How the Web is killing faith

apple “Open access to knowledge — the ability to fact check your pastors and imams and rabbis — is a … Continued

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“Open access to knowledge — the ability to fact check your pastors and imams and rabbis — is a death knell for religion as we know it, and the Internet is only hastening the process,” writes Hemant Mehta.

Last year, Christian apologist Josh McDowell made a remarkable claim about the Internet, stating that “the abundance of knowledge, the abundance of information, will not lead to certainty; it will lead to pervasive skepticism… the Internet has leveled the playing field [giving equal access to skeptics].”

He said that like it was a bad thing. 

It’s not hard to see why McDowell is afraid, though. Open access to knowledge — the ability to fact check your pastors and imams and rabbis — is a death knell for religion as we know it, and the Internet is only hastening the process.  (I focus on Christianity in this piece because it has the largest Web presence in the United States.)

It wasn’t long ago when statements made in a pulpit were simply assumed to be true.  Now, a child with an iPhone in the pew can find ample evidence contradicting whatever the men of God are saying.  That “true story” your pastor is telling?  Snopes.com debunked it long ago.  Gay marriage is destructive, he says? Thousands of YouTube videos made by gays and lesbians in love — as well as other Christians — can attest otherwise. Evolution is a liberal conspiracy? TalkOrigins.org will show you how to respond to every argument on the Creationist side.  Abstinence-only sex education is working? Not according to the new scientific study you just read.


View Photo Gallery: Despite their negative reputations among many Americans, atheists tend to be very ethical and high-achieving, argue Gregory Paul and Phil Zuckerman in an opinion piece in The Washington Post.

It’s not only the abundance of information creating nightmares for church leaders. It’s the simple fact that, with a lack of physical buildings in which to meet, atheists tend to congregate online.  Until the Internet came along, we didn’t have a space where we could talk about our (lack of) religious beliefs but between blogs, podcasts, and social media sites, atheists have thrived in the age of the Internet.  

All the evidence — and quite a bit of the commentary you read online — is in our favor and, unless a church forces members to exist in complete isolation from the rest of society, it’s inevitable that they’re going to be exposed to the evidence contradicting their own beliefs one way or the other. It may have been possible to “protect” Christians from opposing viewpoints before the Internet but it’s hard as hell to do that now.  Perhaps even more importantly, it’s easy to find other who disagree with what your pastor may be saying.

Sure, the Internet is a great place to find a church or hear a sermon — but for every site informing you about a church’s location, there’s a forum with a negative review of the same place.  You can post a sermon online, but others will post responses and rebuttals to it.  You can blog about Jesus all you want, but anonymous commenters will quickly poke holes in your faulty logic for everyone to see.

Church used to be a one-way street. The pastor fed you information and that was that.  The Internet upended that model and gave people the opportunity to talk back.  Now, they can weigh their own arguments on matters of faith with that of people who disagree. Many Christians won’t go actively searching for dissenting views, of course, but what about doubters? What about young Christians who aren’t sure they accept what the church teaches them? They’ll be able to come to their own conclusions and they won’t necessarily be the same ones their parents and pastors want them to adopt.

This is why atheists love the Internet. We can tell Christians the emperor’s not wearing any clothes. We can question the dogma they’ve simply accepted all their lives. We can expose religious frauds. We can explain the many unfortunate consequences of unquestioned belief. The Internet is blind faith’s worst nightmare.

The genie’s not going back in the bottle. Religious leaders should be very afraid.

Hemant Mehta blogs at The Friendly Atheist.



More On Faith and the Web:

Rachel Held Evans: The Internet is a blessing

Doubting Mormons turn to online support

Ultra-Orthodox Jews: The Internet threatens our way of life

About

  • edbyronadams

    I would agree that atheism is gaining traction, whether it is internet specifically that is the linchpin of that advance or other factors is hard to sort. The consequences of a rise of atheism are more interesting. I would have to say that it is rising in parallel with the loss of stigma to the act of lying.

    This political season brings that to mind. While exaggeration and spin have always been tolerated as tools of the politician, outright lies used to be poison. Not so anymore. When oats in court and oaths of office become meaningless, how is our system to function?

  • edbyronadams

    I don’t see how anything you wrote contradicts a connection between loss of faith and lying. Trying to prove cause an effect would be difficult but the correlation between “so help me God” and the facile use of falsehood in politics and society is hard to miss.

  • rationalpursuit

    Edbryonadams, I think there has been a corresponding correlation to an increasing insistence that politicians brandish their religious bona fides, which could as easily (and fallaciously) be used to argue that more prominent religious claims are causally tied to increasing falsehood in politics.

    As an atheist-leaning agnostic, I dislike lying because of the practical problems it raises of remembering false stories, the possible consequences of being found out, and my sense that it is disrespectful to people not to deal with them honestly. I think these are reasons that can motivate anyone, regardless of their religious views.

