Friday, July 22, 2011

Atheists and Christians Agree: The Internet is Killing Religion

For once I completely agree with a leading Christian apologist.

Christian minister and apologist Josh McDowell recently spoke at the International Christian Retail Show, where he told attendees that the Internet is the greatest threat to Christianity.
"The Internet has given atheists, agnostics, skeptics, the people who like to destroy everything that you and I believe, the almost equal access to your kids as your youth pastor and you have... whether you like it or not."
He goes on to cite many statistics showing just how influential the Internet has become. According to McDowell:
  • The number of evangelical Christians who don't believe in absolute truth has jumped from 51 percent to 62 percent in 1994, then to 78 percent in 1999 and it now hovers at around 91 percent.
  • Back in the good old (pre-Internet) days, if an agnostic or atheist wrote a book nobody would read it. But now the Internet has given atheist authors (that would be me...) access to these kids' minds.
  • Ninety percent of sixteen-year-olds have viewed pornography. Among fifteen- to seventeen-year-olds, 59 percent of girls and 69 percent of boys say pornography is acceptable.
One of my favorite blog topics is why children have to be indoctrinated (infected) with religion at a very early age if it's going to stick. The human ability to pass survival skills via language (memes) rather than genes is unique in the animal kingdom. To facilitate this, children are biologically programmed to be inquisitive and soak up information like a sponge when they're young. But the key to this process is that children are also biologically programmed to "freeze" their beliefs somewhere in their teen years, because that information has to be passed reliably to the next generation. It is very hard to alter someone's fundamental beliefs once they've passed into adulthood.

Religion's "memeplex" (the collection of ideas that make up each religion) has evolved to take advantage of our biological programming. All successful religions emphasize the indoctrination of children. Any religion that didn't is now extinct, replaced by a more successful religion that did emphasize the indoctrination of children.

(Shameless self promotion: I wrote a whole chapter on this topic in The Religion Virus and several articles in Is Christianity Dying?.)

So Mr. McDowell and I are one hundred percent in agreement about the Internet's effect on Christianity and on religion in general. The information age has broken the monopoly that parents and churches had on children's knowledge.

When I was a kid, we had zero access to atheist literature or ideas. We couldn't learn about pedophile priests, our gay friends were all in the closet, and literature about sex and sexuality was virtually nonexistent. Even competing branches of Christianity weren't accessible. Today it's just the opposite: kids can learn anything they want (sometimes too much), and parents are virtually powerless to stop it.

Education is the enemy of religion, and today's children are being educated by a much wider set of teachers. It's just another factor contributing to the impending death of Christianity.


  1. can't wait for the funeral!!!

  2. Crazy Non-ChristianJuly 22, 2011 at 1:43 PM

    How dare those satan-driven Atheists tell the truth to the youth of today!


  4. Like a man said somewhere else... "This is the internet, where religions come to die". Good riddance.

  5. Nice post! Hope to see the death in my lifetime :)
    Off-topic: That's more than one shameful plugin, you know..

  6. > But the key to this process is that children are also biologically programmed to "freeze" their beliefs somewhere in their teen years, because that information has to be passed reliably to the next generation.

    Sounds like pseudoscientific bullshit.

  7. As I have been saying on blogs for years ... "Internet KILLED your FAVORITE religion".

    Churches and Parents can't kill or delete the entire internet, and have lost their total dominant control of everything that people read. Before BBS's and Internet, a person rarely would have access to information about other religions (and atheism), but today it is just a click to find it.

  8. The Internet has become a very interesting social experiment and while I agree that it has provided more information to kids and adults and that makes it harder for religious indoctrination for the fear based, mindless based and total nonsense based religious views to thrive there is the 'social' element that is enhanced. I mean, Jihadists, suicide bombers and extremists continue to thrive and flourish on the internet right?

    On the extreme end of belief they can use the social aspects of the internet to insulate themselves from reason, reinforce their radical and irrational beliefs and whip themselves up to violence.

    And why is it able to do that? Why can Internet radicalization work on some people? I would posit that the Socialization, the group identity needs of some psychologically damaged people like the Army Officer radicalized individual is fed by what the Internet has to offer. Sure, the Internet can still save rational people from religion but it reinforces and further feeds the irrational beliefs of others so while the internet helps create a growing number of Rationalists and nonbelievers it also helps keep the ranks of the extreme believers. The Internet giveth and the Internet taketh away. :)

  9. come see our NEW ATHEIST PIGLETS!

