Believers flock to online religion

More New Zealanders are defining their spiritual journey online with traffic to religion sites up on this time last year, according to Hitwise, New Zealand's leading Internet competitive intelligence company.

So, why the increase in virtual religion?

Add the hundreds of Christian sites ranging from Catholic and Anglican to Russian Orthodox, Lutheran and Quaker to a similar number of non-Christian and non-belief sites including Baha'i, Buddhim, Gnostic, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, New Age, paganism, Satanism, Scientology, Sikhism, Spiritism, Spiritualism, Taoism, Theosophy, and Zoroastrianism - and you have a snapshot of religion today.

And don't forget The Raelian Revolution - claimed to be 'The world's largest UFO-related organisation'.

According to Tessa Court, SVP of Hitwise, "given the range of choice and information, there's little wonder that congregations are aging and attendances at church services are down, with young people using the Internet to define their spiritual journey and beliefs without having to set foot in a church."

So, what religions have the largest online congregations?

New Zealand's most popular religion sites include Parachute Music, Anglican Diocese of Dunedin, Radio Rhema and the Stupa Information Page (FYI a stupa is an ancient Buddhist shrine dedicated to the historic Buddha Shakyamuni).

Internationally, most domestic traffic is directed to The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, Gospel Communications Network an alliance of Christian organizations dedicated to spreading the Gospel over the world wide web and Belief Net which provides chat rooms, discussion and resources for a range of religions, beliefs and spiritualities.

So, how long does the online spiritual journey take and where does it take you?

Hitwise statistics show that the average session duration for religion sites is 6 minutes and 15 seconds, and with only 14% of traffic to religion sites directed at domestic services, New Zealanders are looking for answers overseas which could signify the fact that religion and spiritualism have moved beyond the local parish.

So, who are the most committed believers?

Last week a massive 8.8% of visitors to The Churches' Agency on Social Issues left with the intention of returning by adding this site to their "favorites". The next most bookmarked sites were (8%), CYG Online (3.5%), and Parachute Music (3%).

So, what do virtual parishioners do when they leave their favorite site?

Check out other sites continuing to search for answers.....

..4% of traffic to went on the spread the gospel though

..3% of traffic to clicked through to the World Vision site to find out the latest news about humanitarian projects

..3.9% of traffic to went on to join the campaign for tougher sentencing and punishment for serious crimes in New Zealand at

So, what are some of the more interesting religious sites?

Recent world unrest has seen the rise of sites dedicated to promoting human rites, as well as information about Islam for non-Muslims.

"Sites like and provide the opportunity for people of all religions to explore faiths other than their own, while promoting the belief that everyone should be able to follow their own religious practices freely, even though others may view them as false," said Ms Court.