  • danaman

    Ultimately, people believe what we want to believe, and hinge those beliefs on whatever seems to prop up the argument.

    And we generally believe what makes us feel good – about life, the world and eventual outcomes of the enormous forces way beyond our control. As John Lennon used to sing “Whatever Gets You Through The Night”.

    Logic and reason – no matter how meticulously propped up with ‘facts’ – are still in the mind of the thinker.

    No deist am I, but science is far from having all answers.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    And the all-important difference that seems to be flying over your head is that it doesn’t claim to.

  • Bguhl

    You have blinders on. The web is at least equally empowering for anti-science conspiracy-theory wackos, including the religious.

  • Bguhl

    Uh, some of the biggest liars are self-professed Christians. For example, in many religious cultures homosexuals are forced to stay in the closet and their whole life becomes a lie. Look at all the (mostly) republican politicians who have been outed in the last few years, who were vocal homophobes. Religion itself — not for all, but certainly for many — incubates a lying culture.

  • paultaylor1

    Well, I’m not sure if religious leaders should be afraid. I am sure they’ll have to increasingly reconsider the things they say. They are already doing this, as their congregtions slowing become more educated.

    Religion, in itself, is not the problem. The problem is all the baggage that goes with it, put there by people who embellish for the sake of captivating our attentions, and our loyalties. Sometimes you have to wonder if even they believe much of what they claim, when they sermonize.

    And I don’t thnk a little more critical thinking and honesty will hurt religion. The problems with both religion and atheism are that they are impossible to prove. Or to disprove. What religion provides us with–community, and answers to existence, and human fragility, with ways of coping–will not change with time. Humanity will always require pampering.

    Religion purports to have the impossible answers; and science will never be able to satisfactorily explain why there is a universe, and why sentience exists, in witness of it. But science will help shape the way we understand and practice religion. Religion, in philosophy, can encompass and embrace the revealed mechanics of our universe, with no slight to religious beliefs in human morality, or in creation or creators.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    Conspiracy theories thrive when they exist in a rhetorical vacuum. For example, if someone wrote a book thirty years ago claiming that our government has maintained a long correspondence with alien life, the reader would be a prisoner to the ideas and false pretenses of the author. The beauty of the internet is that if a blogger produces the same text, he immediately pays a price in the form of a comment-section assault. The internet ensures that every new idea takes the form of an open-ended conversation, one that is obviously never beneficial to conspiracy theorists, religious apologists and the like, so in short I disagree.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    ‘The problems with both religion and atheism are that they are impossible to prove.’

    While you are more or less on the right track here, this is a tautology that always needs to be corrected. Atheism is the absence of religion, it is a catch-all rejection of unfalsifiable superstition. All of our worldly theisms can be quite easily torn down because they make extraordinary claims on precisely no evidence (and clumsily remind us every day of how obviously man-made they are).

    I believe deism (the ‘god of nature’) is what you have in mind when you equate belief and atheism. You are absolutely correct that there is no way to disprove the notion of a god that is utterly removed from our childish personal gods, one that takes no interest in the petty affairs of human mammals. Deism and atheism are far more compatible than theism and deism, and depending on who you ask might be considered synonymous.

  • runge

    I am an evangelical preacher with a Jewish background in my 84th year, and I am not afraid of the Internet, I embrace it. I say let us dialogue. I have posted 35 of my latest messages under the title of messianic preacher. I enjoy surfing the Internet and I always want to a learner.
    Al

  • velvetpink

    so evolved slave apes into forced waste working labour with illegal marihuana and worthless useless dictator gorilla babblers

  • KMRA

    Wow. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a better argument for religion than reading these comments. Guys – angry, dismissive, and bitter atheists are going to convert anyone to your way of thinking. You make massive generalizations about people of faith and then are shocked when they insult you right back. What does that kind of ridiculous vitriol accomplish? You don’t educate people by insulting and demeaning them. You’re just an embarrassment to the intellectual atheists out there.

    That said, yes, I’m still a believer having read various atheist and agnostic texts and working in a science field. I’ve spent time questioning my beliefs and come to the conclusion that I do believe despite no proof. Isn’t that the point? Most of those I know who still do go to church have gone through the same questioning process and it wasn’t brought on by people screaming at them about being idiots for believing. It was, in fact, brought on by the awful politics that have taken over religion. So sorry to tell you, but your yelling isn’t making a difference. It’s the religious insanity that sometimes takes over that causes the questioning.

    You’re just screaming into the wind.

  • KMRA

    Drat – line 2 – are NOT going to convert

  • XVIIHailSkins

    Indeed.

  • danaman

    Never said it did.

    Knee-jerk condescending much?

  • jashbowie

    *You’re just screaming into the wind.*

    When we look at survey numbers and see the number of non-believers rising dramatically in the last few years, we have reason to believe the wind has shifted in our favor.

