Taking a fresh look at on-line religion

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 December, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 December, 1995, 12:00am

THE approaching Christmas holiday season often turns the occidental mind towards religion.

The subject of religion and the computer is something I occasionally like to look at because I feel it has certain incongruities that are often dealt with in unusual ways.

What I know about religion would probably fit on a single floppy disk with lots of room to spare for most of Shakespeare's plays.

Nevertheless, I have some interest in the subject because of the passions it can arouse in the human breast and the contradictions it can create in the world of cyberspace.

I had a look at the Spirituality and Religion section of Apple's eWorld to see what there was and, of course, came up with some interesting things.

One does not expect people who are 'wired' to behave the same way as others or to believe the same things most of the non-wired world believes.

For some, owning and using a computer is religion enough. One would expect the users of eWorld to be a little different because it is still only for Macintosh users and they tend to be rather religious about the Macintosh anyway.

For those of you who may not have a background in the language of hackers, the term 'religious war' is used by hackers to mean platform wars or operating system wars.

If you think IBM PC is the best thing since the hard disk and that the Mac is only for whimps, then you will almost certainly find yourself involved in a religious war if you are vocal about your beliefs.

What I did find rather interesting was a section on Wicca.

A woman calling herself Starwind Evensong has posted a little essay on Wicca, a religion most people call by another name - witchcraft.

Here is a brief outline of what the religion is.

'Wicca is a nature-based religion, as reflected in the Goddess and the God, a duality reflected in other religious belief systems.

'It is a shamanistic religion, using chants, drumming, dance and ritual to create an altered state of awareness. Within this altered state of awareness comes knowledge, and thusly, power.' There are those who would laugh at Ms Evensong just as there are those who would defend her.

The interesting thing about this subject is that it is a vicious circle, it has no beginning and no end.

It is impossible for us to reconcile freedom of expression and belief with freedom of religion.

There are religions in the world that believe they, and only they, understand the truth. They believe that it is their duty to use any means necessary to convince the rest of humanity that they are right.

This creates precisely the problem that intrigues me: how can you give people a freedom to do something that will take away the freedom of others? This is true with the issue of pornography as well.

The answer is, of course, that we cannot. So we must restrict the freedom of those who believe in the curtailing of the freedom of others, and so, we contradict ourselves. We give freedom of expression with one hand but curtail it with another.

Apple's eWorld insists it is friendlier than any other system and it does seem to feel like a kinder, gentler service than some of the others, but that could be interpreted as boring by some.

The Internet is easily the most aggressive because there is no attempt to control what goes up. It is the pagan system of systems.

For those who wish to protect themselves and their children from the perceived evils of the world that can and will be encountered in cyberspace, then there are two things you can do.

The first is to disconnect your modem from the computer and forbid all contact with the outside world.

The second is to be aware - and make your children aware - of the many things that make up our world.