Both the of the articles we read this week (Singapore case study & Churches in Nigeria) both emphasized a lot of the positive uses of internet within a religious context. Which of the following re

Both the of the articles we read this week (Singapore case study & Churches in Nigeria) both emphasized a lot of the positive uses of internet within a religious context. Which of the following reasons do you think MOST significantly contributes to the success of a religious institution/organization and why?

  • Flexibility of worship (time/place)
  • Connections to Diasporic communities
  • Allows for virtual pilgrimage, creation of spiritual networks, and reinforcement of social structures
  • Tends to reinforce religious authorities and church structures
  • Online Miracles
  • Connecting with youth

REQUIREMENT

8 to 10 lines. you can use any article attached done in the class

Both the of the articles we read this week (Singapore case study & Churches in Nigeria) both emphasized a lot of the positive uses of internet within a religious context. Which of the following re
http://jas.sagepub.com/ Journal of Asian and African Studies http://jas.sagepub.com/content/47/6/734 The online version of this article can be found at:   DOI: 10.1177/0021909611430935 2012 47: 734 originally published online 27 January 2012 Journal of Asian and African Studies Innocent Chiluwa Online Religion in Nigeria: The Internet Church and Cyber Miracles     Published by: http://www.sagepublications.com can be found at: Journal of Asian and African Studies Additional services and information for         http://jas.sagepub.com/cgi/alerts Email Alerts:   http://jas.sagepub.com/subscriptions Subscriptions:   http://www.sagepub.com/journalsReprints.nav Reprints:   http://www.sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav Permissions:   http://jas.sagepub.com/content/47/6/734.refs.html Citations:   What is This?   – Jan 27, 2012 OnlineFirst Version of Record  – Nov 22, 2012 Version of Record >> at University of Manitoba Libraries on July 29, 2014 jas.sagepub.com Downloaded from at University of Manitoba Libraries on July 29, 2014 jas.sagepub.com Downloaded from Journal of Asian and African Studies47(6) 734 749 © The Author(s) 2012 Reprints and permission: sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/0021909611430935 jas.sagepub.com Online Religion in Nigeria: The Internet Church and Cyber Miracles Innocent ChiluwaCovenant University, Nigeria Abstract This study examines the use of the Internet and computer-mediated commun ication for Christian worship in Nigeria. The seven largest and fastest growing churches in Nigeria ar e selected for the study, highlighting the benefits and dangers associated with online worship. The utilization of the Internet to disseminate the Christian message and attract membership across the world, and the disse mination of religious tenets and fellowship online, have resulted in the emergence of the Internet church for members who worship online in addition to belonging to a local church. Most interesting is the incr easing widespread claim of spiritual experience or miracles through digital worship. However, there i s fear that online worship endangers the offline house fellowship system, which is viewed as the reproductive organ of the local offline church. Exclusive online worshippers are also said to be susceptible to deceptio n and divided loyalty. Keywords Church/churches, healing, Internet, membership, miracles, Nigeria, onlin e worship, Pentecostal/Charismatic Introduction Most of the world s religions are currently practised on the Internet, thus making religio n and spiri- tuality in the context of computer-mediated communication (CMC) more flexible for worshipping God and reaching more people. By enabling virtual communities, the Inter net has the advantage of increasing access to new people, weakening geographical barriers, and pr oviding access to infor – mation, which otherwise would have been impossible (Garton and Wellman, 1995). This has enabled adherents of different religions around the world to sustain connections to distant home – land communities and traditions (Helland, 2007). In Nigeria, Pentecost al and Charismatic churches are taking advantage of the new media technologies to disseminate their message and attract and mobilize membership across the world. Nigerian Christians in Diaspora ar e also connected to their homeland churches through the Internet, while new forms of religious pra ctices and networks are increasingly prevalent. Not only does the Internet provide opportunity f or disseminating religious tenets and fellowship, there is the increasing prevalence of the Int ernet church or Internet Corresponding author: Innocent Chiluwa, Covenant University, KM. 10 Idiroko Road, Canaan Land, Ota, Nigeria. Email: [email protected] Article at University of Manitoba Libraries on July 29, 2014 jas.sagepub.com Downloaded from J A A S Chiluwa 735 worshippers for members who worship online in addition to belonging to an offline local church. This new cyber culture has meant adopting the Internet and CMC with some notable degree of success never witnessed before in the history of Pentecostal religion in Nigeria. Most interesting is the increasing widespread claim of spiritual experience and miracles that have been recognized by the practitioners as proof that God has indeed gone online. Nigeria has been