The Issue: Is the internet killing religion?

[twocol_one]Death By Tech
Samantha Rosenfeld

We’ve all been there: scrolling through our social media newsfeeds, minding our own business, when all of the sudden we see that one post that stops us dead in our tracks. Generally, the post will consist of some religious statement that the administrator obviously believes can hold its own against the mass amounts of critics that swarm around such bait. Rather than appreciate the statement from its origin, a fight inevitably breaks out, with the topic changing every few minutes as the debaters grow more heated from behind their technological screens, miles apart. In the end, all are forced to lay their technological swords down and move on to their individual lives. And I then ask myself, what was really accomplished?

A researcher by the name of Allen Downey proposes that there is a direct correlation between the rise of internet usage and the American decline in religious affiliation, reinforcing the age old idea that knowledge debunks religion, and this new wave of technology is essentially another “enlightenment” period. While this is a possibility, I believe the internet has killed religion because it has abolished the necessity for conversation, in which we listen and speak with an open mind. When we are able to make claims without the need to support them in person, we are far less vulnerable and therefore more apt to take risks. While we may innocently believe there is still freedom of speech on the web, the amount of backlash we receive has discouraged more than a few from defending their faith. And somehow the opposition far outranks the supporters of faith in nearly every debate, leaving outside observers with a crystal clear view of who “wins” a usually pointless argument that comes to no resolution.

Essentially, I believe the internet has allowed for shallow communication between the body of Christ and those outside of the church, which in turn has stunted the growth of both. This technological age has the potential to be a positive partnership with the church, but it appears that it has been the complete opposite. While it is easy to sit back and watch one of the all-too-familiar social media wars begin, how often is a person who claims to follow Christ in the physical world going to interact with the technological world while intelligently defending what they believe to be true? Unfortunately, I am not convinced that it will happen often enough to change the technological pattern that has already begun.
[/twocol_one] [twocol_one_last]Dead Already
Kit Apostolcaus

One might claim that the internet is killing religion because the internet is largely characterized by click-baiting, advertising algorithms, and all sorts of superficiality. But is this the internet? Or is it us? We should not try to place the blame for religion’s death on a certain medium of communication—or else we could just as easily ask questions like “are books killing religion?” or “are Greek manuscripts killing religion?” While we could certainly entertain such questions, I think many of us might think that they’re a waste of time or, at the very least, that they don’t probe deep enough.

Granted, the internet is the type of medium through which it doesn’t (seem to) cost money to post something or be taken (somewhat) seriously, whereas “papyrus wasn’t cheap” in ancient times. But this doesn’t mean that what we post on the internet is worthless. What a capitalistic thing to argue, that our words are worth more or less depending on the worth of the things they are published on.

Maybe our words are fundamentally worthless—even Paul’s and Jesus’ and Nietzsche’s and Aquinas’. Or maybe our words are worth as much love and meaning we grant them with. Either way, to say that the internet is killing religion is a misattribution. We’re the ones killing religion, and we’ve already killed God—As Nietzsche writes, “How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”

It is not the internet—whether Facebook, Myspace, or various blogging sites—that is killing religion, but our reluctance to abandon modernity and its oppressive institutions. We killed religion and God when we used gay people as kindling in the Medieval Age, when we continually partake in the systematic repression and covert extermination of transpeople, people of color, and every other sort of minority. Shakespeare gets it right in The Tempest: “Hell is empty/And all the devils are here.”

Might there be a resurrection though? God only knows. The internet could be an honest medium, but not without risk, especially for those this dead religion insists on killing. Religion may be liberated, but only when God herself is liberated—from within the oppressed and beaten, the harrassed and assaulted. And, after all, we all know that the NSA needs plenty of encouraging Bible verses.

Comments are closed.