Wednesday, February 27, 2008

And the blog goes on . . .

As most of my online friends know, I'm recovering from a car accident that happened about a month ago. I'm at a point in my recovery now where I'm well enough to mess around online, but not well enough to do much of anything else. I made a few attempts at housework today -- didn't get very far before I wore out. We still haven't replaced the car that got smashed up, so I'm pretty much stuck at home.

I added a little gadget that tracks who has been on this blog, which has been kind of fun, because I can tell where folks are coming from, and what page they've come to see. I had one where I had to check a web page, but I've forgotten my password and just haven't bothered with it for a long time. I was surprised that I'm still attracting traffic here. After all, I haven't done much to update it -- when I do feel like writing these days, it has been mostly on my private blog Karen's Path, where I just muse about my own spiritual life. "Karen's Thoughts" is my blog for broader issues, which I mostly haven't been in the mood to talk about.

Nevertheless, folks are still dropping in, mostly from search engines, or links on other pages. The biggest draw, of course, is what I've written on Baha'i issues -- but the people are not just my online friends. I'm getting visitors from places like Kiev and Hamadan, where I don't know anybody.

It seems to me that Baha'i cyberspace is making a big shift from discussion groups to blogs -- although sometimes the blog comment sections are virtually discussion groups, to the point they aren't really comments on the blog post at all.

Anyway, I'm hearing that Baha'is are being encouraged to start blogs, which is a huge turnaround from ten years ago, when ABMs where telling Baha'is to stay off the Internet in order to avoid the Remeyites and Talismanians.

Blogs carry a different dynamic than email lists and the like. For one thing, there isn't as much repetition of the same issues. A blogger has to come up with something new, even if it's just news about, or a new angle on, an old issue. Debating forums tend to get stuck -- in the worst places I've seen flame wars last for literal years, with scant content other than name-calling. Even the better forums tend to recycle things, especially as new people come on -- the old issues and questions are new to them, and that sparks the debate all over again. There's less "noise" on a blog. And I think more Baha'i bloggers is going to mean more creative thinking -- at least those that keep being updated. After all, if you have to write on a regular basis, odds are you're going to have to do some actual thinking sometime.

Monday, February 25, 2008

A Quarter of Americans Change Faiths

Click on this entry's title to get the article from the New York Times. I found this interesting:

“The trend is toward more personal religion, and evangelicals offer that,” said Mr. Prothero, chairman of the religion department at Boston University, who explained that evangelical churches tailor many of their activities for youth. “Those losing out are offering impersonal religion and those winning are offering a smaller scale: mega-churches succeed not because they are mega but because they have smaller ministries inside.”

What, I wonder, is an "impersonal religion"?

The article also notes the increasing numbers of unaffiliated, which has become our fourth-largest religious group:

The rise of the unaffiliated does not mean that Americans are becoming less religious, however. Contrary to assumptions that most of the unaffiliated are atheists or agnostics, most described their religion “as nothing in particular.” Pew researchers said that later projects would delve more deeply into the beliefs and practices of the unaffiliated and would try to determine if they remain so as they age.

[Update: This article is catching the attention of other Baha'is, too. Notably, on Correlating and on the discussion group talisman9 Knowing Steve Marshall, I expect it to be up on Baha'is Online before the evening's out.]