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posted by n1 on Thursday April 10 2014, @03:42PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the internet-is-the-devil dept.

In 1990, about 8 percent of the US population had no religious preference but by 2010, this percentage had more than doubled to 18 percent. That's a difference of about 25 million people, all of whom have somehow lost their religion. Now MIT Technology Review reports that Allen Downey, a computer scientist at the Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts, has analyzed the data in detail and says that the dramatic drop in religious affiliation is the result of several factors but about 25 percent of the drop is due to the rise of the Internet. Downey concludes that the increase in Internet use in the last two decades has caused a significant drop in religious affiliation: for moderate use (2 or more hours per week) the odds ratio is 0.82. For heavier use (7 or more hours per week) the odds ratio is 0.58.

What Downey has found is a correlation and any statistician will tell you that correlations do not imply causation. But that does not mean that it is impossible to draw conclusions from correlations, only that they must be properly guarded. "Correlation does provide evidence in favor of causation, especially when we can eliminate alternative explanations or have reason to believe that they are less likely," says Downey. It's straightforward to imagine how spending time on the Internet can lead to religious disaffiliation. "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," says Downey. "Conversely, it is harder (but not impossible) to imagine plausible reasons why disaffiliation might cause increased Internet use."

There is another possibility: that a third unidentified factor causes both increased Internet use and religious disaffiliation. But Downey discounts this possibility. "We have controlled for most of the obvious candidates, including income, education, socioeconomic status, and rural/urban environments. (PDF)" If this third factor exists, it must have specific characteristics. It would have to be something new that was increasing in prevalence during the 1990s and 2000s, just like the Internet. "It is hard to imagine what that factor might be."

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  • (Score: 4, Funny) by migz on Thursday April 10 2014, @03:52PM

    by migz (1807) on Thursday April 10 2014, @03:52PM (#29500)

    Apparently it's difficult to imagine why holding a non-religious affiliation leads to higher internet use.

    Perhaps holders of a minority religious viewpoint spend the time that others would in their religious practices on interacting in a similar manner online?

    Tada! Where's my nobel prize?

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:03PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:03PM (#29508)

      Or alternatively: If you hold a minority viewpoint, you are more likely to need the internet to hold contact with others of the same opinion. If you are religious and live in a religious environment and want to talk with someone about your believes, you find many people to talk to, including people specialized on that (priests). There's no equivalent to the local priest for atheist, and with fewer people being atheist (and possibly quite a few of them not being open about it due to social pressure from the religious environment), you have an increased need to communicate online (possibly anonymously or under pseudonym) if you want to talk with someone about it.

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by fishybell on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:09PM

      by fishybell (3156) Subscriber Badge on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:09PM (#29515)

      I know around here, in Provo, UT, there is a large amount of BYU students who have become disaffiliated from the LDS church, but can't openly talk about it among their peers* because of fear of getting expelled**. Online, pseudonymous, forums are often times their only outlet.

      *Someone will taddle on you. The "honor system" they have is anything but "on your honor."

      **You can be accepted to the school if you aren't Mormon, but you are expelled if you ever were and then leave.

      • (Score: 1) by Buck Feta on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:07PM

        by Buck Feta (958) on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:07PM (#29572) Journal

        I think this is spot on. The internet isn't changing people's minds about anything, but it is making it far easier for people to express and hear minority or unpopular viewpoints. Witness the rapid increase in societal acceptance of non or minority religions, minority sexualities, alternative political viewpoints, and recreational drug use, all co-incident with the adoption of the internet.

        --
        - fractious political commentary goes here -
      • (Score: 2) by Angry Jesus on Thursday April 10 2014, @10:39PM

        by Angry Jesus (182) on Thursday April 10 2014, @10:39PM (#29745)

        > You can be accepted to the school if you aren't Mormon,
        > but you are expelled if you ever were and then leave.

        Sounds like they are using BYU as a method of recruitment. Apostates aren't likely to come back, but everyone else is a candidate for conversion.

