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How the Internet Is Taking Away America's Religion 1037

Posted by timothy
from the randi-does-miracles dept.
pitchpipe (708843) points out a study highlighted by MIT's Technology Review, which makes the bold claim that "Using the Internet can destroy your faith. That's the conclusion of a study showing that the dramatic drop in religious affiliation in the U.S. since 1990 is closely mirrored by the increase in Internet use," and writes "I attribute my becoming an atheist to the internet, so what the study is saying supports my anecdote. If I hadn't been exposed to all of the different arguments about religion, etc., via the internet I would probably just be another person who identifies as religious but doesn't attend services. What do you think? Have you become more religious, less religious, or about the same since being on the internet? What if you've always had it?"
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How the Internet Is Taking Away America's Religion

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  • Knowledge (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 06, 2014 @05:33AM (#46674729)
    The Antichrist
    • Re:Knowledge (Score:4, Insightful)

      by erroneus (253617) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @06:44AM (#46674947) Homepage

      The fruit of knowledge. There was a reason the bible described things as it did. Knowledge isn't just the anti-christ, it's the anti-god.

      • by peragrin (659227) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @07:02AM (#46675013)

        great now the christians are going to call the internet the tree of knowledge and get it declared forbidden in their quest for religious zealotry.

        • by erroneus (253617)

          We can only hope... so long as they don't work to get rid of the internet for all on that basis.

        • by ArcadeMan (2766669) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @10:58AM (#46676441)

          What do they think about Apple computers?

      • Re:Knowledge (Score:5, Insightful)

        by NoMaster (142776) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @08:43AM (#46675507) Homepage Journal

        The fruit of knowledge. There was a reason the bible described things as it did. Knowledge isn't just the anti-christ, it's the anti-god.

        If your 'knowledge' of the Bible only extends as far as an ignorant half-remembered version of Genesis, then yes.

        Specifically, it's not "the fruit of Knowledge" - it's "the Knowledge of good and evil".

        The Bible is actually quite encouraging of knowledge, even showing something of a kickarse attitude towards deliberate ignorance:

        "An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends and against all sound judgment starts quarrels. Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions ... The lips of fools bring them strife, and their mouths invite a beating ... Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor. To answer before listening - that is folly and shame ... The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out."

        -- Proverbs 18:1-2,6,12-13,15

        • Re:Knowledge (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @09:14AM (#46675697)

          Apparently you know a thing or two about the bible, maybe you can solve something that has puzzled me for a while now.

          God punished Adam and Eve for eating from the tree when he forbade them. I.e. for breaking his law. So far, so good. But why did he put the trees in there in the first place? He's God. He's all mighty. He could have put the trees wherever he pleases. Especially since, being omniscient, he must have known that they will break his law. Being omniscient, he must have known that they will not heed his law. So he punished them for doing what he knew they would do, which he himself could easily have avoided.

          Essentially, that makes God a really king size asshole.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by mark-t (151149)

            Two words: free will.

            There is more merit in a person doing the right thing when they actually have the opportunity to do the wrong thing.

            That Adam and Eve may have done the wrong thing and brought down what may arguably amount to a curse upon all of nature supposedly does not diminish the merit of even a single person who, despite being tempted to do wrong when the opportunity presents itself, makes a deliberate choice to do the right thing instead.

            That said, I cannot imagine that any person would ha

          • Re:Knowledge (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Zumbs (1241138) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @09:53AM (#46675963) Homepage

            Especially since, being omniscient, he must have known that they will break his law. Being omniscient, he must have known that they will not heed his law. So he punished them for doing what he knew they would do, which he himself could easily have avoided.

            You are missing something: If God is all knowing and all powerful, it follows that God intentionally created Adam and Eve so that they would break the divine commandment. In effect, Adam and Eve may not have followed the word of the law, but they did follow the intention of God. Given how meticulously theologists have been studying and considering the Bible, I would be surprised if someone had not already followed this line of thought and come up with some conclusions.

            As I remember it, there are two creation myths in the Bible, and the myth of Adam and Eve is believed to be the older of the two. There is the possibility that the myth of Adam and Eve predates the Jewish switch from many gods to just one (who may not have started out as being almighty), so it is likely that the story was written to be taken at face value.

          • Re:Knowledge (Score:5, Interesting)

            by whois_drek (829212) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @10:24AM (#46676195)

            Let me give you the view of a Mormon.

            God gave Adam and Eve two commandments. 1) Don't eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. 2) Multiply and replenish the Earth.

            Unlike most other Christian religions (in my understanding), Mormons don't believe that Adam and Eve were able to have children in the Garden of Eden. It was a place of innocence, free from sin and pain, and that includes the pain of childbirth. However, without childbirth, the plan of God to populate a world with his children would be frustrated.

            Enter the commandments above. God, being perfectly just, couldn't subject humanity to the pain of childbirth and mortality in general unless they "chose" it by breaking a commandment--eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and Eve couldn't fulfill the second commandment, to have children, unless they broke the first commandment.

            There's no conflict between the commandments--there was no time limit given on the second commandment, so Adam and Eve could have lived eternally in the Garden of Eden without having children, yet never breaking the commandment. Never fulfilling it as well, of course.

            Eve made a choice. A fully conscious, deliberate, logical choice. She chose to break the first commandment, allowing a just God to subject her pain, to allow her to "fall" from her perfect, immortal state to a mortal state and fulfill the second commandment. Adam, being logical, chose to support her in that action.

            There was no punishment, no jerkiness, just a perfect fulfilling of God's plan from all the parties involved.

