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back to article Internet is a TOOL OF SATAN that destroys belief, study claims

A US computer scientist has released a study claiming to have found out why so many Americans are abandoning their religious faith and says it's the internet's fault. "Internet use decreases the chance of religious affiliation," reports Allen Downey, professor of computer science at Olin school of engineering. Downey analyzed …

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So access to information

Banishes superstition?

Hoodathunkit?

Next up, pope seen squatting in the woods ...

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Re: So access to information

"So access to information

Banishes superstition?"

Hardly.

Have you seen the web? Superstition is rife.

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Angel

Re: So access to information

Maybe that's why. If you have one, carefully edited, book of ridiculous superstition, it looks believable. If you see thousands of conflicting superstitions...

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Re: So access to information

It was teaching the peasants to read that began the decline - damn enlightenment.

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Re: So access to information

I'll side with the author's opinion.

Nobody wants to admit being affiliated with a bunch of assholes that are foaming at the mouth of a lot of nothing.

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Re: So access to information

That's not fair - not all Opera users are like that !

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Re: So access to information

"That's not fair - not all Opera Apple users are like that !"

FIFY.

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Trollface

Re: "not all Apple users are like that !"

Yes, actually, they are

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Re: "not all Apple users are like that !"

You're right, they are. My bad.

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Linux

Re: So access to information

"That's not fair - not all Opera Apple Linux users are like that !"

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"""Using Python scripts"""

The serpent from the tree of knowledge, no doubt.

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"""Using Python scripts"""

Run on an Apple no doubt!

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My first thought was he was using Monty Python scripts as his source

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Linux

Those damn pagan Python scripts ... what do you expect from code with no semicolons? They rely on indentation ... the devil's work.

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Choose your poison

"Here in the US, the last twenty years have seen a radical – and highly vocal – group of Protestants calling for the installation of a theocracy in the US, claiming evolution and Christianity are incompatible, and claiming the ills of the world are down to things like gay marriage or the ACLU."

While another bunch of highly vocal theocrats blow up statutes and attack young girls who want to be educated. (These pop up in under developed countries, far away).

And a third, highly vocal bunch of theocrats argue that mankind is wicked, that we must stop defacing the Earth Goddess Gaia, and we must obey their High Priests, whose medieval prescriptions must be obeyed. (These theocrats are the ones who pass laws, right here).

So *faith* and *faith-based authoritarianism* is clearly on the rise - and whatever the Internet has to offer, like Twitter, doesn't seem to diminish it. Sorry Professor Downey.

Personally, given the choice of three completely crap religions, I'll take a straight scotch please. No ice.

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Re: Choose your poison

Here, here!

I'll pass on the scotch, but will take a fine Irish whiskey.

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Re: Choose your poison

""Here in the US, the last twenty years have seen a radical – and highly vocal – grou

...

While another bunch of highly vocal

...

And a third, highly vocal bunc

...

So *faith* and *faith-based authoritarianism* is clearly on the rise"

Yes.

But you omitted the fundamentalist myth-makers with the biggest following of blind believers: bankers.

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Re: Choose your poison

"fine Irish whiskey"

These exist? I'll take a single malt, please. Speyside or from the highlands. Glenrothes, if you have it...but Glenmorangie will do.

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Re: Choose your poison

Irsh poteen refreshes the faith that other poisons can't reach.

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Re: Choose your poison

I don't care for as long as it contains alcohol. :lol: Anyway, yeah - that's it.

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Go

Re: Choose your poison

Trevor, I highly recommend you treat yourself to some Red Breast. Excellent stuff. I am so glad we can enjoy both whiskey and whisky-- no need to be exclusive.

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Re: Choose your poison

Well, on your recommendation, I shall try it.

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Re: Choose your poison @Trevor Pott

mmmmm Talisker or Laphrog Quarter-cask!!

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Re: Choose your poison

Lagavulin ftw

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Re: Choose your poison @Trevor Pott

Now Talisker I have tried, and compared to Glenrothes it might as well be turpentine.

Next time you're in a decent liqour store, do yourself a favour and buy some Glenrothes.

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Coat

Re: Choose your poison @Trevor Pott

I think we may have accidentally hit up on the problem with organized religion:

the selection and dosage of communion wine

Perhaps a change is in order?

// whisky icon lamentably missing, but perhaps I have some in my pocket

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Re: Choose your poison @Trevor Pott

His noodly self says "no more than two fingers a night, suh!"

