I recently read a review of a study published in the MIT Technology Review that suggests that the internet is killing religion slowly. I've suggested in the past that the fossil fuels of religious fervor are fear and ignorance - and the internet is rapidly removing the latter from our society. I've seen atheists malign the internet in casual conversation as if it has no relevance to the community. This is ironic when these people took their first steps away from religion using the internet as their research tool. It reminds me of the hypocrisy of former Christian atheists that suggest that Christians can't learn or change their mind. This distrust of the internet within the community has always befuddled me given that there exists strong reasons to think that the recent decline of religious observance in the states is due to the internet. This report strengthens my previous conviction that the internet is a very powerful tool for atheist activism.
That’s a fascinating result. It implies that since 1990, the increase in Internet use has had as powerful an influence on religious affiliation as the drop in religious upbringing.I agree with this part very much in that the internet usage of my generation has had a profound impact on our lack of religiosity. This doesn't necessarily imply that the internet produces atheists, only that it produces less religiosity. I think the latter can sometimes generate more of the former, but I'm satisfied with seeing religiosity decline nonetheless. I think also that this demonstrates that people are able to change their mind and evaluate evidence better than we give them credit for.
But there is something else going on here too. Downey has found three factors—the drop in religious upbringing, the increase in college-level education and the increase in Internet use—that together explain about 50 percent of the drop in religious affiliation.
But what of the other 50 percent? In the data, the only factor that correlates with this is date of birth—people born later are less likely to have a religious affiliation. But as Downey points out, year of birth cannot be a causal factor. “So about half of the observed change remains unexplained,” he says.At the same time, it appears that almost half of the suggested causes of the decline of religion are unknown. My own personal opinion on this is that the entrance of the religious right into politics is embarrassing the religious youth right out of the their own religion. I've noticed that the most famous Christians are not seen as heroes by the younger Christians. This tells me that the religious themselves are causing some of their own problems with keeping people interested in religion.
This is one of the reasons that I blog, other than getting some of my own anti-religious frustration out of my system. It's why I use social networks like Facebook and Twitter as well. My own initial introduction to atheism using that word was through a poker forum on the internet (the legendary 2+2 forums). So I continue to think the internet is a big part of fighting religion.