The Internet is Forcing Religious Groups to Address Unsavory Aspects of Their History


Image: Friendly Atheist
There is a sort of online adage I’ve seen more than a few times, that the Internet is the place that gods go to die. Amanda Marcotte, in a piece republished by Salon, makes the argument that it’s at least a way-stop on the road.

By Rachel Ford|Friendly Atheist

While the piece contains a number of fascinating points, of particular interest are the faith leaders’ views on (and response to) the availability of information and dissenting opinions afforded by the Internet. She cites, for instance, the Mormon Church’s recent admission of certain unpalatable facts about its founder and early practices — and the reason that such facts were finally acknowledged by the church.

In September, the Church of the Latter Day Saints instructed churches to share a set of online essays (about topics from the Mountain Meadows Massacre to early church polygamy) with questioning Mormons. The essays, they were told, were

… presented as a counter to “detractors” who “spread misinformation and doubt.”

While there are plenty of detractors who will share their opinions offline, there’s little doubt that the bulk of the detractors plaguing the church are explaining their views online, which is why this has become a problem now for a church that used to act like it could exert total control over believers’ access to information. One of the church historians, Steven Snow, openly cited the internet as the source of the criticisms. “There is so much out there on the Internet,” he told the New York Times, “that we felt we owed our members a safe place where they could go to get reliable, faith-promoting information that was true about some of these more difficult aspects of our history.”

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