          • Re:Knowledge (Score:5, Informative)

            by PHPNerd (1039992) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @09:22PM (#46680095) Homepage
            Hi there. I happen to have multiple graduate degrees in the field of Hebrew Bible. I'm an academic. Hopefully I can shed some light on this.

            At first glance, it does indeed seem like the God in the text is a giant a-hole. Why put the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the garden in the first place? To answer that, we need to lay some ground work to properly interpret the story:

            1) Remember that the ancients did not have a scientific worldview. Today we understand that things I drop to the ground fall because of gravity. Gravity works because the Earth is a huge sphere with an enormous amount of mass. The sun sets and rises because the Earth rotates. Seasons progress at the rate they do because the Earth rotates around the Sun. In other words, life is orderly and predictable because the laws of Physics, Chemistry, etc, are orderly and predictable. But the ancients had no knowledge of this. Instead, they explained the world through mythology. So, in the Ancient Near East, the reason the world is orderly is because a long time ago, the "good gods" came in and beat up/killed/banished the "bad gods" and then set up order in the universe (e.g. the Marduk/Tiamat myth of Babylon, or the Baal/Mot myth of Caanan).

            2) Genesis is written in the form of Ancient Near Eastern creation myths. Those ancient creation myths wanted to explain this fundamental question: "Why does the world work the way it does?" Genesis answers that question: A long time ago, God (YHWH) came upon pure chaos (the Hebrew of the passage makes that very clear. Google: "Genesis tohu vevohu"). He then systematically pushes it back to create perfect order. This is why the world works the way it does...because God set it up in order.

            3) The Bible never claims that God is omniscient. In fact, good Jewish/Christian theology claims that he's not. Does God have all power? If he does, then (low hanging fruit) he could make a rock so big that he couldn't lift it. But then that's a logical impossibility. Here's a better question: could the God of the Bible create a being with free will and force that being to love God? The answer is no. So by definition, there is at least one thing (maybe two, if you count the rock example) that God cannot do. So, a better formulation of God's state is that (according to the Hebrew Bible) "God has all the power that can be had, but some things cannot be accomplished by power."

            So now we're ready to talk about the garden (which is, remember, more like a story or a parable). God creates these two beings and puts them into paradise. Imagine a world where there is nothing bad and you KNOW that God exists (because you talk to him frequently). So now how exactly does God let them choose to love God or not? (Because remember: there must be a choice) The answer (at least, the ancient Hebrews) was to place a clear choice before Adam and Eve. The Tree represents free will. And the Tree represents the choice that everyone makes in whether or not they will love God or turn their backs. To the ancient Hebrews who wrote this story (probably finalized from earlier oral tradition around 500 BCE), the clear choice between following God or not had been made when the people of Judah chose to follow other gods. Thus, God kicked them out of the garden (the "promised land") and sent them into exile into a hurting world. The garden story is not just one which orients the reader to the world, but specifically to the present world (the one they lived in at the time).

            Let me know if you have any questions. This isn't a sacred cow to me. Cheers.
        • Re:Knowledge (Score:4, Interesting)

          by dbIII (701233) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @12:15PM (#46676921)

          The Bible is actually quite encouraging of knowledge

          Pity some of the merchant in the temple franchises don't.
          They don't even encourage reading inconvenient bits of the Bible like "the good Samaritan".

      • I'm wondering if you intended for your statement to be this broad:

        Knowledge isn't just the anti-christ, it's the anti-god

        seems like you're targeting one of the world's many religions here...

        is Knowledge also "anti-buddah" and "anti-allah"

        what about "anti-confuscious"?

        science is not "anti" anything....it is a method for consistently and comparatively observing the universe & sharing what we learn

    • Re:Knowledge (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 06, 2014 @07:35AM (#46675125)

      If education can destroy your faith it's not God you're praying to, it's ignorance.

      • by sir-gold (949031)

        I want this expression as a bumper sticker

      • Re:Knowledge (Score:5, Insightful)

        by madprof (4723) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @09:17AM (#46675717)

        I know too many smart highly-educated Christians to think that religion is merely some lack of applied thought.
        It's a choice they made, knowingly and subjectively, to have religious faith.
        I don't happen to agree with them, but that is their decision.

        • Re:Knowledge (Score:5, Insightful)

          by firewrought (36952) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @12:17PM (#46676935)

          I know too many smart highly-educated Christians to think that religion is merely some lack of applied thought. It's a choice they made, knowingly and subjectively, to have religious faith.

          Skeptics seem to have this assumption that humans are inherently rational, and it's only those who are intellectually weak that let bad/illogical ideas into the mind. I'd argue that this is a bad model because we are forced throughout life to rely on incomplete/inaccurate information from a wide variety of sources... our senses, our emotions, our peers and society at large, etc. Our brains are a very muddy place that was never tidy and logically "clean" to begin with, but we make do (more or less). A purely skeptical species would go extinct questioning the need to plant crops, etc.,

          The way I see it, rationality (and the engineered pursuit of it, science) is a skill that must be developed and subsequently imposed on various facets of our worldview. How we select those facets (and how vigorously we investigate them) is a strategic question ("what is my biggest blindspot?") that we're not well equipped to answer (they're called "blindspots" for a reason). And we ALL have blindspots of various topic and magnitude.

          In the case of religion, it's particularly hard to investigate these blindspots because adherents have been strongly conditioned to self-identify with the cause. Their parents, friends, community, and everyone they trusted as a child told them "this is what we believe, it is the only way to live a good life, and everything outside of it is corrupt and destructive". Like Tevye says in Fiddler on the Roof, "tradition tells us who we are and what G-d expects of us".

