more.
- HolyPal – a Christian social networking site where people appear free to express their differences of opinion about religious beliefs and practices.
The value of religious social networking sites has not yet been carefully studied or clearly understood. However, "social religion" web sites and networks have the potential to radically redefine relationships and generate a fundamental shift away from the traditional flow of reaching out and sharing one's beliefs and faith with others. One thing we can be sure of, social religion web sites will continue to evolve and many traditional religious organizations will start to establish these type of sites - both for internal use by their members and to reach out externally to others in local and global communities.
Are you using a "social religion" networking web site? Do you have a favorite one? Tell us about your experience - what you like, or don't like, about these sites.