        • (Score: 2) by fishybell on Thursday April 17 2014, @06:22PM

          by fishybell (3156) Subscriber Badge on Thursday April 17 2014, @06:22PM (#32776)

          I think it's threefold: recruitment potential, suppression of dissident thoughts, and discouraging people from leaving the church. The last two fit in very well with the groupthink at BYU and in the church as a whole. The last is good from a PR perspective as well: the church reports 15 million members, but there is and activity rate of (depending on how you look at the data, and where you get the data) 12 to 30%. Probably more self-identify as Mormon, but I know a lot of people that don't, but are still actively counted by the church, myself included.

    • (Score: 5, Funny) by strength_of_10_men on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:00PM

      by strength_of_10_men (909) on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:00PM (#29566)
      it's pretty easy to explain:

      anyone who spends any extended amount of time on the internet will stumble across 4chan.
      some of the stuff on there will cause you to question the existence of a god.
  • (Score: 5, Informative) by DeathMonkey on Thursday April 10 2014, @03:56PM

    by DeathMonkey (1380) on Thursday April 10 2014, @03:56PM (#29502) Journal

    Correlation absolutely implies causation. It just does not prove it.
     
    From Merriam Webster:

    Imply:

    1. to indicate or suggest without being explicitly stated: His words implied a lack of faith.

    • (Score: 2) by MrGuy on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:14PM

      by MrGuy (1007) on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:14PM (#29521)

      His words implied a lack of faith.

      Right. Because of the internet.

    • (Score: 5, Informative) by Random2 on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:18PM

      by Random2 (669) on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:18PM (#29525)

      The word 'implies' has the same problem the word 'theory' does, it means one thing in common language but another in formal language [wolfram.com].

      In formal logic, and the kind used to make conclusive statements a correlation is NOT an implication. Informally it's whatever society wants it to be.

      --
      If only I registered 3 users earlier....
      • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:34PM

        by tangomargarine (667) on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:34PM (#29597)

        Heh, yeah. Now if only I could remember how to untangle "A is necessary and sufficient for B" :-)

        --
        "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
    • (Score: 5, Informative) by Thexalon on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:19PM

      by Thexalon (636) on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:19PM (#29528)

      Actually, a demonstrable and repeated correlation between factors A and B implies any of the following, possibly in combination:
      1. A causes B.
      2. B causes A.
      3. A third unknown factor C causes both A and B.

      The next steps, which all too often never happen, are:
      - Look for the same correlation on a different data set, to reduce the odds it's a coincidence.
      - Look for mechanisms that would allow A to cause B or vice versa.
      - If you don't find a good mechanism in the last step, look for those unknown factors.

      The problem with the standard "Correlation does not imply causation" argument is that some think that means correlations are worthless. They aren't: If you have a clear correlation, then that means that the factors you are correlating might well be related in some way.

      --
      The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
      • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:30PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:30PM (#29592)

        It may also be

        4. Quantum entanglement.

        Although for everyday correlations, that's an extremely unlikely explanation.

    • (Score: 2) by Bot on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:00PM

      by Bot (3902) Subscriber Badge on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:00PM (#29567) Journal

      I suggest proceeding by smaller steps.
      Example "Correlation absolutely implies Correlation".

      --
      Account abandoned.
      • (Score: 2) by MrGuy on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:20PM

        by MrGuy (1007) on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:20PM (#29583)

        I'm a fan of "Causation happens."

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by evilviper on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:02PM

    by evilviper (1760) on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:02PM (#29506) Homepage Journal

    This is utter nonsense...

    http://bama.ua.edu/~sprentic/101%20Psych%20&%20Lif e--Correlation-causation.htm [ua.edu]

    The US was the holdout in the 1st world, for declining belief in God. The same trends happened many decades earlier in western Europe, LONG before the internet.

    Also, it's important to note that there's a counter trend as well:

    http://staugustine.com/stories/073004/rel_2472953. shtml [staugustine.com]

    --
    Hydrogen cyanide is a delicious and necessary part of the human diet.
    • (Score: 2) by Nerdfest on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:05PM

      by Nerdfest (80) on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:05PM (#29509)

      The internet is generally used to spread knowledge, so it makes sense. It's used to spread bullshit as well, but that's not quite as as widespread/serious.