          Analytically re-evaluating one's faith as an adult requires a tremendous amount of courage and vigour. To do so, they must overcome:

          1. Religious instructions to defer to authority.
          2. Implied instructions to not question faith.
          3. Perceptions that questioning is risky and/or evil.
          4. The nastiness of some skeptics (e.g., living examples of the "evil" of questioning)
          5. Accusations that the questioner's "real problem" is something spiritual and not intellectual.
          6. Desperate feelings that the faith "has to be true", precluding need for further analysis.
          7. Anecdotal proofs and feel-good stories ("testimonies") that offer emotional evidence for faith.
          8. Single-shot ad hoc arguments (emotional or intellectual) that preclude comprehensive analysis
          9. Apologetics literature or speakers that sound convincing initially, esp. when presented without opposing views.

          This is not the only way people leave their faith, but it's relevant to skeptics because it's the "rational" route. I suspect that those who use "emotional evidence" as their primary waypoints for evaluating complex situation have it easier... they see the history of Christanity's/Islam's treatment towards women or they consider how wholly abhorrent the concept of hell is, and then they proceed to reject the system that generated those ideas.

          Instead of offering mockery (a tempting practice), skeptics would do better to (1) humbly remember that we all have blindspots, (2) that every population has smart and dumb individuals, (3) that believers make many valuable contributions to rationality/science, (4) and that social and emotional arguments against a faith can compliment their existing intellectual arguments.

    • Re:Knowledge (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @09:08AM (#46675657)

      More apt than you might think.

      Lucifer, as Satan is often called, can easily be translated as "he who brings the light" or "he who carries the light (to someone)", deducting from "lux", light and "ferre", carry, bring. His story is not too different from that of Prometheus, who served that role in the Greek mythology. And they're by far not unique.

      In other words, they were "evil" enough to bring light and enlightenment to human, rather than doing as their bosses want and keep them in the dark.

      Really makes you wonder who's the bad guy in the whole story. I mean, ponder for yourself, who'd you rather paint as the bad guy in a story? The one that gives you knowledge and information, or the dude that wants to keep you in the dark so you would continue worshiping him rather than going and finding your own way?

      When you look at it that way, the Christian God feels more and more like a Goa'uld in Stargate. He sure shares a lot of ideals with how Ra is depicted in the movie.

  • by darkeye (199616) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @05:36AM (#46674739) Homepage

    access to unfiltered information will make people THINK!

    who would have thought? :)

    • I think it's not so much access to unfiltered information as it is access to non-religious people. We have seen that people tend to seek out information that confirms their existing beliefs online, but what they can't control is how other people in forums and games behave.

      Most regions rely on making themselves a big part of a person's life from an early age. Everyone in the community goes to the same church, attends religious social events and is friends with other believers. Then they get on the internet and are exposed to people with other cultures and ideas who don't make the same assumptions they do, and it makes them realize that there is another way of thinking.

      The same thing happens with people who have never been abroad or outside of their home county/state. It happened to me when I first started visiting Japan and realized that there is a completely different way to look at the world.

      • by taiwanjohn (103839) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @07:03AM (#46675019)

        Maybe this is just a clever ruse to trick fundamentalists into avoiding the internet, to reduce the troll count.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 06, 2014 @07:21AM (#46675079)

        Most regions rely on making themselves a big part of a person's life from an early age. Everyone in the community goes to the same church, attends religious social events and is friends with other believers.

        Exactly so. The Tech Review summary doesn't mention, but it's in the original reference. The single greatest influence over a person's continuing religion is habit - having been raised in a religion (ie, going to church, not being a cult member) - accounting for almost 90% of adult practice. The real article also attributes more than 50% of the 'loss of religion' to generational turnover - ie, being a child of the 60s. Internet use (probably because it's prevalent among both religious and non-religious people) is a pretty weak influence.

        It would be just as easy to argue that the insular nature of internet 'communities' results in religious people effectively isolated in their own little echo chambers, reinforcing religion in exactly the same way as a prairie community.

      • by gl4ss (559668) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @07:25AM (#46675093) Homepage Journal

        what you described as was exactly access to being exposured to unfiltered information.

        there was an ad over a decade ago from on ISP on finnish television where an elderly woman eagarly described to the postman that she had been to south pole last night and tonight she was going to go to the moon. internet enables virtual travel as far as interaction with people goes, unfiltered information from almost anywhere on the world on a whim.

      • by Brain-Fu (1274756) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @11:12AM (#46676537) Homepage Journal

        It is easy to present solid arguments against fundamentalist christian hermeneutics, because the system of thought is wildly self-contradictory and full of philosophical holes. The fundamentalists who ardently deny this and try to defend their faith are in two categories: those who are capable of critical thinking and those who are not. Members of the former category will eventually see the merits of the arguments the atheists present, whereas members of the latter category never will.

        One point worthy of note is that many fundamentalists, when they experience their philosophical enlightenment, will abandon Christianity completely. They mistakenly believe that all Christian denominations share the philosophical problems (and moral problems such as oppression of homosexuals) as fundamentalism. This is very untrue.

        "Mainline" Christianity (including some Lutheran groups, Episcopalians, and others) take a much more educated approach to interpreting the Bible, recognizing it as a human work which contains human errors and contradictions, as well as being steeped in the culture of its day. The Bible is seen not so much as a framework in which one must remain, but a vector which should be re-assessed in the light of modern knowledge (scientific and moral). The emphasis is not on a literal afterlife, or an offended God that provides a proscription which must be strictly followed to assuage his wrath. Rather, in the recognition that most of this language serves as metaphors for states of mind that can be achieved in this life, the practice becomes much more about living in humility and love in this life, and receiving the benefits of that here and now.

