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The internet is no doubt a technology that has created a lot of convenience for us. The human race has never been so connected and it’s creating a completely new type of culture where people from all over the world can share in the same passions and interests while being thousands of miles apart. Unfortunately, the internet can be used for both good and bad, but where does it stand when it comes to religion?
Regardless of your religion, there’s no doubt that technology will have affected you in some way even if you aren’t religious at all. Whether it’s the resources online that can help you understand religion or even the pocket bibles that we carry around in our mobile phones, there’s a lot to be said about how technology has, and will, impact those with a strong sense of faith.
In this article, we’re going to explore some of the perceptions of technology when it comes to religion and also cover a couple of interesting views on how it will shape religion in the coming years.
Has technology destroyed our faith?
A study was carried out that looked at the dramatic drop in religious affiliation in the United States since 1990. Researchers found that the drop in religious affiliation is closely mirrored by the increase in internet usage, which would imply that as more people started to use the internet, more people also started to lose faith in their religion. In 1990, the percentage of people in the United States with no religious preference was at 8%. By 2010, this figure more than doubled to 18%. This equates to around 25 million people who have lost their religion–but does that tell the whole story?
Technology might not deserve the blame for the increase in people with no religious preference. Rather, we can relate the rise in technology to more people understanding their choices and making their own decisions. For far too long, families were brought up in closed communities where sons and daughters would blindly follow their parents’ faith and choices. It was also difficult for someone to understand religion or develop their faith without visiting a church or speaking to other religious people. With access to the internet, more people can learn about faith on the internet, choose the religion that aligns best with their needs and also make their own decisions about what they choose to believe in.
In this sense, it has created a more concentrated and devout group of followers while also opening up more opportunities for someone to convert to a faith that they believe aligns with their beliefs. The internet is a place for learning and this is clear given all of the resources we can find on the internet. We shouldn’t think of the internet and technology as something that has destroyed faith, but rather, we can think of it as a filter that removes those who do not truly believe in a religion and were simply forced into it by those around them. It gives people more options to truly study faith and understand it before they commit to it for the rest of their lives.
The difficult relationship between the internet and religion
Unfortunately, as technology grows and gives everyone a voice, many people will try to abuse that freedom and use it against religions or even trick innocent believers. In this article titled The Age of False Gospels, there is a detailed section regarding the internet and how it is being used as a breeding ground for heretics. It’s easy for someone to spout nonsense and gather followers, and with all of the scams and social media exposure someone can get for having a unique or controversial opinion, it’s depressingly easy for a person to make a fake or blasphemous religion and profit from it.
However, for all of the negatives that the internet brings to the world of religion, it also brings many positives. Social media can become a safer space to promote religion and take a peaceful and informative approach to convert non-believers into faithful followers. While social media websites like Facebook and Twitter are seen as a waste of time to many, it can actually be beneficial to religious organizations and people who have lost their faith and are looking for a way to rekindle their beliefs.
Smartphones can also be used together with the internet to provide modern religious services. For example, a smartphone can be a convenient way to look at religious texts or scripture, and it can even be used to provide other religious services such as support groups and apps that can provide someone with sermons that are available on the internet.
While there is a stigma against technology and smartphones in general, there is a belief that with the right approach that embraces technology, it can be used to the advantage of religious organizations to help improve the lives of their followers, make certain aspects of life easier or more convenient, and also spread the word about their faith so that more people can convert to believers. Yes, there’s no denying that there is a relationship between the rise of internet usage and the increase in those with no faith, but all it has done is create more opportunities for religions to flourish due to a more concentrated group of followers that truly believe in their faith and are not just affiliated with it because of their family.
In short, technology has changed religion and will continue to have a huge impact on the way that we interact with the faithful. Be it providing remote sermons, helping new believers find scriptures or even creating online communities around the world with a focus on learning and studying religious texts, there are plenty of unexplored advantages that can completely change the way technology and religion work together. There are many positives that can come from embracing both technology and religion, and it’s vital that people explore these options instead of shunning them.