Is the internet taking away America’s religion?

09 Apr

That is what a recent MIT study concludes.  Take a look, as it is worth a read.  The article ends in this way:

So that leaves us with a mystery. The drop in religious upbringing and the increase in Internet use seem to be causing people to lose their faith. But something else about modern life that is not captured in this data is having an even bigger impact.

I think the prime candidate here is the loss of traditional notions of morality and family, and that the internet enhances this.  That said, here is the comment I left:

I have a suggestion as relates to causation: technology can enhance/leverage our behavior, whether good or bad, and given the form of information technology, it is easier for it to tempt us towards bad behavior.  I will try to briefly explain

In Matthew Crawford’s 2009 book “Shop Class is Soulcraft” he notes at one point that the word “idiot” “has an origin in the idea of privacy or self-enclosure” (224).  The importance of embodiment – “fleshiness” – in our interactions with others cannot be overrated.

Crawford also writes at one pt.:

“If we accept the testimony of the early-twentieth-century banker Thomas Lamont… his work was founded on direct perceptions, a ‘wide vision’ over the community, issuing in judgments of better and worse character – the sort of evaluative attention that can join us to our work as full-blooded human beings.  But as the subsequent history of banking illustrates, any job that can be scaled up, depersonalized, and made to answer to forces remote from the scene of work is vulnerable to degradation, even to the point of requiring that the person who does the job actively suppress his better judgment.” (198-199).

I will let you check out the book yourself to get a better sense of why he speaks this way.

Getting concrete about the effects that information technology can have on us, I offer the following four things as food for thought, from part 7 of my open source paper available here: (this is a paper that I recently gave at a library technology conference, the slides for the presentation, “Big Data, Big Libraries, Big Problems?” can be found on SlideShare as well):

1) information technology tempts us to overly simplify everything

2) information technology tempts us to push real costs on to everyone else

3) information technology tempts us to be more self-centered and to increasingly “commodify” the world  

4) information technology tempts us to forget how to do traditional yet valuable tasks – and tempts us to avoid attention-developing practices in general

What connection might this have with religion?  The church has always said “lex orendi, lex credendi”, which basically means the law of prayer affects the law of belief, or practice impacts belief.  I suggest that many of us realize that those four things above are true, and that to some degree, we feel ourselves implicated because of it.  Guilt.  That said, we love the benefits we feel too much too stop.  As such, we subconsciously move away from God, and slowly find ourselves more estranged from him, even as the surprisingly alluring mechanical muse of information tech – which we love and hate – lures us ever closer.

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Posted by on April 9, 2014 in Uncategorized


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