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BAHAR Seminar, Thursday May 12, 2011: Nick Swann

On Thursday May 12, 2011, Nick Swann (University of Wales, Newport) will present a seminar to the Body, Health and Religion Research Group (BAHAR). The topic will be, ‘Conversion Experience and Religious Communities in Cyberspace’. The seminar will take place in Humanities Building, Room 3.48, Cardiff University, from 4.30 to 6 p.m. All welcome.

Nick introduces his seminar as follows: “Since the early days of its popular uptake people have used the internet for religious purposes. These uses have taken many different forms across and within different religious traditions, varying from simply searching for information about religion, to finding kindred spirits with which to foster a sense of virtual religious community, to understanding the internet itself as having a profound soteriological significance. Furthermore there are numerous websites which act as a ‘front window’ for religious groups, presenting the orthodox line to visitors, offering news and support to adherents, and for non-adherents displaying the religion in a positive and attractive way in order to encourage further interest and possibly even conversion to the faith in question. Added to these approaches there are those who view the internet as a technology through which religious ritual can be mediated.

“Taking these last two points together raises the possibility of online proselytising and computer-mediated conversion, and begs the question: is it possible to convert to a religion in a ritual performed via the internet? Put another way: is embodied presence before a religious community a necessary prerequisite for conversion into said community? As might be anticipated, the answer is ‘yes’ for some groups, and ‘no’ for others, and this paper considers examples of computer-mediated conversion practices within Christianity, Islam and Buddhism, as well as the use of the internet for proselytising purposes and computer-mediated ritual more generally.”

Some sample websites:

Nick Swann is a Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at University of Wales, Newport. Along with responsibilities for teaching Buddhism, and Anthropology and Religion, he also leads a module on Religion and Cyberspace.

Enquries to Geoffrey Samuel.

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