Rabbis see the Internet as harmful

Despite majority belief that the net is dangerous, all rabbis believe in freedom of speech, free press.

September 26, 2006 14:29
3 minute read.
Rabbis see the Internet as harmful

rabbi computer 88. (photo credit: )


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Eighty-seven percent of haredi rabbis and 82% of national religious rabbis believe that the Internet is harmful to religious values, a study surveying rabbis' attitudes towards the mass media showed on Tuesday. In the survey - conducted by the Holon Institute of Technology and the Lifshitz Religious Education College - Israeli rabbis were found to be very critical of the coverage of religion by the media. Questions were aimed at assessing rabbis' perceptions of the Israeli media. Despite a belief by the majority that the Internet was dangerous, all rabbis believed in the freedom of speech and the free press. When asked to rate the danger posed by Internet usage, 95% of all orthodox rabbis said that the press damaged religious values `to some extent', `to a great extent' or `to a very great extent', in contrast to the 31% of non-orthodox rabbis who replied similarly. Similar findings were found in rabbis' attitudes to radio, cinema, and theater. However, non-orthodox rabbis were more inclined to view the Internet as damaging to religious values. Although most rabbis agreed that people have a right to attain knowledge, many differences were found over whether rabbis agreed with the principle `to a great extent' or a `very great extent'. Ninety percent of Reform and Conservative rabbis, 77% of national religious, 45% of national haredi, and 41% of haredi rabbis `agreed to a great extent' or `agreed to a very great extent' with the principle of a right to information. Place of birth seemed to have an effect on the views of Israeli rabbis. Rabbis from all religious streams born in English-speaking countries (83%) and those born in Israel (61%) `agreed to great extent' or `agreed to a very great extent' with the principle of the right to know in contrast to rabbis born in eastern Europe (39%) and in Arab countries (17%). Freedom of the press, although championed less than the principle of a right to attain knowledge was still considered a right by many rabbis. Ninety-six percent of Reform and Conservative rabbis; 47% of national religious; 33% of national haredi rabbis, and 26% of haredi rabbis agreed 'to a great extent' or 'to a very great extent' with the right of freedom of the press. Rabbis born in English-speaking countries were more inclined than rabbis from other backgrounds to acknowledge this right. Most orthodox rabbis (89% of mainstream national religious, national haredi, and haredi) favored supervision of the media `to some extent', to `a great extent' or to `a very great extent', as opposed to 48% of non-orthodox rabbis (Conservative rabbis favoring supervision more than reform rabbis). Rabbis born in English-speaking countries were less prone to favor supervision of the press (35%) than were Israeli-born rabbis (64%), eastern European rabbis (76%) or rabbis born in Arab countries (78%). Rabbis of all streams who favored supervision of the press preferred that this be done by a public body than by rabbis. Most haredi rabbis also preferred this monitoring to be done by a public body (62%) than by a rabbinical body (38%). A wide variety of responses were given when asked whether scandalous information exposing crimes committed by rabbis should be reported: 100% of non-orthodox rabbis favored its exposure in contrast to 23% of haredi rabbis and 59% of national religious rabbis. Yet rabbis of all streams believed that such publicity was a deterrent: 76% of orthodox rabbis and 62% of non-orthodox rabbis believed that such publicity served as a deterrent 'to some extent', 'to a great extent,' or 'to a very great extent.' Despite the rabbis' negative impressions of the mass media, when asked whether conflict between religion and the media was inevitable, only 8% of rabbis of all streams entirely agreed, 18% 'agreed a lot,' in contrast to 30% who 'did not agree,' 22% who agreed slightly, and 23% who `agreed.' The study, lead by Dr. Yoel Cohen, was based on answers given by over 300 rabbis from haredi, mainstream national religious, national haredi, conservative and reform sects.

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