noted as a leading religious nation with about 91% of the population attending offline religious services and 95% praying regularly (British Broadcastin g Corporation [BBC], 2004; Chiluwa 2008; Emenyonu, 2007). Christianity, fairly predominant in the south, and Islam, in the north, are the main religions accounting for about 93% of the entire Nigerian population (Mandryk and Johnstone, 2001). Online churches as the extension of the physical offline ones now provide an alternative for worshippers who may decide to stay at home an d worship online. This study is a contribution to the growing research on the relationship between religion and new media communication and supports the view that society shapes techno logy and, in the con- text of CMC, that spirituality can also shape technology (Campbell, 200 5). This view opposes the secularization theory and argues that religious institutions and churches have indeed used informa- tion technology and the new media to initiate and enhance religious wors hips and practices. The study examines the online activities of the seven largest and fastest growing Pentecostal/Charismatic churches in Nigeria. These churches constitute about 65% of regular Christians (Mandryk and Johnstone, 2001). They are: 1. The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) 2. Deeper Life Bible Church (DLBC) 3. Living Faith Church Worldwide (LFC; aka Winners Chapel) 4. Christ Embassy (CEmb; aka Love World) 5. Mountain of Fire Ministries (MFM) 6. Sword of the Spirit Ministries Intl (SSM) 7. Church of God International (CGI) These interdenominational churches believe in being filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking in unknown tongues. They are often referred to as Charismatic largely due to their belief in and claim of supernatural healings and miracles by praying in the name of Jesus Ch rist. One such testimony obtained from the website of Deeper Life Bible Church, for example, is reproduced here: T. C. 30 years old man from BURUNDI had his right leg swollen because of an accident. But, while he was being rushed to the hospital he decided to attend the Great Transformation Crusade and when Pastor Kumuyi prayed the balloon leg became normal. (Deeper Christian Life Ministry, n.d.) These churches whose critics refer to as modern or I feel alright churches have been selected for this study for the following reasons: (1) they have membership and branches/parishes in all 36 states of Nigeria and in most African countries; (2) they have branches and worship centres across the world; (3) all seven churches have a large online membership in Africa, Europe, Asia and America, with evidences of members who worship primarily online as a res ult of non-access to a local assembly; (4) they have standard websites/WebTV where online publications and activities such as revivals, Bible studies, anointing services, healing school, fee t-washing etcetera are pro- moted; and (5) all seven churches have independent world-class satellite facilities and modern media centres where activities are transmitted via satellite to members across the world. This paper attempts to provide answers to the following questions: at University of Manitoba Libraries on July 29, 2014 jas.sagepub.com Downloaded from 736 Journal of Asian and African Studies 47(6) 1. How have these churches used cyberspace and what have been the results? 2. What new forms of religious practices are performed by the churches virtual communities? 3. What promise or challenge does the spread of online churches and reported miracles pose to the church and the general public? 4. What is the future of the church in Nigeria with the application of new media technologies? Online Religion and Religion Online Online religion and religion online are used interchangeably in this study using Helland s termi- nologies. On the one hand, the former, according to Christopher Helland (2007), developed as people and institutions began to take advantage of the interactive eleme nts of the Internet and cyberspace. Religion online, on the other hand, which he associates with the Roman Catholic Church, is non-interactive and, if at all, stops at the level of hierarchical interaction mode a one-way website construction patterned after a one-to-many of the other broa dcast media. The Nigerian Pentecostals construct their websites within a structure that c ombines both elements of interactive forum and non-interactive presentation of church programmes and activities. The latter comprises normal church services, sermons and other leadership-based fun ctions like anointing services , healing school or communion services . All of these make up what is known as Internet spiritual worship in Nigeria. These activities are to ensure that virtual participation is not lacking in terms of meeting the spiritual needs of worshippers. Hence online worship easily supplements real life church atten- dance. Second, it re-enforces religious authority contrary to fears that virtual worship endangers religious authority and control (Campbell, 2007). By making online wor ship a one-to-many direction, pastors and overseers of these churches simply transmit church pro grammes which are received and performed incontestably by members and non-members alike. S ignificantly, interac- tive forums are not widespread, and where they exist, are provided only for members to return feedback in the form of prayer