  • velvetpink

    so are we the only fraction of apes that suicide

  • jashbowie

    *…but science is far from having all answers.”

    No, of course it doesn’t, but religion doesn’t have any.

  • velvetpink

    out of 8.7 million evolved species we are first evolved species with forced waste working illegal marihuana and evolved suicide yet this is fascinating

  • avgjoe23

    I, too, am appalled by the arrogance and hypocrisy of the religious right. Christianity has been hijacked and reduced in the U.S. to pro-individualism, pro-capitalism, anti-abortion and anti-gay. Unfortunately, those issues do not begin to capture, or even reflect, the tenets of Christianity. IMHO, Christians who do not struggle mightily with what they espouse (e.g., the self-righteous, Pharisees), are not doing it right.

    Organized religion has become in many cases tantamount to a country club, selfishly serving itself instead of serving the least and the lost among us. Christianity deserves to be examined, poked, prodded and questioned and the internet is a fine place for that dialogue.

    Despite the failings of the Christian church, however, I am equally appalled by the arrogance of this op-ed writer, Hemant Mehta. Our idolatry of self and of knowledge will fail us every time. Atheists, despite the certitude of their proclamations, can no more prove there is no God, than a Christian can prove to their satisfaction that there is God. Our relentless pursuit of knowledge is never-ending and, contrary to what Mehta believes, will not lead to our ultimate independence, but ultimately force us back to our knees. Within each of us is the need to look up to, to worship, something. Mr. Mehta, that hole in the fabric of your being, the one that you ignore and deny but that you are acutely aware of, that is the God-shaped hole in you. We are all the same. We all have it. The only difference is what we fill that God-shaped hole with. I confess that I know not one Christian, including me, who does not regularly and consistently try to fill that hole with the things of this world. Inevitably, they will fail to satisfy.

  • Chip_M

    “Atheists, despite the certitude of their proclamations, can no more prove there is no God, than a Christian can prove to their satisfaction that there is God.”

    The exact same thing can be said about any untestable claim anyone has ever made or will ever make in the future. If this were a valid justification for belief it would also be a justification for every one possible claim that meets the same standard of evidence.

  • Chip_M

    *it would also be a justification for believing every possible claim…

  • velvetpink

    no worries evoluted slave apes we succesuffuly evolute suicide

  • TheLastUndecidedVoter

    Both atheists and religious fundamentalists are equally intellectually lazy. It is amusing and somewhat cringe-inducing to watch their little slap-fests. The nature of “fact” is itself ambiguous. Consequently, the only coherent positions are the opposing poles of faith and nihilism. Both require a considerable amount of confidence and intelligence to adhere to.

    The internet is and will always be the mouth piece for the weak, the lazy, and the stupid. That is why the atheist temper tantrum runs rampant here. In the world where real intellectual content matters, the meager number of coma-inducing books on this religion-without-god known as atheism barely fills half a book shelf. That, i suppose, is better than fundamentalists, who can barely write at all.

  • TheLastUndecidedVoter

    It is inaccurate to call it non-belief. It is egotism, plain and simple. And yes, the world is obviously becoming more egotistical.

  • TheLastUndecidedVoter

    Nothing is provable. Religion has never asserted otherwise. Religion is an exploration of sociology and the human psychological condition. In the realm of the sense and emotions, please explain to me the relevance of facts. What means “love” to two different people? Hate? It is rational for people to seek guidance when living with such ambiguity. And arrogant to reject it all outright.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    Very much.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    The above post is one of the more interesting exercises in rhetorical posturing without saying anything that I’ve ever encountered. How long did it take you to compose this magnum opus while taking care not to include an argument? Is your overarching point that you are smarter than all other posters? Are you making the point that true intellectualism has lead you to god? Between ending your fifth sentence with a preposition and then betraying the whole theme of your diatribe by saying precisely nothing, I’ll have to agree that the internet is indeed a mouthpiece for the weak and imbecilic.

  • TheLastUndecidedVoter

    It’s unfortunate that your response itself was so vapid, and you demonstrated zero effort in comprehending rather old and orthodox philosophical points. That I am smarter than you at least goes without saying, seeing as you cannot differentiate between rules of grammar and guidance on style.

    My point is my point and apparently requires a bit more reading comprehension than you can muster. You believe it all or you believe nothing at all.

    One can admire people who have faith and nothing but faith. I’ll go slowly for you and differentiate this from dogma. To learn and build a coherent moral and philosophical system that is both fair and just is not small accomplishment. Few religious people accomplish this because they only choose bits and pieces to support their own preconceptions or preferences.

