Criticizing God on the Internet

Criticizing God on the Internet

“God on the Internet is the title of Jonathan Last’s article in the December issue of First Things. It is both another roundup of religious and specifically Catholic web sites, and a critique of the phenomenon of people “doing” so much religion online.

He has a problem with the formation of online communities defined by their like-mindedness.

On the Internet, those dissatisfied with what they find in their religious brick-and-mortar communities can simply retreat into a virtual world in which they are surrounded entirely by like-minded people.

But is that any different from the parish-hopping we see today among people who want a more conservative or more liberal priest or an older or younger crowd or what have you? Is this just a problem of the Internet or is such compartmentalization in evidence across the spectrum of life. I will note that Last’s own magazine, The Weekly Standard, is itself a conservative magazine which one presumes seeks to attract like-minded readers.

Other criticisms

Last also bemoans the politicization he sees on religious sites.

Your Catholic Voice is a political action group devoted to “shaping” the government, “from the County Courthouse to the halls of Congress.” The website Priests for Life is similarly engaged in the nuts-and-bolts of political action.

But aren’t Catholics called to engage the world? We are to shape it, to bring the Gospel into the public sphere. There’s nothing wrong with grassroots groups who want to motivate Catholics to make a difference at all levels of governments.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
  • the best blogs have a mix of readers and that makes for a healthy online exchange. also, things get said online that would not often be addressed at parish councils or coffee hours. sometimes it’s easier to “post” your mind than speak it face to face, and that’s not a bad thing.

    the best bloggers are the ones who have a life outside of cyberspace and are engaged at the parish level

    i also think that the web has been a great resource for fostering true eccumenical dialogue (well, in some places, at least the places I go) and helping many Catholics fill in the gaps from poor formation.

    Sometimes on-line Catholic culture can be a discouraging bitch-fest. Other times it gives me hope that what I experience at the parish level is not the norm and that there’s hope for a genuine renewal.

  • Mr Last seems to pose several false dichotomies.  If you find community on a blog, you aren’t finding it in the church.  If you support a mission via capitalism, you are a consumerist.

    It is just not true (or even moderately logical).  Blogs such as Dom’s here are very good and work to a mission deserving of praise rather than condemnation.


  • I finally got around to looking at this article after seeing Steve Ray’s comments.  What a sloppy job Last did.  I’m webmaster for two of the sites he mentioned, and his readership figures are bogus.  E.g.: Alicia the midwife (Fructus Ventris) gets seven times the page-views Last claimed. 

    He seems to be uninformed about web statistics and indifferent about fact-checking.  A double faux-pas for an “on-line editor”!