requests, counselling and testimonies. Si nce the churches websites are mainly text based, they do not yet provide online chats, or video su pported interactions. Hence discussion or debate forums where individuals may discuss personal feeli ngs and beliefs, ques- tions, complaints and religious-based ideologies are generally not avail able. This implies that the non-interactive mode attributed to the Catholic Church also applies to P rotestant churches. This is similar to Kenshin Fukamizu s findings in his article Internet Use among Religious Followers: Religious Postmodernism in Japanese Buddhism (2007). According to the study, only a few sites have the possibility of dialogic interaction which is why religious use of the Internet is very low in Japan compared to the United States (Fukamizu, 2007). Akira Kawabata and Takanori Tamura (2007) attribute this low use of the Internet for religion in Japan to demographic reasons rather than the interactive profiles of the websites. According to the study, Japanese believers are much more likely to be older than the American adherents of religion, thus may have a low attitude towards the Internet. These studies believe that online interactive religion is much more like ly to meet the needs of worshippers. Interestingly, Mitsuharu Watanabe s (2007) study of Conflict and Intolerance in a Web Community: Effects of a System Integrating Dialogues and Monologues argues that a mono- logue system might always exist and in fact be preferred. He compares th e users of the bulletin board system (interactive) and those of the weblog system (monologica l), and concludes that there is a sudden shift from the interactive and dialogical to the weblo g (or blog) because those that subscribe to the bulletin board system encounter serious difficulties while trying to engage at University of Manitoba Libraries on July 29, 2014 jas.sagepub.com Downloaded from Chiluwa 737 in religious dialogue online, because worshippers generally tend to be i ntolerant of other peo – ple s views in matters of spirituality, religious tradition and institution. This also explains why the Nigerian churches under focus subscribe to the non-interactive syste m. There is the fear that a forum for debate on spirituality would engender a holier than thou attitude and may result in conflict and confusion, especially as matters of divine worship are perc eived as beyond human reasoning. Theoretical Framework: Secularism versus Religion on the Internet The works of Karl Marx and Max Weber emphasized the relationship between religion and the economic or social structure of society. In contemporary times, debates on the roles of religion have continued and centred on issues such as secularization, and the rel evance of religion in the context of globalization and multiculturalism. The secularization thesis refers to the belief that as societies progress , particularly through modernization and ratio nalization, religion loses its authority in all aspects of social life and governance (Berger, 1967, cited in O Neil, 2004; Wikipedia, n.d.d, n.d.e, n.d.f, n.d.g, n.d.i, n.d.m, n.d.n). From the earlier works by Marx and Weber, religion is viewed as undermined by intellectual and scientific developments and one can infer from aspects of Marx s and Weber s thoughts on religion to posit that religion will eventually become socially irrelevant and culturally extinct as modernization and s ecular thinking become increasingly prevalent around the world (Armfield and Holbert, 2003; Mc Grath, 2004; Norris and Inglechart, 2004). Karl Marx had viewed religion as an expression of material realities and economic injustice. Thus religion has no independent relevance and is one social institution that depends solely on the material and economic conditions of a given society. Religious problems are, therefore, viewed as essentially social problems. And since religion itself depends on what social purpose it serves and not the content of its beliefs, religious doctrines become irrelevant an d used by oppressors to make people feel better about the distress they experience due to exploitation (Cline, 2001). Religion thus becomes an opium of the people . Marx s opinion was that religion is an illusion that provides reasons and excuses to keep society functioning just as it is. Much as capitalism takes the produc- tive labour of the exploited worker and alienates him from its value, re ligion takes the worker s highest ideals and aspirations and alienates him from them, projecting t hem onto an alien and unknowable being called God. In his Contribution to the Critique of Hegel s Philosophy of Right: Introduction (1844), Marx contends that religion is meant to create illusory fantasies for the poo r. Economic realities prevent them from finding true happiness in their present life, so religion assu res them of true happiness in the afterlife. People are in distress and religion does provide solace, just as people who are physi- cally injured receive relief from opiate-based drugs. Unfortunately, opiates do not provide healing for an injury, rather a temporary relief from the pain and suffering. Similarly, religion does not heal the underlying causes of people s pain and suffering; instead, it helps them forget why they are suffering and causes them to look forward to an imaginary future when the p ain will cease instead of working to change the present circumstances. To