Losing my religion: New study finds increased internet usage lowers religiousness

7 Apr 2014

In what could prove to be a worrying sign for the world’s major religions, a new US study has found that the country’s internet users are losing their religion.

In the study, figures show that the number of people in the US with strong religious beliefs have been in serious decline since the beginning of the uptake of the internet in 1990.

According to recent figures, almost 18pc of the US population had no religious preference, a percentage that more than doubled by 2010 from 8pc.

Trying to pinpoint the reason for this increase in numbers, researcher and computer scientist Allen Dowley has indicated that aside from other factors, such as parental affiliation and college attendance contributing to a decrease in religious beliefs, the internet has been attributed as one of the biggest factors.

The figures from 2010 show that 53pc of the US population spent two hours per week online and 25pc browsed for more than seven hours, compared with more than 20 years before, when internet use was almost zero.

This increase closely matches the decrease in religious affiliation and Dowley estimated it can account for about 25pc of the drop.

While it could be argued that this does not constitute concrete evidence of a direct link, Dowley has ruled out other possibilities.

“For people living in homogeneous communities, the internet provides opportunities to find information about people of other religions (and none), and to interact with them personally,” he said.

“Conversely, it is harder (but not impossible) to imagine plausible reasons why disaffiliation might cause increased internet use.”

Internet numbers worldwide

Internet numbers worldwide

A 2010 study asked people ‘Is religion important?’ and ‘Do you have internet access at home?’ and created a compiled result of the least religious people in the higher percentiles.

Pray button image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic