Faith 2.0 at the RSA – a nuanced assessment of digital faith trends

I attended the morning session of Faith 2.0 yesterday, organised by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and Durham University in conjunction with hosts, the RSA.

As the “Royal Society for the encouragement of the Arts” said in of this conference on “Religion and the Internet” the (web) blurb, “As the winds of political change are channelled through fibre-optic cables and wireless internet waves across North Africa and the Middle East, we are reminded once again of the remarkable paradigm shift ushered in by the internet. This shift has impacted nearly every area of contemporary life, and religion is no exception.”

The two panels I saw of “world renowned scholars, policy makers and religious leaders whose work covers the positive, negative, and the outright surprising elements of this new and dynamic exchange” were insightful.  What struck me overall was their nuanced sense of what is happening – neither a “this changes everything” kind of a hype, nor a “this changes nothing” kind of cynicism.

Rather, what came across was the fact that many things in society were changing even before the advent of the new technology in a direction which the technology – particularly the internet and social media – has really supported and amplified.  This is true in general, and it is true in the world of faiths.

These were the speakers I saw – thanks to all of them!

Below are some of the comments I shared through Twitter during the conference:

#faith2point0 interesting point by Prof Dawson – Internet can make group known but face to face still needed to “recruit” e.g. new religions…

#faith2point0 use of Internet actually promotes reflexivity in ways use of previous media did not – Prof Dawson

#faith2point0 quiet revolution in Internet sensibilities – Prof Lorne Dawson

#faith2point0 web can powerfully strength the positive impact of faith in our society – Stephen Timms

#faith2point0 Tx to Stephen Timms MP for bringing some always welcome humour to Faith 2.0! 🙂

#faith2point0 car extends the foot, cell phone extends the voice – what does technology make obsolete? Miguel Diaz

#religion2point0 churches employing technology r more alive, specially 4 young “makes members lives richer w/religious meaning” Scott Thumma

#faith2point0 second session including Stephen Timms MP – so glad for his recovery after tragic attack in constituency office.

#faith2point0 religious identity no longer “cookie cutter” but negotiated – this is an ongoing change that Internet facilitates – Heidi Campbell

#faith2point0 BB saw a group of youngsters at restaurant…all engaged w/phones, not each other, their real social life was online not in the physical space

#faith2point0 proponents of new religious movements tended to go online [before the more established churches] – Brenda Basher

#faith2point0 naming is fundamental to human dignity, introduce digital equivalent to fair trade movement, recognising individuality – Andrew G

#faith2point0 holiness dictates we don’t communicate one way in private & another in public – consistency offline/online is essential Andrew G

#faith2point0 Medianet’s Andrew Graystone takes the podium – uses “legion” healing by Jesus to introduce issue of multiple “identities” on web!

#faith2point0 Heidi Campbell shows us results of religious bloggers study, which shows religious discourse and disclosure are important in their writing

#faith2point0 online relationships supplement, they do not substitute, for offline relationships

#faith2point0 Internet accentuates social trends of changing identity that were already going on – Heidi Campbell

#faith2point0 cf patients come to Dr w/Internet info on health issues, people come to faith leaders w/Internet info about soul – Ruth Turner

#faith2point0 information is not knowledge and it is not faith – Prof Emma Murphy

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Categories: Spirituality and Society

Author:Tony Lobl

I write and speak on spirituality from my perspective as a Christian Science practitioner. I am also an Associate Editor for the Christian Science periodicals. I studied at the University of Surrey earning a BSc Hons Degree in Modern Mathematics before the impact of spirituality on health caught my attention and re-shaped my career.

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