Equal parts soapbox, confessional and church social, the blogs of religious folk are not easily categorized. Someone might post a lengthy exegesis of a favorite Bible passage on a Monday, a screed against Democrats on Tuesday and a picture of his cat on Wednesday.
Blogs, or "Web logs," resemble personal Internet pages. But advances in computer technology are turning such blogs into public trading posts in the marketplace of ideas. Bloggers post comments on their pages instantaneously, provide links to articles and other Web sites and hold running conversations between people on multiple continents.
Like incense in a mammoth cathedral, religion permeates the blogosphere.
In an election year, it's only natural that many faith-based bloggers have gotten political. Consider Jason Steffens, a 26-year-old lawyer who lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He started his blog, www.june24.net, which he calls Antioch Road, in December 2001, while a University of Iowa law student.
As a student, Steffens devoted five to 20 hours a week to his blog, he said. But now that he has a newborn and a new job, he said his blogging time has been greatly reduced. Steffens said in an e-mail that he is one of the few "Christian bloggers who does not mind being called a 'fundamentalist.' "
Kathy Shaidle, a journalist and author, created her blog, www.relapsedcatholic.com, four years ago. There was a time when she could visit all her favorite blogs in the time it took her to have a cup of coffee, she said, but so many exist now that it takes some time to remember where they are.
In 2002, a number of Catholic bloggers gathered online and formed St. Blog Parish -- a virtual congregation that includes priests, canon lawyers, a choir director and about 100 lay people.
In cyberspace, religious denominations tend to stick together. But the spatial realities of distance and borders do not apply. Shaidle, for instance, is Canadian. But this self-described "ugly Ann Coulter of Canada" often comments about American politics and provides links to articles that concur with her conservative views. Shaidle said that most of her readers are American.
In an e-mail exchange, Shaidle called America's presidential election "unspeakably important" and wrote that her blog will focus "on election issues, rather than, Oh look: another wacky televangelist scandal."
Because the overwhelming majority of people who have the time and equipment necessary to blog are white, middle-aged, well-educated and affluent, there is a conservative tinge to the blogosphere, said Lynn Schofield Clark, a new-media scholar at the University of Colorado whose research focuses on the Internet.
There are, however, a number of religious liberals who blog.
The Village Gate, formerly called the Right Christians, is an online community of religious progressives that "serves as an electronic gathering place for those who seek to re-energize the progressive tradition," according to a posting on www.therightchristians.org by the Rev. Alan Brill, a Lutheran pastor in South Carolina.
And Chuck Currie, who is training to be a United Church of Christ minister at Eden Theological Seminary in Webster Groves, Mo., said that blogging is an important part of his ministry to the homeless and disenfranchised. Currie spends several hours a day on chuckcurrie.blogs.com, which has been live for about a year. Recent posts include an interview with the Rev. Robert W. Edgar of the National Council of Churches, prayers for peace and reports that Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee (R-R.I.) might not vote for President Bush.
Although his wife thinks his devotion to blogging is "semi-insane," Currie said that he will continue to blog, if only "to show that there is a difference" between liberal and conservative Christians.