make matters worse, this opium is being administered by the oppressors who are responsible for the pain and suffering. Marx argued that opium and religion could actually be said to be contributing to human suffer – ing by removing the impetus to do whatever is necessary to overcome it w hich, for Marx, is to relinquish religion and turn to revolutionary politics (Udis-Kessler, 2001). The description of reli- gion as the heart of a heartless world, thus becomes a critique not only of religion but also of the at University of Manitoba Libraries on July 29, 2014 jas.sagepub.com Downloaded from 738 Journal of Asian and African Studies 47(6) world as it exists. What this shows is that Marx s consideration of religion, politics, economics and society as a whole was not merely a philosophical exercise, but an activ e attempt to change the world, to help it find a new heart (Thompson, 2011). While Karl Marx provides an account in which religion is viewed as a mere social opiate and agent of social control, Max Weber offers a different argument, one in which religion is considered as an independent variable and can in some instances be a source of soci al change. In his work The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1958), Weber argues that religion (specifically Calvinism) helps to define motivation and actually promoted the rise of modern capitalism. In The Protestant Ethic, Weber argued that capitalism arose in Europe in part because of how the belief in predestination was interpreted by the English Puritans . Puritan theology was based on the Calvinist notion that not everyone would be saved; there was only a spec ific number of the elect who would avoid damnation, and this was based on God s predetermined will and not by any indi- vidual s personal actions. Official doctrine maintained that one could not really know whether one was among the elect. Weber noted that this was psychologically problematic because people were anxious to know whether they would be eternally damned or not. Thus Puritan leaders began assuring members that, if they began doing well financially in their businesses, this would be one unofficial sign they had God s approval and were among the saved (McKinnon, 2010). This along with the rationalism implied by monotheism led to the development of rational bookkeeping and the calculated pursuit of financial success beyond what one needed simply to live and this is the spirit of capitalism (McKinnon, 2010). Over time, the habits associated with the spirit of capitalism lost their religious significance, and rational pursuit of profit became its own aim. In sum, Weber s sociology of reli- gion is notable for its claims that religion can be a source of social c hange, as opposed to Marx s position that it is a reflection of material causes of change or a source of capitalist oppression (Wikpedia n.d.a, n.d.c, n.d.j, n.d.k, n.d.l, n.d.p). Emile Durkheim, another renowned sociologist, whose pioneering theory of religion was influ- enced by his view of society as accumulated body of facts that operates on a set of laws, argued that religion was a mere expression of social cohesion. In his The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912) he contended that the totems the aborigines (of indigenous Australia) worshipped were actually expressions of their own conceptions of society itself. He argued that this was true not only for the aborigines, but for all societies. Therefore religion is not imaginary , it is very real as an expression of society itself and, indeed, there is no society that does not have a religion. In Durkheim s view, we perceive as individuals a force greater than ourselves, which is our social life, and give that perception a supernatural face. We then express ourselves religiously in groups, which for Durkheim makes the symbolic power greater. Thus religion becomes an expression of our collective consciousness, which is the fusion of all of our individu al consciousnesses, and then creates a reality of its own (Oakley, 2005). It follows, therefore, that less complex societies, such as the Australian aborigines, have less complex religious systems, involving totems associated with particular clans. The more complex the society, the more complex the religious system. As societies come in contact with other societ- ies, there is a tendency for religious systems to emphasize universalism to a greater and greater extent. Durkheim s functional definition of religion identified a church comprising a uni fied sys- tem of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, beliefs and prac tices, which unite into one single moral community called a church, comprising all those who adhere to them. This func- tional definition of religion explains what religion does in social life: essentially, it unites societies (Wikipedia n.d.b, n.d.h, n.d.o, n.d.q, n.d.r). at University of Manitoba Libraries on July 29, 2014 jas.sagepub.com Downloaded from Chiluwa 739 As already highlighted, the secularization ar gument actually developed from these earlier theories (discussed earlier) based on the belief that religion and modernism are incompatible because, as traditional people become more and more educated and convers ant with science and technology, more empirical explanations for existence would make religious belief unnecessary. Also, as other forms of social authority (e.g. education) begin to con front