Does The Internet Mean The End For Organized Religions?

Tweets from the Pope aren’t going to help—mainstream organized religion requires closed systems of information, and will inevitably be destroyed by the Internet, Valerie Tarico argues via Alternet:

The biggest threat organized religion has ever faced [is] the Internet. A traditional religion, one built on “right belief,” requires a closed information system. That is why the Catholic Church put an official seal of approval on some ancient texts and banned or burned others. It is why some Christians are forbidden to marry nonbelievers, and moms home-school their kids with carefully screened textbooks.

Religions have spent eons honing defenses that keep outside information away from insiders. The innermost ring wall is a set of certainties and associated emotions like anxiety and disgust and righteous indignation that block curiosity. The outer wall is a set of behaviors aimed at insulating believers from contradictory evidence and from heretics who are potential transmitters of dangerous ideas. These behaviors range from memorizing sacred texts to wearing distinctive undergarments to killing infidels. Such defenses worked beautifully during humanity’s infancy. But they weren’t really designed for the current information age.

Before the Internet existed most people who lost their faith kept their doubts to themselves. There was no way to figure out who else might be thinking forbidden thoughts. In some sects, a doubting member may be shunned, excommunicated, or “disfellowshipped” to ensure that doubts don’t spread. But today there are many online communities of former believers. There’s even a web home for recovering clergy.

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  • LifelongLIb

    Dream on. Organized religion (or for that matter disorganized religion) will end when human existence does.

  • f_galton

    This is silly.

  • Hadrian999

    doubtful, access to contradictory information won’t really hurt religion, the printing press didn’t destroy organized religion, neither did the waning of overt censorship. contradictory information merely puts the faithful into a bunker mentality. anything the faithful see on the net that is uncomfortable will be written off as evil commie liberal Muslim atheist propaganda. then they will go into their virtual redoubts on the web to read soothing “truth”

    • mannyfurious

      I wasn’t alive then, but apparently the Moon landing was supposed to signal the end of organized religion and other forms of superstition. There’s this weird phenomena that occurs in human behavior whereupon the more my opinions are shown to be wrong, the stronger I adhere to them.

      • dagobarbz

        Was there a time limit on the decline and end of organized religion? Because it seems to be happening and we landed on the moon a while ago. SEE? THE PROPHECY WAS TRUE!
        lol…

  • InfvoCuernos

    I bet people were saying that about television, and look at the televangelist movement. The internet is just unknown territory for them. Once they figure it out, they’ll be putting out software and all the other crap just like any other racket. Imagine a browser that only looks at approved sites- and they get you pay for it. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened yet.

    • dagobarbz

      It has happened. Scientology, Inc. launched a “Scientologist Online” project back in the days of Geocities. It came on CD, and you had a little bit of control over which L. Ron Hubbard quote you like best. Besides the website, it also came with a nifty little piece of programming that came to be dubbed ‘Net Nanny.’ This thing would autoinstall on the user’s computer, and subsequently block unapproved websites. This was done without the knowledge or approval of the user.

  • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

    organized Religion’s presence on the web seems to indicate otherwise http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Religious_websites

  • Phillipede

    I don’t think organized religions are going anywhere anytime soon. However, I do think religious dogma has been falling apart for quite some time. The article also seems to forget that there are still church run states out there who for the most part deny people access to the outside world or they use people’s ignorance and fear to keep them in line. It’s all the things people don’t know that scare them the most.

    If anything there has been more of a merging and/or changing of ideologies, rather than them simply going away. With every change in social norms and new discoveries, the religions always seem to find a way to adapt. Most modern versions of religions seem to be based mostly on loose interpretations and that’s what makes them so adaptable.

  • BuzzCoastin

    institutions like religion & government
    have the ability to morph and evolve to stay ahead of destruction
    plus they can really F with your mind thanks to your society’s culture

    what usually brings down a religions leader or a politician
    is a sex scandal

  • http://twitter.com/DanielReasor Daniel Reasor

    While Tarico’s point about the need of religious sects to maintain artificially closed information systems is probably a valid one, one can’t dismiss the Internet’s usefulness for spreading nonsense and misinformation to low-information consumers who lack basic information literacy skills. There are people who take David Icke, Alex Jones, and Ron Paul seriously, to give just three comic examples of small time snake oil salesmen who were able to expand their reach by making the transition from radio or small press publishing to the Web.

    • dagobarbz

      The internet is certainly a double-edged sword where religion is concerned. Groups like Scientologists are constantly working to keep their online presence untainted by “entheta.” Entheta is basically everything not approved of by the Mother Ship.

      So, while it’s possible to maintain insularity online, consider this. Outside the religious issue, the internet is a vast buffet of forums, discussion groups, social media. If you’re a youngster with a religious upbringing, you WILL be challenged by others online. You will be given articles to read, some of which will horrify you and perhaps make you see religion in a different light.

      Anybody with half a brain is beginning to see the vast web of power, wealth and superstition that has kept this institution influential since the dawn of society. Surely it’s the other “oldest profession.”

      The spawn of believers; challenged by fact, logic and reason might experience a paradigm shift that makes it impossible to believe any longer. Ignorant, intolerant and hypocritical is no way to go through life, but it’s a damn good way to totally lose the next generation to those horrible heathens online!

  • alizardx

    No. One can construct almost any kind of reality tunnel using the Internet, and those inclined to do so will close themselves into infospaces whose primary components are organized religion.

    Just because the facts to debunk various belief systems out there exist doesn’t mean people will look for them.

  • echar

    From my perspective, it may be a safe haven for those already in doubt, but also a wall to prop up against for those totally immersed in indoctrination.

  • rus Archer

    totally and utterly absurd
    information rarely if ever sways belief of any kind

  • jnana

    Internet helps to spread religion. Hidden texts are accessed easier in the “virtual Alexandria” as well as its easier to communicate with others who have had mystical experiences.

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