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Tinkering with Technology and Religion in the Digital Age: The Effects of Internet Use on Religious Belief, Behavior, and Belonging

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Internet technology presents a new conceptual reality, one that could potentially challenge religion in subtle but distinct ways. Few sociologists of religion, however, have attempted to evaluate whether using the Internet impacts the way people think about and practice religion. This article elaborates on the concept of “tinkering” discussed by Berger, Berger, and Kellner (1974), Turkle (1997), and Wuthnow (2010) to argue that Internet use affects how people think about and affiliate with religious traditions. Using data from Wave III of the Baylor Religion Survey (2010), I find that Internet use is associated with increases in being religiously unaffiliated and decreases in religious exclusivism. At the same time, I find that television viewing is linked to decreases in religious attendance and other time-related religious activities, but these outcomes are not impacted by Internet use. To explain these disparate findings, I argue that the Internet is fundamentally different from previous technologies like television and thus impacts religious beliefs and belonging but not time-related religious activities.
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JOURNAL for the
SCIENTIFIC STUDY of RELIGION
Tinkering with Technology and Religion
in the Digital Age: The Effects of Internet Use
on Religious Belief, Behavior, and Belonging
PAUL K. MCCLURE
Department of Sociology
Baylor University
Internet technology presents a new conceptual reality, one that could potentially challenge religion in subtle but
distinct ways. Few sociologists of religion, however, have attempted to evaluate whether using the Internet impacts
the way people think about and practice religion. This article elaborates on the concept of “tinkering” discussed
by Berger, Berger, and Kellner (1974), Turkle (1997), and Wuthnow (2010) to argue that Internet use affects how
people think about and affiliate with religious traditions. Using data from Wave III of the Baylor Religion Survey
(2010), I find that Internet use is associated with increases in being religiously unaffiliated and decreases in
religious exclusivism. At the same time, I find that television viewing is linked to decreases in religious attendance
and other time-related religious activities, but these outcomes are not impacted by Internet use. To explain these
disparate findings, I argue that the Internet is fundamentally different from previous technologies like television
and thus impacts religious beliefs and belonging but not time-related religious activities.
Keywords: religion, technology, Internet, television, religious Nones.
INTRODUCTION
This article explores the extent to which Internet use affects religion. Despite being just over
25 years old, the Internet demands more sociological attention because of the sheer amount of
time many spend on it and because of the possibility that it subtly restructures how we think,
behave, and relate to others (DiMaggio et al. 2001; Fox and Rainie 2014; Kraut et al. 1998, 2001;
Rainie, Purcell, and Smith 2011). In the last two decades, Internet use has grown drastically in
postindustrial countries. As the Pew Forum Internet Project reports, 87 percent of American adults
use the Internet today, while prior to 1995 fewer than 15 percent of Americans were online (Fox
and Rainie 2014). To date, though, virtually no one has examined specific connections between
Internet use and certain types of religious beliefs, behaviors, and affiliation patterns, thus calling
for the present study.1
The term I wish to introduce in this paper is tinkering. Often applied to artisans or mechanics,
tinkering implies the desire to improve upon a preexisting product by adding or subtracting
something new and potentially unconventional. Through incremental improvements, tinkerers
aim to modify their materials in order to serve them or their clientele better. In the sociology of
religion, Berger, Berger, and Kellner (1974:30) describe “a general tinkering attitude” as a “certain
Acknowledgments: I would like to thank Paul Froese, Chris Pieper, and James Roberts for their assistance with this article.
This study draws from data found in Wave III of the Baylor Religion Survey. For more information on how to access the
data, please contact Carson Mencken, Director of the Baylor Religion Survey, at Carson_Mencken@baylor.edu.
Correspondence should be addressed to Paul K. McClure, Baylor University - Sociology, One Bear Place, #97326 Waco,
TX 76798. E-mail: paul_mcclure@baylor.edu
1Excellent research has been done on the Internet and its social effects, technology and religion/theology in general, and
the links between social networking sites and religious affiliation. For the latter, see Miller, Mundey, and Hill (2013).
Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (2017) 56(3):481–497
C
2017 The Society for the Scientific Study of Religion
482 JOURNAL FOR THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF RELIGION
type of ingenuity and creativity” that develops as a result of technological use and subsequently
carries over into other areas of social life. In addition, Wuthnow (2010:12) uses the term to
describe how emerging adults, having inherited a certain disposition toward religion from their
Baby Boomer parents, often think about and practice religion. Similarly, MIT psychologist Sherry
Turkle (1997), while not discussing religion, appeals to the concept of tinkering to describe how
Internet users take on new ways of thinking about themselves and the social realities they navigate.
For Turkle (1997:52), “computer users are encouraged to tinker in simulated microworlds”
because the technology underwrites “the development of intuition through the manipulation of
virtual objects.” Thus, in an attempt to synthesize these literatures over the course of this article, I
will argue that Internet use encourages people to tinker with their religious affiliation and beliefs
in ways that have gone mostly undetected.
In one exception to this gap in the literature, computer scientist Allen Downey has examined
the connections between Internet use and religious affiliation. Using data from the General
Social Survey, Downey shows that Internet use decreases the likelihood of religious affiliation,
while increases in Internet use since 1990 “account for about 20% of the observed decrease
in affiliation” (2014:1). Downey observes that the explosion of Internet use beginning in the
early 1990s parallels the rise of religious Nones that began around the same time (Baker and
Smith 2009; Hout and Fischer 2002; Kosmin and Keysar 2008; Lim, MacGregor, and Putnam
2010; Liu 2012; Putnam and Campbell 2012). Notably, Downey does not claim that Internet use
deterministically leads people to disaffiliate, and his paper shows the relevance of other factors
like increases in college education and the effects of a nonreligious upbringing, both of which
play a significant role in the increase in Nones (Merino 2012). However, though Nones have
increased in recent years as a percentage of the population, their beliefs are far from homogenous
or irreligious. As several scholars point out, even though Nones are not affiliated with a specific
religious tradition, many still believe in God, pray, or claim to be “spiritual, but not religious”
(Ammerman 2013; Chaves 2011; Lim, MacGregor, and Putnam 2010; Mercadante 2014; Putnam
and Campbell 2012; Stark 2008). Even so, Downey thinks the connection between Internet use
and religious nonaffiliation is likely causal.
In the forthcoming analysis, I use Downey’s findings as a springboard for further investiga-
tion. Using data from the Baylor Religion Survey (BRS, Wave III), I present empirical results that
link Internet use and television viewing with specific religious variables. Though the main focus
of this article centers on understanding the effects of Internet use, I include television viewing
as an important control variable to determine whether these technologies have different religious
outcomes.2Accordingly, several research questions animate this project. First, do increases in
Internet use or television viewing affect religious affiliation or one’s belonging to a particular
religious tradition? Second, does spending more time online or in front of the television impact the
way individuals behave religiously? That is, are individuals who spend more time on the Internet
or who watch more television more or less likely to attend religious services or participate in
organized religious groups? Third, are increases in Internet use or television viewing associated
with changes in religious belief? In particular, Gerbner (1998) argues that television could have
an overall homogenizing influence since a main purpose of broadcasting is to reach the largest
possible audience with shared values, but is the same true for the Internet? Rather, does the Inter-
net, by exposing people to a broader array of religious traditions and belief systems, encourage
people to tinker with their beliefs and adopt a less exclusive posture toward their own tradition?
