So access to information
Next up, pope seen squatting in the woods ...
A US computer scientist has released a study claiming to have found out why so many Americans are abandoning their religious faith and says it's the internet's fault. "Internet use decreases the chance of religious affiliation," reports Allen Downey, professor of computer science at Olin school of engineering. Downey analyzed …
"Here in the US, the last twenty years have seen a radical – and highly vocal – group of Protestants calling for the installation of a theocracy in the US, claiming evolution and Christianity are incompatible, and claiming the ills of the world are down to things like gay marriage or the ACLU."
While another bunch of highly vocal theocrats blow up statutes and attack young girls who want to be educated. (These pop up in under developed countries, far away).
And a third, highly vocal bunch of theocrats argue that mankind is wicked, that we must stop defacing the Earth Goddess Gaia, and we must obey their High Priests, whose medieval prescriptions must be obeyed. (These theocrats are the ones who pass laws, right here).
So *faith* and *faith-based authoritarianism* is clearly on the rise - and whatever the Internet has to offer, like Twitter, doesn't seem to diminish it. Sorry Professor Downey.
Personally, given the choice of three completely crap religions, I'll take a straight scotch please. No ice.
""Here in the US, the last twenty years have seen a radical – and highly vocal – grou
While another bunch of highly vocal
And a third, highly vocal bunc
So *faith* and *faith-based authoritarianism* is clearly on the rise"
But you omitted the fundamentalist myth-makers with the biggest following of blind believers: bankers.
Can't see any direct connection between t'internet itself and religious faith. You can surf to your local church site just as easily as any other.
"The early Catholic church frowned upon translating the Bible into languages other than Latin... because it's easier to control a flock of parishioners when only the priest can translate life's instruction manual."
The "peasantry" could not read Latin because they could not read any language. Previously, information had been passed down generations using the "oral tradition". By the time of the early Christians, there was a standard "world" language available: Latin, spoken and written throughout the Roman empire. It was therefore a no-brainer to write your early books in Latin, especially if you were Roman or a Roman subject, as the early Christians were, and especially if you were taking your books to distant Roman colonies, as they were, and particularly if you were trying to convert Romans, as they were.
Latin of course later became the, er, de-facto international language for science, mathematics and art in Europe, used in every serious writing from the Lindisfarne Gospels to Newtons laws of motion.
The first English translation was made in the 10th century by Aldred, a scribe and priest. It made the gospels more accessible to but widespread bibles could not happen until after the invention of printing 400 years later.
For "Early Church" read "High Medieval", the Early Church had it's texts recorded in virtually every contemporary southern mediterranean language: Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Coptic...... and the canon (books) of the bible were not fixed before the Synod of Hippo at the end of the 4th century. With the first full Latin texts only emerging in the 5th century (so not Early). The Catholic church did explicitly prohibit non Latin / official versions of the bible in 1199, via a decree of Pope Innocent III, but by the 16th century the church was officially sanctioning non Latin translations of the bible.
I think Mr Downey should really be versed in things like - Post hoc ergo propter hoc
Though in the article he does claim to have looked for a common factor that would explain concurrent Internet expansion and increased disaffiliation, but couldn't find any:
"Although a third unidentified factor could cause both disaffiliation and Internet use, we have controlled for most of the obvious candidates, including income, education, socioeconomic status, and rural/urban environments," Downey states.
Surely we aren't supposed to expect it's the other way around, and it's the raise in disaffiliation that's driving Internet expansion?
To be sure, I tend towards Thomson's contention that the increased radicalization of the Protestant movement is more likely to blame. But I don't think Downey is jumping into conclusions either; the analysis work seems sound. It might just be that he's giving too much credit to the reliability of his data, a problem all too common in poll-based research.
But off course. The internet is a GREAT source of information (du-uh). The level of superstition is inversely proportional to your level of knowledge. Only a select few obviously crazy but educated people would try to pray a rocket into space.
Some of my tax money has been spent on 'rebuilding' Afghanistan over the past 12 years. Most of that money, I suspect, have been used to build mosques rather than schools. That makes me so angry I wanna ..
I don't think it's that "superstition is inversely proportional to . . . knowledge" (though this is likely true) so much as access to competing ideas means that some people will choose those ideas over the previous incumbents.
The reason I sideline 'superstition' for the moment is that this holds true in all areas, from world views, to scientific hypotheses to lasagne recipes (or spelling).
Religion thrives in insular communities and it is no coincidence that cults and even 'mainstream' religious sects often cultivate a strong in-group/out-group mentality, which keeps people surrounded by the preferred ideas of the group and insulated from the competing ideas of the broader community.
