A new study published in the “Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion” claims that the internet is making more people become religiously unaffiliated.
Sociologist Paul McClure at Baylor University surveyed 1,714 American adults and asked a series of questions including their religious practices and internet use. He identified a pattern of increased internet usage being linked to lower religious affiliation and exclusivity.
He told told publisher Psypost,
“One of my main findings in this study is that increases in internet use correlate with a loss of religious affiliation, and I also discovered that individuals who spend lots of time online are less likely to be religious exclusivists, or in other words they’re less likely to think there’s only one correct religion out there. To make sense of these findings, I argue that internet use encourages a certain ‘tinkering’ posture which makes individuals feel that they’re no longer beholden to institutions or religious dogma.”
Studies are showing that the “spiritual but not religious” category, which includes atheists, agnostics, pantheists, and religious “nones”, is on the rise. Pew Research did a major study in 2014 of the major rise in numbers of people who do not affiliate with religion, especially among Millennials. 35% of United States Millennials identify in that category. Among the “nones” are atheists and agnostics, of which two thirds are men and are more educated that the average population.
McClure believes he is one of the first to study whether or not the internet is the underlying reason for this phenomenon about the changing way people are thinking about religion and its practice. He says the data reveals that that the internet is allowing people to ‘tinker’ with religious ideas outside their realm and that is making them less dogmatic.
If that is the case, with internet use only rising, a new unaffiliated religious future awaits our society.