religion, they would eventually replace religious authority and religious leaders would lose their power to use reli- gious doctrines and practices to control the lives of people and the cou rse of events in society. Greg Armfield and Lance Holbert (2003), for instance, have argued that the more religious an individual is, the less he is likely to use the Internet and since the I nternet embodies the secular world view, religious persons are less likely to use it. In Nigeria, however, not only is religion flourishing, churches are using the modern technology of computers and I nternet to enhance religiosity and religious practices. There is extensive literature, some of which are discussed below, that have established that in fact the more religious a person is the more s/he uses the Internet. As a matter of fact, the new media technologies appear to have become a horse on which modern religions ride the nooks and crannies of the world. According to time.com (n.d.), topics about God and religion account fo r about 1,772,945 docu- ments, against sex with 683,645 almost three times fewer than the f ormer. And according to Christopher Helland (2005, 2007), a Yahoo directory for Religion and Spiritual Beliefs showed that the category containing Christian websites increased by 234 sites w ithin 24 hours in 2002, and more people used the Internet for religious purposes than they used it f or commercial or business purposes (Larsen, 2004). In what is termed spiritualising of the Internet Heidi Campbell (2005) shows why and how common discourses and narratives employed by worshippers are suitable for religious purposes. The study argues that religion indeed shapes technology because social groups may employ a particular technology uniquely in order to maintain or rein force certain patterns of life. Contrary to the postulations of the secularization theory, Randolph Kluver and Pauline Cheong (2007) similarly argue that various religious communities in Singapore have embraced the In ternet as a functional strategy for growth, social mobilization and recruitment . Religious leaders in Singapore, according to the study, had enthusiastically supported information technology since they believed this would exacerbate the stress points between religi ons , since religious conflict was a key concern to the government. Helland (2007) shows that some Jewish, Hindu and Muslim worshippers ha ve successfully used the Internet to develop virtual pilgrimages, visit important temples and religious sites. Members also engage in dialogue with one another using chat rooms, hyperlinks, and mu ltimedia to advance Hindu Diaspora communities. Furthermore, Campbell (2005) stresses that individuals use the Internet for personal spiritual enhancement, the Internet being a sacred or spiritual space for a vari- ety of religious experiences on individuals own terms and in the privacy and comfort of their homes. Spiritual networks are formed which include forming social structures to support spiritual activities and creating or promoting a common belief and religious under standing. Thus using the Internet as a spiritual network interprets online activities or experien ces to be part of a person s spiri- tual s life whether these pursuits are individual, communal or informational (Campbell, 2005: 54). Heidi Campbell and Patricia Calderon (2007: 261) identify a steady gro wth of technologies and the practice of religion online, showing that in many aspects Ch ristian groups and users have led the way in using the web for spiritual practices . This ranges from church websites becoming a common form of congregational advertising and communication to the rise of cyber churches and online prayer meetings (2007: 261). This takes the form of forums, newsgroups or weblogs to invite people to take active part in practising their religio n as well as perform online rituals (Miczek, 2008). at University of Manitoba Libraries on July 29, 2014 jas.sagepub.com Downloaded from 740 Journal of Asian and African Studies 47(6) Methodology On the appropriate methodology for studying religion on the Internet, Ol iver Kruger (2005) recom- mends that a comprehensive study should provide answers to what is on the Internet, who put it there and for what purpose, how many people use it and how often the use of the online resources has influenced religious worship. In answering the questions of what, wh o, how, how often, etcet- era, the approach adopted in this study is discursive while applying some personal knowledge of these institutions. Consultations and interactions were held with some p ersonnel and members of the churches. A few interviews were also conducted when possible, while other informati on were obtained through email communication. In classifying computer-mediated communication (CMC), Susan Herring (2007) identifies two basic factors that shape CMD, name ly: (1) medium factors (an attempt to discover under what circumstances specific systems affect communication and in what ways); and (2) situation factors (information about participants, th eir relationships to one another, their purposes for communicating, what they are communicating about and the kind of language they use) are also examined. The present study examines some questions that reflect Herring s situation factors , such as information about participants (e.g. worshippers) and their relationship to one another, topics of