According to a recent study, using the internet is directly proportional to losing faith. Computer scientist Allen Downey observes that there has been a dramatic decline in religious affiliation in the United States since 1990 and this trend is closely mirrored by the rise in use of the internet.
In 1990, approximately 8 percent of the American population had no religious preferences but by 2010, the number increased to 18 percent, or almost 25 million people. According to Downey, who is affiliated with the Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts, this demise of religion is the result of various factors but the most prominent of them all is rise in use of the internet.
Downey referred to data of 9,000 people who participated at different points in time in the General Social Survey carried out by the University of Chicago, to regularly assess people’s attitudes and demographics since 1972. Since then, the survey has asked questions like “what religion were you raised in”, “what is your religious preference” and “how much time do you spend on the internet” to thousands of respondents from different age groups, educational backgrounds and socioeconomic standards.
According to Downey’s findings, religious upbringing is the prime influence on religious affiliation. People who are brought up in a certain religion are likely to associate with the same religion in later life. Since the number of people who have had religious upbringings seems to have dropped since 1990, it explains why few people adhere by a particular religion in later life today.
He then went on to show how other factors like college-level education has also contributed to the decline in religious faith. Since 1980, the number of people attending college has increased from 17.4 percent to 27.2 percent. With more people attending college, not only have they had access to quality education and liberal ideas but they have also been privy to using the powerful medium of the internet to learn things they did not know of.
“For people living in homogeneous communities, the Internet provides opportunities to find information about people of other religions (and none), and to interact with them personally,” said Downey.
He also connected the fall in religious affiliation with improved socioeconomic standards, saying while increased finances do not always point towards intellectual development in people, considering the standard of living has definitely gone up over the last few decades, in this case increased finances could be considered an important factor.