Once hanging from Gepetto’s threads, Pinocchio freed himself from the dependency of his former master. The avatars of virtual worlds such as Pinocchio, being dependent upon their masters’ mouse clicks. Like Pinocchio, the avatars are social beings, interacting, socializing, flirting with their fellow avatars, and going 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 religious organizations’ attempts to be of service to their actual and potential members. Through church may do missionary and evangelizing work, by being present offering guidance when web users look for answers.
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 that is the case it will have obvious repercussions on organized religion, on church, mission, and missiology.
Church and Mission in a Multireligious Third Millennium, Aarhus University, 2010