Or, conversely, does the Internet reinforce and intensify preexisting beliefs, thus leading to more
tribal or fundamentalist approaches to religion?
2A substantial and expansive literature on the effects of television focuses primarily on children and adolescent outcomes.
See Comstock and Scharrer (2007), Greenfield (1984), and Bobkowski (2009). For general media theory on television,
see the work of George Gerbner (Gerbner 1998, 2002; Mowlana, Gerbner, and Schiller 1992).
TINKERING WITH TECHNOLOGY AND RELIGION IN THE DIGITAL AGE 483
LITERATURE REVIEW,THEORY,AND HYPOTHESES
Research into the Internet’s effects on our religious and social lives is in its early stages
and gaining momentum. Though a promising field of study, few researchers have addressed
this subject because the Internet has only been in the public eye since the mid-1990s. Initially,
a subject known simply as “Internet studies” (Campbell 2005) emerged to track the possible
effects of Internet use on a wide variety of social outcomes. Today, however, researchers face new
conceptual and methodological difficulties as the Internet itself continues to change rapidly. In the
span of the last decade, social networking sites (SNS) have proliferated, chat rooms have become
mostly obsolete, and interfaces like television and web browsing have begun to merge and collapse
into one another as live streaming services have become increasingly popular. Not knowing what
individuals search for online or how their digital experiences play out when compared to other
technologies like television creates real difficulties for researchers. As DiMaggio et al. (2001)
explained a few years before the advent of Web 2.0: “The Internet presents researchers with a
moving target.”3Despite these conceptual obstacles, there is substantial and compelling research
that can be used to investigate possible connections between Internet use and religious outcomes.
Does the Internet Change the Nature of Religious Belonging?
Some of the most contested arguments over the effects of the Internet relate to its capacity
to strengthen or diminish social networks. Typically, these arguments invoke the popular concept
of social capital espoused by Bourdieu (1984) or Putnam (2000) and then attempt to determine
whether the Internet enhances or weakens participation in larger social groups. While quantitative
studies measure social capital without consideration of religious affiliation, these studies raise an
important question: Namely, how does spending time online affect our affiliation with religious
individuals, ideas, and institutions? In Bowling Alone, Putnam (2000) asks a similar question
when he wonders whether the Internet is more like the telephone or the television. If the former,
Putnam thinks it may help extend people’s social networks and reinforce existing bonds with
other individuals who may be affiliated with a religious tradition. If the latter, civic engagement
will continue to plummet, Putnam contends, especially for those who regularly spend time online,
and individualism will only intensify.
The problem with Putnam’s brief assessment, however, is that he sees the Internet more as a
tool and not as a new kind of sociocultural reality we inhabit. Echoing Swidler (1986), Putnam
believes that the Internet functions like a tool that individuals use to accomplish various tasks. To
the contrary, Sherry Turkle (1997, 2005, 2011a, 2011b), who has studied the effects of emerging
information and social technologies for over three decades, insists that the Internet should be
understood more as an enveloping space that shapes norms and conditions our view of reality.
Using the concept of tinkering, Turkle (1997, 2011b) argues that individuals who spend lots of
time online inherit new ways of thinking and relating to others. Understanding the dialectical
relationship that exists between humans and social technology, she writes, “as we text, Twitter,
e-mail, and spend time on Facebook, technology is not just doing things for us, but to us, changing
the way we view ourselves and our relationships” (2011b:28). What Turkle finds most concerning,
though, is that newer social technologies intensify individualism by creating a communicative
distance between people. When given the option to use more than one type of social technology to
communicate, people today often prefer the less intimate one. “We become accustomed,” Turkle
3Some of the differences between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 are discussed by Cormode and Krishnamurthy (2008). The
main distinction is that Web 1.0 featured predominantly read-only content, whereas user-generated content became
more pronounced after 2003–2004. Since data for this study were collected in the fall of 2010, this article’s theoretical
application pertains mostly to Web 2.0.
484 JOURNAL FOR THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF RELIGION
writes, “to connection at a distance and in amounts we can control. Teenagers say they would
rather text than talk” (2011b:29).
Several researchers have picked up on some of the possible changes brought on by the Internet.
In an early longitudinal study, Kraut et al. (1998) found that as Internet use increased, individuals
participated with their family members less and suffered increased levels of loneliness and
depression. In a follow-up study, Kraut et al. (2001) found that while some of the negative effects
of Internet use become less pronounced over time, the Internet has varying effects depending on
whether individuals are introverted or extroverted.
In a similar vein, Felicia Wu Song (2009) suspects that Internet use nurtures individualism
and disaffiliation with larger social groups. Her study, which mines 30 of the Internet’s most
popular websites to see whether they promote or discourage affiliation with social groups, shows
that because popular websites often depend on the support of advertising revenue, they tap
into a consumerist mentality that privileges the individual and undercuts affiliation with broader
social institutions. On the Internet, according to Song, individualism and commercialism trump
community and social solidarity.4
Countering Song’s skepticism are those who argue that the Internet is an inherently social
medium capable of bringing people together. Religious affiliation, from this point of view,
should not be weakened as a result of increased Internet use. Chief among these technological
optimists is Barry Wellman, who advances the notion that this age is marked by “networked
individualism.” From Wellman’s (2001:2032) perspective: “It is becoming clear that the Internet is
not destroying community but is resonating with and extending the types of networked community
that have already become prevalent in the developed world.” Accompanying Wellman are other
sociologists who believe the Internet has the capacity to generate substantial engagement with
one’s community. Bargh and McKenna (2004) argue that the Internet promotes community-
enhancing activities. Unlike television, which typically induces social passivity and isolation
(Gerbner [1977] 2013; Putnam 1995, 2000), the Internet is an interactive mass medium that
promotes affiliation with others.
Not surprisingly, for this reason, a number of religious organizations have tapped into the
power of Internet technology in an attempt to grow their congregations. This trend, as Scott
Thumma (2011) finds, shows that the vast majority of American congregations use websites and
email to promote their message and attract potential converts. According to his sample, 90 percent
of the congregations Thumma studied used email in 2010, and 34 percent of the churches had
both an Internet and Facebook presence. As Stewart Hoover observes (Hoover 2008; Hoover et al.
2004), not only is religion increasingly in the media in a post-9/11 world, but individuals more
commonly use social media technologies to express their beliefs, search for pertinent information,
and maintain affiliation with religious groups.
While religious individuals clearly use the Internet to promote their beliefs and affiliation with
certain groups, the very concepts of religious identity and affiliation deserve further scrutiny in a
technologically-oriented age. Both Bauman (2000) and Turkle (1997), argue that such concepts
have undergone massive restructuring with the development of modernity so that identities once
fixed and stable are now more fluid and temporary. With the advent of Web 2.0 and SNS, some
researchers have found that navigating online life requires constant impression management and
attention to an imagined audience (Boyd 2008; Marwick and Boyd 2011). As Marwick and Boyd
(2011:115) explain: “Technology complicates our metaphors of space and place, including the
4In her epilogue, Song notes that she collected the bulk of her data in 2004 when “notions of Web 2.0 were just on the
horizon” (2009:133). Since then, social networking sites have drastically altered the way people interact online. However,
even though these online communities offer greater promise for facilitating existing relationships (as opposed to the
largely defunct chat rooms of Web 1.0), Song concludes that Web 2.0 is still marked by a “consumer sovereignty” that
nurtures ephemeral relationships with individuals and institutions.