    Atheists are equally, if not more, guilty of this. That is, starting from a set of preferences or preconceptions and then cherry picking details to support their ideas. Is embracing atheism a life changing event, one that fundamentally alters one’s world view? Probably not. It is simply an ambiguous label slapped on a patchwork of moral and intellectual ideas that already define a person. It is synonymous with the ego. Sometimes it is called humanism, which is nothing more than Christian ethics stripped of the supernatural. Those ethics themselves are a matter of faith, however.

    Why I can respect nihilism, and why I gravitate towards this, is that it drops all preconceptions and starts from the premise of knowing nothing. Then you build up to whatever is verifiable or provable, which ends up being a rather a short list of things and certainly nothing one could go around arguing the superior merits of. One can only argue that the slim list of things is irrefutable. However, it offers no positive statement other than that.

    Have a great day.

  • garbagein2

    Why shouldn’t atheists and agnostics we able to organize and become tax-exempt entities just like organized religions? Rather than the internet being the primary “gathering place”, set up formal gathering places in cities and towns all across the country, adopt appropriate names for them, claim all the tax exemptions and use them to discuss theology, atheology, or anything that woud educate participants and contribute to the well-being of the communiy. Also, just because someone isn’t religious doesn’t mean they aren’t spiritual in some way.

  • dmarney

    This whole column is just wishful thinking, something atheists tell themselves to not feel quite so lonely, I guess. Can anyone possibly believe that reading the “truth” found on the Internet (!) makes one skeptical that God exists? A Google search for “god exists” (exact quote) returns 6M+ hits, but “god does not exist” only returns 900K. Does that mean that the Internet makes people 6 times more likely to be religious? No, of course not. Silly game.

  • velvetpink

    evoluted slave ape cannot dictate existential policies to illuminated sqamatas thats why he succefully evoluted the process called suicide

  • XVIIHailSkins

    As Lebowski said, being a nihilist must be exhausting, but perhaps not as exhausting as reading the novel you just posted. Have a wonderful day yourself. I’m grateful you took the time to log in, assemble your thoughts, then lean down over the debate just to remind everyone that debate has no merit.

  • jashbowie

    Ah, another example of a non sequitur argument. Whether or not atheists are lonely is irrelevant to the question of (a) whether or not god exists and (b) whether or not the Internet will continue to erode religious faith. Further, using numbers of adherents is yet another fallacy, the appeal to popularity, which also is irrelevant to questions (a) and (b). However, the rising number of nonbelievers *is* relevant to the question of whether or not religious faith is on the wane…it is. And the Internet very likely has much to do with that trend, a trend that will only accelerate going forward.

  • KMRA

    That would provide wonderful entertainment for the rest of us. Watching them find a way to justify tax exempt status for their love of yelling at everyone for believing in anything would just be hilarious.

    Besides, they can form charities and other tax exempt organizations if they choose. Nothing stops them.

  • jashbowie

    *Atheists, despite the certitude of their proclamations, can no more prove there is no God, than a Christian can prove to their satisfaction that there is God. *

    But what we can prove is that religion is man made. A consilience of evidence and logic compiles to an effective proof of atheism. Everything from neurology, astrophysics, archeology, sociology, anthropology, philology, exegesis, and psychology points to the fact that religious experiences and beliefs are fabricated entirely in the mind. Jehovah, Allah, and Jesus are no more likely in this model than Zeus, Shangdi, or Vishnu.

  • jashbowie

    No, “non-belief” is entirely accurate. Ego is irrelevant to whether or not one believes in gods.

  • Hendershott

    Hemant,

    Funny how you single out Christianity, if only by your “It has the largest web presence” dodge. I wish you indeed had addressed some other world religions. Y’know, stuff about how anyone insulting Buddha or Krishna or Ahura Mazda probably doesn’t need to worry….but say something against Allah and your life could be in danger. Stuff like that. Can we expect such a discussion in coming days?

  • ThomasBaum

    jashbowie

    You wrote, “Everything from neurology, astrophysics, archeology, sociology, anthropology, philology, exegesis, and psychology points to the fact that religious experiences and beliefs are fabricated entirely in the mind.”

    Hasn’t it been by the use of the “mind” that “points to the fact that religious experiences and beliefs are fabricated entirely in the mind”?

    Are you sure that you can trust the “mind” in these fields of endeavor when, according to you, the “mind” has deceived many thru the ages?

    Some people even go so far as to say that there is nothing in the physical world, that it is all a projection of our “minds”, do you agree with this?

    Do you have any idea how many people in these various fields have had a “religious experience or experiences” and believe that all of these “experiences” thru the years are all ” fabricated entirely in the mind”?

  • jashbowie

    *Hasn’t it been by the use of the “mind” that “points to the fact that religious experiences and beliefs are fabricated entirely in the mind”?*

    I encourage you to learn about the basic principles and methods of science.

    *Are you sure that you can trust the “mind” in these fields of endeavor when, according to you, the “mind” has deceived many thru the ages?*

    Trust in any assertion should be in proportion to the evidence supporting that assertion. Hence, my trust in the conclusion that god is a delusion is founded not on the “mind” (why the scare quotes? Do you not believe in mind?), but on the empirical weight that supports it.