interaction (e.g. forms of online worship), and goals of i nteraction. Data comprises mainly online resources; that is, written texts showing featur es and uses of the websites under study as well as the activities of the churches. The special events and programmes of these churches, as shown in Table 1, are in the form of weekly radio/TV programmes (e.g. CEmb.) or as monthly activities (e.g. MFM and RCCG) or as Table 1. An o verview of the churches. A general overview that provides the age, location, numerical size affiliation and other information of the churches S/n Church Founded Location Approx. size @ church HQDoctrinal focus Special event Affiliation Overseer 1 RCCG 1952 Lagos 75,000 Salvation, healing, Faith, Holy GhostHoly Ghost ServiceApostolic Enoch Adeboye 2 DLBC 1973 Lagos 70,000 Salvation, holiness, EvangelismRetreat Wesleyan William Kumuyi 3 LFC 1982 Ota 100,000 Faith, Wisdom, prosperity, praise, healingShiloh Kenneth Hagin MinistriesDavid Oyedepo 4 CEmb 1993 Lagos 50,000 Healing, miracle, Holy GhostAtmos-phere for MiraclesApostolic Chris Oyakhilome 5 MFM 1989 Lagos 50,000 Prayer, Deliverance Signs and wonderPower must Change HandsApostolic Daniel Olukoya 6 SSM 1983 Ibadan 25,000 Salvation, Evangelism, healingOral RobertsWale Oke 7 CGI 1974 Benin 25,000 Salvation, EvangelismCongress Assemblies of GodMargaret Idahosa Ke y : RCCG: Redeemed Christian Church of God; DLBC: Deeper Life Bible Church; LFC: Living Faith Church; CEmb: Christ Embassy; MFM: Mountain of Fire and Miracles; SSM: Sword of the Spirit Ministries; CGI: Church of God International. at University of Manitoba Libraries on July 29, 2014 jas.sagepub.com Downloaded from Chiluwa 741 quarterly or yearly events (e.g. DLBC, LFC etc.). The quarterly programmes are held at the various church offline locations, which are usually different from the headquarters church. RCCG, DLBC and MFM, for instance, have their camp sites known as Redeemed Camp , Deeperlife Camp Ground , and Prayer City respectively at the Lagos/Ibadan expressway, on the outskirt of Lagos, whereas their headquarters are at Ebute-Metta, Gbagada and Onike-Yaba, all in Lagos. The Faith Tabernacle (Headquarters) of the Winners Chapel at Ota was quoted by the Guinness Book of Records (2009) as the largest church building in the world. The size of each local church, as shown in Table 1, is conservatively put being numbers quoted inconsistently as at 2005 for some (e.g. DLBC) and 2011 for others (e.g. LFC). Some annual events of some of these churches have also attracted between 500,000 and three million participants. This not only indicates that Nigeria is a highly religious nation, but also s uggests that religion holds a special meaning for the Nigerian population. It also goes further to ind icate that religion may be expressing collective consciousness but, much more, it possesses great p otential to unite a people, going by Emile Durkheim s postulation. In Nigeria, however, the situation appears a bit complex and ironical because, despite large crowds in churches and mosques, the country is still being torn apart by sectarian crises, some of which are religiously motivated. The recent and incessant Jos crisis that has claimed hundreds of lives is a good example. One wonders if indeed religion unites people as Durkheim postulated. Significantly, in the last seven years, five out of the seven fastest-growing and ric hest Nigerian churches have established universities in Nigeria. The universities are: (1) Covenant University, Ota and Landmark University, Omu-Aran (by LFC); (2) Benson Idahosa University, Benin city (by CGI); (3) Redeemers University, Mowe (by RCCG); (4) Mountain Top University, Mowe (by MFM); and (5) Anchor University (by DLBC), which is expected to open in 2011. Interestingly, the wealth and fervour of material investments by these modern churches tend to validate Weber s concept of the spirit of capitalism that champions especially the establishment of fee-paying uni- versities. While the spirit of capitalism may not have lost its religious significa nce to rational pur – suit of profit making in these churches, Weber s claim that religion can foster social change (and development) is unmistakable. Not only do the Christian-based foundations and universities founded by these churches offer scholarships to some of their less-privileged members, their health centres also offer free medical services to some of their members. This development negates Marx s argument that religion is a mere source of capitalist oppression. Rather, Weber s observa- tion that religious Puritans equated material prosperity with salvation is almost true of some of these churches, especially the LFC, where the general assumption is that a Christian has no busi- ness being poor. One main proof of God s approval of an individual is that he/she prospers materi- ally. Thus the pursuit of money and material wealth in these modern churches is almost more important than spirituality itself. Visits to the Church Sites Alexa.com (n.d.) documents the number of visits to the churches websites from all over the globe per day, per seven days and per three months. Because the figures are updated daily, it becomes difficult to give the exact number of visits and traffic rank trends. The statistics given in Table 2, compiled in January 2010, give a general convenient picture of t

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