Sunday, April 06, 2014

Religion killed by technology, religion spread by technology.

Exhibit A:

New research has shown a correlation between the rise of the Internet and the decline of Americans claiming religious affiliation.

Other factors, such as an increase in higher education, are also implicated, but according to Allen Downey, a computer scientist at the Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts, the increase in Internet usage has a significant correlation.
The MIT Technology Review reports that in 1990, eight per cent of Americans had no religious affiliation. In 2010, that figure stands at 18 per cent, or 25 million people.

Exhibit B:

Why is mindfulness so popular?
It appeals to people seeking an antidote to life in work-obsessed, tech-saturated, frantically busy Western culture. There is growing scientific evidence that mindfulness meditation has genuine health benefits — and can even alter the structure of the brain, so the technique is drawing some unlikely devotees. Pentagon leaders are experimenting with mindfulness to make soldiers more resilient, while General Mills has installed a meditation room in every building of its Minneapolis campus. Even tech-obsessed Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are using it as a way to unplug from their hyperconnected lives. "Meditation always had bad branding for this culture," says Evan Williams, co-founder of Twitter. "But to me, it's a way to think more clearly and to not feel so swept up."

Discuss amongst yourselves.

The Phantom


Alyric said...

Another bogus study.

I should probably clarify. When I say bogus, I don't necessarily mean to say that the author is incorrect. However, his 'study' fails to provide any proof.

For example, he looks at the decline in religious affiliation between 1990 and present. Then he jumps to focusing on the internet, ignoring any other changes between then and now. Possibly it's included in the study, but I doubt it.

How does he show that the internet must be responsible, then? By saying that exposure to larger social circles causes people to lose their religion.

This is significant for two reasons. The first, it's a possible reveal of the author's own bias: Religion is obviously wrong, and if you come out of your shell and meet enough people, you'll realize it.

Even if that isn't the case, though - what's his evidence that meeting more people causes you to lose your religion? College students. Talk about something that's changed since 1990! He's either very ignorant or being deliberately dishonest to not even consider the large amount of anti-religious programming in colleges and universities around the country.

He then goes on to cite the increase in the amount of people attending college in the same approximate time frame as the rise of the internet, apparently oblivious to the possible correlation. The end of the article also notes that his theory can only account for 'about 50 percent' of the decline in religious affiliation, and the other half is 'unexplained'.

Or you're just wrong. (Once again, I'm not saying he is, but he really does seem to have some blinders on here).

My favorite line, though, is when the author of the study is asked about possible outside factors: “We have controlled for most of the obvious candidates, including income, education, socioeconomic status, and rural/urban environments,”.

We took into account all the outside factors, except the ones we might not have thought of!

Has the internet led to a decrease in religion? I'd be very surprised to learn that nobody had given up a religion over something on the internet, but I don't think it's likely we'll ever be certain just how many - or be able to separate them from other emerging factors.

The Phantom said...

I think its certainly true that many people have given up being affiliated with main-line -churches-, that's a well established phenomenon. The United Church of Canada has more empty pews every year, for example.

But more people giving up Christianity? Doubt it.

One major factor that makes me say that is one they didn't control for, and that's the surge in anti-Christian propaganda these last 20 years. Fewer people are willing to stand up and declare their commitment in an ivory tower setting because it will have real and large negative results in their life.

WiFi Lunchbox Guy said...

"Prayer is petition, intercession, adoration, and contemplation; great saints and mystics have agreed on this definition. To stop short at petition is to pray only in a crippled fashion. Further, such prayer encourages one of the faults which is most reprehended by spiritual instructors — turning to God without turning from Self."--Robertson Davies, A Voice From the Attic

As long as Christian Sunday schools restrict themselves to (badly) teaching petitional prayer, people will look elsewhere to fill the void created by the absence of prayer.

And when they find some of those pieces in MBSR or the New Age movement, in however degraded a state, they will lash out at the churches of their forefathers from a justified feeling of betrayal.