You can find all sorts of things on the Internet. This tool has become an essential step to ask for answers to any kind of question, an infinite archive, an endless and interactive database ready for whatever demand we may have. The borderline between the true and the realistic is often very unstable, but those who approach it never return empty-handed. On the one hand, all this compensates for the ignorance on certain matters of a large part of the population, on the other hand, there is a high risk for ignorance itself to become the oracle to which people appeal when they have to make order in their own lives. It can go even further than just that, reaching the point when the machine is identified as equal to God.
In the Internet’s trap, there are probably no cultural nor social activities worth relevance which do not make use somehow of this exquisitely “postmodern” communication tool. Hence, it is little surprising that even religion is present on the Web. Yet, whereas all religions are present on the Web, they do not do so the same way. According to Marco Merlini, the author of an inquiry book on spirituality in cyberspace, we need to consider three different types of spiritual online users: those who “theorize the Web as a display of faith” (those who use the Internet for informative purposes alone or as a telematic pulpit); the “followers of connective connections” (those who use the Internet to organize the faithful and connect them one with another in a sort of cyber-community); the “followers of cyber-religions” (for whom the Internet is an integral part of the spiritual quest and the incubator of new forms of religiosity”.
But is it possible to sacralize Internet? This question might put a smile on our faces, but it would be superficial of us to smile at it. For the followers of techno-Buddhism, in fact, the web is “the physical manifestation of the third eye of the divinity hidden in each one of us”. There are also the “ecological technospiritual cults” according to which an Electric Gaia is taking shape. In their belief, cyberspace, as a collective manifestation of human minds, has the function of the nervous system of a planet that becomes conscious of itself through the individuals connected in a network.
The name of “religion of the Web” however, seems to be tightly connected to “technopaganism” in particular, the path – if we may call it this way – of those who get involved in cyberspace as the authentic and unique experience of the sacred.
Technopaganism is a generic term that characterizes different neopagan beliefs and practices (including Wicca and Druidism) in relation to the place technology occupies in those religious practices. They use modern devices in magic rituals. For example, they use ovens instead of hearths and ”the disk of Shadows” instead of “the Book of Shadows”, as well as laser pointers instead of magic wands. In other practices, technology is the subject of the magical operation, as in the case when stones and other amulets are used to obtain better performance from ordinary objects or in questions related to overclocking.
Technopaganism represents also the totality of modern tribal or urban primitive motions, such as urban Shamanism and the rave culture. Often, these cultures are associated with Electronic Dance Music. We must point out that the term “religion” can be used on a descriptive level only with an analogous meaning; we are not talking about a religion, but rather about a mental attitude. Which, paradoxically, makes it even more dangerous due to its undefined nature that make it almost impossible to notice that it is antithetic to real-life and traditional religions. Cyberspace is becoming a place of rebirth of ancient Egyptian, Sumerian, Greek and Roman deities which fell into oblivion long time ago. “In the course of modern history – Merlini has explained to Repubblica.it – there have been several attempts to bring back to life ancient Mediterranean Gods. A mysterious and remote spiritual world, which is open to fantasy but also to actual obsessions. Northern European travelers, for example, were not simply attracted by the splendor of the past or by the quest for formal beauty. They cultivated passion for the South as desire to return and their journey to the temples and sacred places materialized as a pilgrimage into nostalgia. Now they come to Italy and Greece in particular because of the splendor of its beaches and the fame of its monuments. Not to re-experience the places of the ancient gods and rummage through the mysterious sings of the past. And faith in Jupiter, prayers to Athena, evocations of Mars have been transferred in the cyberspace of the Internet”.
But how does this “religion” work? Individual and community rites, as well as rites of solidarity and passage are celebrated online. Solidarity liturgies reaffirm and strengthen the sense of identity of the religious group. Those of passage symbolically and publicly mark the death and rebirth of the initiated to a new life. Thirdly, on the Web emerges a hierarchy of full-time specialists, priests who boast transcendental knowledge.
In technopaganism the experience of energy has strong hedonistic traits; rave electro-bacchanals are quite similar to orgies which characterized the celebration of the unbridled worship of Dionysus in ancient Greece.
Refusal of reality, repudiation of the created and identification in a new virtual tailored world, besides causing damage to individuals by alienating them from the social context, draws them towards the delirium of omnipotence, which has often been the cause of Man’s ruin. A slap in the face of the concept of relationship between living beings. The invitation of the ancient serpent to become “like God” seems to have found a new, unexpected opportunity to be accepted with the help of the Internet. As long as you remember to pay the bills on time…
Freely based on The Internet and Alternative Religiosities