- The Washington Times - Friday, December 22, 2000

THE INDUSTRY STANDARD

Americans and their religious institutions are singing the praises of the Internet, according to a study. You might expect EBay to be more popular than Jesus on line, but a new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project finds that more people use the Net for religious purposes than for many secular reasons.

Twenty-one percent of Web surfers, or roughly 20 million people, have looked for spiritual or religious information on line. By comparison, only 18 percent of people on line have taken advantage of Internet banking, and just 15 percent have participated in Internet auctions.

Each day, more than 2 million Americans search the Internet for religious or spiritual material. In response, religious institutions increasingly are integrating the Internet into their everyday practices. Ninety-one percent said e-mail allowed greater communication with their congregations, and 63 percent said e-mail helped them to connect to their surrounding communities.

In addition, eight out of 10 churches and synagogues surveyed have operated Web sites for at least a year. Eighty-three percent said having a site was helpful in encouraging visitors to attend their church. Three-quarters of the churches and synagogues feature sermons, mission statements or links to other sites on their home pages. Others use the Internet as a forum for youth groups or to post information about missionaries and evangelists.

• Distributed by Scripps Howard

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