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Access to the Internet allows all fairy tales to be viewed on a level playing field, a few organised religions are noise compared to the church of Candy Crush and the ilk.

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" a few organised religions are noise compared to the church of Candy Crush and the ilk."

And they are all after your money - the one true God.

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I think Mr Downey should really be versed in things like - Post hoc ergo propter hoc

As the fine Mr Minchin describes here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQjqxayxwt4

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Can't see any direct connection between t'internet itself and religious faith. You can surf to your local church site just as easily as any other.

"The early Catholic church frowned upon translating the Bible into languages other than Latin... because it's easier to control a flock of parishioners when only the priest can translate life's instruction manual."

The "peasantry" could not read Latin because they could not read any language. Previously, information had been passed down generations using the "oral tradition". By the time of the early Christians, there was a standard "world" language available: Latin, spoken and written throughout the Roman empire. It was therefore a no-brainer to write your early books in Latin, especially if you were Roman or a Roman subject, as the early Christians were, and especially if you were taking your books to distant Roman colonies, as they were, and particularly if you were trying to convert Romans, as they were.

Latin of course later became the, er, de-facto international language for science, mathematics and art in Europe, used in every serious writing from the Lindisfarne Gospels to Newtons laws of motion.

The first English translation was made in the 10th century by Aldred, a scribe and priest. It made the gospels more accessible to but widespread bibles could not happen until after the invention of printing 400 years later.

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Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Coptic...... not Latin

For "Early Church" read "High Medieval", the Early Church had it's texts recorded in virtually every contemporary southern mediterranean language: Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Coptic...... and the canon (books) of the bible were not fixed before the Synod of Hippo at the end of the 4th century. With the first full Latin texts only emerging in the 5th century (so not Early). The Catholic church did explicitly prohibit non Latin / official versions of the bible in 1199, via a decree of Pope Innocent III, but by the 16th century the church was officially sanctioning non Latin translations of the bible.

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Post hoc ergo propter hoc

Andrew Jones 2. Good point.

It was that sort of thinking that lead to the MMR nonsense.

It's particulalry dangerous since it also supports confirmation bias.

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Re: Post hoc ergo propter hoc

I think Mr Downey should really be versed in things like - Post hoc ergo propter hoc

Though in the article he does claim to have looked for a common factor that would explain concurrent Internet expansion and increased disaffiliation, but couldn't find any:

"Although a third unidentified factor could cause both disaffiliation and Internet use, we have controlled for most of the obvious candidates, including income, education, socioeconomic status, and rural/urban environments," Downey states.

Surely we aren't supposed to expect it's the other way around, and it's the raise in disaffiliation that's driving Internet expansion?

To be sure, I tend towards Thomson's contention that the increased radicalization of the Protestant movement is more likely to blame. But I don't think Downey is jumping into conclusions either; the analysis work seems sound. It might just be that he's giving too much credit to the reliability of his data, a problem all too common in poll-based research.

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Joke

Could it be......

SATAN??

(cue funny violin music)

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Holmes

Build schools not temples!

But off course. The internet is a GREAT source of information (du-uh). The level of superstition is inversely proportional to your level of knowledge. Only a select few obviously crazy but educated people would try to pray a rocket into space.

Some of my tax money has been spent on 'rebuilding' Afghanistan over the past 12 years. Most of that money, I suspect, have been used to build mosques rather than schools. That makes me so angry I wanna ..

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Re: Build schools not temples!

Your own completely uninformed speculation makes you angry? You must have a short fuse. Go read http://results.usaid.gov/afghanistan and calm down a bit.

It's funny to see such a comment on an article about the internet making people better-informed.

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Re: Build schools not temples!

@bearded bearcan

I don't think it's that "superstition is inversely proportional to . . . knowledge" (though this is likely true) so much as access to competing ideas means that some people will choose those ideas over the previous incumbents.

The reason I sideline 'superstition' for the moment is that this holds true in all areas, from world views, to scientific hypotheses to lasagne recipes (or spelling).

Religion thrives in insular communities and it is no coincidence that cults and even 'mainstream' religious sects often cultivate a strong in-group/out-group mentality, which keeps people surrounded by the preferred ideas of the group and insulated from the competing ideas of the broader community.

