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After the jump I prattle on about a topic only of interest to Christians — and even then only some, not all. To entertain the rest of you I present this animated gif of Tex Avery’s Droopy:
In a study released recently, Allen Downey, a computer scientist at the Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts, analyzed the General Social Survey, a 40-year+ sociological survey carried out by the University of Chicago, and drew an interesting albeit it speculative conclusion from the facts therein.
To make a long story short, Downey attributes most of the drop in religious affiliation with increased Internet availability & use.
There’s doubtlessly a correlation here, but it’s a good question as to whether Internet use creates dissatisfaction with one’s religious affiliation, or if dissatisfaction with one’s religious affiliation leads one to seek out other answers on the Internet.
This chart is interesting. While the overall percentage of non-affiliated people rose slightly from 1974 to 1990, it wasn’t a dramatic drop and was marked by peaks and valleys. After 1990 (Downey’s arbitrary starting point for mass use of the Internet), the percentage of non-affiliated people dropped noticeably. I’m sure there are several contributing factors to this, but I think the initial surge in the Internet gave a lot of people who had previous drifted from their churches a chance to re-link online, however briefly.
That honeymoon was brief, however, an disinterest in religion rose apace with the spread of the Internet up until the late 1990s. Part of this 8-year plateau can be attributed to anxieties following 9/11, but the plateau had started before then. It was certainly a time of great resurgence in the so-called religious right / moral majority so perhaps their PR efforts paid off.
By 2005, however, the decline in religious affiliation once again matched the spread of the Internet.
Again, correlation is not causation, and there are any number of mechanisms that can be at play here, with no single one the sole agent responsible.
Aww, but what fun is that if you’ve got a cultural axe to grind?
Meet Joel J. Miller, author & blogger, who has parsed Downey’s analysis and has decided people no longer go to church because of Internet porn.
With no numbers to back his assertion up, Miller states Downey’s analysis reflects “the modernist prejudice that equates religion and ignorance.”
Well, yeah, it does, if by “ignorance” you mean “not knowing the self-righteous, self-congratulatory, self-important, self-centered jerks who run too many religious organizations and denominations were banking on none of their parishioners comparing notes with anybody outside the system.”
See, what’s driving people away from mainstream religions is the exact same thing that got them flocking to Jesus in the first place: A recognition that whatever the current orthodoxy is trying to accomplish, it has nothing to do with what God wants, but more to do with said orthodoxy lining the pockets of its leaders and increasing the political clout of its membership.
Add to this the truly treacherous stewpot of misogyny and borderline-to-full-blown child abuse that flourishes in far too many denominations and mega-churches and even small neighborhood churches, and it’s no wonder many people are opting to hit the silk on the whole organized religion experience.
Who can blame them?
 I think the 1976 to 1980 hiccup can be explained with Jimmy Carter. Carter was a sincere, devout Christian who, in the aftermath of Nixon, got people who had only recently drifted away from their affiliations to come back; as the economy grew more problematic and several scandals erupted in & around his administration, people became dissatisfied again. Reagan, a not-particularly religious person, could sure act like one and under his administration the trend reversed itself somewhat though it began rising again.
 The Internet’s hiccup in 2007-09 I attribute to a decline in the economy, particularly a decline in middle class spending power prior to the big stock market / housing collapse: People just couldn’t afford all the Internet services they had enjoyed before. As the economy recovered and as technology prices dropped, Internet use came back.
 Not any true Christians, who in order to be genuine followers of Christ need to adhere to his teaching of “judge not lest ye be judged”.