    *Some people even go so far as to say that there is nothing in the physical world, that it is all a projection of our “minds”, do you agree with this?*

    I do not agree with this belief. But so what? “Some people” believe that we are really Thetans brought to Earth 75 million years ago by the intergalactic despot Xenu, who then stacked them around volcanoes and detonated hydrogen bombs in the volcanoes. People believe all kinds of whacky things. That’s why it’s rational to look to our most reliable methods (i.e. science) for determining the nature of reality.

    *Do you have any idea how many people in these various fields have had a “religious experience or experiences” and believe that all of these “experiences” thru the years are all ” fabricated entirely in the mind”?*

    I do not know how many people fit this description…what does it matter? It has nothing to do with whether or not my assertion is true.

    Don’t forget, the main point of my rebuttal is that it is indeed possible to disprove god by conversely proving the positive claim that god was invented by man. You might not be satisfied with the evidence, but the evidence is there nevertheless.

  • ThomasBaum

    jashbowie

    You wrote, “”mind” (why the scare quotes? Do you not believe in mind?), ”

    What do you mean by “scare quotes”?

    I use ” ” for different reasons, sometimes for emphasis and sometimes to point out that it is something directly from a post that I am commenting on.

    Actually, I do believe we have minds as opposed to just having brains.

    You trust in your conclusion that god is a delusion, I trust in God’s revelation to me that God Is.

    You trust that ALL “religious experiences” are delusions, I don’t.

    You wrote, “That’s why it’s rational to look to our most reliable methods (i.e. science) for determining the nature of reality.”

    I believe that science and the scientific method is very useful and quite a tool for understanding our physical reality in both the micro and macro directions but I also believe that there is more to reality than meets the eye, so to speak.

    As far as “how many people in these various fields have had a “religious experience or experiences”", the situation that I proposed, I don’t know either but I would say that those that have, just may be more open to considering the possiblity that there is indeed more to reality than just the natural, physical, quantifiable.

    You then wrote, “Don’t forget, the main point of my rebuttal is that it is indeed possible to disprove god by conversely proving the positive claim that god was invented by man.”

    I say that it is impossible to disprove that God Is and one day you will know why.

    There have been many “gods” invented, for lack of a better word, by man.

  • Catken1

    Something tells me a bit too much “illegal marihuana” was involved in the above post. And his/her grammar appears to have evolved suicidal tendencies, as well.

  • Catken1

    “Trying to prove cause an effect would be difficult but the correlation between “so help me God” and the facile use of falsehood in politics and society is hard to miss. ”

    The “facile use of falsehood in politics and society” has been around at the highest levels since the Adams-Jefferson Presidential race, if not before. You want lies and slander? Take a look at what their supporters said about each other’s candidate…and they had been good FRIENDS! (And were again, eventually, but it took a while, and Jefferson’s daughter’s death, to mend fences…)

  • ericcallenking

    Socrates said “I only know that I know nothing” I think this is the intellectual postition you are refering to, however it is not nihilism which posits a world without meaning, it is clearing the mind of false constructs to make room for the perception of truth. I think you are giving your own definition to nihilism, when you mean the Socratic position, possibly.

  • ericcallenking

    chip says there are no ideas there is only the material world, stop trying to have thoughts they will lead you astray.

  • Chip_M

    Way to miss my point entirely, Erica.

  • ericcallenking

    What would an atheist church look like? Would it have pictures of all religious figures with a big x drawn across them?

  • Mala Mucika

    and dear baby cat marihuana is the only thing that doesnt know such things as “too much”

  • TonyDiaz999

    Personally, I do not need the internet to know without any doubt that IF god exists, it/she/he does not love me.

    Perhaps the internet helps in ascribing the probability of the existence of god to an even lower value, but never virtually zero, nor is this material.

    There is now 1% chance that god exists, not 2% before the internet.

    I now take the 1 % chance god exists and the 100% certainty that it/she/he does not love me. The emotional need to seek faith is absent.

    In practice, I have been nearly 100% atheist before and after the internet.

    The internet gives emotional support for the atheists as a virtual space of common belief.

  • TonyDiaz999

    “Ah, another example of a non sequitur argument. Whether or not atheists are lonely is irrelevant to the question of (a) whether or not god exists and (b) whether or not the Internet will continue to erode religious faith.”

    For b I don’t agree.

    Emotional support for the atheists would make them more likely to protest, and hence erode religious faith in society

  • jashbowie

    *What do you mean by “scare quotes”?*

    Just look up “scare quotes” on Google and you’ll see.

    *You trust in your conclusion that god is a delusion, I trust in God’s revelation to me that God Is.*

    Yes, but the problem here is that only one conclusion has any evidence whatsoever in support of it.