  10. Science and reason will and must prevail. The universe may be a cold indifferent mechanism but we are not - no need for alpha male sky daddies. Just you, me and a pot of herbal tea.

  11. Religion--a cult that has legs.

    Theology--fantasy in search of a rationale.

  12. Not sure I understand the comment about kids learning too much. Is the concern that the kids learn something that they couldn't process properly?

  13. I've held for a long time that early indoctrination of children into religion should be considered to be a form of child abuse.

    If I had a child and taught it to fully believe that The Flying Spagetti Monster was the one and only true God, I doubt I'd be considered a good parent at the very least. I imagine I'd probably even be charged with something for it.

  14. I thought it both funny and sadly telling, pastor whatshisname talking about how the percentage of christians that believe in 'absolute truth' - as if he were dealing in such - had dropped a significant amount.

    How funny, that he thinks his bunch are dealing with absolute truth.
    If they were in fact dealing with absolute truth they'd all be Atheists!
    A prime example of truly deluded people; people who have lied to themselves for so long that they see lies as 'absolute truth'. Wow. Scary.

  15. Science kills myth...AGAIN!


  16. There is a flaw in this. "Religion" has not been defined. Religion takes many forms, and American Protestant fundamentalism is certainly not representative of religion as a whole; in fact, it is decidedly a small minority that gets treated as if significant because of its extraordinary persistent shrillness, intense commitment and relentless effort. American fundamentalism is a political reform movement dressed in the garb of religion with a tax exemption.
    The majority of the world's Christians adhere to the apostolic Catholic faiths - Roman, Orthodox and Anglican - and fundamentalism is just a noisy fringe of the Protestant dissenting minority.
    Let's go right to etymology. "Religion" derives from "ligare," which implies binding, as in "ligament," or bonding in "legion," a group of people bound to one another, like the Foreign Legion. Religion does not require a "God," and some such as Sri Lankan Buddhism do without it. Others, such as the Quakers, redefine "God" - theirs is "the inner light." Tillich talks of "ground of being."
    Human beings are naturally social. They will always seek some form of "bonding." With ceaseless redefinitions, religion will endure. Atheists need not regret this. Since the Renaissance secular thinking has infiltrated and taken over Christianity. What more could an atheist want?
    As etymology shows, the atheists' quarrel is with "God," (which is supernatural) not with "religion" (which is natural.) And they have pretty much won, even though some atheists remain in love with their status as real or perceived outcasts and hunger for the vindication of rejection, reassured in their convictions by receiving it.


  18. Long since I`ve mentioned it, but I also believe Internet is killing the religion, creating new religions:
    "Facebook religon".
    and so on, I really believe that ever since the Internet aroused, more people are familiar with the word "Atheist", and using it to declare themselves, while I don`t recall even knowing this phrase before the Internet era.
    Although you can blame the Internet, you could really blame any type of technology of killing religion, but the main ruler is the Internet.

  19. I agree, but to be fair the Internet merely accelerated a process that's been in motion since Galileo. Remember about 250 years ago a group of secularist founded a nation without tying it to a religion, insisting it be separate. This was a rather large step too. The Internet is certainly a heavy blow. First it will more than likely diminish the belief that religious books are true in a literal sense. It will also prevent a lot of superstitions from becoming powerful, as the Internet is a debunking machine. Although back to my original point; the age of prophecy is behind us, and people who claim Godhood are not nearly as common. My guess is the social construct and feel good aspects of religion will persist in a watered down fashion. People will take most religious claims in a much more allegorical fashion.

    Religion thrives on two things: alienation and geographic isolation. The spread of information and near instantaneous levels hurts this immensely. Moreover - just to prove I'm not all Ivory Tower - porn will hurt religions just as much as clear headed science. Kids no longer have to "imagine" sex and I think porn subversively shows us how animalistic we are. Which hurts something else religions thrive on; the notion that people are or can be divine. During the early days of human civilization the noble members of society could paint themselves as flawless, despite having as much dirt under their nails as anyone. The Internet not only diminishes the utility of superstitions, but also allows the common man to see and even taste what once was reserved for the rich and privileged.

