Using the Internet for religion : a study of the possible use of the Internet for religious purposes among the Catholics of the Archdiocese of Mumbai, India
It has been claimed that the Internet is influencing not only ways of doing business and modes of communication and recreation, but also the ways human beings practice religion. Most studies undertaken on how people are using the web for their religious needs are done in North America, largely among Christians. This study was aimed at testing whether this was true of Catholic users of the Internet from the Archdiocese of Mumbai, India. In order to verify the religious use of the Internet, focus groups were conducted among various sectors of Catholic users to explore whether differences in age, sex and religious groupings resulted in significant variations in net usage. The data obtained from the focus groups was further tested with a survey questionnaire, administered to a representative sampling of Catholics from the Archdiocese of Mumbai. The data provides not only general trends of net use among the Catholics, but also nuanced perceptions of the net in relationship to its religious use. Research evidence indicated that the Internet was not being used for religion by the Catholics of Mumbai. The fact that there was an inclination towards and ambivalence to using the net shows that there are deeper issues that are influencing net usage. These issues could relate to the free-for-all style of the net and the authority-bound character of the Catholic faith; the interactive character of the net in contrast to the top-down style of communication of the Catholic church; and the global virtual community of the net in comparison with the tangible faith commitment to the local parish community in worship and practice. In conclusion hypotheses proposed to explain the poor usage of the Net are substantiated and new issues suggested, that require further research in the context of net use for religion.