Religion, Society, Politics and Digital Technologies

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Religions and Health/Psychology/Social Sciences".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 November 2024 | Viewed by 9568

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalization, Deakin University, Melbourne, VIC 3125, Australia
Interests: religion; populism; authoritarianism; secularism; securitization; Islam
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The Special Issue will focus on comparative studies in religion, society and politics in the context of digital technologies. Digital technologies, artificial intelligence, and religious traditions; religious identity building through social media; religious youth’s engagement with digital worlds; digital religion; religious social media influencers;  reimagined religious authority; religious YouTubers; authoritarian religious masculine gaze in the cyberspace; religious bubbles in the digital world; religious youth on Instagram; religious digital diaspora; and performative religious storytelling in the digital age have become intensely discussed phenomena of our age. However, there are few studies on these and similar issues even though it is given that these issues will increasingly influence societies, countries, laws and politics.

On the other hand, religion is increasingly being used to legitimize digital censorship. For example, successive governments in Pakistan have blocked many websites, limited access to social media content, and harassed citizens by resorting to Islamic beliefs, and digital blasphemy laws. In India, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government shut down the internet in regions dominated by minority Muslim people and employed a large number of paid trolls to harass and demonize the opposition and religious minorities on social media. In Indonesia, the government employed ‘buzzers’, or people who fill social media with pro-government comments to drown out oppositional voices. At the same time, Indonesian governments have blocked vast numbers of websites by using religious grounds and preventing blasphemy. These cases of using religion to limit access to the internet raise significant questions for scholars of religious studies as well as social and political sciences. Nevertheless, many of these questions remain unanswered.

This Special Issue is an attempt to shed a light on some of these issues. With these in mind, this Special Issue invites single case studies or comparative studies on any of the above-mentioned issues as well as the ones below. These are only indicative titles, and we welcome other relevant titles:

  • Religious authority in cyberspace;
  • Religious digital mobilization as soft power;
  • Mapping digital religion(s);
  • Transformations of religious discourses in the cyberspace;
  • Internet and religious learning practices;
  • Social media, religious populism, and religious authority;
  • Religious minority voices and religious authority in the digital sphere;
  • The sacred and the digital;
  • Online religious hate;
  • Religious authorities’ assistance of governments in legitimizing digital authoritarianism.

Prof. Dr. Ihsan Yilmaz
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • religious authority
  • religious digital mobilization
  • digital reilgion(s)
  • religious populism