  20. Who the f* seriously believes this?
    Someone should make a blog called "The Atheism Virus"

  21. i don't believe religion is dying, it never was dying in asia or any part of the eastern world, religion has been strong here for thousands of years and continue to be . .

    i believe "atheism" only sprang up from westerners because they found no need for religion, no religion was really formed by westerners, well maybe the nordic religions, and look how short-lived that was(westerners)

    Westerners are like that, at first, when they discover something or started something, they will manipulate what they have found, and then they will do everything in their power to convince people to the point of invading, waging wars and controlling nations to do and follow exactly what they are doing.

    but as soon as these westerners found no need of such a thing, they will drop and literally abandon it right where they are standing.

    whereas in all of the countries in the eastern part of the world, all the nations are heavily religious, this is not due to lack of technology, because, yes we have a LOT of technology here in the eastern part of the world, and not once did that scratch religion even for a bit, it has only strengthened religion overtime.

    Here in Asia, we do not discriminate against each other by ethnicity, country or religion, i think only westerners do that, discriminating on each other as if they are different, Americans discriminating against canadians, french, and a whole lot of others, and vice-versa. and unlike asians, which has a very diverse ethnicity and appearances, white people all look the same, or rather, has the same facial and body features, but still would hate on each other. i do not understand this mentality really.

  22. I was raised in an extremely staunch christian environment and was indoctrinated (christadelphian)... now (long struggle)... ATHEIST!!

  23. It's scary how many of you are reducing yourselves while thinking you're actually being open deny creationism in this incredible universe?...a soul, life beyond this material world...every vast and incredible facet of all that there is...done after what? seventy years? is it all out of spite? get back at your parents or something? hipster smugness? If anyone's life should have made him hate God it was me...but thanks to the 'wonderful' people around me in our 'accepting and loving society'...sometimes God is the only friend I have. You bolster the positive...'science saves lives' and ignore evil and cruelty hoping it doesn't touch your lives...who would you blame then I wonder? Where would your 'acceptance and rationale' be then if one of those self same 'free of religion' persons destroyed your lives by murdering a loved one? In the end, atheism is as discriminatory as any religion because it's JUST as self righteous. You have nothing to teach me whether I am religious or not. You closed off the possibility of being more than our sum total of earthly lives in the name of one up-manship and psuedo rational. May 'God' bless you....because no one else will.

  24. Anon -- You find the concept of death, where your life is truly done and your consciousness ends, to be unacceptable. Unfortunately, just because you want something doesn't make it true. It's far better to be realistic and treat every moment of this life as precious and irretrievable, and never waste a moment of this life in the false hope that there's something more.

    You should read Laurel's Wager. I think even religious people and atheists can agree that Laurel has it right.

  25. Religions are fake.
    Those *Burn in hell*s are freaking retarded.

  26. While I am not a theist per-sey, nether am I an atheist. I do not conform myself to any formal religion, for their gods are often cruel and unjust. If this god was truly all-powerful, why should he allow suffering, when he could teach the same lesson with no effort at all? He could force everyone to believe in him, and should he create a hell to damn those who do not believe, he CHOSE to damn them, as he would know exactly what would happen, as he is all knowing, right? However, there is just as much evidence supplying A god as here is disproving the ones featured in say, Christianity and Islam. Babies fall off of 10-story buildings, and survive unharmed. Men fall down flights of stairs that have killed others, with barely a scratch. Victims who have been shot in the head survive, despite massive tramaua to their brain. Science says that these AREN'T POSSIBLE. Science says the beginning of the universe ISN'T POSSIBLE. And yet, these things happen and have happened. Nobody truly knows, and anybody who thinks they do is either inexcusably ignorant, or lying to themselves.

  27. Anon - Scientists know that there are things difficult to explain, but it's not because they're magical. It's simply because we don't have enough information. If a baby falls from a ten-story building and survives, it's wrong to assume it's magical. It only means that something unexpected broke the baby's fall or cushioned its landing, but nobody recorded it carefully enough to deduce what it was that saved the baby. Find me a case where someone, anyone, fell 100 stories onto flat concrete pavement and survived and we'll have something to talk about.