        Of course, they still believe in God, which is an impossible-to-prove point. But notions like "God hates atheists and other religions and will send them to hell" and "god hates homosexuals" and "women should be silent in church" are seen as outdated beliefs held by those who did not have the benefit of modern knowledge, and a painful part of our own history which must not be forgotten in order to ensure that they are not repeated.

         

    • by Zocalo (252965) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @05:56AM (#46674805) Homepage
      I think there's more to it than just being exposed to skepticism from existing atheists/agnostics too. You get much more exposure to people who are from different cultures and religions that you might in your own little neighbourhood, both knowingly and unknowingly, and when that penny drops, that's when the thinking part kicks in. Generally you are going to you realise that, hey, they are not that unlike us and we actually share many of the same views on life - most religions teach the same core principles wrapped up in some slightly different stories, after all. It's fairly well understood that major cities with cosmopolitan populations tend to be more open minded and their populations tend to have a less religious view than those from more rural communities, so I suspect this is just the same principle manifesting itself on a much grander scale.
      • by ifiwereasculptor (1870574) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @06:55AM (#46674983)

        I concur. For me, religion died the moment someone told me there were several of them. I briefly asked around about them (there was no internet then) and they all seemed contradictory and presented equal proof to their claims (none at all), so I chose none. In my case, though, it was the internet that brought back my faith, when I found a good book in which all answers are contained. It is called tvtropes and it is my god.

      • by mellon (7048) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @08:12AM (#46675317) Homepage

        IOW, the internet is bad for fundamentalism. Actually, it's just fine for religion that tolerates skepticism. I grew up atheist, and I'm a Buddhist now. I became Buddhist by choice, because it made sense to me as a philosophy and a practice. Having skeptics online to debate with is good for my practice, because it helps me to discard junk thinking and keep what works. Actually most of the communication I have with other practitioners and with accessing lectures and reading materials happens online. Wikipedia has huge volumes of information on religion, much of which is useful, although you have to take it with a grain of salt.

        But most people just aren't that interested in religious practice, and for them it's easy to see that the same thing that is good for my practice will just knock away theirs, because there isn't much there. I would not necessarily count this as a bad thing, but there is a strain of nihilism in some of the trolling I see online that could stand to be attacked as well; for that you need some kind of ethical framework to discuss, whether it's religious or secular.

        • by Oligonicella (659917) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @09:15AM (#46675707)
          "there is a strain of nihilism" Which you can witness right here on /. Some of it manifests with many who seem to understand no difference in Christians and fundamentalist Christians (or in any other religion, fundamentalism being not tied to one belief). My ex's father was a Baptist minister and professor at Jewel. He spoke or read seven languages and had five degrees in theology. Read the *original* documents (or as close as) in his gloved hands. He didn't give a rat that I was an atheist and referred to "fun-damned-mentalists" as destroying his church.
    • by Z00L00K (682162) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @08:23AM (#46675389) Homepage

      Meanwhile the more extreme fanatics of religion pushes hard for creationism in schools in an attempt to counteract the trend.

      The losers will be the kids that will get confused by contradictions. There's an 18 year limit on porn in many countries, why not the same for religion?

    • However the atheist argument is if you just think a little more carefully then you would become an atheist. However that argument is flawed because it is the same argument that any particular religion uses too, or any particular political stance.

      Just because you thought about it and made what you consider a rational decision, doesn't mean other people with equal or greater thinking skills will not come up with the same conclusions especially on these complex topics.

      Now that being said. Cultural influence

  • by brambus (3457531) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @05:38AM (#46674745)
    Great video by a Youtuber on exactly this topic: The Internet: Where Religions Come To Die [youtube.com]. Religions simply can't survive on the open marketplace of ideas. Religions work by indoctrination, shaming and isolating subjects to get them to believe absurd shit and then try to shield them from outside influences to make sure they don't find out. On the Internet, this ploy simply doesn't work.
  • by Chrisq (894406) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @05:39AM (#46674747)
    This has been going on in most Western countries since before the internet, mainly in the 60s and 70s. America is just late to the game.
    • by Chrisq (894406) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @05:42AM (#46674763)

      This has been going on in most Western countries since before the internet, mainly in the 60s and 70s. America is just late to the game.

      The graphs on this page [fullfact.org] illustrate this.

      • by Zocalo (252965) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @06:11AM (#46674847) Homepage
        The graphs certainly back up the idea that the best way to raise an atheist is to send the child to a Church of England school (in my case I was an atheist by the age of nine), but I suspect that the increasingly secularisation in UK education has something to do with that as well. When the only primary school in a small rural town is a church school (usually that would be C of E, but sometimes Catholic) and you have a typical rural UK demographic representing both major christian denominations plus a scattering of other faiths that school tends to get coerced into providing a more agnostic education if it wants financial support from the local government.
    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      Yes but correlation does not discount causation either. Furthermore causation with one element does not discount causation with another.

      The fall of religion is in-line with the rise of free thinking people seeking out knowledge post depression. The internet is one of the greatest sources of a wide variety of different views, and information, speculation, and out right lies from all sources. With out it religion may still decline, but I'd wager not as quickly.

    • by Mr D from 63 (3395377) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @08:10AM (#46675309)
      The charts don't explain the rising trend before the internet was really highly accessible, and frankly I don't think they correlate all that well. While the internet would logically play a role, I think our societies' ability to further explain the world through science and implement technologies that control the world around us give rise to more folks being critical of religious ideas. Also, TV certainly plays a role.