    *You trust that ALL “religious experiences” are delusions, I don’t.*

    Obviously. The question is, which position is the better supported? I have a wide variety of empirical data on my side from a range of scientific disciplines.

    *I believe that science and the scientific method is very useful and quite a tool for understanding our physical reality in both the micro and macro directions but I also believe that there is more to reality than meets the eye, so to speak.*

    So, you believe that there are aspects of reality entirely beyond the scope of science, even in principle, but are yet somehow ascertainable by the human brain? Before I accept that, you will first have to show that the brain is able to perceive things that no other method of inquiry can have access to. I do not believe you can do this.

    *…I don’t know either but I would say that those that have, just may be more open to considering the possiblity that there is indeed more to reality than just the natural, physical, quantifiable.*

    I appreciate the attempt you are making here, but it is still irrelevant to the issue at hand. It doesn’t matter how credulous an individual scientist might be about supernatural claims…it doesn’t counter the findings of science itself. The only option is to ignore the findings…which some scientists certainly do.

    *I say that it is impossible to disprove that God Is and one day you will know why.*

    Ah, but God has already been disproven via the counter-claim that Gad is man-made. The evidence for this is overwhelming.

    *There have been many “gods” invented, for lack of a better word, by man.*

    Yes, without exception.

  • Ash_B

    Tony, an interesting hypothesis. So, you are suggesting that
    p1: atheists are lonely
    p2: the Internet assuages atheist loneliness
    p3: that assuaging loneliness inspires protest
    p4: atheist protest will decrease religious faith

    Hmmm….you might have a problem with p3…I don’t know if that’s true. I imagine that greater support would reduce the impulse to protest. On the other hand, the Internet makes it much easier for like-minded people to gather, and *that* might lead to more protesting. In fact, I think that’s true. So, you might be on to something.

    Of course, that’s not what dmarney was suggesting…the idea in that comment is that atheistic loneliness caused Hemant to delude himself into thinking that the Internet undermines faith. Even if loneliness could be shown to impact logical reasoning (I assume it might to some degree), it hasn’t been shown that Hemant is lonely. I’ve been reading his blog for a while now and he seems like a happily socialized guy to me. And so, in this particular case, loneliness is indeed irrelevant to the question at hand.

  • Catken1

    Ah, the old, “But they’re worse than we are!” dodge. First of all, Islam being prone to rabid fundamentalism does not make Christianity’s rabid fundamentalists any better. (It just means they’re more controlled by secular post-Enlightenment governments. Back when you all controlled countries, you killed people by the thousands, too.)
    Second, I fail to see the relevance. The article is about an increase in atheism, primarily, where Internet access is widely available. In this country, the majority religion is Christianity, therefore Christianity is the main religion from which atheists convert. Therefore, people in this country are more inclined to frame the debate as Christians vs. atheists. It’s not because we like fundamentalist Muslims any better.

    (Or are you still mad because atheists and others stood up for Muslims’ rights to practice their own faith and build their own religious buildings when and where they see fit, on their own property with their own money? We’d do the same for you, if your rights to do that were threatened. Partly because we see that religious freedom – for everyone – benefits everyone, and that allowing other people to practice their faith as they see fit does not require one to agree with that faith, or to think it particularly healthy or appealing.)

  • Catken1

    I’m 37, dear, not exactly a “baby.” And there is such a thing as “too much” with any drug that affects one’s ability to think clearly, when it comes to writing a coherent post.
    (I don’t think marijuana terribly harmful, and I don’t favor a ban on it. I just think that being high on marijuana does not help the coherence of one’s writings.)

  • Ash_B

    Atheists do have non-profit groups. American Atheists is a 501(c)3 non-profit, for example. So is the Secular Student Alliance, an organization that forms local groups in colleges.

    ericcallenking, there are numerous UU churches that are effectively atheistic, and their buildings are often quite beautiful. However, I imagine that most atheistic meeting places would be adorned with all the things we care about and stand for: reason, humanity, and knowledge. As such, you might find images of Darwin, Einstein, Bertrand Russell, and so on. Crossing out people is more of a Christian thing to do, I’m afraid.

  • Ash_B

    ericcallenking, perhaps you misspoke, but nihilism does indeed posit a world without meaning or value. In fact, nihilism as a broad construct can be used to describe the denial of knowledge, objects, and even existence itself.

  • ThomasBaum

    You wrote, “Personally, I do not need the internet to know without any doubt that IF god exists, it/she/he does not love me.”

    Do you know how you know or is this just your belief?

    You then wrote, “There is now 1% chance that god exists, not 2% before the internet.”

    Why, do you think, that the internet would have anything at all to do with the “chance that god exists”?

    You also wrote, “The internet gives emotional support for the atheists as a virtual space of common belief.”

    I suppose that it could give “emotional support” for those that believe that there is no God or god or gods.

