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How Authentic And Religious Are Virtual Rituals - Essay Example

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The problem with online rituals as Helland states is that a person may decide to develop individual religiosity and deviate from what their traditional religious authority prescribes…
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How Authentic And Religious Are Virtual Rituals
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How Authentic And Religious Are Virtual Rituals

The accessibility of information online has drawn more people to virtual religious places, thus pulling them further away from offline, real-life religion. Connelly attests to this observation when he states that the lack of Buddhist teachers and learning centers, among other factors, has facilitated the growth of an online Buddhist ritual “Second Life”. Helland views a ritual as an individual or communal engagement undertaken for sacred reasons, which allows a person to have contact with the supernatural. A ritual can also be performed as a form of expressing social cohesion and preserving culture. In terms of social cohesion, Connelly states that through Second Life, feel like they belong to a community in which there are expressive involvements. The problem with online rituals as Helland states is that a person may decide to develop individual religiosity and deviate from what their traditional religious authority prescribes. These cyber rituals allow for some form of religious freedom that some strict religions are not comfortable with. According to Helland this raises the question of authenticity and authority of the people carrying out the rituals and the rituals themselves. Judging by this form of evaluation, Second Life would seem legitimate because, as Connelly states, most of the facilitators are ordained priest in real-life, who lead meditation rituals at Buddha centers.7. That aside, many questions are asked about the authenticity of the symbols found online and the sacredness of online space. The seriousness or level of religiousness of these symbols and the rituals they are used in is what bothers many religious observers. Although many people who are involved in online rituals claim that these rituals are as valid as real-life physical rituals, this issue remains to be a subject of debate. According to Connelly the symbols used in Second Life include donation boxes, statue of Buddha, incense, and meditation cushions8. These symbols, among others are a representation of the actual artifacts found at the Buddha Center. Virtual pilgrimages according to Helland are one of the most common points of disagreement between participants and observers9. The fact that such pilgrimages are called “virtual pilgrimages” makes observers hold the view that they are unreal. Here, it appears that observers measure the authenticity of pilgrimages using physical presence. In essence, this argument holds that a pilgrimage could only be valid if a person went physically to a place that is recognized as sacred by their religion. On the other hand, believers and practitioners of online religion believe that a spiritual journey does not have to bet physical, it can be metaphorical. For example, in addressing silent meditation in Second Life, Connelly states that while participants are meditating online, they are represented by avatars10. These avatars sit cross-legged in a room and they form a semicircle facing the statue of Buddha. Participants in Second Life even prostrate three times before entering the temple, in addition to using such words as “Namaste” at the final chime, in order to thank the facilitator. Yet, the availability of exceptionally good images and sounds that allows someone to make an electronic pilgrimage inside their head is real to those who believe. Helland states that there are those web developers who take the virtual sacred travels more real by, for example, connect with the actual places. This way, these developers can place sacred words or prayer items that can be read to the online audience during the virtual pilgrimage. In silent meditation, according to Connell ... Read More
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