GMA: Tiffany Shlain on Net Beliefs

The Internet may seem like an unlikely place to go for spiritual guidance. It may seem untraditional and even odd — but for some, that is what makes it attractive.

Tiffany Shlain, the founder and director of The Webby Awards (www.webbyawards.com) took a closer look at a Web site focused on exploring faith for Good Morning America.

Beliefnet.com, is a unique spiritual stop on the Internet highway. It doesn’t just include information about organized religion. It explores all kinds of beliefs and it provides a forum for people looking for support of a spiritual kind.

The site launched in January 2000. It’s nondenominational and it offers sections on Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Islam. It also provides prayer articles, guided meditations and some columns by popular religious leaders from different experts in religion.

On its site, Beliefnet.com states that it is a “multi-faith e-community designed for the multi-faith global community. A community where nobody’s opinion is wrong, some just happen to be polar opposites.”

The site offers discussion groups in which users can post questions they would like answered. The questions vary — they might be about interfaith marriages or about the meaning behind a baptism. Beliefnet.com also hosts prayer circles where users can request prayers from the Beliefnet community on behalf of a person, group or cause. Users can start their own or join an existing group.

Each section contains not only news headlines pertaining to the religion, but articles, community bulletin boards and interactive features that are geared to people that may be just learning about the religion and also to devout followers. The Web site is for profit and it gets revenues from e-commerce — religious articles, books, music, travel packages and ad sales too. You can also visit the Buddhism section. You’ll see a few areas dedicated to the Dalai Lama, one that dispenses “Daily Wisdom,” offering a new quote from the Dalai Lama each day.

The Christianity section offers great articles and links to many other resources and areas in which to discuss important topics. One feature that’s helpful is in the directory to houses of worship anywhere in the United States. If you are traveling you can simply type the location and select a denomination.

There’s a section on angels too. It doesn’t necessarily focus on the Judeo-Christian concept of angels, but it takes the meaning more liberally, to include the really helpful or powerful people that sometimes seem to act as guides.

The site also provides users with an entire section on the subject of death and dying. Online memorials can be built and Tiffany actually created one on the site for her grandmother. It’s a space where friends and family members can post stories and photos about their loved one from anywhere around the world.

To use the site, go to www.beliefnet.com. First, you’ll want to register. Registering allows you to create a personal spiritual profile by answering a few questions about what types of things you believe in.

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