Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Dhyana Ziegler

Committee Members

Rosalind Hackett


This exploratory study examines the motivations behind Internet use by those who visit Christian Web sites. The study examined usage of religious Web sites within the context of the colorful historical lineage of mediated religion dating back over 25 centuries ago to Africa and the use of drums. The drum was used as the earliest form of mediated religion and was devised specifically to satisfy the spiritual needs and gratifications of the users; Web sites are arguably the latest in this long line of media.

This study is based upon a self-selected and non-random online survey of 912 respondents visiting Christian Church Web sites listed in the Goshen Net Directory. The respondents come from nearly every state and 23 locations outside of the United States. The respondents represent 45 Christian denominations, with over 96% claiming to have experienced spiritual or religious conversion.

Comparisons between the results of this study and other Internet studies were offered where appropriate. While the results may not be generalizable to usage of the larger World Wide Web, this sample may be generalizable to the population of users of Christian Church Web sites. The results may be used to generate additional studies on the use of Internet for religious purposes, and argues for more religious Web uses and gratifications research.

In examining uses and motives of visitors to Christian Web sites, the uses and gratifications paradigm is an appropriate theoretical perspective and informs this study. The understanding of these religious users' media motives can contribute to a better understanding of this new medium and forum for religious communities and can also have practical value through enabling religious organizations to attract both religious and non-religious users to their Web sites. While this study employed standardized uses and gratifications measures, the measurement issues raised in this study point toward different gratifications associated with Web use, even for the religious television viewer.

These respondents rank "Religious Web Use" as the most important reason to go online. While some entertainment and information elements are embedded in their online experience, religious overtones permeate the Christian Web users' encounters. For these respondents possible motivations for religious Web site usage may be found in visiting Web sites as a reaction, to reinforce faith, and as a possible alternative to traditional religious services for some. Gratifications achieved by the Christian Web user may best be understood in terms of two or three major motivations, such as faith, community, and religious belief, which drive their selection of media content.

The results of this study are framed in terms of religious uses and gratifications sought by the user of religious Web sites. The understanding of these motivations and their connections to these users serves to build the body of knowledge for both religious studies and communications research literature.

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