What impact will the internet have on Religion?

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Discussion by: Eliot

Many of the 6th graders at the the school where I teach now carry smart phones.  Often times when I present them with information that they consider remarkable, or perhaps suspect, out comes the iPhone and they start tapping away just to see if what I’m saying can be trusted. Are there really 400 billion stars our galaxy and is the universe really 13.7 billion years old?  Is the moon Ganymede really named after a little boy abducted by a lecherous God?  That sort of thing.  

I wonder if they do the same thing in their religion classes.  I assume they do.  Although many of them are deeply religious it’s clear that they are all exposed to atheist ideas.  It’s been said that the person who has been exposed to only one faith is very likely to believe it, and a person who has been exposed to a hundred faiths is very likely to disbelieve them all.  With access to the internet upper middle class American kids are exposed to just about everything and I wonder what effect that will have on their religious beliefs.  

My gut feeling is that young people who feel outcast-or on the edges of society-will find solace and a sense of belonging on the more extreme and fundamentalist religious websites.  However I feel that for most children the internet will free them from religious beliefs.  I suspect that when today’s children grow to adulthood there will be fewer religious people but those who are left will be much more uncompromising in their views.  What are your thoughts?

16 COMMENTS

  1. I think we are seeing the results of the internet on religion. The Pope would never have received a shit kicking like he has without it. The tremendous growth of atheism in the young and all of the people coming out are the direct result of it. This post… thanks internet.

  2. I think (and hope) that you are right. Overall it will erode religious belief.

    However it may also allow the lunatic fringes to become even more organised and effective as a lobbying force.

  3. I feel it is rather a double-edged sword. I think generally the internet will allow the inquisitive kids to question and verify what they are taught. This will lead to fewer God-shaped holes in their knowledge. And cases like Megan Phelps-Roper leaving the Westboro Baptist Church – following internet dialogue with a Jewish blogger – will be more common.

    But could it be tempered somewhat by a reduction in critical thinking? Does it allow more scope for people to find like-minded people to prop up their prejudices and delusions? Why think about it for yourself when your favourite site can give you an opinion for free? Or your favourite celebrity Tweets an opinion for you?

    On the whole though – more communication and access to more info has got be a good thing.

  4. “On the whole though – more communication and access to more info has got be a good thing”

    It’s a MAGNIFICENT thing; once I (thoughtlessly) concluded religion was a harmless if eccentric pursuit.
    Then I discovered the full horror of Islam on the web and have not slept easily since!!

  5. Knowledge is the one power the religious authorities had over people. The internet now spreads knowledge to everyone (who has internet), so it wont be long until religion fades away as communication technology’s get more advanced and cheaper.

  6. The internet can be used to lookup information, or it can be used to confirm what you already know. It just depends on how you do your searching and where you “hang out”.

    I sometimes go have a look at sites that I know I’m going to disagree with to try to broaden my knowledge. If you KNOW something is true you’ll be able to find some place on the internet that will reinforce your “knowledge”. But on the whole I think that easy access to information will improve the overall education of people.

  7. I do not know what it will do to religion.

    I do however have to tell you all that it has impacted classrooms in both great ways and not so great ways. Back in the day, in order to stand out in a classroom, you had to be smart and work hard. Now, in order to stand out, all you have to do is work hard. You see, you have instant facts at your fingertips. If you work hard, you stand out because so few students are actually working hard.

    This is both good and bad. A true double edged sword. I will elaborate shortly, as I have parental tasks to see to….

  8. Many of the 6th graders at the the school where I teach now carry smart phones. Often times when I present them with information that they consider remarkable, or perhaps suspect, out comes the iPhone and they start tapping away just to see if what I’m saying can be trusted.

    What are you doing letting your students play around with their smartphones when they’re in your classroom?

    Tell the little bastards to put away their toys and pay attention to you.

  9. As a former preacher and new ‘convert’ to Atheism, I can seriously attest to the internet’s amazing effectiveness. Some of the most helpful articles leading me to reason were on various websites. I found Skeptic magazine online. Richard Dawkins documentaries, Hitchens debates, general access to video documentaries, especially on Darwin, were absolutely critical before I could stock my private library with works of amazing non-fiction. I had to relearn EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING. I couldn’t have found a better compass to point me in the right direction than the internet.

    Most importantly, the internet is the reason I was able to slowly come out as an Atheist in a family and line of work where I would be shunned. Without the advice and support of every beautiful person on this forum, it would not be possible in my place in life. The internet played a massive part in the demise of my religious beliefs.