TINKERING WITH TECHNOLOGY AND RELIGION IN THE DIGITAL AGE 485
belief that audiences are separate from each other.” When these contexts collapse, individuals
might not be pretending to disguise their true identities or assume multiple personas as they did
in the age of Web 1.0 chat rooms, but the need to be flexible and “manage tensions between
public and private, insider and outsider, and frontstage and backstage performances” still remains
crucial (Marwick and Boyd 2011:130). Applied to the concept of tinkering, Internet users—and
by extension those who use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.—must constantly readjust their
“presentation of self” in order to appear authentic (Goffman 1959; Marwick and Boyd 2011).
Concurrent with these developments, religion scholars have noted that the institutional forms
of religion have been dissipating over the course of several decades. Bellah (1985), Roof (1993,
2001), and Wuthnow (1990, 1998) show in painstaking detail that beginning as early as the 1950s,
North Americans became more prone to favor individual religious experiences to the trappings of
institutional religion. Further, the emergence of individuals who label themselves “spiritual, but
not religious” indicates a growing population of those who distance themselves from organized,
mostly Western religious traditions and instead prioritize freedom to choose among a variety of
religious traditions without affiliating with one tradition exclusively (Ammerman 2013; Besecke
2013; Fuller 2001; Mercadante 2014; Schmidt 2012). Applied to technology, this suggests the
assumptions implicit in the Internet—that one is free to choose and tinker with affiliations among
various religious institutions—may intensify or map onto broader cultural shifts. With the insights
of these researchers now articulated, it is appropriate to specify my first formal hypothesis:
H1: Internet use decreases the likelihood of being religiously affiliated.
Does Internet Use Displace Time Reserved for Religious Activities?
That Americans use personal computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones as part of their
daily routine is widely acknowledged (Brenner and Smith 2013; Fox and Rainie 2014; Hampton
et al. 2011; Lenhart 2015; Smith 2015a). Is it possible that increased Internet use obstructs greater
involvement in religious activities? Given that several scholars have already noted correlations
between increases in television viewing and decreases in civic engagement (Comstock and
Scharrer 2007; Putnam 1995, 2000), time spent online may similarly displace opportunities
for religious participation. While many religious organizations use the Internet as a vehicle to
extend their religious and spiritual outreach (Brasher 2004; Hoover 2008; Thumma 2011), the
Internet may be considered a place where emotional, material, and even spiritual needs can be met
(Detweiler 2013; Schultze 2004) or a buffer that precludes religious affiliation altogether.5For the
nonreligious, especially, Internet use may be not only displacing time otherwise spent practicing
religion, but it could also be construed as a religious competitor for time. Consider, for example,
the responses of today’s growing population of religious Nones for whom an overwhelming 88
percent claim they are “not looking for a religion that would be right for them” (Liu 2012). While
Nones are far from irreligious (Lim, MacGregor, and Putnam 2010; Stark 2008), their responses
indicate that exclusive participation with one religious organization is unlikely.
For younger generations, Christian Smith’s work (Smith et al. 2011; Smith and Denton 2005;
Smith and Snell 2009) helps explain the cultural pressures and mindsets of young adults as they
work out their understanding of religion. Smith shows that many young adults simply do not
make time for religious activities because they are too busy or distracted tinkering with other
things. Writes Smith: “Most emerging adults are close to being overwhelmed with all of the
5Charles Taylor (2007:38) elaborates on this modern phenomenon of buffering: “For the modern, buffered self, the
possibility exists of taking a distance from, disengaging from everything outside the mind. My ultimate purposes are
those which arise within me, the crucial meanings of things are those defined in my responses to them.” Applied to the
current discussion, Internet use provides the technological buffer that often precludes religious participation.
486 JOURNAL FOR THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF RELIGION
skills, tasks, responsibilities, systems, and procedures they are having to learn . . . . the list of new
things to learn in an open-ended world is endless and sometimes almost crushing” (Smith and
Snell 2009:35).
While these findings are typical for emerging adults, other researchers have found that they
apply to older generations as well. Nie and Erbring argue that those who surf the Web with greater
frequency tend to “lose contact with their social environment” (2002:278). Tracking a sample of
over 4,000 respondents, Nie and Erbring found that over a quarter of the respondents who use
the Internet report that using it with regularity “reduced their time with friends and family” and
inhibited “attending events outside the home,” which could include religious services.6Further,
a substantial and growing number of works display serious concern over how distracting modern
technology can be (Lenhart 2015; Roberts, Yaya, and Manolis 2014; Sana, Weston, and Cepeda
2013; Wood et al. 2012) and how it can change the way we think, behave, and relate to one
another (Boyd 2008; Carr 2010; Cummings, Butler, and Kraut 2002; Dill 2012; Dreyfus 2008;
Kraut et al. 2001; Kross et al. 2013; Sunstein 2009; Wang et al. 2012; Warschauer 2003).7
Taken together, these studies suggest that time spent on the Internet may compete with
other activities that could be reserved for religious participation. Since there is religious content
online, though, one might object that using the Internet does not preclude religious participation.
As other researchers have noted, individuals can seek out their religious and spiritual needs on
the Internet (Brasher 2004; Detweiler 2013; Thumma 2011). Even so, some types of essential
religious activities cannot be replicated online. Corporate worship, choir practice, and community
prayer groups, for example, are difficult if not impossible to duplicate in cyberspace, and to the
extent that the Internet displaces these activities by encouraging users to tinker with other pursuits,
it is possible that increased Internet use decreases the amount of time individuals have to spend
on religious activities.8Accordingly, a second hypothesis may now be put forth:
H2: Internet use decreases the likelihood of participating in religious activities.
Does the Internet Act as a Pluralizing Mechanism or Reinforce Tribalism?
Beyond time displacement, a third feature of the Internet to consider is whether it acts as
a pluralizing mechanism or, conversely, reinforces preexisting beliefs and thus tribalism. For
some perspective on the matter, similar theoretical questions were asked regarding the effects
of television viewing and prompted some media scholars to worry about television’s negative,
homogenizing effects (Gerbner 1998). Regarding the Internet, however, dual outcomes have been
posited by scholars even though there has been a noticeable lack of attention given to religious
beliefs. As for the possibility that the Internet pluralizes, the theoretical avenue to pursue can
be found in the work of Peter L. Berger (Berger 1969; Berger, Berger, and Kellner 1974),
whose understanding of “plausibility structures” and pluralism suggests that a rapid influx of
ideas, beliefs, and practices undermines an individual’s deeply held convictions about reality
(1969:127).
When applied to religious truth claims in a digital age, the Internet is a prime carrier
of pluralism because it introduces a variety of “life-worlds” that compete for an individual’s
6“Regular use” in this context means more than five hours per week, or less than one hour per day.
7Nicholas Carr (2010:115) verifies that online distractions are a problem, especially for educators: “Dozens of studies by
psychologists, neurobiologists, educators, and Web designers point to the same conclusion: when we go online, we enter
an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning.”
8Carr’s metaphor is illustrative here and relates well to the concept of tinkering. In The Shallows, Carr (2010) argues that
the Internet encourages individuals to have lots of interests and hobbies at the expense of focused, deep pursuits. In this
sense, religion becomes one of many options for busy, highly active people.
