Not All Spiritual E-Mail Is Sent With Divine Intentions

Sometimes that junk e-mail in your computer inbox isn’t trying to sell you something — it’s trying to save your soul.

Get ready for spiritual spam. An e-mail security company Friday reported an uptick in evangelical missives crusading across the Internet.

While religious spam makes up less than 2% of the billions of junk e-mail messages sent each day, its numbers have grown in recent weeks, according to MessageLabs, a New York-based anti-spam company.

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“With the recent right-wing swing in elections, maybe they’re trying to ride that wave,” said Paul Wood, the firm’s chief analyst.

Some messages are little more than daily Bible quotes, sometimes in Latin. Others exhort readers to convert or “foolish will be their destruction.”

“Eternity is a really long time,” says one such message. “If you or someone close to you has not accepted God please do so.”

But not all are Gospel truth.

The messages, mostly aimed at Christians, are sometimes ruses for collecting e-mail addresses to flood with pitches for herbal supplements and other goods hawked online.

The senders enlist many tricks used by traditional spammers, such as falsifying reply addresses and routing the messages through unprotected computers. Clicking on links promising free Bibles may do nothing more than confirm a valid e-mail address.

Legitimate or not, Scripture-quoting spam can be no less irksome than the commercial kind.

For Mike Skallas, being stuck on an evangelical mailing list felt like purgatory. For nearly four months, the 29-year-old Chicago computer consultant got messages that were, he said, “very in-your-face. You know, sinners, hell and brimstone.”

And attempts to have himself removed from the list failed.

Before he finally succeeded in blocking the e-mails, he said, the spammers’ message was clear: “This is our dogma and our philosophy, and it’s going to be in your inbox every Friday.”

Read the Los Angeles Times online

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)
Los Angeles Times, USA
Nov. 20, 2004
Chris Gaither, Times Staff Writer

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