The latest information emerging from a study by Olin College of Engineering Professor Allen Downey is shedding light on the internet’s correlation with the recent decline in religious affiliation for Americans. With the number of Americans without religious preference on the rise from eight percent in 1990 to nearly twenty percent in 2010, the effects of the World Wide Web on religion are becoming apparent.
MIT Technology Review reports that a large fraction of Protestants dropped more than ten percent from 1990 to 2010 while the numbers for Catholics and Jews remained fairly stable. Based on a survey conducted by the University of Chicago, these estimates have attempted to measure the American public’s attitudes towards religion since the year 1972. Some of the common questions consist of inquiries into religious preferences and inherited religions or religions in which individuals were raised.
By observing the increase in numbers of Americans without religious preferences along with the drop in practicing Protestants, we are able to gain an accurate perspective of the Internet’s effect on religion over this period of time. The Internet’s importance and use has rocketed from zero to almost eighty percent in just a few decades, accounting for nearly 20% of the religious decline.
It is estimated that around twenty-five percent of the decrease in religious affiliation has been attributed to declines in religious upbringings from period from the 1980’s and 2000’s. These studies are based on the notion that those who are raised in a religious household are more likely to remain affiliated to that religion later in life. Additionally, an estimated five percent of the decreases in religious affiliation over recent years has been attributed to increased numbers of college graduates in the United States.
According to the study, nearly fifty percent of the decline in religious affiliation has yet to find an explanation. With all of the recent data and collected numbers, researchers are left asking just why it is that individuals born later are more likely to disaffiliate regardless of education and internet use. This leaves around half of the documented changes completely unexplained.