TINKERING WITH TECHNOLOGY AND RELIGION IN THE DIGITAL AGE 487
allegiance. Whether through social media or the sheer proliferation of competing truth claims
found online, the Internet is the perfect breeding ground for new “life-worlds” that systematically
chip away at one’s certainty. The more time one spends online, the more one is barraged with
various ideas, beliefs, and truth claims about what is good, true, and of ultimate importance.9
Again, Berger (1969:127): “The individual, wherever he may be, is bombarded with a multiplicity
of information and communication. In terms of information, this process proverbially ‘broadens
his mind.’ By the same token, however, it weakens the integrity and plausibility of his ‘home-
world.’” Borrowing from Berger and his co-authors (1974:30), those who spend more time
online may be more likely to develop a “problem solving inventiveness” or “tinkering attitude
that carries over into other aspects of life, including religion.
Even though we are now 40 years removed from Berger’s arguments, recent research sub-
stantiates many of the claims made about both the Internet and the current religious atmosphere.
Concerning religion, Robert Wuthnow’s (2010) study on the religious beliefs of young adults con-
firms many of the ideas initially propounded by Berger and company. As Wuthnow explains: “The
single word that best describes young adults’ approach to religion and spirituality—indeed life—
is tinkering” (Wuthnow 2010:12). By this, Wuthnow means that young adults experiment with
different religious and spiritual beliefs in a way that is mostly unique to their generation. “Like
the farmer rummaging through the junk pile for makeshift parts,” writes Wuthnow (2010:15),
“the spiritual tinkerer is able to sift through a veritable scrap heap of ideas and practices from
childhood, from religious organizations, classes, conversations with friends, books, magazines,
television programs, and Web sites. The tinkerer is free to engage in this kind of rummaging.”
Adopting a provisional approach to spirituality, some tinkerers are less committed to institutional
religion, preferring instead an individualistic approach where they can customize temporary
beliefs and practices to whatever their life situation demands (Ammerman 2013; Besecke 2013;
Mercadante 2014). Surprisingly, Wuthnow barely mentions technology or Internet use as a
key independent variable, but his analysis dovetails smoothly with Berger’s earlier predictions
concerning the pluralizing effects of modernity and the ideas baked into modern technology.
The prevailing ethos for those who spend increasing portions of their days online is similarly
related to the tinkering posture described here. Since the technological mindset presupposes
trial-and-error, there exists a similarity between the technological tinkering described by Turkle
and the spiritual tinkering discussed by Wuthnow. As Turkle elaborates in a chapter aptly titled,
“The Triumph of Tinkering,” “computer users are encouraged to tinker . . . ” (1997:52), and “new
interfaces project the message, ‘Play with me, experiment with me, there is no one correct path’”
(1997:60).
On the other hand, the Internet may have a tribalizing effect by reinforcing preexisting
beliefs. This argument has been made by a number of researchers who worry about the rise
of various fundamentalisms and the technologies that make them possible. Sunstein’s (2009)
work introduces concepts of Internet “echo chambers” and “information cocoons” to explain
the practice of individuals increasingly seeking out like-minded people online who only affirm
whatever beliefs they already hold. Pariser (2011) worries that the problem runs even deeper,
for as he reports, “Google began customizing its search results for all users” in 2009, thus
decreasing the likelihood that Internet users will confront information not already based on their
likes, clickstreams, and search preferences. Since “filter bubbles” traffic in what we already
believe and effectively block contrary opinions, the possibility for new knowledge diminishes
(Pariser 2012). Vaidhyanathan (2012) brings up a specific example involving religion in his protest
against Google’s search biases. As he explains, a search for “God” conducted from his home
9For further illustration, consider Bryan Turner’s description of our “information-saturated world” that has the effect of
making religion “yet another consumption choice and particular lifestyle” among many competing preferences (Gorski
2012:138).
488 JOURNAL FOR THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF RELIGION
computer in Virginia in 2009 yielded “no links to Islamic, Hindu, or Jewish sites, or even Catholic
sources” but made highly visible hits “from Wikipedia, evangelical Protestant Christianity, atheist
sites, and John Lennon.”
In light of these arguments, this study explores how Internet use may affect religious truth
claims. Both religious exclusivism (the idea that one religion is true) and pluralism (the idea that
all religions are true, either from a moral or salvific standpoint) are therefore possible outcomes
in a world that increasingly relies on the Internet. Whether the Internet pluralizes or tribalizes,
then, is the subject of a third hypothesis and its attendant counterhypothesis:
H3a: Internet use decreases the likelihood of being religiously exclusive.
H3b: Internet use increases the likelihood of being religiously exclusive.
DATA AND METHODS
This study draws from data found in Wave III of the BRS. The Gallup Organization conducted
the study in the fall of 2010 and administered surveys to a total random sample of 1,714 adults
nationwide ages 18 and older. The present article evaluates the responses to a variety of questions
from the BRS and attempts to draw connections specifically between variables that measure
religion and Internet use.
Dependent Variables
A number of dependent variables are used in this analysis. In the first model, I test to
see whether certain variables predict the likelihood of being religiously affiliated. Following
Downey (2014), I run a binary logistic regression to determine whether Internet use predicts
religious affiliation. In my analysis, religious affiliation is a binary dependent variable coded so
that nonaffiliation =0 and religious affiliation =1. With the aim of assessing the relationship
between Internet use and religious affiliation, even when controlling for other demographic
variables, this binary regression yields odds ratios that measure the effects of Internet use on
being religiously affiliated.
To measure the second hypothesis that Internet use displaces time that could otherwise be
spent on religious activities, I use two dependent variables related to religious attendance and other
faith-based activities. The first set of time-related models uses a dependent variable that measures
religious activities. The BRS asks respondents several questions related to their participation
in faith-based activities within the time frame of the last month from which they answered the
survey. These activities include church social gatherings, religious education programs, choir
practice or other musical programs, witnessing/sharing faith, and community prayer group or
Bible study. All of these activities go beyond the attendance “requirement” expected of most
religious observers and require “extra” time that increased Internet use could in theory displace.
For the purposes of these models, I sum the above categories into one variable that measures
participation in faith-based activities. For each question, respondents could answer, “Not at all”
(=1), “1–2 times” (=2), “3–4 times” (=3), or “5 or more times” (=4). Using these questions,
I then create a new religious activities variable that sums together respondents’ answers. The
index for this variable ranges from 5 to 20, and a factor analysis of these variables generates
a standardized Cronbach’s alpha of .80. The second set of these time-related models looks
specifically at religious attendance. Hypothesizing that religious attendance could be weakened
by a greater amount of time spent online, I use religious attendance as a dependent variable. The
survey asks how often respondents attend religious services at a place of worship with a total of
nine answer choices ranging from “Never” (=0) to “Several times a week” (=8).
TINKERING WITH TECHNOLOGY AND RELIGION IN THE DIGITAL AGE 489
Table 1: Descriptive statistics, Baylor Religion Survey 2010
Variable NMean Std. Dev. Min. Max.
Age 1,664 55.928 16.152 18 108
Whitea1,714 .824 .381 0 1
Femaleb1,714 .535 .499 0 1
Education 1,669 4.632 1.625 1 7
Income 1,581 4.280 1.622 1 7
Place 1,688 2.415 .989 1 4
Children 1,276 2.585 1.384 0 10
Political Party 1,681 4.036 1.945 1 7
Evangelical 1,714 .300 .459 0 1
Mainline 1,714 .241 .428 0 1
Black Protestant 1,714 .023 .151 0 1
Catholic 1,714 .236 .425 0 1
Jewish 1,714 .016 .125 0 1
None 1,714 .099 .299 0 1
Other Religion 1,714 .054 .227 0 1
Television Viewing 1,691 2.255 .821 1 5
Internet Use 1,609 1.511 .692 1 5
Religious Affiliation 1,662 .899 .303 0 1
Religious Activitiesc1,555 7.080 2.927 5 20
Attendance 1,702 3.901 2.975 0 8
Exclusivism 1,620 5.814 1.706 2 8
aBinary variable where nonwhite =0 and white =1.
bBinary variable where male =0 and female =1.
cReligious activities include church social gatherings, education programs, choir or other musical practices, witness-
ing/sharing one’s faith, community prayer groups, and Bible studies.