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by evilviper on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:39PM

        by evilviper (1760) on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:39PM (#29541) Homepage Journal

        so it makes sense.

        A great many things which "make sense" also happen to be wrong...

        --
        Hydrogen cyanide is a delicious and necessary part of the human diet.
        • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:33PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:33PM (#29593)

          A great many things which "make sense" also happen to be wrong...

          That makes sense.

      • (Score: 2, Interesting) by quacking duck on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:10PM

        by quacking duck (1395) on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:10PM (#29575)

        Yes, my guess is that the rest of the first world's populations, being less isolated from cultural and political neighbours, were simply better informed about the world long before Americans sought out the info via the internet. The delay might also be explained by the higher number of religions in the US that are more resistant to science and new information that challenges their core beliefs. The Catholic church might be socially backwards in not accepting contraception, female roles in the church, homosexuals, etc, but they are fairly accepting (these days) of things like evolution. The bible-literalists and fundamentalists in the US with their mega-church rackets, on the other hand, are not, so it took longer for people there to open their eyes to the larger world around them.

      • (Score: 2) by useless on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:17PM

        by useless (426) on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:17PM (#29581)

        "but that's not quite as as widespread/serious."
        Have you *seen* Facebook/Tumblr/Twitter/Wordpress/Gawker/etc? ;)

      • (Score: 5, Insightful) by khallow on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:21PM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:21PM (#29584) Journal

        It's not hard to visit the right websites so that your knowledge of the world is filtered the way you like it.

        • (Score: 2) by tangomargarine on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:37PM

          by tangomargarine (667) on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:37PM (#29601)

          Or just move to the right country.

          --
          "Is that really true?" "I just spent the last hour telling you to think for yourself! Didn't you hear anything I said?"
          • (Score: 2) by khallow on Thursday April 10 2014, @09:05PM

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday April 10 2014, @09:05PM (#29713) Journal

            Or just move to the right country.

            It's a whole lot less work to just throw the right echo chambers in your web browser's bookmarks folder than it is to move to another country.

      • (Score: 2) by skullz on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:38PM

        by skullz (2532) on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:38PM (#29602)

        I thought it was cat videos. Maybe the rise of cat videos is causing the decline of religion. No wonder these theocracies keep banning youtube.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10 2014, @07:38PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10 2014, @07:38PM (#29667)

          I think the Flying Spaghetti Monster's noodly appendage might be involved. Maybe by making cat videos.

      • (Score: 1) by SpockLogic on Thursday April 10 2014, @08:41PM

        by SpockLogic (2762) on Thursday April 10 2014, @08:41PM (#29701)

        The internet is generally used to spread knowledge, so it makes sense.

        The Internet: Where religions come to die. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Rqw4krMOug [youtube.com]

        --
        Overreacting is one thing, sticking your head up your ass hoping the problem goes away is another - edIII
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:23PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:23PM (#29586)

      Disprove that, you heathen

      • (Score: 2) by skullz on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:35PM

        by skullz (2532) on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:35PM (#29599)

        Then your god must not be omnipotent because when it designed the internet it sure did a crappy job of predicting future usage. We have been fixing that crap ever sense.

        • (Score: 2, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:49PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:49PM (#29608)

          No, when God created the internet, it was perfect. But then there was the original sin: Founding of Apple computers. As reaction, God threw the humans out of the internet paradise and decided as punishment that networking should be a pain.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10 2014, @06:14PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10 2014, @06:14PM (#29615)

          Did God do a crappy job of predicting future usage, or did ungrateful humans do a crappy job of using the internet? Methinks it is the latter. The One True Internet (basically, Usenet and FTP) was fine, but oh no, we had to load a bunch of hacks (www, sftp) on top of that, and look where it got us.

          Truly, we reap what we sow; so it is told, and so it shall be. For ye who complains about modem speeds, and ye who wants inline image rendering, and verily, ye who wants a hackish scripting language to become the new programming standard for desktop applications, know that ye are ye own ruin. Amen.

