Quite a few years ago, on this blog, I said:
I think we are lucky for the Internet. Not only is it a beautiful exposition of the potentiality of science, but it also allowed me to link up with like minded people, and provided a wonderful source for research and information about atheism.
I always thought the Internet would be the death of religion. Religion tends to thrive on ignorance, but the Internet is the antithesis of ignorance. One can find anything on the Internet, even, paradoxically, ignorance. Fortunately, the Internet is science embodied, so even though it can be misused, due to redundancy of information, it will tend to correct itself. Like anything, you take everything you hear and read with a little bit of salt, until you can falsify or confirm it. But most of you are skeptics, so you know that.
I’ve gotten into the habit of checking every viral email sent to me, telling me things I supposedly don’t know, by looking it up on the Internet. Wikipedia is a great site for general knowledge, and Snopes is a great place to check for urban legends. The former is also internally self-correcting, being a user created site, and the latter…well, I’m often asked “How do you know Snopes is accurate?” The answer is I don’t, but the many times I’ve used it, it has been right, so after awhile I gain confidence in it with use.
Of course, the search engines like Google and Yahoo are wonderful resources, as long as you have that salt shaker by your keyboard.
Another general interest site I’ve used a lot is Bible Gateway, a searchable Bible site, with multiple versions of that so called holy book. My Catholic upbringing exposed me to the Bible, but only those parts the church liked to emphasize. If you’re looking for a quote about, say, genocide, or mass rape of virgins, or mauling of children by bears, all in the name of Yahweh, the Bible Gateway is a good place to find the right quote.
But back to religion and the Internet.
As the video shows, exposing religion to the light of scrutiny diminishes it, shows it for what it really is – a vacuous, self serving, predatory meme. Back in the dark ages, and other times when the church was the main source of information, knowledge could be controlled. By comparison, the Internet is unfettered and accessible by anyone with a computer, and in this day and age, even people who can’t own a computer still has access, through public libraries and work, not to mention indirectly via other mass media (how many times have you seen screen shots of a web page on a TV program, or a URL cite in a footnote of a book?).
With this kind of access to knowledge, religion is at a serious disadvantage. People who believe the clap-trap churches call knowledge have only themselves to blame for their ignorance, because they can rebut it. In effect, those who believe do so because they want to cling to their comfortable beliefs, not because they have no source for alternative knowledge.
It’s only a matter of time. As I said here, our hope is in the future generation. It’s no coincidence that the future generation will also be the Internet savvy generation. It’s already beginning to show in the research, where even those under the age of 29 who self identify as Christians seem to follow a “mushy” set of beliefs.
This past October marked the 40th anniversary of the Interent, when the first two nodes of its predecessor, ARPANET, were connected and the first message was sent. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)
I raise my beer bottle in a belated Happy Birthday wish to the Internet!
H/T Richard Dawkins
Raised beer bottle and birthday wishes duly noted, and I raise a drink of my own (still deciding whether it will be beer, wine or a margarita). I agree that the Internet is a significant tool in undermining the growth of religion, but I’m not sure it will be religion’s burying ground. While I wouldn’t object if such were to become the case, I think segments of humankind will cling to religion and seek to impose it on others for the foreseeable future. The Internet is just one tool of many that will be required to get the job done.
Like Chappy, I’m not convinced by your post. However, any occasion to drink a convivial brewski is warmly welcomed. So … cheers.
Great. My readers are a bunch of alcoholic pessimists. Or maybe even pessimistic alcoholics.
April 25th was Internet Evangelism day where churches were supposed be showing their devoted believers how to use these internet tools to their advantage. While it’s a treasure trove for us skeptical realists, it’s also a haven for writers of dubious misinformation designed to be parroted by religious groups. The internet is helping them mobilize their own “save the world” ventures across countries and borders.
The truth may be “out there” but so is everything else.
If you assume people will be objective, and actively seek to educate themselves properly then yes, the internet has great potential for killing the appeal of religion, but that’s some big time assuming. How many times have we encountered people quoting nonsense sites? Hell, even without the internet people still ignored basic facts and adhered to their holy books and they still do that today. 6,000 year old Earth? Are you kidding me? How many times have you ever encountered some jackass online and after providing a link or two to ACTUAL facts, they still came back arguing nonsense?
It’s not the tool, but the person behind it. In the immortal words of Thulsa Doom, “Steel isn’t strong, boy. Flesh is stronger. What is steel compared to the hand that wields it?”
Well, I will go ahead and side with SI on this one. I was a wishy-washy agnostic who didn’t believe in Hell or angels or other such claptrap, but was still “spiritual,” as I often hear people say. That is to say, I sort of half-assedly accepted the existence of some god-ish entity.
As a science student, I would occasionally hear about some “alternative” science or another that sounded interesting. When I would research, I found that the case for each of these was based on unfounded assertions. The arguments dismissing them were far more likely to be cogent and well-written. I became aware of the existence of so-called skeptics. I soon made a point of investigating crackpot theories almost as a hobby. When it came down to it, I was probably reading three books every two weeks, beginning with standard skeptic fare such as Why People Believe Weird Things, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, Flim-Flam, Demon-Haunted World, and others of that ilk. Reading more and more reasoned writing of skeptics eventually forced me to come to some hard conclusions about religion. I followed the almost inevitable trajectory through such books as The Blind Watchmaker, The End of Faith, Breaking the Spell, God is not Great, God – The Failed Hypothesis and others like that. Dennett’s Breaking the Spell really did it for me. Where I was stuck was, as Dennett describes, at “having faith in faith.” I didn’t really believe, but without people like Dawkins, I refused to perceive any harm in magical beliefs.
Sure, those are book and not internet. Nevertheless, I was led to clear thinking owing in a large part to the ease of research made possible by this grand Series of Tubes®.