The Internet is the broadest community yet realised and, as such, it's home to every stripe of idea, from the profound to the ridiculous. While this study focuses on people leaving religion (as a whole), it's just as likely that access to such a broad spread of ideas will see a Christian replacing on set of superstitions for another (perhaps more marginal) set.
But, again, the same is true in many areas. A small, isolated Italian town might well be intensely Catholic but are just as likely to be strongly devoted to a particular risotto recipe, which they believe to be true and faithful.
Religion is an interesting case in that they are, generally, internally inconsistent and lack any real evidence or explanatory power. This should mean that access to critical analysis from 'outsiders' should cause adherents to abandon their religions in droves. That this does not happen to the extent that one might (naively) think is due in part to the ability of these religions to foster the idea of a besieged group, attacked from all sides by the evil of a 'liberal'/'secular'/'godless' outside world.
Such a mentality often serves to strengthen resolve internally and allows people to reject even the most rational and compelling opposition as (e.g.) the work of Satan.
"superstition is inversely proportional to . . . knowledge" (though this is likely true)
Overwhelming evidence suggests otherwise. Indeed, I can't think of a of a historical period where a majority of the most-knowledgeable documented figures of the time were not also superstitious.
Knowledge as such does not convey the ability to think critically, much less the motive to do so.
"I can't think of a of a historical period where a majority of the most-knowledgeable documented figures of the time were not also superstitious."
What about recent history? That's if you take the recognised bodies of science - the various national academies such as the Royal Society in the UK and its equivalents around the world - as being a good example of knowledgeable folk.
Certainly if you go back far enough then sure - tribal leaders may well have been spiritual leaders as well but that does not necessarily mean that they, personally we more superstitious than the rest of the population. (Though they very well may have been.)
HOWEVER, when talking about knowledge vs superstition, we probably have to be a bit more precise as to the type of knowledge being discussed.
Given that belief-systems have been, in part, designed to explain the observed world and phenomena, one must really look at knowledge that showed/shows either:
a.) a discrepancy with the prevailing superstitions, and/or
b.) and alternative explanation.
Knowledge of earthquakes - including measurements and analysis to the point of designing structures resistant to the effects - doesn't serve to dispel superstitions that earthquakes are caused by a supernatural agent.
Knowledge of plate tectonics, however, does help to reduce superstition.
And, while even now many people still believe that such natural disasters are sent as punishment from a deity, you will not find any respected scientists amongst their number.
"Some of my tax money has been spent on 'rebuilding' Afghanistan over the past 12 years. Most of that money, I suspect, have been used to build mosques rather than schools."
If you do the research you'll find that most of it has gone into the coffers of the military-industrial complex that a certain Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about 50 years ago.
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Whohoa! That hit a few nerves. Ok so not *most* of the aid has gone to rebuilding houses of worship and superstition. *Some* of the money has been wasted on such nonsense. And that makes me sad and angry. A penny spent on a temple of any kind is a penny wasted. Who agrees?
" 'Although a third unidentified factor could cause both disaffiliation and Internet use, we have controlled for most of the obvious candidates, including income, education, socioeconomic status, and rural/urban environments,' Downey states."
Okay, glad they accounted for "most" of the obvious [big ugly gorilla] factors before deciding the Internet must be the problem. At least I know what to blame my next exodus on.
the damage done to the Church's reputation
To one church's reputation. And according to the article, most of the decline is among Protestant sects.
Surely that must have had some effect on people's respect for religion.
I believe history shows that there are few things that encourage religious fervor more than denouncing another faith. The failings of a single sect do not appear to dissuade followers of other sects; quite the opposite, in fact.
I was thinking more in the realms of the Babel fish entry in the guide.
1. God refuses to prove that (S)He exists, because proof denies faith, and without faith God is nothing.
2. Man then counters that the Babel fish is a dead giveaway because it could not have evolved by chance. So the fish proves that God exists, therefore (S)He doesn't. Q.E.D.
3. God says that (S)He hadn't thought of that, and promptly disappears in a puff of logic.
"Oh that was easy" says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white, and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing."
(Or words to that effect anyway.)
So in many ways, the Internet is the equivalent to the Babel fish.
A fundamentalist culturally mandated materialist based based belief system managing most schools having an influence ? Meanwhile, Dr S Jones, well put except for last assumption. The existence of forgeries is no proof the genuine does not exist.
Most of the "internet groups" I observe are just like small communities, especially the materialist ones. I might know, because unlike most commentards, I have lived in multiple small remote communities. Very few had decent coffee too.
