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The Devil’s Long Tail: Religious Moderation and Extremism on the Web

O'Hara, Kieron and Stevens, David (2009) The Devil’s Long Tail: Religious Moderation and Extremism on the Web. In: Proceedings of the WebSci'09: Society On-Line, 18-20 March 2009, Athens, Greece.

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Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations offers a striking observation about religious groups: An unfettered religious market leads to a multitude of small sects and away from monopolistic churches. ‘Strict’ or ‘extreme’ religious views persist – because they cater for particular niches – but they remain small in terms of membership because the moderate religious centre-ground is where most believers and potential believers reside. However, the Web, because of the ease with which information is passed across it, caters for individuals with extreme interests or niche markets just as easily as it does for mainstream tastes. The Web removes many costs traditionally associated with market operations, thus allowing extreme or ‘strict’ religious groups and sects to flourish in a previously unprecedented way, by making it more feasible to cater to the long tail of the religious market. If this is true, then it threatens Smith’s claim. It also undermines the associated idea that convergence on the middle ground of religious beliefs by groups cultivates liberal civic virtues. If radical groups can now flourish, preaching virtues diametrically opposed to liberalism, freedom of religion might not be so good for liberalism after all. However, we will also consider the issue that alternative technologies – specifically the threat and occasional use of weapons of mass destruction – have also changed the religious ‘terms of trade’.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords:religion, long tails, ideas, extremism, adam smith
Subjects:Web Science Events > Web Science 2009
ID Code:181
Deposited By: W S T Administrator
Deposited On:24 Jan 2009 08:45
Last Modified:25 Oct 2011 16:32

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