  • Ash_B

    *Nothing is provable.*

    I appreciate a theist acknowledging this. Since nothing is provable in any absolute sense, what we have available to us are probabilistic models for what might be true. In this regard, the success of science and the failure of religion to build reliable models of reality shows us that empiricism and formal logic are vastly superior methods compared to faith-based methods.

    * In the realm of the sense and emotions, please explain to me the relevance of facts.*

    It depends on what questions you are asking. We have a huge store of facts relevant to our senses and to emotions, ranging from neurology, psychology, biology, sociology, and so on. You can read entire fact-filled books about love, hate, and so on if you are so inclined.

  • SODDI

    One of the great things about the Internet is that you can go and find out exactly what your rights are.

    Christianity and other “faiths” are pretty weak (they can’t even persuade their followers to obey their strictures) and they more often than not rely on the coercive power of the government to enforce that people do what it wants, even though that is strictly illegal in the U.S.

    Young people are taking advantage of this. If a young man or woman does not want to attend the anti-gay prayer meeting masquerading as a high school assembly, they do not have to. Five minutes on the Internet, the quick Google question “Do I have to pray in school?” or the Wiki page on school prayer and they will find out what their rights are.

    Adults around them may try and tell them different, that they have no such rights, may try to coerce them (christian school administrators are notorious for such tactics), but when the young woman or man finds out what their rights really are, no one can stand against them.

    That information may not be in their school library, it may have been “excised” from local libraries, but the Internet has it. And boy, does that scare those who would use the coercive power of the state to enforce their religious views.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    ^have to strongly disagree with this one.

  • TonyDiaz999

    Atheists do not have the routine in daily life to seek out other atheists.

    The atheist’s spirituality is not tied to atheism.

    This is why herding the atheists for a common cause based on atheism is very difficult. The Internet only helps a little.

    The atheists are too individualistic to come together.

  • TonyDiaz999

    Please explain chain drowning based on god’s love.

    Please explain slavery based on god’s love for human beings.

    If there is a loving and omnipotent being, calamities should not happen.

    If god exists, it/she/he is very callous.

    Those who pray are saying to this being: please commit atrocities on others but not me.

  • TonyDiaz999

    Cafeteria Christianity is plausibe even though improbable, but institutional Christianity with rigid precepts is basically ethnocentric and anachronistic blind faith.

    If belief in Christ is needed for salvation, why were the Germanic people before contact with the Romans not given the chance to know Christ? What happened to the souls of tens of thousands of ancestors of whites in Europe and the new world West?

    What happened to the souls of millions of Chinese before contact with Christianity?

    Institutional Christianity is basically nonsensical garbage.

  • Ash_B

    *The atheists are too individualistic to come together.*

    Hm. Two observations:
    1) It’s harder for atheists to physically gather on a regular basis for the simple reason that there are fewer of us per capita and for the more complex reason that there still exists a strong social bias against atheism
    2) Atheists do gather and are gathering at an increasing pace. There are now numerous atheist/skeptical/reason rallys and conventions every year. The Secular Student Alliance has gone from a handful of groups to hundreds in just the last couple of years.
    3) The vast majority of theists do not have a daily routine to seek out other theists. Even weekly church attendance is way down.

    These observations suggest
    a) that individualism is not the key reason why atheists do not gather more;
    b) that many atheists are indeed interested in gathering and do so when the opportunity is available;
    c) that as atheism increases, so will gathering opportunities

  • ThomasBaum

    What is chain drowning?

    I would say that slavery, and there are different types of slavery, is based on us having free will and us not always treating others right.

    Partial free will is not free will at all, it is just having longer strings to the puppet.

    As far as calamities, they do happen and what we do in the face of calamities is also a sign of how we use free will.

    If one only looks at this life, one could come to the conclusion that God is callous, however, agree with it or not, this is not the whole smear, so to speak.

    As far as how people that pray, pray, is what you wrote what you think all people pray for? Is what you wrote, what you prayed for, if and when you used to pray?

    Prayer can be many things including but not limited to what we do.

  • TonyDiaz999

    The atheists’ approach to religion is reactionary.

    I don’t think of religion unless injustice from the theist majority is palpable to me per incident and cumulatively for duration.

    Even today, an important part of the daily lives of millions upon millions of theists is to seek out other theists and to expand their fervor brewed by their theist belief: it is called the church and its affiliations.

  • ThomasBaum

    Christianity is not ethnocentric since it is about what God did for humanity not for any one part as some seem to think and it is also not anachronistic blind faith since it is relevant no matter at what time one is living.

    You wrote, “If belief in Christ is needed for salvation, why were the Germanic people before contact with the Romans not given the chance to know Christ? What happened to the souls of tens of thousands of ancestors of whites in Europe and the new world West?”

