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'Beliefnet' Offers On-Line Alternative for Spiritual Growth - 2004-07-03

The World Wide Web has something, it seems, for everyone with a computer. But one popular use of the Internet isn't about high technology.

People meet their religious and spiritual needs in various ways. Some attend services at a house of worship. Others pray at home or with friends or family. Steve Waldman has an on-line alternative.

"Our mission is to help people meet their spiritual needs as they define it," he says. "So we do that by having a really broad range of articles, commentaries on all sorts of religious issues, some controversial and some not; some personal, some political."

Steve Waldman is the editor-in-chief of, a leading Internet destination for people seeking religious information or spiritual growth. The site features a broad range of articles: a recent selection included daily wisdom from the Dalai Lama, the decline of feminism among Mormons, and a plea for more Muslim humor. There's even - believe it or not - a Belief-o-Matic quiz to help you assess what religion is best for you.

"We reach about 4 million people a day through our newsletters and the website," says Mr. Waldman. "And it's really a mix of people who want to learn more about their own faith and those who want to learn about others. People who want to argue about controversial subjects versus people who really want spiritual nourishment in a more serene and directly helpful way."

Mr. Waldman is a former editor and correspondent at two national weekly news magazines. He said that when religion was on the cover, sales went up. There is, he concluded, a really strong thirst for information about religion and spirituality. He also points to a survey earlier this year by the Pew Internet and American Life Project that found that 64 percent of U.S. Internet users have used it for spiritual or religious purposes.

Much of the content of is not necessarily about religious doctrine or practice.

"We actually look at a lot of the same things that popular culture, that other magazines might look at, but we look it through a spiritual lens and often, I think, come up with a different take," Mr. Waldman says.

So, when former President Reagan died after battling Alzheimer's disease, there was a story on the spiritual meaning of Alzheimer's. And the site offers interactive forums such as prayer circles and discussion groups.