Submission Date


Document Type

Paper- Restricted to Campus Access


Religious Studies


Nathan Rein

Committee Member

Alexandria Frisch

Committee Member

Matthew Shoaf

Department Chair

Roger Florka

Distinguished Honors

This paper has met the requirements for Distinguished Honors

Project Description

Social media, mobile technology, and other innovations now expose the religious identity of communities and individuals to a global audience. While these innovations do not replace face to face interaction within religious communities, their impact on religious expression is significant. The challenge that lies within the transition to cyber religion is how one conceptualizes and translates ideas such as authenticity of belief, ritual, reverence, etc., raising the question: With what lens do we visualize these terms?

The concept ‘religion’ in new media research takes current American Protestantism as a template, which leads to a restrictive and problematic style of categorization. From this, it is evident that the framework for this classification requires a much deeper level of sociological inquiry. The present model appears to serve as a response to a newer cultural trend in religious belief addressed in Christian Smith’s Soul Searching in which religious identity among young people is only loosely associated to the religion in which they were raised. Beliefs have become more personalized and social media allows for the customization of religious identities to flourish. It provides a sense of belonging for which there seems to be a substantial need as well as a driving desire for acceptance in our modern world.