For my third hypothesis, I test whether using the Internet with greater frequency might
decrease or increase one’s religious exclusivism. In contrast to a pluralistic posture, exclusivism
holds that not all religions are the same or equally effective ways of navigating the world.
On the survey, respondents were given two similar statements and asked to report their level
of agreement. The statements are: (1) “All of the religions in the world are equally true” and
(2) “All around the world, no matter what religion they call themselves, people worship the
same God.” Answer choices for both questions include “Strongly agree” (=1), “Agree” (=
2), “Disagree” (=3), and “Strongly Disagree” (=4). I then create an “exclusivism index” that
measures respondents’ answers to these choices. The newly created index includes these two
questions and sums respondents’ answers on a range from 2 (strongly agree) to 8 (strongly
disagree). As one moves up the index, one is more likely to maintain an exclusivist view of
religion. A factor analysis of these two summed variables generates a standardized Cronbach’s
alpha of .73, thus showing that respondents answer these questions similarly, and Table 4 uses
ordinary least squares regressions to draw conclusions about the relationship between Internet
use and religious exclusivism.
Independent Variables
The primary independent variable used throughout my models measures time spent on the
Internet. On the BRS, respondents were asked: “On an average day, about how many hours per
day do you ‘Surf the Internet (not including email)?’” Answers ranged in the following ways: less
490 JOURNAL FOR THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF RELIGION
than 1 hour per day (=1), 1–3 hours per day (=2), 4–7 hours (=3), 8–10 hours per day (=4),
and more than 10 hours per day (=5). A second independent variable used in this study measures
the amount of time one reports watching television. This variable is important for inclusion
because it helps isolate Internet use as a variable distinct from being simply in front of a screen.
In other words, the Internet variable by itself may not distinguish between phenomena associated
with the Internet—e.g., its encouragement of “spiritual tinkering” or pluralizing and tribalizing
effects—and the effects of simply being in front of a digital screen. By including a variable that
measures hours spent watching television, however, my analyses detect whether or not there is a
significant difference between watching television and spending time on the Internet.
Beyond these independent variables, measures are also taken to control for essential
demographic variables. These include age (measured as a continuous variable ages 18 and
older); race (coded as a binary where nonwhite =0 and white =1); sex (male =0; female =1);
education on a range from less than eighth grade completion (=1) to postgraduate work (=7);
total household income last year before taxes ranging from $10,000 or less (=1) to $150,000 or
more (=7); place of residence (where a rural area =1, a small city or town =2, a suburb near
a large city =3, and a large city =4); and number of children (continuously from 0 to 10). The
respondent’s political party is also taken into consideration. Given that one’s religious affiliation
is often linked to political preferences, especially in the case of the religiously unaffiliated (Hout
and Fischer 2002), the regression models account for one’s reported political party. On the
survey, the question asks: “Do you think of yourself as Republican, Democrat, or Independent?”
Possible answer choices included, “Strong Republican” (=1), “Moderate Republican” (=2),
“Leaning Republican” (=3), “Independent” (=4), “Leaning Democrat” (=5), “Moderate
Democrat” (=6), and “Strong Democrat” (=7).
Key religious variables are also incorporated in some models. These variables include
religious attendance and religious affiliation, both of which generally have strong predictive
power and are frequently used in quantitative analyses on religion. Concerning attendance, the
BRS asked: “How often do you attend religious services at a place of worship?” The range of
possible answers for this question included, “Never” (=0), “Less than once a year” (=1), “Once
or twice a year” (=2), “Several times a year” (=3), “Once a month” (=4), “2–3 times a month”
(=5), “About weekly” (=6), “Weekly” (=7), and “Several times a week” (=8). To measure
the effects of one’s religious affiliation, a system of binary variables is constructed with the
following groups: Evangelicals, mainline Protestants, black Protestants, Catholics, Jews, other
religions, and Nones. Following Steensland et al. (2000), both models have a reference category
consisting of those who are religiously unaffiliated (“Nones”).
RESULTS
Table 1 provides descriptive statistics of the variables used in this study, and empirical testing
now follows the hypotheses previously advanced. In Table 2, I test the hypothesis that increases in
Internet use will be associated with decreases in being religiously affiliated, even when controlling
for age and other essential demographic variables.
As the results show, certain variables lead to a higher likelihood of being religiously affiliated.
These include age, income, political party, and time spent on the Internet.10 Confirming previous
research (Kosmin and Keysar 2008; Liu 2012), older individuals are more likely to be religiously
affiliated than are young adults, with each additional year of age corresponding with a 2 percent
10Subsequent analyses tested to see whether interaction effects between birth cohorts (ages 18–29) and Internet use
had significant effects on religious affiliation. Results indicated that while the age of the respondent had a significant
independent effect when measured as a continuous variable (Table 2 only), no significant interaction effects were found.
TINKERING WITH TECHNOLOGY AND RELIGION IN THE DIGITAL AGE 491
Table 2: Binary logistic regression predicting religious affiliation, Baylor Religion Survey 2010
Model 1 Model 2 Model 3
Variable bOR bOR bOR
Intercept 4.035*– 4.025*– 4.491*
Age .027*1.027 .018*1.018 .021*1.021
White .447 .639 .445 .641 .485 .616
Female .445 1.560 .423 1.527 .430 1.537
Education .030 1.030 .078 1.081 .057 1.058
Income .252*.777 .219*.804 .243*.785
Place .019 .981 .024 .976 .022 .978
Children .096 1.100 .158 1.171 .160 1.174
Political Party .354*.702 .361*.697 .355*.701
Television Viewing .254 .776 .199 .819
Internet Use .376*.687 .344*.709
N1,130 1,082 1,081
R²(rescaled) .11 .12 .13
*p<.05 (two-tailed tests).
increase in the likelihood of being affiliated, which is substantively significant over decades.
One’s political party also matters. For each unit of increase toward being a Democrat, the odds of
being religiously affiliated decrease by 30 percent. This shows that Democrats are less likely to
be religiously affiliated when compared to Republicans and confirms Hout and Fischer’s (2002)
findings. As for time spent online, an increase in the amount of time spent on the Internet is linked
with decreased odds that an individual will be religiously affiliated. For each unit of increase
in time spent on the Internet, the odds of being religiously affiliated decrease by 29 percent
(Table 2, Model 3). These findings, while striking, substantiate what Downey (2014) concludes but
also control for more variables than are present in his analyses. In fact, based on the standardized
effects, more than one’s race, education, place of residence, or number of children, the more time
one spends on the Internet, the greater the odds are that an individual can be predicted to be
religiously unaffiliated.11
If left with only this finding, scholars might be tempted to side with the neosecularization
theorists who predict the demise of religion in a modern, digitizing world (Bruce 2002; Norris
and Inglehart 2011). However convincing these arguments may be, such observations must
be tempered with evidence related to religious behavior. Table 3 indicates that increased time
spent online has no statistically significant effect on the time devoted to religious activities. As
expected, religiously affiliated and politically conservative individuals report higher levels of
religious participation, and individuals who live in rural places or have children similarly report
being religiously active. When it comes to screen time, the results show that people who watch
more television do not generally participate in as many religious events as non-TV viewers, but
the same does not apply for Internet use. As the results show, each unit of increase in television
watching predicts a modest decrease in active religious participation, but Internet surfing has
no apparent statistical effect. At first glance, then, it seems that Putnam’s suspicions about the
negative effects of television may be warranted without carrying these conclusions over to Internet
use. However, there may be other reasons why individuals who watch lots of television are not
participating in organized religion. Those who are physically immobile, suffer from an illness or
11Standardized coefficients are available upon request.