  28. Craig-
    I agree that it is very possible that in many casses there are variables that went without being recorded. In fact, the baby example is probably a faulty one. However, the assumption that there cannot be some greater force is regarded by most physicists as illogical. There has to be a beginning to everything. The universe, the particles and sub-particles that make it up, energy, everything. And it is not possible for something to spring of nothing. Not difficult to explain, impossible. It cannot happen. Now, if there is ever enough evidence to disprove the existance of something that created this, I will adjust my views accordingly. Honestly, as I think on it, what or where did this.. being, spring from? Why would he do anything? If he exists, is he a clockmaker type, or does he involve himself? It is just as illogical to assume that there is a higher being as assuming there isn't. And yet, science as it stands, supports that there has to be.
    I do not in any way condone Christianity, Jeudaism, Islam, Shintoism, or any other major religions, as they are completely unfounded. But until there is more evidence against then for, I will align my thoughts to the presence of a higher being, as I do to the theory of gravity, and the theory of evolution, and any other "fact" we take for granted.

  29. I'd appreciate your help sorting out Radio Marija - any other fully aware beings, please come help me explain to these 'believers' that they are following a myth which is in fact a copy of another myth called Mithraism -

  30. The buzz phrase "religion is dying on the Internet" is not true. It's a complete fabrication of fact.

    After over many years of not attending church I returned to attendance a few months ago (late 2012). I have attended two different Christian churches. One is located in a farm community, blue collar members mostly, that had just expanded to a fifth campus as I began attending (the preacher's sermon is broadcast from a main campus to 4 others). Starting 8 years ago with just a handful of people it has about 5,000 members. The last time I attended (two weeks ago) they announced they are starting up a 6th campus.

    The other Christian church is in an upper middle class area. It's expanding rapidly too, about to break ground on a new building. The building they have now is large and very nice but they're out of room. I attended Sunday School this morning and my class had about double the number of people as when I started there. The college kid's Sunday School group nearby was so loud and enthusiastic our teacher had a difficult time being heard. In fact the college kids have their own night they started and run themselves. The place gets packed.

    As far as intelligence and ability to think and reason my Sunday School teacher is a psychologist, his assistant teaches physics at a local college. Most of the adult members have PhDs. We often discuss some of the same falsehoods and half truths espoused here by Mr Craig. People, this guy is duping you.

    He wants us to believe Christianity is being plowed under by the truth spread on the Internet. In actuality the real truth- Jesus -is alive, growing and getting stronger.

    Duck Dynasty is a huge success. Trinity Broadcast Network is a huge success. The Bible mini-series was a huge success. Practically everyone is on the Internet, have been for years and people need Jesus more than ever.

    Over 2,000 years ago some dude who believed He was God got a handful of followers together and sent them into the world to tell people about Himself and teach them as they had been taught. If he was a crazy man or a liar it would have died out in a few years at best.

    Here we are in 2013 and Jesus has influenced a great deal of world history. He will influence almost all of it to come. Billions of people believe in Him and make Him the center of their lives.

    I do now and let me tell you of the thousands of decisions I've ever made, getting back to Christ and centering my life on Him is by far the best one, maybe the only right one I've ever made in the last 25 years. Nothing else comes close!!!!!

    Bill Watson

    P.S. As far as "indoctrinating" your kids into Christianity, DO IT! Find a Bible based church and get them there at every possible opportunity. It's nothing to be ashamed of, embrace it! Do them a HUGE favor and mentally get your children as far from the pollution and stench of this world as you can get them.

    1. Bill, while I admire your stoicism, the facts negate your claims. Religion, particularly mainstream Christianity, is dying -- quite rapidly from a historical point of view. Here is a recent Pew survey (the most respected and timely research on religion) that shows the real truth. The facts are irrefutable: religion is disappearing.

      Religion and the Unaffiliated

      Furthermore, if you do some unbiased research, you'll discover that all recent sociological studies show that mainstream Christianity itself is dying faster than anything else. While many people claim to believe in God or an afterlife, fewer than half of all religious people believe in the basic tenets of Christianity.

      Traditional Christianity is self-contradictory and immoral on the face of it. The days are long gone when a priest could say, "God works in mysterious ways" every time someone pointed out the harsh disconnect between Christian teachings and the reality of the world.

      Good luck with that indoctrination of youth. It won't work. Most modern young people don't accept a morality dictated to them by semi-literate bronze-age politicians 2,500 years ago. They realize that true morality comes from our natural humanity. And that's a truly uplifting thought.

    2. Bill -- by the way, nice web site and blog. Good stuff.

  31. We should all agree that the internet should not be treated as a threat. Instead, they can make use of this technology to spread good news to their followers.


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