I was glad that the article brought up that correlation is not the same thing as causality. I don’t doubt that the internet influences the thinking of just about everyone on just about everything. But I would not draw that conclusion that the internet is taking away America’s religion.
First, in the last two generations there have been immense cultural shifts that began before the internet. In the mid-60’s pretty much everything began to change, and from my observations the Vietnam war secured the appetite for change throughout the culture. We were coming out of an Eisenhower era lull of well being where WWII was behind us and America felt secure in our good and wonderful government to keep us safe. Then the atomic age begins to escalate, the evil Russians want to blow us up, the Cuban missile crisis was broadcast around the globe. Reactionary conflicts (like Vietnam) suddenly did not feel like the noble effort that liberating Europe and Asia had been in WWII. Young men were returning disenchanted with the church-going norm they had been brought up in and also with the government. The pill and free love entered the culture. Disconnecting with all the cultural norms of the previous generations cascaded through out the nation–including church going–Christmas and Easter attendance became typical of many households even though many still felt Christian.
Also, racism and civil rights issues opened the eyes of many that had been unaware or unaffected. More questions for the national consciousness…are we good?..is our government good?..is God good? Anxiety about the future and disenchantment was pervasive throughout communities.
Sundays changed. Stores were no longer closed, blue laws fell by the wayside. (Would anyone under 50 even know what a blue law is?) Restaurants drew crowds for their Sunday brunch. The NFL reigned supreme on Sundays. Hurry up preacher, we don’t want to miss kick-off. Family gatherings and holiday meals were timed so “we can watch the game.” Sundays became about other things. For many of my acquaintances Sundays are now about soccer leagues for their kids. The families stopped coming to church because they have 3 kids in 3 leagues with 3 games in 3 different parts of town–their new trinity.
…and so on.
It can take 2-3 generations for cultural changes to trickle down and change established norms. Many of today’s young adults don’t attend church and answer “none” to the question of religion because they were not brought up attending church, nor was it a topic in the household. The same may be true of their parents although they would likely answer “Christian” on the question of religion because they still felt the influence of Christian culture in their daily lives and upbringing–even if they only attending on holidays when the grandparents were in town.
Another key factor in the article mentioned college education. If a person is lucky enough to attend a college/university that’s not outright hostile to Christianity, the underlying critical thinking skills they will be taught is to question everything. That can be good, but the balance of the information they are receiving is not truly encouraging them to choose as much as be indoctrinated. Most colleges received Federal funding for something. That seems to restrict Christian influence on campuses.
The post-modern worldview is also an incredible factor in the cultural shift the article is talking about. You got your truth, I got mine. That shift is not only affecting everything, it’s nearly impossible to combat. You cannot get someone to grasp real truth when they do not believe in an absolute truth.
The internet is a tool, a forum, a platform–and one of global reach. Is it influencing the attitudes of people, sure. But a person can also use it to find Jesus. It has opened doors to isolated peoples all over the world. Missionaries have resources they’ve never before had. Before the internet, I would have to spend hours in the library to find faith-based resources I now find immediately in a google search. I’m connecting with you and many others through RZIM.
The statistics in question are eye-popping. Of course they will mine the data to find out what’s happening. I’m just not sure they will find the seeds of this change that began over 50 years ago in their current data. I think the poll numbers show an extreme shift because the cascading failures in our society are just beginning to show the speed and extreme numbers of that cascade.
Wow, I must have had some opinions. (typed with a smile)