          • (Score: 2) by skullz on Thursday April 10 2014, @06:20PM

            by skullz (2532) on Thursday April 10 2014, @06:20PM (#29621)

            Given the pain of HTML/JavaScript I think you are right.

            I see the LIGHT!

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by Boxzy on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:06PM

    by Boxzy (742) on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:06PM (#29511) Journal

    "It would have to be something new that was increasing in prevalence during the 1990s and 2000s, just like the Internet. "It is hard to imagine what that factor might be.""

    Could it be logic? Maybe a little exposure to reason? How about knowledge? I know, I know, it's Wisdom right?

    --
    Go green, Go Soylent.
    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by bob_super on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:04PM

      by bob_super (1357) on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:04PM (#29569)

      Short list, top of my head:
        - exposure to evidence to debunk common myths used by religions
        - exposure to the credo of other religions and comparative analysis
        - general individualization of society and materialism
        - rejection of the absolutely nutjob extremists of most major religions (since the 2000s)
        - church used to be the quasi-exclusive community space
        - more societal tolerance for people who don't follow the Accepted Way of Life (less faking)
        - Less time

      keep adding...

      • (Score: 1) by Hawkwind on Thursday April 10 2014, @11:25PM

        by Hawkwind (3531) on Thursday April 10 2014, @11:25PM (#29767)

        "keep adding..."

        How about political movement to the right (this is a U.S. story) has led more people to reject right leaning institutions?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10 2014, @08:49PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10 2014, @08:49PM (#29704)

      I'd like to note that Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer began making movies during this period.

      • (Score: 2) by Boxzy on Wednesday April 16 2014, @01:11AM

        by Boxzy (742) on Wednesday April 16 2014, @01:11AM (#32108) Journal

        It's a few days later but I have to congratulate you on this comment.

        Michael Bay making movies is EXACTLY the same as saying "There is no God."

        --
        Go green, Go Soylent.
  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by TK on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:10PM

    by TK (2760) on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:10PM (#29516)

    The primary purpose of religion (as I see it) is to provide a support networks for individuals. People like to belong.

    The internet is fantastic at making communities of like-minded people; see: Buck Feta. This can, to some people, provide the same sort of support network that religion provides to others, even if it's not physically present.

    --
    The fleas have smaller fleas, upon their backs to bite them, and those fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:08PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:08PM (#29573)

      Um...no. The primary purpose of religion is to wrap control mechanisms in a magical facade of divinity.

      • (Score: 2) by TK on Thursday April 10 2014, @06:05PM

        by TK (2760) on Thursday April 10 2014, @06:05PM (#29613)

        I should have said:

        For an individual, the primary benefit of religion (as I see it) is to provide a support network

        --
        The fleas have smaller fleas, upon their backs to bite them, and those fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum
  • (Score: 5, Informative) by MrGuy on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:12PM

    by MrGuy (1007) on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:12PM (#29519)

    So, I applaud TFA (and TFS) for drawing a good line between correlation and causation. And the author is right - sometimes correlation IS because of causation.

    That said, starting with a correlation, simply to speculate "I could imagine a mechanism..." doesn't make a terribly convincing argument. Nor does "I think I've controlled for everything else, so this is the only thing that remains and so I guess it must be the cause."

    What DOES make a convincing argument is exploring various likely implications of your hypothesized mechanism, and seeing whether those predictions bear out.

    The author suggests a mechanism where internet use exposes members of insular communities to wider ideas and other faiths, and makes those individuals more likely to question their faith. Great. You can test that. If it were true, I'd expect to see more of a drop in rural areas (where it's easier to have a sheltered community) than urban areas (where it's harder to avoid exposure to outside ideas). I'd expect to see more of a drop in communities in areas where a push to universal broadband was happening than in areas where there was no such push. I'd expect the Amish to see relatively little decline. I could see doing some really interesting testing around Utah (which has both large and strong religious communities, and challenges setting up connectivity given the terrain of the state).