492 JOURNAL FOR THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF RELIGION
Table 3: Ordinary least squares regressions predicting the effects of Internet use on time-related
religious behaviors, Baylor Religion Survey 2010
Religious ActivitiesaReligious Attendance
Model 1 Model 2 Model 3 Model 4 Model 5 Model 6
Variable bbbbbb
Intercept 8.615*7.719*8.589*1.056 .581 1.353
Age .009 .005 .010 .022*.014*.017*
White .960*.883*.923*.720*.713*.753*
Female .187 .137 .152 .249 .228 .238
Education .017 .056 .020 .156*.201*.172*
Income .205*.164*.207*.024 .033 .004
Place .306*.296*.287*.141 .174*.170*
Children .167*.194*.192*.150*.173*.172*
Political Party .199*.200*.189*.239*.248*.240*
Evangelical 2.138*2.179*2.134*3.922*3.930*3.889*
Mainline 1.711*1.713*1.652*3.818*3.772*3.718*
Black Protestant 2.127*2.039*2.103*3.853*3.796*3.823*
Catholic 1.566*1.584*1.541*3.883*3.895*3.860*
Jewish 1.590*1.665*1.668*2.647*2.786*2.750*
Other Religion 1.560*1.621*1.571*3.598*3.612*3.568*
Television Viewing .373*.381*.369*.327*
Internet Use .157 .103 .201 .153
N1,061 1,025 1,025 1,154 1,107 1,106
R².12 .12 .13 .26 .26 .26
*p<.05.
aReligious activities include church social gatherings, education programs, choir or other musical practices, witness-
ing/sharing one’s faith, community prayer groups, and Bible studies. Nones are the comparison group for each of the
religious traditions (two-tailed tests).
injury, or are older may all be incapable of participating in organized religious activities and watch
television simply as a way to pass the time. In such cases, television would not be displacing time
dedicated to religion so much as it would be providing a comforting activity for those who cannot
leave their home. Regardless of how one interprets the effects of television viewing, though, two
important points regarding technology can be gleaned from Table 3. First, television watching
and religious participation exist in an inverse relationship. Second, this relationship does not
similarly apply to Internet use and religious activities. Thus, whatever effects the Internet may
have on religion, it does not appear to impact how often people participate in religious activities
or attend religious services.
In Table 4, the results indicate evident dividing patterns between exclusivists and pluralists.
Among the pluralists, who are more likely to believe that all religions are equally true, are those
who live in large cities, are politically liberal, or surf the Internet with increased frequency.
Though the standardized effects are admittedly small, the evidence supports my hypothesis (H3a)
that increased Internet use coincides with decreases in being a religious exclusivist and lends no
support for the counterhypothesis H3b. These results, though they support my hypothesis, should
not be considered decisive or put an end to the theoretical issues raised in this article. Instead,
they should jumpstart scholarly interest in the effects of technology on religious life and motivate
other researchers to pursue studies in technology and religion.
TINKERING WITH TECHNOLOGY AND RELIGION IN THE DIGITAL AGE 493
Table 4: Ordinary least squares regression predicting the effects of Internet use on religious
exclusivism, Baylor Religion Survey 2010
Model 1 Model 2 Model 3
Variable bbb
Intercept 7.382*7.538*7.679*
Age .003 .005 .004
White .153 .168 .173
Female .144 .176 .172
Education .041 .059 .053
Income .019 .023 .015
Place .119*.108*.107*
Children .010 .006 .005
Political Party .241*.247*.244*
Evangelical .232 .174 .170
Mainline .057 .004 .008
Black Protestant .644 .738*.733*
Catholic .267 .272 .280
Jewish .732 .774 .779
Other Religion .142 .108 .117
Television viewing .074 .065
Internet use .179*.169*
N1,108 1,070 1,069
R2.12 .12 .12
Note:*p<.05. Nones are the comparison group for each of the religious traditions (two-tailed tests).
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
To summarize, I have empirically tested several hypotheses concerning the effects of Internet
use on our religious beliefs, behavior, and belonging. I have grounded these hypotheses in
scholarly literature that examines religious and technological changes. The researchers whose
work guides these hypotheses, though, do not explicitly make these connections. For example,
Smith and Snell (2009) and Wuthnow (2010) extensively discuss the changing religious landscape
for Millenials, but they fail to mention technology as a likely source for the change we see from
one generation to the next. Likewise, Song (2009) and Turkle (1997, 2011a, 2011b) focus on
Internet technology, but their concern is more with its effects on social capital or changing
conceptions of self rather than religion. What links all of these scholars, however, is their use of
the concept of tinkering, an attitude that they think represents large and increasing portions of the
American population. Thus, the foregoing analysis synthesizes these literatures and empirically
tests the following hypotheses:
H1: Internet use decreases the likelihood of being religiously affiliated. (supported)
H2: Internet use decreases the likelihood of participating in religious activities. (unsupported)
H3a: Internet use decreases the likelihood of being religiously exclusive. (supported)
H3b: Internet use increases the likelihood of being religiously exclusive. (unsupported)
The results from my regression analyses lend confirmation to H1, no support for H2 or
H3b, and support for H3a. Thus, while Internet use accompanies the tendency to be religiously
unaffiliated and coincides with a pluralist’s acceptance of believing that all religions are
functionally the same, it does not displace religious attendance or other time-related religious ac-
494 JOURNAL FOR THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF RELIGION
tivities. Put differently, the Internet impacts religious belonging and a particular type of religious
belief but not religious behavior.
Why might Internet use affect beliefs and affiliation patterns but not participation in religious
activities? As a pluralizing force, the Internet creates a new space through which individuals must
navigate competing truth claims and ideas about what is ultimately important. Because of the
overwhelming variety of worldviews, beliefs, and religious ideas that are part and parcel of one’s
online experience, the Internet encourages tinkering with an assortment of spiritual options, and
rejecting the exclusive truth claims of any one particular religious tradition becomes more likely.
While these outcomes may appear uneven, we should not expect the Internet to affect all
aspects of religion uniformly. Rather, as my results show, Internet use lowers the likelihood of
exclusive commitments to any one religious institution and in doing so opens the door to spiritual
tinkering. Internet use does not, however, prevent individuals from regularly attending religious
services or participating with religious communities in other ways, perhaps because one can
engage in such activities without full ideological commitment. Further, rather than displacing
religious activities, Internet use may fill in the gaps between previously scheduled events. In sum,
being online increases the likelihood of being religiously unaffiliated, and regardless of one’s
affiliation, Internet use also reduces the likelihood of maintaining an exclusivist posture toward
one’s own religious tradition.
