Once hanging from Gepetto’s threads, Pinocchio freed himself from the dependency of his former master. The avatars of virtual worlds such as Second Life are far behind the wooden fellow, still dependent upon their masters’ mouse clicks.
Avatars act as social beings, interact, socialize, flirt, and go to church. Some even build their own church. In a community without geographical borders a prayer meeting may gather participants without concern for temporal and spatial limitations.
Helland (2005) distinguishes between religion online (the situation in which organized religions (churches, congregations etc) establish a presence on the web, whereas the term perhaps unexpectedly, choose traditional Christian church buildings and services as their form of Woodhead och Heelas (2000, 2005) have suggested a subjective turn of religion in the West, from “life-as” to “subjective-life” forms of the sacred, i.e. religion giving way to spirituality. When studying religious practice among avatars in virtual worlds one observes that there is a significant turn towards community in that particular kingdom of subjectivity. Avatars seem to seek out religious community, and participate in prayer meetings and services, thereby showing a willingness to accept a certain, pre-defined form of spirituality.
In this paper it will be discussed whether avatar religiosity, seen as a culmination of the subjective turn, is an avant-garde turning back to its origins, life-as, and religion-as. If so, it will have obvious consequences for organized religion, not least Christianity.
The Changing Face of Christianity in the 21st Century, University of Edinburgh, 2010