Thursday, October 6, 2011

Approaching Rituals Online With Christopher Helland

          Today I attended a Digital and Religion Symposium where I listened to Christopher Helland talk about the importance and presence rituals have within religions in an online identity. This is important towards my research and focus on media and the Hindu religion because positive examples of utilizing media to enhance traditional faith and enlarge networking. Christopher Helland is an Associate Professor of Sociology of Religion at Dalhousie University. He began his lecture by defining the term “ritual” and how it pertains to religion. He personally defined ritual as a “purposeful engagement with the sacred (whatever the sacred may be for those involved).” While this seems like a simplistic definition it does not mean that rituals won’t be complex.
Hellmand also described the social context and social level of rituals. The social context side is for the believer, a means by which supernatural beings and powers be contacted, influenced or coerced. The social level is used to teach, form identities, regulate societies, and draw a community together. He then went on to explain the difference between two different forms of rituals involving the Internet. Rituals online are “prescripts, ritual texts, and material about rituals that can be found on websites. While online rituals are performed in a virtual space, and not as common as rituals online. There have been many arguments on whether online rituals can be determined as sacred or not. Neopaden communities however, have announced their beliefs that online rituals are sacred. People all around the world are embracing online rituals more and more. Last, Helland discussed the creation of the Spirituality Celebration Circle and how it is meant to set aside room for ritual space within a cultural space. Liminality is created by the physical virtual and physical activities when participating in an online religious world. Rituals are dynamic and always changing involving three main aspects of transformation, invention, and exclusion. Christopher Helland helped explain the importance of rituals and how their presence online for religious purposes furthers the use of media in a traditional world.

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