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Research

27 pages, 469 KiB  
Article
The Role of Artificial Intelligence in the Study of the Psychology of Religion
by Khader I. Alkhouri
Religions 2024, 15(3), 290; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15030290 - 26 Feb 2024
Viewed by 1836
Abstract
The study of the psychology of religion encompasses various aspects of human experiences and beliefs, including the influence of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI). This article aims to examine the impact of AI on religious practices and rituals, highlighting its potential [...] Read more.
The study of the psychology of religion encompasses various aspects of human experiences and beliefs, including the influence of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI). This article aims to examine the impact of AI on religious practices and rituals, highlighting its potential to reshape how individuals engage with spirituality. By exploring AI-powered religious applications, virtual communities, and online services, we seek to understand the transformation of traditional religious practices and raise important questions about authenticity, inclusiveness, and the role of technology in the psychology of religious contexts. Moreover, ethical considerations and challenges arising from the integration of AI into religion will be addressed. As researchers delve into this intersection, it is crucial to strike a balance between technological advancements and preserving the fundamental aspects of spirituality, personal growth, and genuine human connection. This article contributes to the existing literature by shedding light on the potential implications of AI in the realm of religious experiences, calling for further exploration of its ethical dimensions and unintended consequences. Ultimately, understanding the influence of AI on the psychology of religion prompts us to reflect on the nature of spirituality, belief formation, and the human experience itself. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Society, Politics and Digital Technologies)
19 pages, 356 KiB  
Article
The Nexus of Digital Authoritarianism and Religious Populism
by Ihsan Yilmaz
Religions 2023, 14(6), 747; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060747 - 05 Jun 2023
Viewed by 1833
Abstract
This paper delves into the intricate relationship between religious populism and the legitimization of digital authoritarianism in Turkey. Specifically, it investigates how the ruling party, AKP, has strategically linked Islamist values to state policies as a means of justifying its repressive control over [...] Read more.
This paper delves into the intricate relationship between religious populism and the legitimization of digital authoritarianism in Turkey. Specifically, it investigates how the ruling party, AKP, has strategically linked Islamist values to state policies as a means of justifying its repressive control over digital technology. Through an examination of internet governance at multiple levels—full network-level governance, sub-network or website-level governance, proxy or corporation-level governance, and network–node or individual-level governance—the study reveals the instrumentalization of religious populism to consolidate support and validate the government’s autocratic agenda. Furthermore, it sheds light on the role of state-controlled religious institutions, traditional media, social media outlets, as well as religious leaders and organizations in shaping public opinion, enabling the government to exert greater control over the dissemination of information. By dissecting the religious populist justification of digital authoritarianism in Turkey, this research provides valuable insights into the complex dynamics at play in the realm of online governance. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Society, Politics and Digital Technologies)
21 pages, 3478 KiB  
Article
How Do Religious “Ask the Expert Sites” Shape Online Religious Authorities? From Clerics to Online Influencers
by Akiva Berger, Ayelet Baram-Tsabari and Oren Golan
Religions 2023, 14(4), 444; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14040444 - 24 Mar 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1280
Abstract
Over the past two decades, religious websites have gained immense popularity and have become dynamic platforms for sparking discourse, practice, and modes of leadership. The internet has allowed religious leaders to reach more believers than ever before and compete for online followership. How [...] Read more.
Over the past two decades, religious websites have gained immense popularity and have become dynamic platforms for sparking discourse, practice, and modes of leadership. The internet has allowed religious leaders to reach more believers than ever before and compete for online followership. How do religious leaders negotiate their authority through online information outlets? This study explores religious “Ask the Rabbi” websites specializing in religious Jewish knowledge. The corpus is composed of 50,799 Q&A public messages between rabbis and laypeople, asked and posted from 2005 to 2019. The findings point to a shift in the authority of religious Q&A websites from the initial authority endowed to the websites through the institutionally well-known rabbis who participated on the platform. Over time, however, these websites became public spheres of learning where little-known rabbis could establish their popularity. Textual analysis revealed that the writing style evolved from short answers with few cited sources to richly sourced essays. This may suggest that online religious Q&As have shifted from being viewed as a way to contact well-known rabbis to a legitimate forum for religious discourse and selecting spiritual guidance. The discussion centers on this socio-religious change in the information age where clerics harness the web to hone their craft, recruit their flock, and ultimately, constitute their authority. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Society, Politics and Digital Technologies)
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14 pages, 273 KiB  
Article
Digital Authoritarianism: Protecting Islam in Multireligious Malaysia
by Syaza Shukri
Religions 2023, 14(1), 87; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14010087 - 09 Jan 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2955
Abstract
Mahathir Mohamad’s autocratic leadership over Malaysia for decades has left the country with a reputation for being, at best, a hybrid system. The country witnessed the rise of the internet during Mahathir’s first term as prime minister, which led to the establishment of [...] Read more.
Mahathir Mohamad’s autocratic leadership over Malaysia for decades has left the country with a reputation for being, at best, a hybrid system. The country witnessed the rise of the internet during Mahathir’s first term as prime minister, which led to the establishment of the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) in 1998 to oversee telecommunications and the internet within the country. Since then, the MCMC has overseen the removal of inflammatory content from the internet. The Malaysian government has emphasised its commitment to purging the internet of harmful content including pornography, gambling, and offensive teachings about Islam in the name of safeguarding the religion and its adherents. Since the 1980s, Islam has been institutionalised in Malaysia, and the government has also used the faith as rationale for policing online behaviour especially on the 3R—religion, race, and royalty. With the cover of religious rhetoric like preventing “fitnah,” or social upheaval, the government has used Islam to legitimise its activities in curtailing free expression online, including criticism of the government. Recently, Islam has also been utilised by populist actors in their online posting with little repercussions. This article explains the methods by which the Malaysian government has attempted to limit web access using religious discourse as justification. Since Malaysia has a Muslim majority, such restrictions can be justified in the name of Islam at the expense of the minorities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Society, Politics and Digital Technologies)
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