Research – The Internet’s Negative Impact on Religion
A new book called “Building Strong Church Communities: A Sociological Overview”, written by Dr. Patricia Wittberg, examines why religion isn’t capturing the attention of the millennials, that group with birth dates starting the late 70s. The book analyses the data from surveys of 700 Catholic parishes (and thus much of the discussion is centered around Catholicism).
That group claims a 33% ‘no affiliation’, which (according to Wittberg) is the highest value in over 100 years. She cites how the internet is
eroding both the authority of established religious leaders and the permanence of religious communities. (Science News Report)
It seems like the implication is that while pastors and Christian workshops do excellent work dealing with the individual, they don’t spend time talking about the community. I think we can all agree that you have to enjoy going to church and part of that enjoyment is seeing friends and people you like to hang out with.
SIN’s Beth Erickson reported that she went to a church recently and was basically ignored by the community within the church (and let me know if that’s not accurate). That matches perfectly with what I experienced in my church growing up. For the most part, new people were ignored. Those new people had to make a real effort to break into the cliques that were in the church. Even then, for many of the older church members, if you weren’t a founding member of the church, then you weren’t worth talking to.
Is the internet really to be blamed for providing a sense of community when the church doesn’t? I have friends in other countries that I have more in common with than most of the people I physically know. I play games with people in Germany because Americans don’t generally like the kind of games I play. I have a deeper sense of community with a number of forums on the internet because they welcomed me with my first post, not forced me to jump through hoops to get a ‘good morning’.
As far as eroding church authority, is the internet to blame for that erosion or is the internet really to blame for pointing out that the church pastors are hypocrites? Is the internet eroding pastoral authority or the fact that the Catholic church has some serious problems with priests is now easily found on the internet?
What do you think? Is the internet the problem or just the place where the problems can be read about?