And lo, there was no room on the Net ...

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The Independent Online
IF YOU receive a Merry Christmas e-mail message on your computer screen in the next few weeks, it is unlikely to contain any religious sentiment, writes Vanessa Thorpe. A survey of web-users' attitudes to the festive season reveals that only nine per cent closely associate Jesus Christ with Christmas.

The survey of 2,423 users showed that 53 per cent considered Santa Claus as key to the whole Christmas experience, and there was some confusion over which day actually counts as Christmas: only 89 per cent got the correct date.

Reverend Tom Ambrose, a member of the group Christians on the Internet (Coin) and a priest working near Ely, was dismayed at the survey results. "It is terribly sad if these people are missing out on the true meaning of Christmas," he said. "It's probably true that any of them will not be celebrating Christmas in a context that they can recognise as at all Christian."

Mr Ambrose believes that the Net is, however, an ideal tool for spreading the word of God. The Church of England thinks so too: a week ago the Church of England launched its own website (at www.cofe. anglican.org).

Webpoll, the company that carried out the survey, e-mailed questions to various news groups and web pages. Fifty-two per cent of respondents nominated a relative as the "most irritating thing" about Christmas.

Libby Purves, page 25

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