Internet use can't drastically affect our way of thinking or our religious beliefs, despite the fact that being online has become part of our daily routines and clearly has some influence on our lives, sociologist Paul K. McClure told Sputnik.
"It's strange to think that something as mundane as surfing the Internet might affect how we see the world or think about something as important as religion. My study shows that people who spend more time online are less likely to affiliate with one specific religious tradition, but they are more likely to tinker with a variety of religious ideas and beliefs," the analyst argued.
In a study, published in Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, McClure conducted a nation-wide survey in the US that covered 1,714 adult respondents. During the survey, McClure asked people about internet usage and their religious beliefs.
It turned out that heavy internet use does not make people less religious, when it comes to religious activities. But if we speak about religion as a teaching or dogma, then contemporary religious belief is changing noticeably.
"There are really two schools of thought on this. One is that the Internet corrals people into like-minded groups and prevents us from being exposed to ideas that run contrary to what we already believe. The other school of thought holds that the Internet bombards us with all kinds of different ideas, including ones that we wouldn't have been exposed to otherwise," McClure explained.
According to the expert, the internet can be a helpful tool to find out more about various religions and get to know people with different faith traditions. At the same time, being online a lot might partly diminish a person's religious beliefs.
McClure's research is based on data from 2010. The analyst acknowledged the fact that the situation is likely to have "somewhat" changed since then.
In 2014, when he began his studies, data from 2010 would be relatively fresh, but today people spend more and more time with their smartphones or computers than their television sets (his research found that in 2010 people were spending more time on average watching television than surfing the Internet.). This fact could affect the outcome of the study, which is why its results should primarily be taken as indicative of a more general trend.
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