    If the dataset being used is large enough to test these secondary hypotheses, then the study author is doing himself and science a disservice by speculating where he can test.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by MrGuy on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:20PM

      by MrGuy (1007) on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:20PM (#29529)

      Apologies - apparently special characters get stripped in post titles. "Correct" thread subject had a ">" sign in there.

      Live and learn.

      • (Score: 3, Funny) by martyb on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:48PM

        by martyb (76) Subscriber Badge on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:48PM (#29550) Journal

        Apologies - apparently special characters get stripped in post titles. "Correct" thread subject had a ">" sign in there.

        Yeah. Character entities are your friend. Use ">" when you want to see a ">".

        And, to keep this somewhat on-topic, then pray. =)

        --
        Wit is intellect, dancing.
      • (Score: 2) by mattie_p on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:59PM

        by mattie_p (13) on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:59PM (#29565) Journal

        I've noticed this in story titles as well. I think it is because slashcode needs the escape characters for certain symbols. If you use the html escape code > it should work. See?

  • (Score: 4, Funny) by Blackmoore on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:16PM

    by Blackmoore (57) on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:16PM (#29524) Journal

    And I won't be satisfied until every church provides Science with equal time.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by resignator on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:24PM

    by resignator (3126) on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:24PM (#29533)

    Being able to speak anonymously coupled with limitless data allows us all to explore new ideas we couldnt possibly achieve in a face to face conversation with average-joe-neighbor.

    Before the internet most religious discussions were limited to, "Can God make a rock so heavy he cannot lift it?" where I lived. When asked questions like this the average person wouldnt even know what "begging the question" or "presupposition" meant unless they went out of their way to study philosophy or the scientific method. Now every forum or comment section is filled with people from every walk of life expressing new ideas that would take a lifetime of travel and interaction to accomplish. You are far more likely to be exposed to these concepts now. Is it really that surprising that people will consider new theories when they are broadcasted to them so frequently?

    I am convinced that the internet age more to change the face of humanity than agriculture did.

    • (Score: 1) by resignator on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:26PM

      by resignator (3126) on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:26PM (#29534)

      Meant to say,"I am convinced that the internet age will do more to change the face of humanity than agriculture did." Sorry folks, still on my first cup of coffee :P

      • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:18PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:18PM (#29582)

        Meant to say,"I am convinced that the internet age will do more to change the face of humanity than agriculture did."

        I'm not convinced. Here's a (not complete) list of things agriculture directly or indirectly caused:

        * settledness (because your fields just don't wander around)
        * property (because after you invested time and work into the land, there was a reasonable expectation that you also ought to get the benefits).
        * states (enabled by the concept of property, as well as the need to collectively protect it).
        * trade (basically a direct consequence of property, but also of settlement).
        * mathematics (geometry was needed to determine whose property some land was, basic arithmetic was needed for trade).
        * money (a consequence of trade).
        * wide-distance communication (a result of settlement and trade).
        * a street network (needed for trade and wide-distance communication).
        * towns (which could only come into existence because of settledness, property and trade).

        I'm sure the internet will have a large influence on our life. But I strongly doubt that it will be of the scale of agriculture. It probably will be of the scale of the Gutenberg press, though (which basically ended the middle ages).

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 11 2014, @02:21AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 11 2014, @02:21AM (#29809)

          wide-distance communication

          Now, why did that make me think of the semaphore towers [wikimedia.org] in the Michael York version of The Three Musketeers? [wikipedia.org]

          -- gewg_

    • (Score: 5, Informative) by MrGuy on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:41PM

      by MrGuy (1007) on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:41PM (#29542)

      I am convinced that the average person still does not know what "begging the question" means. And you certainly wouldn't learn what it means from reading most internet discussions including the phrase.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question [wikipedia.org]

      • (Score: 1) by urza9814 on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:22PM

        by urza9814 (3954) on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:22PM (#29585) Journal

        I am convinced that the average person still does not know what "begging the question" means. And you certainly wouldn't learn what it means from reading most internet discussions including the phrase.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question [wikipedia.org]

        So what you're saying is that we need more "grammar nazis"? ;)

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:42PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:42PM (#29606)

          No, the problem here is not the grammar, it is the semantics. So if anything, we need more semantics nazis.

