Spirituality and the Internet

Oooh! The allure of the internet and it's endless informations!

I’ve been perusing pagan blogs the past few days, and it’s got me to thinking about the relationship between my spirituality and the internet.

On the one hand, the internet is absolutely essential to my spirituality. Religion is, after all, an exercise in connectedness and the internet helps connect the world in ways that were previously inconceivable. Through the internet, there are people I would consider close personal friends who I have never even met. I am able to maintain friendships with people in other countries it would be too expensive to phone. And I have found my faith.

I am endlessly in awe and inspired by the writings and observations of other spiritual people on the internet. Reading their experiences inspires me to go out and have faith, to remember the beauty that is the gods, to look at them in new ways I had not yet considered. Because of the internet, I have been exposed to the faith I have chosen. I have made friends who have helped lead me to the path I now walk. You have shown me the historical information that lead to epiphanies–like the Egtved girl spawing an epiphany about dancing’s place in heathenry. You have shown me that it’s okay to talk to gods, to have a personal relationship with them. You have given me ideas about altar spaces and temples. Through the internet I learned to brew mead. But mostly, it’s the pure inspiration of reading other people’s experiences of faith.

For actual information, a library would probably be quite useful, and I do enjoy reading books quite thoroughly. But there’s something you can’t read in a library–personal experience. Most religious people get their ideas about religious experience from their friends and coreligionists, the people they go to church or temple or mosque with. But, due to our small numbers, I have only met a handful of pagans in my life, and even fewer heathens. And so I haven’t been able to learn all that much about how to live as a pagan from my friends. I have learned it from the internet.

I have read blogs and essays detailing how they’ve built an altar, what it feels or sounds like to have a god speak to you. I have learned, because of the internet, the importance of focusing on landwights and how to connect to my ancestors even if I don’t much like them.

So I guess, suffice it to say, the internet is, for me, a sort of temple. It’s the gathering place of the pagans, where I am inspired and where I have learned my faith.

It’s interesting to me, though, how much talk of not being on the internet I read among pagans. A bunch of pagans I know (myself included) take purposeful breaks from the internet or purposefully pare down our internet time because, as pagans, we wish, foremost, to live our lives. And that doesn’t mean sitting in front of a computer.

I think we’re awfully ambivalent about the internet, really.

But I guess what it really comes down to is that the internet, like everything else, is a tool. It can be, for pagans, one of the most profound, inspiring, transformative tools in our arsenal, encouraging us to go out and live as pagans, to have the confidence that we’re not alone, to have a religious community spanning the globe. And it can be harmful if we get too distracted by some of its other uses–mindlessly looking around for entertaining videos or repeatedly checking to see if we have a new email.

Anyway, despite its tendencies toward distraction, I would like to thank the internet for giving me the wonderful life I have, my relationship with Freyja and the other gods, and, ultimately, the fact that I have now lived the past 3 and a half years in joy rather than the depression of my youth.  Thanks, internet.

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4 thoughts on “Spirituality and the Internet

  1. Absolutely agreed. I am the first to be grateful for the internet – I met my partner and my two closest friends online, I found co-religionists I never would have otherwise, I have access to all sorts of information at my fingertips… I just think it’s too easy for it to become a replacement for real live interaction, for people to confuse online “community” with in-person community. Once I had the latter (via, of course, the internet, but then we made it a reality in person), I no longer felt that my time was as well spent talking (and mostly, arguing) with a bunch of people I didn’t really know on the computer. I still find the internet important, for instance the spiritual blogs of people I don’t know are extremely inspiring to me, but I no longer base a large portion of my religious life online.

    • You raise a good point. Most of the reason I was perusing blogs the other day was that I am beginning to grow disillusioned with my lack of real-live community. I am making a bigger effort to find them, but so far I haven’t. And it’s really frustrating because there is, truly, something extremely important that is lost in translation over the internet, and something truly gained by real-life presence. I’ve been dealing with that a lot lately with finally having my boyfriend living with me–it’s s much different than I had imagined than the phone calls and emails and skype chats. And so I’m wishing I could “upgrade” my religious interactions to real life as well.

      But for now, I am thankful for what I can be, so I thank the internet.

  2. Thank you for this post, I do agree with you, but I would like to add that people like your good self are doing a really very important job by bringing your own spirituality on to the internet. Think aout it. If there are billions of websites, some uplifting some not so, what is the overal balance is the internet a place of peace and harmony, showing the best of humanity, most people would probably say not really, it is very out of balance. But here is the thing every site, every post like yours is helping to readjust that balance, so keep up the good work and I urge others to play their part also.

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