Nav: Home

Internet use may prompt religious 'tinkering' instead of belief in only one religion

January 16, 2018

Internet use may decrease the likelihood of a person affiliating with a religious tradition or believing that only one religion is true, according to a Baylor University study.

That may be because Internet use encourages religious "tinkering," said Baylor sociologist and researcher Paul K. McClure.

"Tinkering means that people feel they're no longer beholden to institutions or religious dogma," he said. "Today, perhaps in part because many of us spend so much time online, we're more likely to understand our religious participation as free agents who can tinker with a plurality of religious ideas -- even different, conflicting religions -- before we decide how we want to live."

For example, while many Millennials have been influenced by their Baby Boomer parents when it comes to religion, the Internet exposes them to a broader array of religious traditions and beliefs and may encourage them to adjust their views or experiment with their beliefs, perhaps adopting a less exclusive view of religion, McClure said.

His study -- "Tinkering with Technology and Religion in the Digital Age" -- is published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

The study also examined television viewing and found that it was linked to religion, but in a different way -- lower religious attendance and other religious activities that take time. But McClure noted that lower religious attendance of TV viewers may be because some are ill, injured, immobile or older and incapable of taking part, and some may simply watch television to pass the time.

In 2010, when this survey was first conducted, people were spending more time on average watching television, but that has changed today as more people are spending time online or on their smartphones instead, McClure said.

"Both TV and the Internet require time, and the more time we spend using these technologies, the less time we have to participate in religious activities or with more traditional communities," he said.

In his research, McClure analyzed used data from Wave III of Baylor Religion Survey, a survey of 1,714 adults nationwide ages 18 and older. Gallup Organization administered the surveys, with a variety of questions, in fall 2010.

In the data analyzed by McClure, participants were asked:
  • How often they took part in religious activities, among them religious attendance, church socials, religious education programs, choir practice, Bible study, prayer groups and witnessing/sharing faith.
  • How much they agreed on a scale of 1 to 4 with the statements "All of the religions in the world are equally true" and "All around the world, no matter what religion they call themselves, people worship the same God."
  • How many hours a day they spent surfing the Internet and how many hours they spent watching TV.
  • What religious group(s) they were affiliated with, including a category of "none."
The analysis also took into account such variables as age, race, gender, education, place of residence and political party. While those factors had varying impact on religious beliefs, despite the differences, "the more time one spends on the Internet, the greater the odds are that that person will not be affiliated with a religion," McClure said.

While the Internet is nearly 26 years old, 87 percent of American adults use it, compared with before 1995, when fewer than 15 percent were online, according to a 2014 report by the Pew Forum Internet Project.

Sociologists debate how Internet use affects people.

"Some see it as a tool to improve our lives; others see it as a new kind of sociocultural reality," McClure said.

Scholars point out that the Internet may corral people into like-minded groups, similar to how Google customizes search results and advertisements based on prior search history. Additionally, many congregations -- some 90 percent, according to previous research -- use email and websites for outreach, and more than a third have both an Internet and Facebook presence.

Other scholars have found that when people choose ways to communicate, some often choose a less intimate way -- such as texting rather than talking.

McClure noted that sociological research about the impact of the Internet is difficult for scholars because its swift changes make it a moving target.

"In the past decade, social networking sites have mushroomed, chat rooms have waned, and television and web browsing have begun to merge into one another as live streaming services have become more popular," McClure said.

His study has limitations, such as measuring only the amount of time people spent on the Internet, not what they were doing online, McClure said. But the research may benefit scholars seeking to understand how technologies shape religious views."Whether through social media or the sheer proliferation of competing truth-claims online, the Internet is the perfect breeding ground for new 'life-worlds' that chip away at one's certainty," McClure said.
-end-


Baylor University

Related Television Articles:

Time spent watching television does not replace physical activity for Finnish men
A large proportion of highly active men watch more television than their low-active peers do.
Increases in social media use and television viewing associated with increases in teen depression
A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics has revealed that social media use and television viewing are linked to increases in adolescent depressive symptoms.
Moral lessons in children's television programs may require extra explanation
In two separate studies, researchers monitored more than 100 4-6-year-olds and found that they didn't understand messages about inclusiveness.
Study finds alcohol and tobacco appear frequently in UK reality television
A new study in the Faculty of Public Health's Journal of Public Health, published by Oxford University Press, finds that tobacco and alcohol usage are extremely common in British reality television shows.
Television programming for children reveals systematic gender inequality
Programming children watch on American TV shows systematic gender inequality, according to new research.
A television in the bedroom?
Spending too much time watching TV in their room can harm preschoolers' development, an Université de Montréal study finds.
Are children's television programs too cool for school?
Study abstract suggests need to advocate for more positive depictions of academics and school in children's programming, especially as children get older.
New study shows advertizing for alcohol is prevalent in UK television
A new study in the Journal of Public Health indicates that advertising for alcohol is common in British television, and may be a potential driver of alcohol use in young people.
Mount Sinai launches television series on CUNY TV
The Mount Sinai Health System has launched a new television series called Mount Sinai Future You, featuring clinicians, researchers, and patients discussing how innovations in science, medicine, and new models of care are changing the course of health care.
An updated analysis of direct-to-consumer television advertisements for prescription drugs
Although proponents suggest that direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising is educational and motivating, a new analysis finds that the potential educational value of such advertising has declined.
More Television News and Television Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.