Internet´s Feel-Good Spirituality

"Halfway Between Video Game and Popular Piety"

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ROME, JULY 10, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Internet users can find a lot about God in cyberspace -- not all of it authentic, warns a Jesuit review.



The spiritual dimension on Internet is a "challenge to be taken up with optimism and discernment," says the Italian review Civiltà Cattolica.

At the same time, the publication points out that some sites face the danger of becoming "supermarkets" of faith, and criticizes "religious kitsch" and "self-service of the soul."

The review, which has just activated its own site on Internet http://www.laciviltacattolica.it/ published a lengthy article by Father Antonio Spadaro on "God in the Net, Forms of the Religious on Internet."

The approach to the cyber-phenomenon is positive because, as the review states, "the Net is a place of discernment and mission; to evade it would be to default in commitment to an important challenge."

Civiltà Cattolica also warns against the dangers.

"Precisely thanks to the fact the Net is able to contain everything, it can easily be compared to a sort of great supermarket of things religious (hence, a market with all the consequences of an economic nature: promotion and sale of objects, diets, worship services, music, cheap goods, pictures, advice and tricks of various sorts), in which it is possible to find every type of religious ´product´ with great ease."

That means everyone can get what he wants on the Net, the article says, and "the first need seems to be spiritual well-being, beyond questions of values and the profound meaning of life."

Perhaps even religious sites, "which are related to valuable, more solid, spiritual traditions, seem to be contaminated by the logic of spiritual well-being," the review states. "[One] can come across sites with friendly little angels, little mellifluous pictures and lights, little stars, light music and such things."

Father Spadaro continues: "Religious kitsch talks about the need for intimacy, a halfway consolation between video game and popular piety," and one "sees a reappraisal of the reality of ´apparitions´ as being within a hand´s reach," giving the illusion that the sacred is at the ´disposition´ of the ´consumer´ at a moment´s need."

"However, Christianity is never a ´consumer of religious services,´" states Father Spadaro. "[It] is aware that it is the bearer of a message, of the death and resurrection of Christ, resistant to assimilation and the ´scandalous.´ Therefore, the Christian presence must stress that the word of the Gospel burns, it does not simply help us ´to feel good´; on the contrary, it can create a serious crisis of conscience, in other words, ´make us feel bad.´"