One thing my generation likes is Facebook and other social networking Web sites. One thing my generation doesn’t like is organized religion. Yet, Facebook serves as a useful indicator and model of our changing religious habits.

These days, religion gets a bad rap. Scandals in the Church, the increasing irrelevance of biblical laws and the religious conflicts around the world are just a few of the causes of a loss of respect and authority for organized religion.

A quick browse of my Facebook friends’ stated religious beliefs on their profiles shows that religion isn’t completely obsolete in the digital age; instead, it is shifting from the organized to the unorganized, from the bland to the creative.

Some memorable “Facebook religions” include “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness,”`Imagine’ by John Lennon,”All You Need Is Love,”Turntablism,”Oneness,”Random Play/Nietzschean Free Spirit,” and “Have Not Decided.” Although many use this online expression as a place for witty responses, it reveals an emerging cultural trend.

Young people are moving away from the congregations they were raised in and toward a more individualistic style of spirituality. Although the major world religions have provided a strong community and moral compass for its followers’ upbringing, they fail to provide suitable universal belief systems. This is because no system is applicable to everybody. Facebook provides the necessary individual blank palette.

In his introduction to the novel “Demian,” Herman Hesse acknowledges these existential and beneficial differences among people: “[Every man] represents the unique, the very special and always significant and remarkable point at which the world’s phenomena intersect, only once in this way and never again.”

To organize the global population into a handful of major religions is to ignore the individuality of every human. Facebook does just the opposite. It provides a space for each person and each story to depict itself, transcending all classification.

The whole Facebook profile is a more useful indicator of religious beliefs. It represents those personal intersections Hesse speaks of, the crossroads of all the varying influences. The actual “religion” is the combination of that individual’s interests, activities, political views, favorite books, music, movies and favorite quotes. Every experience and encounter has some influence on the belief system.

Isn’t our Facebook profile the culmination of all the intersecting ventures of our lives? Shouldn’t our spirituality be composed in a similar fashion?

If so, then religion, or spirituality, or whatever you want to call it, becomes inherently complex, much like how every Facebook profile has become extremely personal.

But we all have the same format for our profiles, the same structure, just different specifics. This too, relates to the evolving notion of 21st-century religion: We are all dealing with the same existential questions, just expressing it differently.

The Muslim in Saudi Arabia deals with the ups and downs of life by abiding by the Quran and Shariah law. The Buddhist monk copes with the enigma of humanity by attempting to reach a higher consciousness. The Wall Street banker attempts to find meaning through a dedication to work. The philosophy student tries to make sense of the nonsensical by reading enlightened thinkers. The examples go on and on.

In every case, people are living with whatever ideology, mindset and lifestyle they deem appropriate and most fulfilling. Similarly, each Facebook page is a personal creation, depicting whatever one finds important.

This is why religious warfare seems so petty; there are so many commonalities between religions, yet we focus on the small, differing particularities.

The analogy of the elephant is useful in showing the interreligious connections. Imagine the world as one big elephant. Each religion, or person, or country, is touching one part of the elephant. Jews may have the perspective from the tusks; Hindus may be holding on to the legs; Catholics are operating from the stomach. We all see different parts of the elephant and live by whatever we experience. But each individual is too small to see that we all are holding on to the same elephant. We are all connected, just expressing ourselves differently. This is why religion is cultural, devoid of simple categorization.

As the Internet has invaded our lives, that communal elephant is more likely to be the social networking sites we find online. It is that which weaves us all together, which connects our eclectic stories.

Hesse continues the duality of “diversity with differences” by noting, “We all share the same origin, our mothers; all of us come in at the same door. But each of us – experiments of the depths – strives towards his own destiny.”

Hesse’s “Demian” is considered a piece of Gnostic literature. Gnosticism is an ancient mystic-oriented belief system, which, coincidentally, is a hybrid of various world religions and cultural traditions. It is that diversity of beliefs that is necessary to thrive in a world with six billion people and six billion intersections of religious beliefs. This is why I recently updated my own Facebook profile’s religious belief to one essential concept – pluralism.

Dean Lieberman is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service. He can be reached at liebermanthehoya.com. RAVING ABOUT MY GENERATION appears every other Tuesday.

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