New research shows that more and more of us are not identifying with a religion. According to MIT, only 8% of the US population did not have a religious affiliation in 1990, but jumping twenty years forward to 2010, that percentage shot up 18%. 25 million more people have seemingly lost their religion, and Internet may be a catalyst. This research suggests that there’s definitely a relationship between the popularity of Internet and the decline of religious affiliation, but is the Internet the only factor here?
Religion is many things, but it’s certainly not simple. The way we view it depends on our lifestyle, location, upbringing, and mindset (for starters). With the rise of hard sciences in the 18th and 19th centuries, a country deeply rooted in religion began to replace its beliefs with quantitative ideology. The US is one of the more religious countries in the world; a 2002 survey by the Pew forum indicates that nearly 6 in 10 Americans said religion plays an important role in their lives. In Britain, only 3 out of 10 said the same thing, less than 3 out of 10 in Italy, and only 2 out of 10 in Germany. Historically, the US has just been more in tune with God, in whatever form that may be.
Up until now (sort of). The findings show that religious upbringing has the biggest influence on whether you will end up considering yourself a pious person or no. Starting with the ‘90s, less and less people brought up their children in a religious household. However, this only explains 25% of the drop in religious affiliation.
So, what else could affect the way Americans practice faith? Is it education? Studies show that although the rates of college education from the ’80s to 2000s increased, this only accounts for 5% of the drop in religious affiliation.
The Internet, as it turns out, has proven to illustrate a higher correlation than education. The amount of Internet usage went from “zero percent in the 1980s to 53 percent of the population spending up to two hours a week online in the 2000s.” This increase parallels with the 26% decrease in religious upbringing, meaning that the people who were raised during the same time period as the Internet boom, are less likely to be religious.
However, this is only a correlation. Does it absolutely mean that just because during the time period between 1990 and 2010 more people were using the Internet directly equates to a loss in religious identity?
What about television? We are able to watch so many more programs now, due to DVR. I can watch Parenthood, GIRLS, AND catch a couple of specials on educational stations like the History or Discovery Channel. With DVR, we’re given many more choices on how we want to entertain as well as educate ourselves.
What about the media in general? It’s difficult to pinpoint religion’s decline on just one thing, because to many, religion is a lifestyle. When that lifestyle is altered, is religion altered? For example, shows like Keeping up with the Kardashians and The Hills convey the message that the more stuff you have, the more fabulous (and thus, better) your life is. This directly conflicts with most religious ideologies, I would say.
However, MIT is pretty confident in this correlation between an increase in Internet use and a decrease in piousness. The review states, “It’s …straightforward to imagine how spending time on the Internet can lead to religious disaffiliation. For people living in homogeneous communities, the Internet provides opportunities to find information about people of other religions (and none)…”
For the most part, I think this study makes sense. The way we learn about our environment has changed incredibly and insanely since the Internet’s introduction. And we’re just exposed to lot more, a lot more easily. We’re exposed to so many other religions and philosophies. We’re exposed to global events that may influence our views. We’re also exposed to authority figures who may have debunked the validity of religion. How often do you use the Internet, and how many new things do you learn from it just on a daily basis?
I still think more conclusive surveys and tests should be done, but as for now, the Internet does seem to be part of the religious decline. What do you guys think?
Also, I’m going to leave you with this:
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