      It appears to me this study carries a flaw that many do, which is the intent to prove something rather than discover it. To me, the question is not clearly answered.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 06, 2014 @05:43AM (#46674765)

    So probably the biggest time-waster in human history is being supplanted by a new biggest time-waster ...

  • More various (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AndyCanfield (700565) <andycanfield.yandex@com> on Sunday April 06, 2014 @05:43AM (#46674767) Homepage

    I have definitely become even more religious, but my variety has increased. Thanks to the Internet I am exposed to more faiths, and can see the merit in each one. For your information, I attend a Mormon church - as a non-member - when I'm near one, but am sympathetic to Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism. Each has truths to share with you; none should be a box for you to hide in. Remember what King Monkut of Thailand said to the Christian missionaries: "What you teach us to do is good; what you teach us to believe is silly."

    • Re:More various (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Zontar The Mindless (9002) <plasticfish.info@gmai l . com> on Sunday April 06, 2014 @08:26AM (#46675403)

      King Mongkut was a good and wise and practical Buddhist who definitely knew which end of the bowl to put the rice in.

      He's practically revered as a god even today in Thailand. On top of my bookshelf there stands an image of him--a gift from friends there.

  • Good. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 06, 2014 @05:47AM (#46674787)

    Religion and it's many splintered (and violent) factions are one of the last remaining serious problems holding back the advancement of humanity.

    The Riddle of Epicurus
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    If God is willing to prevent evil, but is not able to
    Then He is not omnipotent.

    If He is able, but not willing
    Then He is malevolent.

    If He is both able and willing
    Then whence cometh evil?

    If He is neither able nor willing
    Then why call Him God?
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    We should start taxing churches in this country as well. It's pretty clear religion has not stayed out of politics.
    And they've really bent the tax free system we put in place that the church paid no taxes. Now they move everything under the umbrella of the church to enjoy tax free status.
    It's gotten corrupt. Take it away.
    We need the money and they have enough to build giant monstrosities used two days a week. It's wasteful. Tax them like anybody else.
    Half a million churches spread across the country paying no taxes. It's bullshit.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The fallacy in that riddle comes in the second/third pairs of lines. In the second, the assumption is that preventing evil is something God would necessarily want to do. But God, who's wisdom passeth all understanding, might just know something we don't. The third assumes that Evil doesn't come from God; it ain't necessarily so (for an in-depth investigation of this idea, watch Time Bandits).

      Not that I believe in (a/any) god. I just don't like flawed logic.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rande (255599)

      The flaw in the Riddle is in the assumptions.
      That "Evil" is a definable thing that everyone can agree on. What is evil to me may not be evil to you which may not be evil to God.
      If you stub your toe, is that evil? Should God have stopped you? Or would it be more evil to prevent your temporary pain because they you wouldn't learn not to do silly things?
      Or are you only defining certain bad things as evil? Say genocide, torture, rape, and murder? Because if all those things never existed, all that would do

      • by jcr (53032)

        If you stub your toe, is that evil? Should God have stopped you?

        It fucking hurts, and if god existed, he'd be a jerk for letting it happen!

        -jcr

        • No more than the parent who allows their child to try to touch the candle flame after telling them repeatedly not to. It's a learning experience. Pain is a great indicator of what not to do. A god that keeps you in a padded cell isn't a god that wants you to learn.
      • Re:Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jez9999 (618189) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @08:29AM (#46675427) Homepage Journal

        Should God wait upon you hand and foot, serving your every whim and desire, preventing any pain of any kind because not to, you would consider evil?

        Yes. If got is omnipotent, he can do this for everyone and still do infinitely more. And why would you need to "grow" and "mature" in the ways you describe if there were no evil to worry about? It would be a waste of time, and good riddance. As for learning, that can still be done in a utopia.

  • Showed me the way (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wjcofkc (964165) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @05:50AM (#46674795)
    While the internet did not make me an atheist, it did made me a better informed atheist with better arguments. It also showed me that I was far from alone.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 06, 2014 @06:00AM (#46674817)

    Considering that the U.S. is dominated by 1) militant fundamentalist christian religion, 2) military-industrial complex religiously believing in U.S. geopolitical supremacy which happens to be quite lucrative, and 3) a money-power worshipping fundamentally cynical and corrupt wall street - lobbyist - political power complex which worships themselves as god on earth, I would say that taking away even a smidgen of America's religion would be a nice trick.

    FWIW I personally have not changed in terms of belief despite being highly steeped in the Internet and science. I don't go to synagogue, but I have a little bit of faith that is inculcated deep down, that sometimes makes me feel communally connected to people, nature, the universe. I don't know the answer, whether it is some entity, brain linked to quantum reality, or just an artifact of our brain makeup that happened to be a good thing from a darwinian perspective. This has not changed since I was a child. I survived reading the bible, carlos casteneda, illuminati, etc. Probably science fiction affected me more than anything else. One thing I can say, I wish I had the Internet when I was little. It would have given me unlimited educational opportunity, whereas I wasted years languishing in public school and then spent years trying to find the Internet it having heard whispers about it (it was not in existence on a large scale then). I starting with bbs, compuserve, and some engineers who mentored me, but finally had to build my own ISP to start the Internet in the country I am living in now (I am an American living overseas).

