Finding faith online

By By Ana Breton and By Ana Breton

By Ana Breton

According to some religions, faith can be found everywhere, but what if it were just one click away?

U students have turned away from churches and synagogues to find religion and have instead turned to the popular Web site Myspace.com. “A place for friends,” as the site’s motto claims, lets people browse through profiles and connect with friends, classmates, professors and celebrities online.

Some students, however, have connected with religious figures, including Gordon B. Hinckley, Jesus Christ and even God by coming across their profiles and adding them to their “friends” list. Some have left comments to these figures, some have written them prayers and others just ignore the profiles.

“Whether they help or hurt people’s faith is up to the individual Myspace.com user,” said Bethea Rugh, a sophomore in communication.

“I’ve been on Myspace for a few years now, and I’ve seen profiles for LDS Church, Gandhi and Joseph Smith,” Rugh said. “They might give people a false perception of what the religion or figure stands for.”

Finding genuine figures can also seem like a challenge. There are 920 profiles created under the name “Joseph Smith,” 5,785 listed as “Jesus Christ” and 3,507 claiming to be “God.”

One particular profile portrays Jesus Christ as a 35-year-old male from Jerusalem, Israel, who is “pretty laid back, forgiving to a fault and very trusting.” The user claims to “enjoy helping professional sports teams win championships” and idolizes Julia Roberts.

Monica Grindstaff, a senior in education, said that the challenge was not finding genuine figures, but how quickly she could block the inquiring user.

“I’ve gotten a couple messages from some that seemed genuine, but I deleted them right away.”

Grindstaff also said that, although she has written to some of the profiles, she has never received truthful responses.

“It makes me laugh when I prove them wrong or know more about certain aspects than others,” said Grindstaff, who was raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. “Some just got angry and said I should ‘ask my bishop’ (when) they didn’t understand their own church’s past and present beliefs and history.”

No one can portray a religious figure reverently, no matter how genuine they seem, said Clayton McDonald, vice president of the LDS Institute of Religion Student Council

“Since it’s not really them, I don’t think it’s an accurate portrayal,” said McDonald, a junior in political science. “I think that people can strengthen their religious values in a variety of ways, but not through this Web site.”