    • (Score: 2) by bucc5062 on Thursday April 10 2014, @06:01PM

      by bucc5062 (699) on Thursday April 10 2014, @06:01PM (#29611)

      ""Can God make a rock so heavy he cannot lift it?""

      Let's ask him...

      "Hey God, can you make a rock so heavy that even you can't lift it?
      "Why should I?"
      "Because you're God"
      "Well then, I choose not too make one".
      "Wait, okay, we're not asking you to do it, just can you do it?"
      "Can you make a rock so heavy that you cannot lift it?"
      "Of course not"
      "Why not?"
      "Because we're not God"
      "So your only proof that one is God is whether they can make a rock so heavy it cannot be lifted?"
      "No...Yes..we mean...oh hell"
      "Now that is a different topic. Faith is not determined by testing God, it is determined by testing one's self in relationship to God. To quote a wise man, 'I find you lack of faith disturbing'.
      Now, ask me another, this is fun. You guys are most entertaining".

      --
      The more things change, the more they look the same
      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by TK on Thursday April 10 2014, @06:13PM

        by TK (2760) on Thursday April 10 2014, @06:13PM (#29614)

        I'd mod you funny if I hadn't posted already.

        "Can you make a rock so heavy that you cannot lift it?"

        Sure I can, depending on your definition of "rock". I'll make a giant boulder out of clay that I am physically incapable of lifting. Then I'll build a machine that can lift rocks bigger than I can on my own, to be greater than god! /s Don't smite me.

        --
        The fleas have smaller fleas, upon their backs to bite them, and those fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum
      • (Score: 2) by Daniel Dvorkin on Thursday April 10 2014, @08:46PM

        by Daniel Dvorkin (1099) on Thursday April 10 2014, @08:46PM (#29703) Journal

        "Why not?"
        "Because we're not God"
        "So your only proof that one is God is whether they can make a rock so heavy it cannot be lifted?"
        "No...Yes..we mean...oh hell"

        Unlike the straw-man characters in your little parable, anyone who understands anything about logic would see through the rhetorical trap in the third line quoted above.

        --
        Pipedot [pipedot.org]:Soylent [soylentnews.org]::BSD:Linux
        • (Score: 2) by bucc5062 on Thursday April 10 2014, @11:24PM

          by bucc5062 (699) on Thursday April 10 2014, @11:24PM (#29766)

          Okay, so enlighten me. What would God say. I was just putting out some humor, but am always up to learn. Besides, perhaps God had a sense of humor for bad logic.

          --
          The more things change, the more they look the same
  • (Score: 2) by JeanCroix on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:35PM

    by JeanCroix (573) on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:35PM (#29537)
    So, what about the time period before 1990? Had there been a less steep decline in religious affiliation before this, or was it pretty much flat? I'm willing to bet it wasn't flat, just not as steep as the 1990-2010 trend. I'm inclined to theorize that a big chunk of his missing factor is generational die-off, not previously-religious people losing their religion due to internet exposure.
    • (Score: 3, Informative) by JeanCroix on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:44PM

      by JeanCroix (573) on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:44PM (#29546)
      And then I RTFA. I'd downmod myself if I could.
  • (Score: 2) by gallondr00nk on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:37PM

    by gallondr00nk (392) on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:37PM (#29539)

    "It is hard to imagine what that factor might be."

    Intellect.

    I'm joking...

  • (Score: 1) by e_armadillo on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:57PM

    by e_armadillo (3695) on Thursday April 10 2014, @04:57PM (#29562)

    I can see it now. Preachers across the country, or world, get wind of this and will use this as yet another reason to label the Net evil.

    --
    "How are we gonna get out of here?" ... "We'll dig our way out!" ... "No, no, dig UP stupid!"
  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by computersareevil on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:13PM

    by computersareevil (749) on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:13PM (#29576)

    If more people are thinking and less are believing the world will be a better place.

