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    11/14/2009

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    "...recent research from Indiana University finds that a growing number of users attend virtual services or participate in religious activities in worlds like Second Life."

    The paper to which that link points is dated December 1998, and says nothing about numbers of users -- rather, it describes the language being used in one particular online religious setting whose name has been deliberately changed (for purpose of research ethics, we're told), so that even its continued existence 11 years on, let alone an increase in attendants, cannot be verified.
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    Beyond that, however... to address the question posed:

    My personal experience in Second Life, limited as that may be, informs me that very few avatars make any sort of public identification (e.g., in their profiles) with their real-world religious adherence. In two years, I have yet to see religion discussed openly in Local Chat. It would seem that most people leave that part of their "first life" on the operator's side of the keyboard when they enter Second Life, and I anticipate that will remain prevalent. Thus, I doubt that religion 'per se' will be a notable cause of increased prejudice.

    However, problems may arise if (when?) organizations of an evangelistic nature encourage their members to proselytize. The residents of Second Life will no more tolerate the equivalent of street-corner preachers, Moonies or Krishnas than they do the already obnoxious "Bloodlines" players. I predict such will be warned, then ejected and banned if warnings are not heeded.

    My advice, such as it is, for religions seeking to expand into virtual worlds: Make your presence known so that those who are already your brethren can find you, and "preach to the choir." The rest of us don't want to hear it.

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