In a cynical moment I question whether the USSA ever had much Christian influence after 1880. The rapid adoption of Darwinian derived politics and social practices suggests a Christian derived view of humanity was weak. Recent surveys( Barma et al) of religious adherents claims of belief were contradicted by their lack of knowledge of their belief systems tenets. Dropping the meaningless labels is merely honesty, not a drop in belief. That I could ascribe to internet use, as more people realise their doubt or disbelief is common.
Pretty much says it. I would like to think that rational people have come to the conclusion that the god hypothesis is indefensible and this is a trend based on evidence (from the internet et al). But somehow I know it is not. After all the internet is about porn. Information is just a side-effect. The study is specious and based on false correlation - unless some boobies are thrown in.
Downey has done a nice bit of work there, really. Not that the conclusion is surprising, or incontentionable, but the article is certainly a step up from the usual trick-cycling.
Secularisation has been going on in at least the "western world' for at least a century, and is indeed intimately linked with personal prosperity and education. A large part is also caused by a definite shift in social structure which makes Religion less Socially Mandatory. Try the difference in Not Showing Your Ass in Church (any denomination) in the 1970s , 50's , 30's and turn of the 19th century and the impact it will have on your life ( and still has in some parts of the Western World) ... It's a bit of an eye-opener.
The internet has certainly accelerated secularisation, but I don't feel that it's simply a matter of "available information". A person suffering from Religion not happy in his/her current denomination would simply use that information to switch to some denomination that is more true to his/her "vision" of "proper worship", be that more or less ...radical.
I think the most likely impact the internet has had is that people who were only Going through the Motions ( which, be honest, is a vast majority) to appease the local busybodies, were suddenly able to get in contact with an extremely large group of like-minded people at relative small cost, making them less isolated, and less dependent on local Opinion, eventually dropping the act.
There's still many pitfalls in the picture painted by Downey, but I think he's on to something.
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Y'know.... Using this logic to come to that conclusion has me wondering what qualifications this fellow has that classifies him as a "Computer Scientist".
If I was to substitute 'XBOX' for 'The Internet' in his paper he might come to the same conclusion....
I sincerely hope that he only teaches at this school of Engineering.
Gawd help us if he actually writes code that is used in actual Engineering applications
Remove the ability for the local witch doctor to be the only source of "knowledge" and people start to think for themselves, well really; who'd a thought it.
Sure there is nonsense out there, but there's also a 'ess haitch one tee' load of quality educational info too.
You mean that it might all be a pack of lies invented by various people and compiled together hundreds or thousands of years ago by self serving control freaks? Next you'll be telling me that everything I read in newspapers and on the internet isn't necessarily true either. In my opinion the sooner the gullible and uneducated get some education, the better. The world could use something new to fight over. Going to war over religion, resources or damaged pride are all soooooooo last year. So, any bets on when the First Internet War will start and between which factions? <LOL>
It sounds like he sees a big change since 1990, and says "hmmm, what else has happened since 1990? Aha, the internet!"
Since 75% of people are using it, why aren't there a lot more non-religious if it causes people to lose their faith?
What else has become more prevalent in the US since 1990 that might account for this? Let's see....cell phones....craft beers.....antilock brakes....
Or maybe something has left our lives and the lack makes people lose their faith? What could that be? Landlines.....fax machines.....leaded gasoline...
Of all these tongue in cheek reasons, leaded gasoline is the only one that might have a chance at being true. It has already been linked pretty well to the drop in violent crime in the US (even down to the county level, the data is quite amazing) Maybe lead in the bloodstream makes people more likely to seek religion, and with environmental lead at the lowest levels for centuries it could be causing people to abandon religion :)
Or hey, maybe it is because bible thumpers keep wanting to condemn gays, but most people under 40 or 50 have had gay friends for a long time now, and having failed to be raped by them or otherwise corrupted, realize that if the evangelicals are wrong about that, maybe they're wrong about other stuff and shouldn't be listened to any more.
From this article, it screams a typical example of lack of proof of causation, but that there is merely correlation between the 2 things. Does internet access drive reduction in religious beliefs? I fear the only way to figure that out would be an in depth study of internet users and their religious beliefs over time.
Otherwise, its basically guesswork.
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The 'That's me in the chatroom...' sub-heading for some reason had me giggling like a giddy squirrel.
When one of my young whipper-snapper co-workers asked why I was unceremoniously spilling tea everywhere I showed her the article, and was met with a blank; "I don't get it."
The young lass had no idea what either REM or a Chatroom were.
So, not only is the internet killing religion, it's also showing signs of evolution before our very eyes.
The whole thing has amused me so much that I can, for the moment at least, manage to not be too bothered by the fact that I appear to be a doddery old git at the ripe old age of 35.