    The Internet opens you up to many views, which is having a good impact I think on society, but much of it comes from a willingness to hang out in communities that provide such views. In other words, you get more viewpoints by hanging out on BoingBoing (my other main site besides slashdot) than by just using search engines. You can use the net to prop up your own believes and find targets to rail against too. The net won't change fundamentalists, but it may change people who could otherwise be coopted by them, since fundamentalism is just power hungry cynical bastards using both ancient and modern mind control tools (biblical writings, political power structures, so-called miracles, vulnerabilities of the psyche, pseudoscience, etc.) on naive shmucks who don't have critical thinking defenses. In that sense the net might reduce fundamentalists in the next generation who disbelieve evolution, but it might increase scientologists which appear to be a destructive meme, a plague on society.

    Humans obviously have a belief circuit that is exploited by organized religion. Whether that is just psychology or tied to something real, it has nothing to do with the state of utter fundamentalist chaos that is ripping the America to shreds, the shreds being preyed upon by cynical power-seekers. You only have to surf the offerings of typical American cable tv after reading zerohedge or even slashdot to get unbearably nauseated. So it would be a nice trick and any amount we can tone down religion in the U.S. where it is visible, will a very good thing, it would be an act of self preservation.

  • Long before that (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rrohbeck (944847) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @06:01AM (#46674823)

    I still don't understand why people drop Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, but stick with Jesus. Hasn't everybody read The Emperor's New Clothes?

  • by SpaghettiPattern (609814) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @06:08AM (#46674835)
    Whatever you do, the Internet speeds up personal development processes as huge amounts of information is readily available. Without the Internet you would have come to the same conclusion but it would have taken just a bit longer. Internet can feed both limits of the scale, atheist and believer.

    (I attribute my becoming an atheist to myself. I stepped renounced my religion at the age of 8. Simply deduced that there is no such thing as a god from observations and reasoning. That was in the early 70s. Internet would have merely sped the process up.)
  • by bloodhawk (813939) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @06:16AM (#46674861)
    hardly surprising really, religion relies heavily upon ignorance and superstition. The more information and world views you expose yourself to the more likely you are to come out of the dark ages.
  • Religion (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ledow (319597) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @06:22AM (#46674881) Homepage

    Your friends tells you about this thing which he believes in and tries to convince you. But you're not sure.

    Do you:

    a) Go along with them, get absorbed, spend hours listening to their arguments, ask around a circle of friends that you share with him about their opinion? (i.e. imagine pre-Internet generations where if you didn't know someone personally, or were a part of a group, you didn't even get to meet them, let alone communicate extensively)

    b) Go to your social network online, look up vast resources, have the arguments for and against in front of you, find out all the dirty secrets, cliques, etc. hear tell from friends-of-friends-of-friends about things they do and believe in?

    It's just a product of information availability. And it works both for and against us now. It's now harder to quash rumours started by a random person with no basis from spreading but it's much easier for such rumours to reach the ears of the interested - even if subject to court order in some cases!

    And it's not just religion. It's products, services, celebrities, charities, you name it. Before, you didn't have a source of information likely to know both sides and the in and outs of everything that you could consult confidentially and extensively and get THOUSANDS of peoples opinions in a matter of minutes. Now it's a click away and you're taught to use it for school research before you're able to write.

    On a personal note, I'm agnostic, so it's no great surprise to me that the more facts people have available to consult, the less seriously religion is taken. "Faith" is something I see as laziness - "I don't want to check this fact, I'll just trust it's true" isn't the best principle to live by. In fact, it's that exact principle that is being eroded by the simplicity of fact-checking nowadays (even if not perfect, there are still good sources of actual fact rather than common belief out there).

    Religion has been on a bit of a death-spiral for years. My country is pretty much turning churches into nothing more than pretty historical buildings that you visit and feel obliged to drop a coin in the box to pay for your nice photos of the stained-glass. My father-in-law is religious and bemoans the complete lack of religion in his local area - he visited dozens of churches before he found one with any kind of active services, and they didn't suit his preference.

    By contrast, he says that the US is a much more faithful country and you can still draw crowds of tens of thousands at certain churches.

    But I think that's more about celebrity, and the older generation, than anything to do with religion itself.

    Religion is dying a little, but to be honest we were in a kind of renaissance of religion the last couple of hundred years anyway.

    • by rasmusbr (2186518)

      Religion as in church attendance or answers to surveys about beliefs has been in decline for probably close to a century and AFAIK there is little sign that the internet is accelerating it. Religion can't survive very well on the internet for exactly the reasons that you point out, but that doesn't mean that it can't survive offline. The problems offline are basically that a combination of social, economic, technological and scientific progress is inherently corrosive to the type of religion that we have in

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 06, 2014 @06:26AM (#46674889)

    i've heard it said that "if you study one religion you can be absorbed for a lifetime. if you study two religions, you can be done in a day."

  • by Greyfox (87712) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @06:29AM (#46674893) Homepage Journal
    I'm pretty sure it was "Catholic School" that's to blame for my atheism. Every time I meet an atheist (you know, down at the Church of Atheism [youtube.com]) it's always the same story -- they spent some number of years in a Catholic School. Sometimes it's a little, sometimes it's a lot, but there's always some there. Sure this is anecdotal, but it's common enough that someone could probably get a research paper out of it.
  • by The Cisco Kid (31490) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @06:36AM (#46674913)

    the Internet offers.

    Learning about reality is a GOOD thing.

    Learning that the silly myths and superstitions pounded into your head when you were a child are silly myths and superstitions, and NOT universal facts, is a GOOD thing.

    I know it wont be in my lifetime and probably not in my children's either, but someday, humans will shed all religious superstition.