    • (Score: 1) by cmbrandenburg on Friday April 11 2014, @02:48AM

      by cmbrandenburg (3744) on Friday April 11 2014, @02:48AM (#29822)

      If more people are thinking and less are believing the world will be a better place.

      Why do you believe that?

  • (Score: 2, Funny) by snick on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:14PM

    by snick (1408) on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:14PM (#29577)

    The vast majority of the internet is proof positive that there is no god, or if there is a god, that he really hates us.
    (I'm looking at you, facebook)

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Lagg on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:27PM

    by Lagg (105) on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:27PM (#29587) Homepage Journal

    There is a reason this saying exists. Because it's true. The massive amounts of immediately available information and scientific material leads to people exercising their critical thinking skills. Once this starts happening it gets harder and harder to rationalize religion in general because it's just too goddamned worthless and stupid to put it bluntly. As the brainwashed person in question becomes further exposed to the plethora of material directly conflicting with their worldview it becomes harder for them to give religion a place in their mind. There is no room for faith in a place that thrives on information like the internet and the people using it. To put it one way the internet can be thought of as one gigantic digital clue-by-four.

    Also, here is one reason disaffiliation may cause increased usage: When you use the internet you're exposed to such gigantic amounts of scientific material and humanistic thinking that the only way to ignore it as a religious type would be to stop using the internet or avoid it as much as possible. This fits in well with the general mindset of "Ignore reality if it doesn't fit my dogma" with religious people. As someone who was once a christian I know this feeling well. It was hard for me to escape the brainwashing but now with the internet it's easier than ever to escape it. And that's awesome. So naturally once someone does become disaffiliated they no longer have any reason to avoid it.

    Or maybe the sheer volume of cat pictures distracts people just that much.

    --
    http://lagg.me [lagg.me] 🗿
  • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:27PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:27PM (#29589)

    A beowulf cluster of correlation does not equal causation?

    • (Score: 1) by MrGuy on Thursday April 10 2014, @06:17PM

      by MrGuy (1007) on Thursday April 10 2014, @06:17PM (#29618)

      welcome our new correlated overlords.

  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by urza9814 on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:42PM

    by urza9814 (3954) on Thursday April 10 2014, @05:42PM (#29605) Journal

    In 1990, about 8 percent of the US population had no religious preference but by 2010, this percentage had more than doubled to 18 percent. That's a difference of about 25 million people, all of whom have somehow lost their religion.

    "Lost their religion"? 10% of the population over 20 years? With a life expectancy below 80 year, and given that people aren't born religious, these numbers suggest that more people gained religion than lost it -- they simply gained it at a slower rate than in the past. It *could* be people losing religion, but it could be (and I'd say most likely is) people simply never accepting religion from the start.

    That makes a difference though. My mother "lost her religion" -- born and raised Catholic, but stopped supporting the church largely due to social issues. She keeps saying she wants to find a new church (although she's been saying that for years at this point) so while she's not affiliated with any religion, she's still a theist.

    Myself on the other hand...I never really accepted any religion at all. I find the entire concept absurd.

    So how many of these 25 million just got pissed at their church, and how many have decided that theology as a whole makes no logical sense?

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10 2014, @07:38PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10 2014, @07:38PM (#29666)

    This is a template that publish-or-perish academics use to generate papers. Take anything that almost everyone does (use the Internet, use toothpaste, watch TV), take something else in society (generating a little controversy helps), and find a meaningless correlation. Then publish a paper that concludes further study needs to be done.

    I think more work needs to be done to expose this template than to talk about any random paper. Any time some social scientist tries to pass off bogosity as research, the paper should be examined in light of this template to explain why it's not real research.

  • (Score: 4, Informative) by dotdotdot on Thursday April 10 2014, @07:43PM

    by dotdotdot (858) on Thursday April 10 2014, @07:43PM (#29670)

    I blame R.E.M. [youtube.com]

    Although "losing my religion" is just an expression from Georgia (USA) that basically means you're at the end of your rope, you've had it, or you're fed up. Maybe everyone just misunderstood the point of the song.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 11 2014, @02:38AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 11 2014, @02:38AM (#29820)

      ...and "Bless your heart" doesn't mean "God has looked on you favorably". (It means "This dude is a real fool".)