    Cheers, J

  10. Here’s to you and those that follow in your footsteps.

    In reply to #10 by Jogre:

    As a former preacher and new ‘convert’ to Atheism, I can seriously attest to the internet’s amazing effectiveness. Some of the most helpful articles leading me to reason were on various websites. I found Skeptic magazine online. Richard Dawkins documentaries, Hitchens debates, general access to video documentaries, especially on Darwin, were absolutely critical before I could stock my private library with works of amazing non-fiction. I had to relearn EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING. I couldn’t have found a better compass to point me in the right direction than the internet.

    Most importantly, the internet is the reason I was able to slowly come out as an Atheist in a family and line of work where I would be shunned. Without the advice and support of every beautiful person on this forum, it would not be possible in my place in life. The internet played a massive part in the demise of my religious beliefs.

    Cheers, J

  11. I think individuals are becoming less religious over time. More and more people will not go to church , fewer and fewer will be devout. Religion to my mind, will always be in the background. The number one reason is death and coming to terms with it. The number two reason is a general emotional crutch for people when times are hard. I myself thought I would never get over this myself. But I have started to think reasonably and now I dee Church and belief in God a hinderance to emotional stability in these times. Constant bartering and guilt tripping can also leave you emotionaly unhinged. Questions such as ‘What did I do to deserve this?’ , ‘Did I do something wrong?’ and assertions such as ‘I’ll be nicer’ , ‘I’ll be better’ are most of the time,m unnecessary. I have found that indulging in Religion and God in this way is likened to a dog chasing his tail. All it serves to do is work the brain into a state of fear and and a state of perpetual surrender. My message is save yourself the bother and accept it when it comes , if you can do something to prevent it or surpass it fair enough , but if you can’t, relax. No amount of Godly bartering will make things any better.

  12. The increased connectivity allows nutjobs to find each other. It kills religion, but it also creates mutants and freaks, like Heaven’s Gate. Evangelicalism and White Supremacy doctrines were going extinct until the internets gave them a shot in the arm. From now on as long as there is at least one Christian, they will blog. The internet preserves religions as specimens in jars, but on the whole they come here to die.

  13. If the children are looking up things that relate to the class material what is the harm? At least they are engaged. I can say for me at least a big element in my swearing I would never attend a secondary institution was teachers who had to constantly assert their dominance and control over trivial freedoms (children are still individuals who should be respected, especially by those who demand respect in return. Otherwise what are we teaching them?). That and those same teachers’ tendency to cater to only one style of learning. As a grown man, I am still unable to concentrate for long unless I am physically engaged in something, however minor. Being back in school, I am thankful for teachers who do not exert such pointless control. I usually bring an orange to class, peeling and snacking on the segments really helps my mind relax and focus on the subject matter. Even looking at my phone intermittantly really helps me stay focused through a whole two hour class. My point is if you are a teacher consider that students may not fidget or seem unnattentive because they are disrespectful or unruly. It may just be a coping mechanism as it is for me. And if you are inclined to suggest to parents that their children try something such as ritalin, consider if they are actually struggling to succeed or if they are simply a pain in your butt. If the latter is true or if they are not seriously struggling, you could perhaps help this student find more effective strategies to deal with these problems (I could make suggestions), but should probably also accept that you better keep them engaged and hopefully entertained if you want to keep a semblance of order in your classroom. If you ask me suggesting that a child with above or even just average intelligence who gets bored and disrupts a class needs to be medicated is a serious failure to do your job as a teacher. The exception would be a child that continues to struggle when other options have been exhausted. Sorry to go so off topic I just figured perhaps some of the teachers on here could benefit from hearing my personal experience.
    In reply to #9 by Katy Cordeth:*

    Many of the 6th graders at the the school where I teach now carry smart phones. Often times when I present them with information that they consider remarkable, or perhaps suspect, out comes the iPhone and they start tapping away just to see if what I’m saying can be trusted.

    What are you doing letting your students play around with their smartphones when they’re in your classroom?

    Tell the little bastards to put away their toys and pay attention to you.

  14. If you’re an amateur astronomer and you’re doing a school or a public star party often times students, or members of the public, will decide to test your knowledge. Or perhaps they’re just trying to make conversation. In any case it’s not unusual to have someone point to a random object in the sky and ask, “What’s the name of that star? How far away is it?”

    In the past you could simply fudge your answers and no one would be the wiser. But not anymore. Imagine you have ten kids standing around your telescope and one of them is holding an iPhone with the Star Walk app. You can’t bluff your way out of it now, not without running the risk of looking foolish.

    In a situation like that you have only two options. One is to spend many hours ahead of time studying the stars so you won’t be caught off guard. The other is to pull out your own smart phone. The second option seems sort of like cheating.

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