Los Angeles, California
Volume 15, NO. 244 © 1999
Friday, March 26, 1999
C O M P U T E R M A D E P L A I N
Web Provides the Answers To Some Prayers
By Sheila Riley
Nothing is too sacred for the Web.
Do you want to get news updates from the Vatican's press office? They're available at The Holy See, the Vatican's official Web site at http://www.vatican.va. And the info comes in German, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian.
Interested in an online class in Judaism? Need to know the correct number of candies to light on a menorah? You can find both at Project Genesis: Torah, at http://www.torah.org.
Try IslamiCity In Cyberspaoe at http://www.islam.org if you would like to join a chat room about Islam. The site also provides audio broadcasts of prayers from Mecca and has links to everything you could ever want to know about the Muslim religion.
Those are just a few of the many official and unofficial "higher power" Web sites.
Except for some sites that clearly are marked as "official," it's another case of Web buyer beware as one wades through sites of religions, branches of religions, religions trying to inform and religions trying to convert.
And those are just the major players.
Almost any group calling itself a religion has a Web site - and atheists,agnostics and pagans have theirs, too.
The Roman Catholic church, like others, has embraced the Web.
"The Catholic Church wants to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, to get the word out there about the Gospel, and we want to use the most ,effective means of doing that," said Bishop John Wester, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.
Many dioceses use chat rooms to answer the questions of those curious about religion.
"The fact is, chat rooms are how people are getting information, and we need to be there," Wester said.
In addition to the multilingual Vatican site, the U.S. Catholic Conference site - http://www.nccbuscc.org - is a good starting point for anyone interested, he says.
For those serious about studying Judaism in cyberspace, Project Genesis is the place to go.
Eric Simon, a criminal justice researcher for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons, spends about four hours a week perusing Internet materials and taking online classes at the site.
"Most of the classes I take are from extremely learned rabbis talking about some aspect of Judaism," Simon said.
A Vienna, Va., resident in his early 40s Simon says Project Genesis is the electronic intersection of two of his main interests: Judaism and, the Internet.
"It has something for everyone," he said of the site, which offers classes on Judaism at beginning, intermediate and advanced levels.
He is particularly impressed with the site's ability to reach all branches of Judaism. The three major types of Judaism Orthodox, Conservative and Reform - often don't see eye to eye, Simon says.
"It's not often that a Jewish Web site can appeal to all, but the Project Genesis site does," he said.
Rabbi Yaakov Menken, director of Baltimore-based Project Genesis, shares Simon's opinion.
"Among religious-related Jewish Web sites, we 'really do have a unique appeal," he said. "Our teachers are very careful to write about Judaism in a way which can appeal to all Jews."
As Project Genesis is designed to appeal to all Jews, IslamiCity aims to reach a broad range of Muslims.
Its goal is to provide a one-stop site about Islam, says Dany Doueiri, vice president of Culver City, Calif., nonprofit Human Assistance and Development International, which sponsors the site.
"It's basically to provide objective and comprehensive information about Islam," Doueiri said.
To do this, IslamiCity In Cyberspace his a dazzling array of well-organized links to other Islamic and political sites.
Muzzamil Siddiqi, president of the Islamic Society of North America, based in Garden Grove, Calif., visits the site often and hears positive comments about it.
"I think it's a very useful, site," Siddiqi said.
So, the Web literally can be the answer to your prayers.