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The Devil's Long Tail: Religious Moderation and Extremism on the Web

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  • Economics
  • Religious Science


In this article, we examine Chris Anderson's theory of the long tail with regard not to an economic market, but rather to the competitive marketplace of ideas. In a religious context, we interpret the long-tail theory as predicting that the Web will allow extreme or strict sects to flourish in an unprecedented way by helping proponents cater to the long tail online. If this is true, it threatens the orthodox understanding of the dynamics of religious extremism. It would also undermine the associated idea that groups’ convergence on the middle ground of religious beliefs cultivates and is cultivated by liberal civic virtues. If radical groups can flourish while preaching virtues diametrically opposed to liberalism, freedom of religion might not be so good for liberalism after all.

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