Though not stated in my hypotheses, the effects of television viewing produced statistically
significant results that also bear further scrutiny. Curiously, television viewing affects religious
outcomes in precisely those models where Internet use has no effect. Television may not change the
way individuals construe religious self-identity or alter people’s notions of religious exclusivism,
but it does have an inverse effect on time-related religious participation, whether those activities
are measured in terms of attendance or other events such as prayer or choir groups, Bible studies,
or meal-oriented religious gatherings. This raises an obvious question: Does television viewing
causally displace the time that could be spent on religious activities, or does it only capture those
respondents who for some reason cannot participate in religious activities in the first place? It
seems conceivable, in other words, that watching television does not stand in the way of religious
participation but instead provides a fallback activity for those who cannot leave their home to
practice religion. This would be especially the case for those who are sick, injured, or otherwise
physically incapable of active religious participation, and further studies may wish to control for
health and mobility to determine the causal direction. Even so, the evidence here provides an
incremental contribution to the literature because it suggests that television viewing and Internet
use have different religious outcomes.
Like any project, there are limitations to the data used that prompt further considerations.
The most obvious of these is that the BRS only measures the amount of time respondents say
they logged on the Internet. By this metric, it is impossible to know what users were doing
online. Were they browsing secular websites or religious ones? Was that time spent reinforcing
existing beliefs or challenging them by presenting multiple, rival viewpoints? Did the websites
they visited actively put forth a religiously pluralistic or tribalistic message? Without knowing
the exact content of web searches, it is impossible to know with certainty. Despite these setbacks,
however, this article makes well-supported theoretical projections about how the very medium of
the Internet—through its unique, pluralizing architecture and the implicit assumptions baked in
it—may impact one’s religious stance.
Bearing in mind these limitations, future research should aim to capture not only the amount of
time spent online, but also what kinds of experiences transpire when individuals go online. While
the time and content of web searches could be useful for analytical purposes, researchers should
not forget that the form and framework of the Internet are equally important. McLuhan’s (1964)
reminder that the “medium is the message” is a helpful starting point for sociologists wishing
to understand the effects of the Internet precisely because the medium by which any content is
delivered has a decisive influence on how individuals interpret that content. In other words, even
TINKERING WITH TECHNOLOGY AND RELIGION IN THE DIGITAL AGE 495
with the inability to grasp the content of people’s online activity or television viewing history,
scholars can make theoretical progress towards understanding how such technologies direct and
shape users in subtle ways.
As digital technology makes inroads into more homes and workplaces, the religious landscape
likewise evolves to reflect new sociocultural realities. It seems na¨
ıve, therefore, to think there
could be no connections between the two. The smartphones of today are several million times
more powerful than the computers of the mid-20th century, and nearly two-thirds of Americans
own and use one frequently (Smith 2015b).12 What the results from this article suggest for
religious groups and individuals is that while the Internet may be used beneficially to express
or receive a particular religious message, Internet technology may also undermine the exclusive
truth of that very message. Whether these effects will carry into political or social domains and
undermine other types of exclusive commitments is a question worth asking, but to the extent
that this article reveals previously undiscovered connections between digital technologies and
religious dimensions, it is a step in the right direction.
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... Putnam's (2000) work shows a negative association between time spent watching television and time spent on religious activities, but only a few scholars have extended his analysis to understand how more recent Internet-laden technologies impact communities as well as individual and collective levels of religious commitment. Song (2009) argues that the Internet is an individualizing force works against religious formation, and McClure (2016McClure ( , 2017McClure ( , 2020 has found that higher levels of Internet use are associated with lower levels of religious commitment -including religious attendance, scripture reading, and prayer -while social media use in particular is linked with religious syncretism, or a cut-and -paste approach to religious doctrine. ...
... The range of alternatives may contribute to the process of "tinkering," where new perspectives are tried out, adopted, discarded, and/or modified to suit one's aims (Turkle 1997;Wuthnow 2010;McClure 2017). This tinkering process has the potential to move adolescents away from the religious faith of their parents or away from the nonreligious commitments of their parents. ...
... Specifically, the screen time variable is unable to isolate what types of screen-based technology may be important. McClure (2017McClure ( , 2020, for example, found that television viewing and Internet use have different effects on religious outcomes. More finegrained measures of technology use, therefore, are needed to reveal important nuances about its relationship with religious commitment. ...
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Research on the impact of new technologies on American youth often fails to consider their impact on religious commitment, and research on adolescent religiosity often fails to consider how technology use may influence adolescents’ religious lives. But the copious amount of time adolescents spend in front of screens and on social media platforms may affect their religious commitment through a process of self-socialization or by outcompeting religion for adolescents’ time and attention. Using data from the National Survey of Moral Formation (N = 3,033), we examine whether adolescent screen time and social media use are associated with religious commitment. We find that screen time is related to diminished religious commitment, and, for private religious outcomes, the negative relationship is stronger among adolescents whose parents are more religious. There is no unique negative effect of social media use on religious commitment except on the scripture reading of adolescents with religious parents. Studies of adolescent religiosity should consider technology use to be an important agent in the religious socialization process. Although social media use appears to pose no major unique challenge to adolescent religious commitment, researchers should continue to explore the effects of new technological developments on youth religiosity.
... Second, Islamic movements and religious leaders use the internet as a medium of da'wah [11], [12]. Third, there is a quantitative test of the impact of the internet on a person's religiosity [13], [14], [15]. The three focus studies have examined the relationship between the internet and religious understanding but did not specifically examine the relationship between the YouTube platform as the most popular media during the Covid-19 pandemic and religious understanding. ...
... Because people are sociable and essential netizens, da'wah is regarded as a significant success on the internet (McClure, 2017;Ridho, 2019). The media has a powerful force to control any dimension of human life. ...
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Through religious activities in cyberspace, new media has become one of the enabling reasons for the emergence of female ulama. It has created a channel for them to exhibit their identity and compete as religious preachers. Numerous Islamic studies organizations and societies have developed on social media, along with religious leaders who use the platform to disseminate Islamic learning activities across various social media channels, increasingly highlighting the signals of religious populism. This study employs a quantitative approach to assess female ulama's acceptance of new media by distributing online questionnaires to Islamic University civitas academia. The research model comprises eleven potential relationship paths based on the Technology Acceptance Model theory. There haven't been many studies on the acceptance of technology in religious affairs in Indonesia. An important finding is that the respondents' social influence does not affect the use of new media to access the female ulama lecture. The popularity of female scholars in presenting religious messages through modern media is currently acceptable. This study concludes that even in a homogeneous atmosphere, the female ulama remains unpopular; this may be attributed to the female scholar's continued use of the traditional approach in her lectures. Based on the result, a modern approach to delivering a religious message is needed to solve the issue and improve da'wah's impact and a cyber fatwa by female ulama in contemporary Indonesia. Abstrak:Melalui aktivitas keagamaan di dunia maya, media baru menjadi salah satu alasan yang memungkinkan munculnya ulama perempuan dan telah menciptakan saluran bagi mereka untuk menunjukkan identitasnya dan bersaing sebagai pendakwah. Banyak organisasi dan masyarakat pengkaji Islam telah berkembang di media sosial, bersama dengan para pemimpin agama yang menggunakan platform untuk menyebarluaskan kegiatan pembelajaran Islam di berbagai saluran media sosial, semakin menyoroti sinyal populisme agama. Penelitian ini menggunakan pendekatan kuantitatif untuk menilai penerimaan ulama perempuan terhadap media baru dengan menyebarkan kuesioner online kepada civitas akademika Universitas Islam. Model penelitian ini terdiri dari sebelas jalur hipotesa berdasarkan teori Technology Acceptance Model (TAM). Belum banyak penelitian tentang penerimaan teknologi dalam urusan keagamaan di Indonesia. Temuan penelitian ini adalah bahwa pengaruh sosial dari responden ini tidak mempengaruhi penggunaan media baru untuk mengakses ceramah ulama perempuan. Popularitas ulama perempuan dalam menyampaikan pesan-pesan keagamaan melalui media modern saat ini dapat diterima. Studi ini menyimpulkan bahwa bahkan dalam suasana homogen, ulama perempuan tetap tidak populer; ini mungkin disebabkan oleh penggunaan pendekatan tradisional yang terus menerus oleh cendekiawan perempuan dalam penyampaian dakwah dan fatwanya. Berdasarkan hasil tersebut, diperlukan pendekatan modern dalam penyampaian pesan agama untuk memperbaiki situasi dan meningkatkan dampak dakwah dan fatwa siber oleh ulama perempuan di Indonesia saat ini.
