GOD ONLINE: Exploring media spirituality

Web sites, TV, films, books and the search for meaning.

Rumor has it — or doesn’t

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What? They’re trying to clone the DNA of Jesus? Billy Graham rode a scooter through New Orleans? Shakira publicly insulted Israel?

Hit the “Forward’ button!

Or not. First, check out that e-mail on a couple of rumor control sites.

First, the granddaddy: Snopes, a brilliantly literate site by Barbara and David Mikkelson. For more than a decade, Snopes has exposed crap like the claim that 4,000 Jews didn’t go to their jobs at the World Trade Center on 9-11.

The other outstanding rumor control site is Truth or Fiction. founded in 1998 by Christian reporter Rich Buhler. He writes that Truth or Fiction is for anyone “who wants to make sure that an email story contains information, not misinformation.”

Snopes probably has more rumors probed, but Truth or Fiction may be more current on religious tales. Among the latest: John McCain was just baptized, Barack Obama made fun of the Bible, and the University of Kentucky has removed Holocaust studies.

Both sites help you get beyond the details. Buhler analyzes the “Anatomy of a Rumor,” and how to tell if something is unkosher. Snopes gets more arcane, with terms like “glurge” and “slacktivism.”

But bookmark both sites. They both probe not only religious topics but reams of others — from celebrities to ghost stories to conspiracies to giant spiders. Even if the rumors never land in your inbox, they’re still fun to read.

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Written by Jim Davis

September 17, 2008 at 3:37 am

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