This article flips on its head Grace Davie’s notion of ‘believing without belonging’. From a consideration of the internet and social networking media as a public space and a new ‘public’ or fifth estate, the article proceeds through a discussion of religious activity online to investigate the concept of community, the function of communication theology and the place of morality in online activity. Finally, the article considers the popularity of Sunday Assembly and concludes that there is a significant move towards belonging without believing both on- and offline.
Grace DavieReligion in Britain Since 1945: Believing without Belonging (Oxford: Blackwell1994) p. 94; rewritten as Religion in Britain: A Persistent Paradox (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell 2015) still using the phrase ‘believing without belonging’ while also introducing the notion of ‘vicarious religion’.
See for example Barry TaylorEntertainment Theology: Exploring Spirituality in a Digital Democracy (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic2008); Justin Wise The Social Church: A Theology of Digital Communication new edn (Chicago: Moody Publishers 2014); Brandon Vogt The Church and New Media: Blogging Converts Online Activists and Bishops Who Tweet (Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor 2011); Elmer Towns and Todd Mullins Online Churches: An Extensive Analysis and Application (Lynchburg: Liberty University Press 2014); Kimberly Young and Patrice Klausing Breaking Free of the Web: Catholics and Internet Addiction (Cincinnati: Franciscan Media 2007); Derek C. Schuurman Shaping a Digital World: Faith Culture and Computer Technology (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press 2013); Douglas Estes SimChurch: Being the Church in the Virtual World (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 2009); Jesse Rice The Church of Facebook: How the Hyperconnected are Redefining Community (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook 2009); Jonah Lynch The Scent of Lemons (London: Darton Longman and Todd 2012); Dwight J. Friesen Thy Kingdom Connected (Grand Rapids: Baker Books 2009); Jana Marguerite Bennett Aquinas on the Web? Doing Theology in an Internet Age (London and New York: T. & T. Clark 2012).
Jodi Dean‘Why is the Net not a Public Sphere’Constellations10:1 (2003) 95–112 at 95; see also Jürgen Habermas The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society trans. Thomas Burger (Cambridge: Polity 1989 [original in German 1962]).
B. Bailey and T. StorchThe Blogging Church (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass2007) as cited by Gelfgren ‘“Let There be Digital Networks and God Will Provide Growth?”’ in Cheong Fischer-Nielsen Gelfgren and Ess eds Digital Religion Social Media and Culture at p. 237.
See for example Jonathan Freedland‘Are Smartphones Causing a Bonking Crisis?’The Guardian26 November 2013; Carolyn Gregoire ‘Too Much Texting Could be Harming Your Love Life Study Finds’ Huffington Post 11 January 2014; Richard Alleyne ‘Mobile Phone Addiction Ruining Relationships’ The Telegraph 30 November 2012.
See for example Helene Milena‘Proposed Constitution of AoSL’The Anglican Cathedral of Second Life<http://slangcath.wordpress.com/2010/07/13/proposed-constitution-of-aosl/> [accessed 21 October 2014]. Mark Brown’s virtual services can be accessed at <http://slangcath.wordpress.com/author/bsnzceo/> [accessed 21 October 2014].
H. HegstadDen virkelige kirke. Bidrag til ekklesiologien (Trondheim: Tapir Akademiske Forlag2009) p. 197) as cited by Lundby ‘Dreams of Church in Cyberspace’ in Cheong Fischer-Nielsen Gelfgren and Ess eds Digital Religion Social Media and Culture at p. 37 (original italics).
See for example Esther Addley‘Atheist Sunday Assembly Branches Out in First Wave of Expansion’The Guardian14 September 2013 <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/14/atheist-sunday-assembly-branches-out> [accessed 26 January 2014].