... Such instruments are sufficiently strongly correlated with the potentially endogenous variables, but are uncorrelated with the error term and thus do not affect the dependent variable except through the endogenous variable. The idea behind the use of INTERNET it as an instrument for log(PERSON it ) is that the Internet provides opportunities to find information about people of other religions and non-religious people (and to interact with them personally), and that this has a negative effect on religiosity-an idea which is supported by the studies of Downey, 2014, andMcClure, 2020, as well as by our first-stage regression of log(PERSON it ) on INTERNET it . More specifically, the coefficient on INTERNET it is negative and significant in the religiosity regression in Column 1 of Table 6, and the partial R 2 for this regression (conditioning on year effects) is 0.157, suggesting that INTERNET it is a strong instrument. ...
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An issue that has not yet been explored in the religiosity‐health literature is the macro‐level effect of religiosity on health—the effect of the religiosity of a society on the absolute health of the population of that society as a whole. We address this issue using two panel datasets: The first is a time‐series cross‐sectional panel dataset for 17 countries from 1925 to 2000. The second is a cross‐sectionally dominated panel dataset of up to 92 countries for the period 1981–2016. Our main findings are as follows: first, religiosity has a significant negative causal effect on health at the macro level; second, a substantial part of this effect can be attributed to an indirect effect via public health expenditures; and third, changes in population health do not cause significant changes in societal religiosity.
... This complexity makes the study of its nature and influence on various aspects of life challenging and problematic (DeFranza et al., 2020). A significant body of literature (Mathras, Cohen, Mandel & Mick, 2016;Scala & Johnson, 2017;McClure, 2017) has pointed out the multidimensional nature of religion and ethics. For the purposes of this article, I focussed on the cultural dimension of religion and ethics to address issues raised by the COVID-19 pandemic. ...
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Most of the work done to understand and combat the COVID-19 pandemic has been based on epidemiological models. These models are often devoid of human factors such as ethics, religion and communication. In this article, I endeavour to close this gap by examining whether or not religion can help in the understanding and management of the COVID-19 pandemic. Past research has made contradicting conclusions as to the influence of religion, ethics and communication on health. One body of research has concluded that strong religiosity results in greater adherence to health regulations because of the rule-abiding norms and philanthropic tendencies of religious people. On the contrary, another body of research concluded that stronger religiosity results in lower adherence as an intrusive personal and religious freedom. To address this quandary, this article attempts to answer two questions: One, what theoretical, procedural and epistemological questions does the COVID-19 pandemic invoke about the intersectionality of religion and health in the 21 first century? Two, how can we increasingly understand and discourse about the interactions of religion and health in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic without reifying and essentialising them? The article concludes by contending that an understanding of the objective and subjective nature of religion can provide the much needed nexus to understand and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Religious activities are no longer confined to local religious communities, but are increasingly taking place online. In that regard, social media is of particular importance for young believers that connect with their peers via platforms such as Instagram. There are conflicting views on the functioning of social media platforms: they are either conceptualized as superdiverse spaces, in which social boundaries can be overcome, or as resulting in separate bubbles that foster exclusive exchanges between like-minded people sharing certain characteristics, including religious affiliation. This article assesses online religious activities based on qualitative research involving 41 young, urban, religious Instagram users of different faiths. We demonstrate how young believers’ interactions on social media produce thematically bound content bubbles that are considerably homogeneous when it comes to religion, but superdiverse in other areas. Religious activities online often have an affirmative effect on religious belonging. This is especially true for young people that perceive themselves in a minority position and search for like-minded people online. We have found that religious content bubbles are clustered around religious traditions. Interreligious exchange (e.g., between Christians and Sikhs) is largely absent, whereas intrareligious boundaries (e.g., between Lutherans, Catholics, and Pentecostals) become blurred. This suggests that differences within religious traditions are losing significance in a digitalized world, while interreligious boundaries remain.
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There is a considerable body of research suggesting that social media may be a primary vehicle for both the dissemination of politically dissident information and for organizing protest activity in contexts of weak governance. Researchers are beginning to focus on building a more nuanced understanding of how new media shape these processes. Using original survey data from the Philippines, we offer the first large N individual level study to directly examine the relationship between religion, social media exposure, and political protest. Specifically, we argue that the degree to which citizens support religious leaders’ authority in politics can mitigate the effects dissident flows of information on social media have on their inclination to protest, at least in an environment characterized by hierarchical religious authority structures and limited religious endorsement of widespread protest. The evidence we present supports the theoretical claim that support for religious authority can at times dampen the link between critical social media and public protest. We discuss the implications of these results for the broader study of governance, technology and religious authority.
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What constitutes a polylogue? What, in our pandemic times, makes for a meaningful gathering? Of the many and varied things affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, religiosity is one that has certainly garnered attention. How are individuals and communities adapting spiritual practice amidst our truly postnormal times? What challenges and opportunities face spiritual sojourners during a time of global upheaval? Bringing together a diverse array of voices to reflect on some of the many issues related to “postnormal religiosity,” this is not an article or essay but rather a polylogue in both approach and form. Authors, some of whom are unknown to the conveners, were asked to answer some questions and reflect on postnormal religiosity. The product, as such, is as much process as it is polylogue, which offers some insights on this under-theorized concept within postnormal times theory.
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Most Americans say they believe in God, and more than a third say they attend religious services every week. Yet studies show that people do not really go to church as often as they claim, and it is not always clear what they mean when they tell pollsters they believe in God or pray. American Religion presents the best and most up-to-date information about religious trends in the United States, in a succinct and accessible manner. This sourcebook provides essential information about key developments in American religion since 1972, and is the first major resource of its kind to appear in more than two decades. Mark Chaves looks at trends in diversity, belief, involvement, congregational life, leadership, liberal Protestant decline, and polarization. He draws on two important surveys: the General Social Survey, an ongoing survey of Americans' changing attitudes and behaviors, begun in 1972; and the National Congregations Study, a survey of American religious congregations across the religious spectrum. Chaves finds that American religious life has seen much continuity in recent decades, but also much change. He challenges the popular notion that religion is witnessing a resurgence in the United States--in fact, traditional belief and practice is either stable or declining. Chaves examines why the decline in liberal Protestant denominations has been accompanied by the spread of liberal Protestant attitudes about religious and social tolerance, how confidence in religious institutions has declined more than confidence in secular institutions, and a host of other crucial trends. Now with updated data and a new preface by the author, this revised edition provides essential information about key developments in American religion since 1972, plainly showing that religiosity is declining in America.