  • Burning books (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 06, 2014 @06:37AM (#46674915)

    The church has always tried its best to keep people ignorant.

    Imagine where mankind could have been by now, if it wasn't for that.

  • by xenobyte (446878) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @06:56AM (#46674985)

    It is actually a good thing if people are 'losing their religion'. It simply means they've started thinking for themselves and questioning things.

  • by ralphtheraccoon (582007) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @06:59AM (#46675003)

    The internet may kill religion, but it doesn't kill faith. Religion being defined in this instance as cultural observances, unquestioned metaphysical assumptions and ceremonies, and faith as things one deeply believes and part of who you are, not merely what you do (to fit in).

    And, I suspect, most people of faith who have thought about it deeply have no problem with that. I'd much rather people were sure of what they believed, and actually thought about it, argued about it, and made a real statement about what they believed, rather than just accepting what they are brought up with.

    I think that the internet - and in fact any meeting with outside ideas - is the best way to kill nominal 'religion'. However, I'd make a guess that many people actually find a new faith, or find their faith hugely challenged or restructured. I know formally agnostic people who got into 'new age' mysticism and became (in some form) Buddhist through reading and learning online.

    I am a follower of Jesus, who I believe is the son of God. ("Christian" being a very loaded term, especially in the USA). Many of my friends and others who believe the same as I do have been strengthened in their faith by discussions and videos online. Many churches don't bother actually exploring scripture in a critical or even structured way - but plenty of people online do. Video serieses by John Piper, Rob Bell, Nicky Gumbel, John MacArthur, and many other "thinking preachers" have been instrumental in my building a faith which is able to accept alternative viewpoints without freaking out.

    C.S. Lewis was an Athiest, but became a Christian at university, and encountering views which challenged his view of the world so much he had to re-examine his own philosophies. I know plenty of others who came to faith at university, and a few who did online.

    So. I'm a believing, 'born again', totally convinced Jesus-freak, with friends who are Athiest, Buddhist, Muslim, Agnostic, straight, gay, married, divorced, rich, poor. Their views do not destroy mine, and I will not try to destroy theirs. And I accept the fact that my views can only really be solid if I can engage with them in civilized discourse, and can understand and appreciate (even if I totally disagree with) them.

    To those who call themselves Athiests here - how many of your friends hold views as strongly as you do, but which are completely contrary to your own?

  • by beaverdownunder (1822050) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @07:21AM (#46675077)

    Many people become Christian because they worry about relevance. An after-life makes the here-and-now less relevant, and there's less of an onus on making your mark, you just "have to follow the rules".

    The Internet creates that sense of permanence. You post photos, you document your life, you create music, images, apps, stories, blog entries, etc. etc.

    People realise that blogging on Sunday morning makes them feel better than going to church, and there you go...

  • "Taking away" (Score:4, Informative)

    by rebelwarlock (1319465) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @07:27AM (#46675099)
    The internet isn't "taking away" anything. Stop trying to make it sound like an aggressive action. People can't be forced to give up their religion. Even if you beat it out of them, all you can really do, at best, is prevent them from practicing it when people are looking at them. But I suppose "How the internet is convincing people to be less religious" doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
  • by FridayBob (619244) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @07:29AM (#46675101) Homepage

    Atheism is not new to me. The first time I questioned religion was when I was seven years old, asking my mother, "If God created the universe, then who created God?" Her answer, "God always was", did not sound at all convincing to me. At age 15, when I was finally allowed to choose for myself whether or not to attend church services, I immediately stopped doing so, having considered it a waste of time for as long as I could remember. A few years later I realized that I did not believe in God at all. That was over 30 years ago.

    What the Internet did, however, was to introduce me to the writings of authors such as, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris. Their books describe in great detail how religion has caused so much more suffering in the world than it has ever managed to prevent, for example how wars may be started by people, but wartime atrocities almost always require religion to be involved. Ultimately, this is all caused by systems that tell us what to think, immunizing us to argument, so they should be recognized for what they really do: brainwashing.

    What to do about it? Education, education, education. Mandatory up to age 21, but available to everyone at all ages and for free. Everyone should be scientifically literate. The best thing a society can do is to invest in itself, and religion just happens to be one of the first things we lose when we learn to think for ourselves.

  • I knew this when I was 10, and that was in 1950, my total lack of belief in the mumbo jumbo of ALL religion began then and became a certainty soon after that. Family was catholic with all trappings, control, coercion etc....water off a ducks back.
    Religion wants a closed ecology - you get your words from the priests, work hard and pray and, oh yes, give me money.

    There is no difference between scientology, islam, catholicism or bantu spirit jabber - they are all mechanisms to live free and prosper at the behest of others.

    I want the tax exemptions for reiligions stopped, I want them taxed, kick them in the ass.
    And on top of that they all seem to thrive on child molestation. It is no joke the way Giles portrays clerics grinning after alter boys - many lives were harmed and criminals protected.

  • by Neo-Rio-101 (700494) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @07:56AM (#46675235)

    http://www.angelfire.com/nd/ki... [angelfire.com]

    The Prince and the Magician

    Once upon a time there was a young prince, who believed in all things but three. He did not believe in princesses, he did not believe in islands, he did not believe in God. His father, the King, told him that such things did not exist. As there were no princesses or islands in his father's domaines, and no sign of God, the young prince believed his father.
    But then, one day, the prince ran away from his palace. He came to the next land. There, to his astonishment, from every coast he saw islands, and on these islands, strange and troubling creatures whom he dared not name. As he searched for a boat, a man in full evening dress approached along the shore.
    "Are those real islands?" asked the young prince.
    "Of course they are real islands," said the man in evening dress.
    "And those strange and troubling creatures?"
    "They are all genuine and authentic princesses."
    "Then God must also exist!" cried the prince.
    "I am God," replied the man in full evening dress, with a bow.

