Online Religion Booming

Millions of people from around the world are turning to the Internet to seek religious counseling, some for even praying in virtual houses of worship graphically designed to look like the real ones.

Online Religion Booming

Millions of people from around theworld are turning to the Internet to seek religious counseling, some for evenpraying in virtual houses of worship graphically designed to look like the realones, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday, March 14.

"Old mechanisms of religious authority arechanging," said Morten Hojsgaard, a Danish author who has writtenextensively about online religion.

Now, millions of worshippers are logging on theInternet to ask about God, religion and religious rites.

Millions of Muslims, for example, download schedulesof prayer times and recordings of the Noble Qur'an.

Christians, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs andpeople of other faiths turn to websites to pray and meditate, according to theAmerican daily.

"The first wave of religion online, in the1990s, was mainly for nerds and young people and techies," said Hojsgaard.

"But now it really is a mirror of society atlarge. This is providing a new forum for religious seekers."

Hojsgaard said there are now nearly 200 million webpages dealing with God and religion, up from only 14 million in 1999.

He said that searching for religion now rivals sexas a topic on the Internet.

Virtual

For many cyber-worshippers, online religious lifehas replaced attendance at traditional churches, temples and synagogues.

Sikhs, for example, gather in virtual houses ofworship graphically designed to look like the real ones in India, whereHinduism was born, and which has become a leader in the practice of religiononline.

"If you wish to make an offering, the god willaccept it -- even if it's on the Internet," said Balaji, a Hindu priest.

Hindus living in the United States and Europe nowwatch streaming live video of morning prayers from temples in their home towns.

Kumudini Kumararajah, who moved to Londonfrom Indiaeight years ago, is among millions of Hindus practicing their religious lifeonline.

She used to pray at home and at a small temple inTooting, a south Londonneighborhood popular with Indian expatriates.

But the 36-year-old has been longing for praying inthe ancient temples of India.

"I always want to pray there, but it is notpossible for me because I live in London."

Kumararajah then heard of a website based inChennai, in southern India,that sells "Hindu rituals and products," whether they are prayers orauspicious names for a baby.

She logged into the website, which features colorfulgraphics and a slick menu of products and services – and a link to check on"my stuff."

She clicked on the tab of "pujas" -- anoffering to a god – which brought her to a page where she could choose form amenu including "pujas for health" and "pujas for children."

Kumararajah then clicked on the "temples"tab and chose Sri Rangam, a thousand-year-old complex near Tiruchirapalli,about 200 miles south of Chennai near the southern tip of India.

The centerpiece of the temple, one of India's mostvenerated religious sites, is a reclining image of Vishnu, which draws Hindusfrom across the world.

She clicked again and put her puja in her"shopping cart," then hit "proceed to checkout," filled inher billing address and paid with her Visa card.

Kumararajah chose a package of 12 pujas, one a monthfor a year, to be performed each month on her "star day" according toHindu astrology.

She also chose a second puja to be performed eachmonth to a goddess at the temple.

"I could never do this before," she said,her chestnut eyes beaming.

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