Everybody has the power to log on to God.com

May 12, 2000

THE Bible as a Mills and Boon romance — if anyone but a rabbi had written it, the concept wouldn’t have merited even two inches of news reports.

It was a great idea, of course . . . 100 years ago, when Lew Wallace dreamed up his epic Bible spin-off, called it Ben-Hur, packed it with voluptuous slaves and torture scenes and a chariot race, and enjoyed one of the biggest bestsellers in history.

Rabbi Sidney Brichto, whose 16-volume paperback rewriting of the scriptures has just been published as The People’s Bible, is way behind the curve.

It’s not enough to feature a love scene between David and Bathsheba, casting the King of the Jews as a chisel-chinned young doctor and his consort as an adoring trainee nurse.

We’ve already had the Bible as a comic-strip, the all-nude singing-and-dancing Bible, the Bible as rock musical, the Bible as Hollywood schlockerama.

If Rabbi Brichto, who lives in Middlesex, wanted to stir some scandal, he should have given us a porno Bible. Maybe call it Emmanuelle In The Highest.

Sex scenes or not, religion will not survive the 21st century if its preachers keep using books. God’s word can no longer be spread on paper. God needs an internet presence.

The web address www.God.com has been registered, but not by the chairman of the board of directors at Heaven Inc. This catchy dot.com has been coined by Network Solutions, a multi-billion operation set up in the mid90s to register clever internet names.

If God wants His dot.com back, he’ll either have to bid for it — $50,000 minimum — or do what Great Train robber Ronnie Biggs did when someone nicked his moniker . . . call a couple of favours in and make the boys an offer they can’t refuse.

Once the Almighty is online, He’ll have to design some sticky content — text, graphics and features that keep the net-users coming back.

Already there are dozens of places on the web to read the Bible, search the Bible, download, print and cross-reference the Bible — and the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads and Vedas, the Buddha’s sermons and the Tao Te Ching.

One site, maintained by the Jesuit order, posts a different passage from the Bible each day and invites visitors to use it as a prayer. Every month 20,000 people do that.

Already there are live radio and even video broadcasts on church web pages. I can watch the minister preach in a Toronto evangelist church as easily as I can slip into a city synagogue.

Already there are thousands of cults online, proliferating and disintegrating so fast that even the dedicated team set up by Professor Jeffrey Fadden at the University of Virginia can’t keep up. His site,www.relfreedom.org, monitors new religious movements.

But God.com can transcend all of these. It can be universal. It can be omnipervasive. It can provide what the internet lacks, and desperately needs — a unifying faith.

I am imagining a resource which bridges all boundaries and religious divides, creating a common place for prayer on the internet.

The internet, with its 250 million users and its servers in every nation of the world, is not about any one belief. It comprises them all. It is a global church, one faith, all gods and one God.

God.com could be the web’s own church, where everyone is free to pray as they wish, without restriction. There would be prayers to be read, listened to and downloaded — traditional prayers of all types, new prayers and prayers submitted by users.

God.com would offer guidance in prayer, helping worshippers to learn the ways which best suit them for praying, both at the computer and throughout the day.

There would be spiritual advice on achieving relaxation, countering doubt, sensing the presence of God, choosing the right words, asking for what is most truly needed.

Prayer groups would be encouraged, with individuals joining small ‘clubs’ of regular prayer-sayers, or using web technology to link up with other users at the site.

Could this daydream do the world any real good? A prayer experiment by Randolph Byrd with 400 cardiac patients at San Francisco General Hospital produced dramatic effects, akin to the discovery of a breakthrough drug.

Another study found heart patients who had someone praying over them — without their knowledge — suffered 10 percent fewer complications.

”It’s potentially a natural explanation we don’t understand yet. It’s potentially a super-or other-than-natural mechanism,” said heart researcher William S Harris, of the Mid America Heart Institute at St Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City.

They studied 990 patients admitted during a year to the institute’s coronary care unit. The patients were randomly divided into two groups. In one, patients were prayed for daily by community volunteers for four weeks; the other patients didn’t have anyone assigned to pray for them.

Researcher Robert Hummer at the University of Texas in Austin combined data on lifestyles across America with mortality figures. After filtering out influences such as alcohol abuse, loneliness and gender, he found one common factor — religious belief promotes longer life.

People who attended church at least once a week tended to live to an average age of 83, while the agnostics died eight years earlier.

In other words — prayer works. And there is a large body of data to back this up.

God.com isn’t online yet. But you can launch your own start-up company right now. Just look into yourself. And say a prayer.

Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold and Ella are published by Headline at £5.99. Mind Medicine is published by Element at £20.
Visit him at www.uri-geller.com and e-mail him at urigeller@compuserve.com

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