      -- gewg_

  • (Score: 1) by Serial_Priest on Thursday April 10 2014, @09:15PM

    by Serial_Priest (2493) <{accusingangel} {at} {autistici.org}> on Thursday April 10 2014, @09:15PM (#29719)

    Perhaps there is simply a trend towards being more honest when asked about one's personal beliefs? (Perhaps less perceived pressure to conform, as noted by some commenters above?)

    Unscientific anecdote: I can think of people in the Omani interior who told me that they were atheists (without using such loaded terminology, of course.) They nonetheless prayed 5 times a day and described themselves as Ibadhi Muslims. Identity versus belief, a tangle of thorns!

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10 2014, @11:04PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 10 2014, @11:04PM (#29759)

    Charles Murray in "Coming Apart: the State of White America 1960-2010" and in his AEI talks covers this phenomena.

    Among the top 10% of income earners, religious preference and REGULAR CHURCH ATTENDANCE has stayed the same as it has since 1960, that is very strong. This is counter intuitive, as the Seinfeld / Friends 1990's style cohort of young(ish) urbanites who seek love and meaning in major urban ares dominate the media but are not in and of themselves the so-called "SuperZips" (i.e. parts of the Upper East Side, Georgetown, etc. where nearly everyone makes over 10 million and went to Harvard, Stanford, Yale, or Princeton) but there it is.

    Meanwhile, the middle classes (defined as the middle 40% of White income earners, Murray only looked at Whites to eliminate racial considerations) dropped down considerably and the lower classes (bottom 20% income earners) had basically no affialiation or church attendance.

    This however DOES NOT MEASURE BELIEF. I would submit we live in the most religious age. Just one not of traditional Christianity. It is entirely possible to have deep religious beliefs that are not traditionally Christian or are post-Christian and akin to belief in "magic" and that likely describes most Whites in America: belief in "karma" and "the one-ness of the World" and crystal channeling and Gaia and the universality of mankind and ghosts and ufos and bigfoot and numerous other "folk" (as opposed to High Church beliefs) religion mixes in with the media to provide a giant soup of intense, folk religion that is part Christian and part, decidedly not.

    Non-Whites are intensely religious, with Latin Americans being either Catholic or fundamentalist Protestant (the so-called charismatic sects with intense services); belief in various Christian/Voodoo mixtures is strong among those immigrating from Africa; and traditional Taoist/Buddhist/Christian beliefs among Asian immigrants and their children.

    Meanwhile what appears as Atheism is not really that. It is miles away from the science-math centered beliefs of say, Bertrand Russell. Those who believe in Bigfoot, UFOs, Crystal Channeling, Karma, chakras, Angels, Demons, ghosts, Fate, Gaia, "one-ness of life" etc are not Atheists. They simply are not traditional Christians, mixing various aspects of Christianity with folk superstitions and so on.

    Why this is significant is that Charles Murray links both support networks and traits of success (deferred consumption, kids within marriage, hard work, staying married) among Whites (to ignore racial issues it useful to look only at Whites) to weekly religious attendance (as opposed to perhaps genuine belief). Lack of attendance means all that support network from a community of believers and checks on counter-productive behavior ESPECIALLY SINGLE MOTHERHOOD implies a far greater downward mobility for those in the middle class and no chance for the lower class (what Murray calls Fishtown from a neighborhood in Philly) to move upwards. Particularly since mass immigration won't cease anytime soon and a labor surplus implies that kids must have two involved parents doing everything to ensure their kid(s) have as much cognitive advantage against what amounts to global competition.

  • (Score: 2) by Rivenaleem on Friday April 11 2014, @08:29AM

    by Rivenaleem (3400) on Friday April 11 2014, @08:29AM (#29917)

    "And nothing of value was lost"