If only religion could have figured out the incest thingy maybe knowledge wouldn't have gain a foothold. Gawd I miss good old fashion ignorance, maybe I'll join the Teaparty.."ignorance for all". The decline in religion started long before the web was in place, the web is most likely an accelerator of an on going trend. If you can't eat, spend or screw it..who cares? Welcome to the 3rd millennium...
It would be good to know just how many, but just how 'much' of the additional 10 percent was along which of the last 20 years. I seriously doubt the Internet had much impact on the uninitiated from 1990 to 1998-- maybe even until 2003. In fact, I do not recall a single conversation about religion in any BBS I visited. Or wait, maybe that was what the gal on CompuServe was talking about when she mentioned heaven. All this time I thought she was talking about... well, you know.
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Basically, religion and government are the same thing. "Believe in me, and good things will come your way" can be heard not only from churches, mosques, synagogues, etc., but from almost every politician on the planet. Here in the states, we have a man called Obama who desperately wants to be a God. "Pray to me, do EXACTLY what I say, and good things will come your way". Obama isn't the only God wannabe - all politicians wish people everywhere would just OBEY them. The US founding fathers knew this - that is why they tried to keep the US government as minimal as possible.
Religion was founded originally to give the poor people of various towns and kingdoms who had nothing to lose - something to lose if they misbehaved - their immortal soul. A brilliant invention, now the peons had to behave, or risk a one way trip to hell, hades, etc. You cannot disprove the existence of a soul, so now churches had the perfect racket to make big bucks - until the internet. Weren't "round earthers" prosecuted by the church back in the day?
I lost my religion while raised as a Methodist Christian. Cracks began to form when they told me that Rock and Roll music was "the devil's music". Then they couldn't tell me why dinosaurs weren't in the Bible, after the existence of dinosaurs was proven without a doubt. No "a great lizard swallowed the third brother of Issac" or anything like that. Another crack in my belief. Finally, after years of watching these so-called "Christians" acting like jerks while patting themselves on the back for being so "holy" - my belief finally shattered, once and for all.
God doesn't answer prayers anymore. I bet Anne Frank was praying her little butt off for the Nazi's to not find her - we all know how well that worked. Try praying for the Sun to rise in the west and see what you get. The truest thing I ever heard about religion is - "God helps those who help themselves". Even Jesus knew if he stepped off that mountain that God wouldn't catch him. Smart guy! God will also not help - your team win - your uncle to recover from cancer - you win the lottery - or make your beer any colder. I have relegated God to the same bin of mythical characters as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Government "help". Believe in yourself. NEVER believe in religion OR politicians. YOU are the only one you can truly trust. Oh yeah - believe in beer, and all the women in the bar will look more attractive. It's a miracle !
..."Although a third unidentified factor could cause both disaffiliation and Internet use, we have controlled for most of the obvious candidates, including income, education, socioeconomic status, and rural/urban environments. Also, in order to explain changes over time, this third factor would have to be new and rising in prevalence, like the Internet, during the 1990s and 2000s. It is hard to imagine what that factor might be."
So the argument is
1 - the cause needs to be fairly new and expanding over the 1990s and 2000s
2 - we can't think of anything that matches apart from the Internet
3 - it must be that, then.
Does this remind you of:
1 - the average Earth temperature rose in the 1980s and 1990s
2 - we find that CO2 concentration was also rising during that period
3 - it must be that, then.
Both of these hypotheses assume that there is one single cause for your phenomenon, and once you have identified a likely candidate there is no point examining the data closely or looking any further...
("Won't someone think of the children!" - because climate change and religion also use exactly that argument as well...)
I'm cheered to see so many of you - Andrew Jones 2, Fan of Mr Obvious, Martin Budden, Denarius, David Walker, Stoneshop, OldDude, The last doughnut, DougS, localzuk - took the time to read the paper and develop thoughtful, informed, trenchant critiques of the methodology and analysis employed by Downey and his team.
Otherwise, we might have missed out on the knee-jerk accusations of mistaking correlation for causation and so forth that Reg commentators feel they must post whenever any study is reported here. No doubt there are still some readers who have never encountered these concepts, and likely the authors of the study never have either.
"the number of people citing no religious belief increased from 8 to 18 per cent between 1990 and 2010"
So, if one looks linear, it will take another ~ 200 years for mankind to overcome the worst desease that ever befelt it. At that time waterlevels will have risen to catastrophic heights, due to a popular religion (Treehuggers). Resulting in the launch of Noah´s Ark 2.0 and it all starts over again. We are trapped in a hamster wheel!