    As I have said and written many times, I believe that many (believers and non-believers alike) will be quite surprised when they find out that God is a searcher of hearts and minds, not of religious affiliations or lack thereof.

    You then wrote, “What happened to the souls of millions of Chinese before contact with Christianity?”

    As I have also said and written many times, God’s Plan, which God has had since before creation, is for ALL, ultimately, to be with God in God’s Kingdom.

  • TonyDiaz999

    Don’t beat around the bush.

    Slavery is atrocity. Grief is real. Pain is palpable. The feelings for loved ones are real and not figments of the imagination or subject to definition or debate. This is unalterable truism.

    There cannot be an omnipotent and loving god. This is complete and inherent oxymoron that is 100% true, not requiring or subject to debate.

    Every human being who has ever walked on this earth before the advent of Christianity had or did not have a soul that can be a part of salvation by belief in god; take all or none. This is also complete and inherent truth not subject to debate.

  • TonyDiaz999

    “As I have said and written many times, I believe that many (believers and non-believers alike) will be quite surprised when they find out that God is a searcher of hearts and minds, not of religious affiliations or lack thereof. ”

    This may be true for cafeteria Christianity, not institutional Christianity.

    What was one of the biggest divisions between Protestants and Catholics? What was Reformation?
    What constitutes salvation?

  • TonyDiaz999

    Should pre-Roman and pre-Christianity Germanic people have gone to heaven?

    How about the millions of Chinese during the Han Dynasty?

  • Ash_B

    *The atheists’ approach to religion is reactionary. *

    Hm. I think that is largely true, but not entirely…there is a growing movement of atheistic or naturalistic spirituality. If atheist blogs are any indication, there is also a growing effort to develop secular moral and social systems as alternatives to traditional religion. If you do a search for “atheist spirituality”, you will see more links today than you would have five years ago.

    *Even today, an important part of the daily lives of millions upon millions of theists is to seek out other theists and to expand their fervor brewed by their theist belief: it is called the church and its affiliations. *

    You seem to be comparing absolutes and I’m looking at trends. The trend is that fewer theists and more atheists are doing what you describe. It will take a couple of generations for those numbers to come to parity, but as long as we’re moving in that direction we’re doing something right.

  • TonyDiaz999

    “Christianity is not ethnocentric since it is about what God did for humanity not for any one part as some seem to think and it is also not anachronistic blind faith since it is relevant no matter at what time one is living.”

    The institutional Christian religion is ethnocentric, not necessarily in behavior but in its precepts. It is the failure to consider that many ethnic groups have not had the opportunity to even hear of Christ until a century or two ago. Why have God not allowed the choice for thousands of years for people who lived then?

  • TonyDiaz999

    “What is chain drowning?”

    Rescuers drowning together with the first victim.

  • TonyDiaz999

    The trend is too slow for me to enjoy the eventuality of a religiously fair American society.

    May be my grandkids will when they are grandparents. If any of them choose to be theists it would cause me regrets.

    May be in 2060 ‘In God We Trust” on money will be expunged and “So help me God” will not be the expected prelude to deposition in the American court of law.

  • TonyDiaz999

    If any of them choose to be cafeteria theists it would NOT cause me regrets.

    I mean to say

  • Catken1

    With not favoring a ban on marijuana, or with arguing that it does not help writing coherence?

  • Chip_M

    Overt religiosity in politicians has been on the rise in tandem with the decline of ethics in politics. If you’re going to draw conclusions it would be far more logical to presume that there’s a strong correlation between overt religiosity and dishonesty.

  • TonyDiaz999

    Pictures of calamities where theist religions are already popular serve to point out the obvious:
    If god exists, it/she/he is a callous SOB.

    When you know god does not love, theist religions will not be attractive at all. Atheism will look much more attractive and intellectually more invigorating .

  • isnrblog

    Great article. I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness and saw much of the hypocrisy and false prophesies ffrom the Watchtower Society firsthand during my 45 years of being a member.

    With the advent of the Internet much more very credible information is available on the history of the Watchtower organization, information the Watchtower Society does not want you to see.

    For example, most people who became JWs in the recent past are not aware of their many predictions that simply did not come true. From the Witness publication “The Nations Shall Know That I Am Jehovah – How? 1971 p. 216”

    “Shortly, within our twentieth century, the “battle in the day of Jehovah” will begin”. The battle reffered to is when God destroys the world at Armageddon.

    I beleive that didn’t happen, as with many crazy Witness predictions.

    I am not a Christian and do not believe in the bible, but intelligent design seem to make more sense than evolution. However, science is in its infancy and we have much more to learn.

  • isnrblog

    As the writer says, there is much more on the Net abut Christianity. Because there are many other bizzare religious beliefs does not exempt Cristianity from any critique.

    Your defense of Christianity is “Look at the other religions crazier than us” You can’t defend your position with facts. Thats why religion has faith: it has little or no facts.

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