This article relies on in-depth qualitative interviews with 21 web designers, active in the fields of Catholicism, Protestantism and holistic spirituality in the Netherlands, to study religious appropriations of the Internet. The authors found that these different religious groups embraced the medium of the Internet motivated by a common desire to make oneself heard in the cacophony of voices that has resulted from processes of secularization and religious change. In doing so, Catholic web designers struggle with the dilemma of either following Roman orthodoxy or creating room for dialogue and diversity, whereas their Protestant counterparts feel forced to either let a thousand flowers bloom or surrender to a highly compromised image of their faith. Holistic spirituality, finally, struggles with neither of these problems and appropriates the Internet as its virtually natural habitat for sharing and connecting. The authors conclude that, consistent with theories about cultured technology and spiritualizing of the Internet, offline religious heritages matter a lot when religions seek to appropriate the Internet through web design. These appropriations tend not to be smooth transpositions of coherent and conflict-free offline religious heritages to online environments, however, but conflict-ridden processes stirring long-standing struggles over authority and identity.

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Information, Communication and Society
Department of Sociology

Noomen, I., Aupers, S., & Houtman, D. (2011). IN Their own image?: Catholic, Protestant and holistic spiritual appropriations of the Internet. Information, Communication and Society, 14(8), 1097–1117. doi:10.1080/1369118X.2011.597415