The Internet is the broadest community yet realised and, as such, it's home to every stripe of idea, from the profound to the ridiculous. While this study focuses on people leaving religion (as a whole), it's just as likely that access to such a broad spread of ideas will see a Christian replacing on set of superstitions for another (perhaps more marginal) set.

But, again, the same is true in many areas. A small, isolated Italian town might well be intensely Catholic but are just as likely to be strongly devoted to a particular risotto recipe, which they believe to be true and faithful.

Religion is an interesting case in that they are, generally, internally inconsistent and lack any real evidence or explanatory power. This should mean that access to critical analysis from 'outsiders' should cause adherents to abandon their religions in droves. That this does not happen to the extent that one might (naively) think is due in part to the ability of these religions to foster the idea of a besieged group, attacked from all sides by the evil of a 'liberal'/'secular'/'godless' outside world.

Such a mentality often serves to strengthen resolve internally and allows people to reject even the most rational and compelling opposition as (e.g.) the work of Satan.

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@Tim Starling

Thanks for the link detailing how US aid money for Afghanistan is divided. I am more interested in results:

29% for economic development. Production is up: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opium_Production_in_Afghanistan

Is the rest of the spending as successful?

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Re: Build schools not temples!

"Some of my tax money has been spent on 'rebuilding' Afghanistan over the past 12 years. Most of that money, I suspect, have been used to build mosques rather than schools."

If you do the research you'll find that most of it has gone into the coffers of the military-industrial complex that a certain Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about 50 years ago.

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Re: Build schools not temples!

But off course...

Pretty neat lol if that was deliberate, bb.

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Re: Build schools not temples!

"superstition is inversely proportional to . . . knowledge" (though this is likely true)

Overwhelming evidence suggests otherwise. Indeed, I can't think of a of a historical period where a majority of the most-knowledgeable documented figures of the time were not also superstitious.

Knowledge as such does not convey the ability to think critically, much less the motive to do so.

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Megaphone

Re: Build schools not temples!

No doubt it's been used to build mosques on your home turf too!

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Re: Build schools not temples!

"I can't think of a of a historical period where a majority of the most-knowledgeable documented figures of the time were not also superstitious."

What about recent history? That's if you take the recognised bodies of science - the various national academies such as the Royal Society in the UK and its equivalents around the world - as being a good example of knowledgeable folk.

Certainly if you go back far enough then sure - tribal leaders may well have been spiritual leaders as well but that does not necessarily mean that they, personally we more superstitious than the rest of the population. (Though they very well may have been.)

HOWEVER, when talking about knowledge vs superstition, we probably have to be a bit more precise as to the type of knowledge being discussed.

Given that belief-systems have been, in part, designed to explain the observed world and phenomena, one must really look at knowledge that showed/shows either:

a.) a discrepancy with the prevailing superstitions, and/or

b.) and alternative explanation.

Knowledge of earthquakes - including measurements and analysis to the point of designing structures resistant to the effects - doesn't serve to dispel superstitions that earthquakes are caused by a supernatural agent.

Knowledge of plate tectonics, however, does help to reduce superstition.

And, while even now many people still believe that such natural disasters are sent as punishment from a deity, you will not find any respected scientists amongst their number.

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Re: Build schools not temples!

Whohoa! That hit a few nerves. Ok so not *most* of the aid has gone to rebuilding houses of worship and superstition. *Some* of the money has been wasted on such nonsense. And that makes me sad and angry. A penny spent on a temple of any kind is a penny wasted. Who agrees?

http://www.factcheck.org/2011/03/funding-mosques-overseas

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Childcatcher

Re: Build schools not temples!

...but are just as likely to be strongly devoted to a particular risotto recipe, which they believe to be true and faithful.

There is only One True Risotto!

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At last, and out

" 'Although a third unidentified factor could cause both disaffiliation and Internet use, we have controlled for most of the obvious candidates, including income, education, socioeconomic status, and rural/urban environments,' Downey states."

Okay, glad they accounted for "most" of the obvious [big ugly gorilla] factors before deciding the Internet must be the problem. At least I know what to blame my next exodus on.

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Re: At last, and out

Didn't Downey even consider the damage done to the Church's reputation by revelations (no pun intended) of widespread paedophilia and the systematic covering up of that abuse? Surely that must have had some effect on people's respect for religion.

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Re: At last, and out

I believe in the FSM, and it's earthly incarnation, the Holy Internet. The chat rooms say it, and I believe it.

The EU schismatics should be sent to Coventry.

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