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Friday, June 5th
9:00 AM

Online Religion? The Evolving Religious Information Landscapes of Zen Buddhism and Roman Catholicism

Timothy Gorichanaz, Drexel University

9:00 AM - 10:30 AM

Abstract: Advances in technology allow for new modes of access to both secular and religious information. Historically, some religious groups seem to have been eager to acknowledge technological developments, while others have done so reluctantly. Nevertheless, the sustainability of a religious tradition depends on the ability of its practitioners to continually access information in an evolving world. Modern technology has occasioned such innovations as online religious communities and the wide availability of sacred texts and exegeses, to the extent that a person can practice a religion using entirely online tools—without ever setting foot in a physical place of worship. Through an analysis of the nature and historical development of Buddhism and Christianity, this study identifies the aspects inherent in each religious tradition that have influenced the information landscapes that surround each religion today. This study then explores the extent to which each religion can be practiced in an exclusively-online community. These findings suggest an opportunity for further investigation into the information behavior of Buddhist and Christian participants in online religious communities as a means to better understand the online religious experience.

Keywords: Christianity, Buddhism, information behavior, information history, Internet church

Stardust, Memory, and Holy Books: Innovations and Influence of Orphism as Fringe Religion

Shellie A. Smith, Kent State University

9:00 AM - 10:30 AM

The mystery tradition known as Orphism is often misunderstood, largely due to the lack of evidence in existence. Mystery traditions are initiatory in nature; to reveal the secret information to non-initiates was forbidden, in some instances punishable by death. This secretive nature of mystery traditions makes it very difficult for modern scholars to discern what actually occurred within the cult. The Orphic mystery tradition is unique among ancient Greco-Roman cults. Whereas mainstream Greco-Roman cults were sanctioned by the state, with rituals that followed a set format of sacrifice and feasting, the Orphic tradition was a secret initiatory tradition, with written rituals relying heavily on sacred texts. The Orphic tradition is also unique in that, rather than operating out of temples, it has no set center of worship. Rather, itinerant priests traveled from location to location with their holy books, seeking individual worshippers. Because they traveled to different locations, the tradition is eclectic, as the priests combined local traditions with their own. This makes studying Orphism quite difficult, as one must separate the local customs with the Orphic teachings.

This eclectic nature has caused many modern scholars to assert that Orphism was not a set tradition, focusing on the regional variants as proof. However, by studying the extant Orphic texts within each individual context, common themes emerge that indicate a more solid tradition, contradicting modern scholarly thought. The studying of the Orphic tradition via the extant religious texts presents a unique challenge to scholars; many of the extant texts are fairly recent discoveries, found not in monasteries and private collections, but buried within followers’ tombs or under the sands of Hellenistic Egypt. As such, there is very little documentation of the transmission of the ideas contained within. In addition, there is a great likelihood that many of the Orphic texts began as oral tradition, since they often contain formulaic phrases. Martin West indicates that when dealing with ancient texts, particularly fragments, it is necessary to include the context when attempting any sort of textual criticism of ancient texts; this context is vital to deciphering the regional variations from the core ideas as well as identifying the true meaning of the text itself. By studying the use of these formulaic phrases throughout the Orphic texts, combined with ideas that are decidedly Orphic in nature, a relationship between the texts emerges that indicates that there is a core set of ideas for the cult, despite the regional variations.

In the twentieth century, works on Orphism by Otto and Guthrie asserted a true, cohesive Orphic tradition. However, as more texts were discovered by archaeologists, other scholars refuted this idea, instead holding to the bricoleur theory as described by Graf. While the bricoleur theory has a number of merits, it focuses too sharply on differences rather than commonalities. I propose an alternative bricoleur theory, based on analysis of the texts. I believe the Orphic priests engaged in bricolage by combining local customs with their existing tradition; however, there was a core tradition circulating in the Greco-Roman world via the information in the priests’ holy books. This study analyzes the texts currently classified as ‘Orphic,’ in order to determine how the formulaic phrases and ideas contained within the texts might have been transmitted.

10:45 AM

An Examination of the Technological Delivery Systems Used by U.S. Religious Groups

Rena M. Baker, Cleveland Public Library
Maurice Washington Sr.

10:45 AM - 12:15 PM

Dissemination of Information by Religious Groups

The Use of Reality Television and Social Media by Mormon Fundamentalist Groups. Changing Representations, Minds, and Laws.

Mathilde Vanasse-Pelletier, University of Montreal

10:45 AM - 12:15 PM

This presentation will describe the interactions between religious fundamentalisms, in this case in the form of polygamous Mormon culture, and information technology. We will also discuss the way that the various information transmission strategies used by advocates of plural marriage can lead to effective changes in laws and public policies by presenting the case of the prosecution of the Brown family, stars of Sister Wives, by the State of Utah.