The words of Jim Gilliam, in a spiritual tribute to the Internet that will probably make your eyes mist:
On a similar note, Valarie Tarico suspects that religion’s appeal will diminish in the generations that find interpersonal meaning through the Internet rather than faith communities:
The web showcases the fact that humanity’s bad and good qualities are universal, spread across cultures and regions, across both secular and religious wisdom traditions. It offers reassurance that we won’t lose the moral or spiritual dimension of life if we outgrow religion, while at the same time providing the means to glean what is truly timeless and wise from old traditions. In doing so, it inevitably reveals that the limitations of any single tradition alone.
She argues that the web has also played a huge role in normalizing nonbelievers:
Before the internet existed most people who lost their faith kept their doubts to themselves. There was no way to figure out who else might be thinking forbidden thoughts. In some sects, a doubting member may be shunned, excommunicated, or “disfellowshipped” to ensure that doubts don’t spread. So, doubters used keep silent and then disappear into the surrounding culture. Now they can create websites, and today there are as many communities of former believers as there are kinds of belief. These communities range from therapeutic to political, and they cover the range of sects: Evangelical, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, and Muslim. There’s even a web home for recovering clergy.
David Sessions pushes back on the piece:
[O]f course it’s true that the internet has played a role in killing religion in certain people’s lives, or maybe even in the lives of certain (small, fringe) religious communities. It’s made many people more aware of the pluralism of the society they live in, and brought previously far-flung differences close. Those can be powerful things. But it has also provided a means for even the craziest to disseminate their “ideas” and find like-minded followers. Social media allows people to shape their information-world with people and sources who reinforce what they already believe. So is one particular technological revolution “killing” something as huge, and something with such a long history, as “organized religion”? Maybe a little, probably not much.