"The Internet Is My Religion"

At Personal Democracy Forum this year (PDF is a yearly conference about the intersection of the internet and politics—I attended in ’07 and it was awesome), a man named Jim Gilliam gave an amazing talk called “The Internet is my religion”, which is very much worth watching:

Watch live streaming video from pdf2011 at livestream.com

Again, you really should watch it but if you haven’t the gist is that Jim was brought up as a fundamentalist evangelical Christian (creationism and all) and gave up on that faith after first discovering alternative points of view through the internet and then when internet activism helped cure his cancer. It’s a truly touching story.

It was obviously fascinating to watch as both a Christian and an Internet-lover. I have to admit that I began watching with an eye out for theological nits to pick, but I finished convinced that Jim understands the heart of Christianity as well as perhaps any Christian.

Perhaps the best and most significant part of the talk is this quote: “God is just what happens when humanity is connected.” And indeed the unique feature of Christianity is that it is based on a personal relationship with God—indeed, a god who is both fully human and fully divine. I do believe that God “happens” when humanity is connected. I also believe that God is more and not “just” that, but I also think it’s as important to get the first part as it is to get the second part.

Talking about how the internet helped him beat cancer, Jim says: “I could never repay this debt. … We all have this same cross to bear. We all owe our lives to countless people we’ll never meet.” And indeed it is this feeling of gratitude that is the impetus for following the Commandment of Love. The most important word in “Love each other as I love you” may be “as”, because it doesn’t just mean “in the same amount” (impossible) or “in the same way” (almost impossible) but for the same reasons. We should love each other because God loves us, and God loves us because we are made for love.

If it’s possible to glance at the face of God through a song or a beautiful vista, it’s equally possible to see Him through the Internet.

(Oh, and by the way, religious/conservative parents: the story of Jim as countless other stories shows that you should educate your children about the world instead of trying to shield them from it. And that if you teach Creationism to a child with an IQ over 90, you’re just begging to turn him into an atheist.)