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Wed Jan 16, 2013, 10:43 PM

Does the Internet Spell Doom For Organized Religion?

As we head into a new year, the guardians of traditional religion are ramping up efforts to keep their flocks—or in crass economic terms, to retain market share. Some Christians have turned to soul searching while others have turned to marketing. Last fall, the LDS church spent millions on billboards, bus banners and Facebook ads touting “I’m a Mormon.” In Canada, the Catholic Church has launched a “ Come Home” marketing campaign. The Southern Baptists Convention voted to rebrand itself. A hipster mega-church in Seattle combines smart advertising with sales force training for members and a strategy the Catholics have emphasized for centuries: competitive breeding.

In October 2012 the Pew Research Center announced that for the first time ever Protestant Christians had fallen below 50 percent of the American population. Atheists cheered while evangelicals beat their breasts and lamented the end of the world as we know it. Historian of religion Molly Worthen has since offered big-picture insights that may dampen the most extreme hopes and allay the fears. Anthropologist Jennifer James, on the other hand, has called fundamentalism the “death rattle” of the Abrahamic traditions.

In all of the frenzy, few seem to give any recognition to the player that I see as the primary hero, or if you prefer, culprit—and I’m not talking about science populizer and atheist superstar Neil deGrasse Tyson. Then again, maybe I am talking about Tyson in a sense, because in his various viral guises—as atalk show host and tweeter and as the face of scores of smartass Facebook memes—Tyson is an incarnation of the biggest threat organized religion has ever faced: the Internet.

A traditional religion, one built on “right belief,” requires a closed information system. That is why the Catholic Church put an official seal of approval on some ancient texts and banned or burned others. It is why some Bible-believing Christians are forbidden to marry nonbelievers. It is why Quiverfull moms home-school their kids with carefully screened textbooks. It is why, when you get sucked into conversations with your fundamentalist Uncle George from Florida, you sometimes wonder if he has some superpower that allows him to magically close down all avenues into his mind. (He does!) Religions have spent eons honing defenses that keep outside information away from insiders. The innermost ring wall is a set of certainties and associated emotions like anxiety and disgust and righteous indignation that block curiosity. The outer wall is a set of behaviors aimed at insulating believers from contradictory evidence and from heretics who are potential transmitters of dangerous ideas. These behaviors range from memorizing sacred texts to wearing distinctive undergarments to killing infidels. Such defenses worked beautifully during humanity’s infancy. But they weren’t really designed for the current information age.

Tech-savvy mega-churches may have Twitter missionaries, and Calvinist cuties may make viral videos about how Jesus worship isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship, but that doesn’t change the facts: the free flow of information is really, really bad for the product they are selling.

Here are six kinds of web content that are like, well, like electrolysis on religion’s hairy toes.

http://www.alternet.org/belief/does-internet-spell-doom-organized-religion?paging=off

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Reply Does the Internet Spell Doom For Organized Religion? (Original post)
Redfairen Jan 2013 OP
customerserviceguy Jan 2013 #1
jberryhill Jan 2013 #2
RKP5637 Jan 2013 #3
orwell Jan 2013 #4
Politicub Jan 2013 #5
longship Jan 2013 #6

Response to Redfairen (Original post)

Wed Jan 16, 2013, 10:48 PM

1. Widespread literacy spelled doom for organized religion

At least it contributed to the splintering of existing religions into minor subgroups.

The more knowledge, the less superstition and religion.

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Response to Redfairen (Original post)

Wed Jan 16, 2013, 11:09 PM

2. It's pretty good for organizing new ones

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Response to Redfairen (Original post)

Wed Jan 16, 2013, 11:11 PM

3. One can hope the scourge of evil religions goes away. Many speak as disciples from hell. n/t

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Response to Redfairen (Original post)

Wed Jan 16, 2013, 11:11 PM

4. I guess Jesus...

...needs a new marketing strategy.

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Response to Redfairen (Original post)

Wed Jan 16, 2013, 11:14 PM

5. Interesting stuff

Haven't thought of religion over the centuries as a closed information system, but it truly is.

The modern version of the closed information system is Fox News.

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Response to Redfairen (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 12:43 AM

6. Some great podcasts...

The best skeptical religion podcast on the planet is: Reasonable Doubts, intelligent, geeky, and somewhat irreverent. The hosts are all religiously educated who fell away from religion. They post new programs sporadically, but their archive is all there and is a compendium of religion education from a skeptical viewpoint. They have regular features. Production values are quite good. From Grand Rapids, MI (as host Dave Fletcher says, the buckle on the Bible bra). Highly recommended!

If you really want to geek out on religion, there's the Bible Geek, Robert M. Price. This guy has encyclopedic knowledge of Bible lore and history. He is one who follows the 19th century biblical skepticism (which he cites regularly) and then some. He publishes books on Bible lore, on SciFi and horror (especially Lovecraft), and reads listener questions with cheesy accents. He reads the first five books in a Charleton Heston accent. He reads Jesus quotes in a Willem Dafoe accent. Etc. The guy is a real trip. And, yes, he's a former fundy preacher but now an atheist. Alas, he's a Republican, but he doesn't often talk politics. Production values are not great, but he makes up for it by his sure entertainment value and his compendious knowledge on the Bible and Christian apologetics. He also has another, a more introductory, podcast entitled, The Human Bible. This guy's prolific. He often posts multiple podcasts a week.

American Freethought is a blog and podcast (click the link on the main page). Pretty good atheist podcast along the lines of Reasonable Doubts. They did a series of podcasts where, in one section, they read the entire book of Revelation on top of creepy music. Very worthwhile.

Hope this is helpful for DUers interested in this stuff.

Best regards.

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