A new study links America's decrease in religion with our increased internet use.
America is less religious than ever before. The number of Americans who reported no religious affiliation has been growing rapidly, doubling since 1990. That kind of rapid change matches another societal trend — growth in Internet use. The percentage of Americans who say they used the Internet went from nearly zero in 1990 to 87 percent this year. Now, a detailed data analysis finds the two trends aren't just related, but that wider Internet use may actually be leading us to lose our religion.
Knowing that correlation doesn't necessarily mean causation, computer scientist Allen Downey, who teaches at Massachusetts' Olin College of Engineering, set out to further analyze religious disaffiliation. His statistical analysis asked which variables were factors in our religious disaffiliation, and to what degree.
The model found a causal relationship among three factors — a drop in religious upbringing, an increase in college-level education and the increase in Internet use — that together explain about 50 percent of the drop in religious affiliation. Of those, increased Internet use alone can account for about 20 percent of the decline.