| GEO World|
| Religion a hit topic on net|
| Updated at: 1543 PST, Monday, December 14, 2009|
WASHINGTON: Religion is spilling out of the confines of churches, mosques and temples into the Web, according to a new study.
Penn State University (PSU) researchers examined how people use search engines to locate religious information online.
They analysed more than 5.5 million searches collected from three web search engines between 1997 and 2005 to investigate attributes of such religious searching.
The religious landscape within the US has been described as increasingly secularised and factionalised.
However, Jim Jansen, associate professor of information sciences and technology, his counterpart Andrea Tapia and Amanda Spink, professor at Queensland University of Technology, (QUT), found that religious-related interests were generally mainstream.
They also found that the results dispelled the stereotype that religious people are not as accustomed to technology as non-religious people.
"Our results showed that people searching for these religious topics were just as tactically skilled as the general web population," said Jansen. "This actually fits well with the historical use of technology by religious groups and organisations."
There was a general increase in religious searching over time, which may be due to the advancement in technology, increased availability of religious content online and a change in the web population.
"In the days of the earlier data sets, there were limited topics online," Jansen said. "As the Internet and web became more mainstream, a cornucopia of topics emerged -- religion was one," said Jansen, according to a PSU release.