    The young prince returned home as quickly as he could.

    "So you are back," said his father.
    "I have seen islands, I have seen princesses, I have seen God," said the prince reproachfully.
    The king was unmoved.
    "Neither real islands, nor real princesses, nor a real God, exist."
    "I saw them!"
    "Tell me how God was dressed."
    "God was in full evening dress."
    "Were the sleeves of his coat rolled back?"
    The prince remembered that they had been. The king smiled.
    "That is the uniform of a magician. You have been deceived."
    At this, the prince returned to the next land, and went to the same shore, where he once again came upon the man in full evening dress.
    "My father the king has told me who you are," said the young prince indignantly. "You deceived me last time, but not again. Now I know that those are not real islands and real princesses, because you are a magician."
    The man on the shore smiled.
    "It is you who are deceived, my boy. In your father's kingdom there are many islands and many princesses. But you are under your father's spell, so you cannot see them."

    The prince returned home. When he saw his father, he looked him in the eyes.
    "Father, is it true that you are not a real king, but only a magician?"
    The king smiled, and rolled back his sleeves.
    "Yes, my son, I am only a magician."
    "Then the man on the shore was God."
    "The man on the shore was another magician."
    "I must know the real truth, the truth beyond magic."
    "There is no truth beyond magic," said the king.
    The prince was full of sadness.
    He said, "I will kill myself."
    The king by magic caused death to appear. Death stood in the door and beckoned to the prince. The prince shuddered. He remembered the beautiful but unreal islands and the unreal but beautiful princesses.
    "Very well," he said. "I can bear it."
    "You see, my son," said the king, "you too now begin to become a magician." -

    --Adapted from "The Magus" by John Fowles

  • by oscrivellodds (1124383) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @08:17AM (#46675351)

    I've noticed that religion has affiliated itself more and more with the right wing political party (in the US). During that period the ideas coming from that political party have often designed to pander to deeply religious people, have become nuttier and nuttier. The Republicans recognized that there was a large group of people who were used to doing what they were told by an authority figure and targeted that group to perpetuate their existence, hence the religion/right wing party affiliation, in spite of the fact that the right wing party promotes ideas that are often in direct conflict with the religious- ideas and attitudes about caring about the poor, sick, etc.

    It seems that while the original goal might have been for the republicans to insinuate themselves into the religion (Xtianity in its various forms), the opposite has also taken place the religious leaders saw an opportunity to get more control and power and impose their beliefs on a larger population by insinuating themselves into the Republican party. Recently it appears that the Republicans have been trying to distance themselves from their more religious affiliations by making a show of standing up to the Tea party (the religious parasite that is sucking the life blood from the Republican party), but the two are now hopelessly entangled and if religion goes down, they will drag the Republican party down with them.

    The next 20 years are going to be interesting.

  • by dtjohnson (102237) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @08:40AM (#46675483)
    It's a sword that cuts both ways. On the one hand, the internet brings everyone out into the middle of a diversity of thought. On the other hand, it provides a powerful way to find out more about what you believe...and everyone believes something as our ability to have first-hand experience and new ideas in our own short lives is very limited. We have to rely mostly on other people's ideas and experience passed down through time and shared. Ultimately, if God is acting in our midst, then the internet will be a means for God to reach more people and enter their hearts.
  • by DrProton (79239) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @08:44AM (#46675515)
    Andrew Gelman, statistics professor and blogger, has characterized the Technology Review article as "horrible" and a "monstrosity" [andrewgelman.com] on his blog. He is an MIT graduate. Correlation does not imply causation. It's clickbait, too.
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @08:47AM (#46675533) Homepage Journal

    But it can show you how stupid it is to believe in imaginary creatures and let you make an intelligent decision based on facts, not myth..

    The "Internet" is really no different than a library in this case, only you dont have to get your lazy ass out of the chair and drive in...

  • Works both ways (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JackDW (904211) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @09:00AM (#46675609) Homepage

    I became an atheist when I was about ten or eleven years old. I was sure of myself at the time.

    Twenty years later, I have some serious doubts about it, and have retreated to agnosticism. That's partly because the Internet has given me easy access to all sorts of information about philosophy, religion and politics. I was able to read what the other side actually thought, not what my side said they thought.

    I could say that the Internet destroyed my faith in atheism, but I know that you guys really hate the implications of statements like that, so please take it as a (trollish) joke!

    What I would say, not as a joke, is that the Internet has not stopped people believing weird and/or stupid things. In fact it has strengthened all sorts of weird beliefs, some weirder than anything in the Bible.

  • by overshoot (39700) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @09:10AM (#46675675)
    correlate to the number of pirates?
  • by Experiment 626 (698257) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @09:18AM (#46675723)
    Interesting how this gets posted on Sunday morning, a time when people of faith are particularly likely to be offline doing other things. Deliberate attempt to skew the discussion, or just failure to think things through?
  • by tpstigers (1075021) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @09:37AM (#46675837)
    Or maybe it's all the cat pictures.
  • But watch out (Score:4, Insightful)

    by StripedCow (776465) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @10:54AM (#46676405)

    The internet can be a dangerous place too.

    Just like religious services can put you in an "information bubble", so can the internet.

It is surely a great calamity for a human being to have no obsessions. - Robert Bly

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