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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  1. El Presidente

    So access to information

    Banishes superstition?

    Hoodathunkit?

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

    1. SumDood

      Re: So access to information

      "So access to information

      Banishes superstition?"

      Hardly.

      Have you seen the web? Superstition is rife.

      1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
        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...

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: So access to information

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

      1. Wzrd1

        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.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: So access to information

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

          1. VinceH Silver badge

            Re: So access to information

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

            FIFY.

            1. Euripides Pants Silver badge
              Trollface

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

              Yes, actually, they are

              1. VinceH Silver badge

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

                You're right, they are. My bad.

            2. Peter Simpson 1
              Linux

              Re: So access to information

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

  2. Richard Plinston Silver badge

    """Using Python scripts"""

    The serpent from the tree of knowledge, no doubt.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      """Using Python scripts"""

      Run on an Apple no doubt!

    2. niva441

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

    3. lambda_beta
      Linux

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

  3. Dr Stephen Jones

    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.

    1. Wzrd1

      Re: Choose your poison

      Here, here!

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

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        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.

        1. Hungry Sean
          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.

          1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

            Re: Choose your poison

            Well, on your recommendation, I shall try it.

        2. Michael Dunn
          Thumb Up

          Re: Choose your poison @Trevor Pott

          mmmmm Talisker or Laphrog Quarter-cask!!

          1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

            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.

            1. Peter Simpson 1
              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

              1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                Re: Choose your poison @Trevor Pott

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

      2. Uffish

        Re: Choose your poison

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

      3. SineWave242

        Re: Choose your poison

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

    2. SumDood

      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.

    3. Jacksonville

      Re: Choose your poison

      Lagavulin ftw

  4. DaddyHoggy

    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.

    1. Elmer Phud

      " 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.

  5. Andrew Jones 2

    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

    1. Jim 59

      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.

      1. arober11

        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.

    2. Terry 6 Silver badge

      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.

      1. xperroni

        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.

  6. Herby Silver badge
    Joke

    Could it be......

    SATAN??

    (cue funny violin music)

  7. bearded bearcan
    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 ..

    1. Tim Starling

      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.

      1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        @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?

    2. dan1980

      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.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        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.

        1. dan1980

          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.

      2. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
        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!

    3. SumDood

      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.

      1. southpacificpom
        Megaphone

        Re: Build schools not temples!

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

    4. Jim 59

      Re: Build schools not temples!

      But off course...

      Pretty neat lol if that was deliberate, bb.

    5. This post has been deleted by its author

    6. bearded bearcan
      Mushroom

      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

  8. Fan of Mr. Obvious

    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.

    1. Martin Budden Bronze badge

      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.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: At last, and out

        the damage done to the Church's reputation

        To one church's reputation. And according to the article, most of the decline is among Protestant sects.

        Surely that must have had some effect on people's respect for religion.

        I believe history shows that there are few things that encourage religious fervor more than denouncing another faith. The failings of a single sect do not appear to dissuade followers of other sects; quite the opposite, in fact.

    2. ian 22

      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.

  9. Morrie Wyatt
    Joke

    So to be safe

    We should steer clear of zebra crossings.

    (Or so Douglas Adams tells us.)

    1. Chemist

      Re: So to be safe

      "(Or so Douglas Adams tells us.)"

      On this subject I can hear the Old Thrashbarg (Griff Rhys Jonesl) quote "One day old Thrashbarg said that Almighty Bob had declared that he, Thrashbarg, was to have first pick of the sandwiches."

      1. Morrie Wyatt
        Devil

        Re: So to be safe

        I was thinking more in the realms of the Babel fish entry in the guide.

        1. God refuses to prove that (S)He exists, because proof denies faith, and without faith God is nothing.

        2. Man then counters that the Babel fish is a dead giveaway because it could not have evolved by chance. So the fish proves that God exists, therefore (S)He doesn't. Q.E.D.

        3. God says that (S)He hadn't thought of that, and promptly disappears in a puff of logic.

        "Oh that was easy" says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white, and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing."

        (Or words to that effect anyway.)

        So in many ways, the Internet is the equivalent to the Babel fish.

    2. Jim 59
      Pint

      Douglas Adams

      Now there's a guy who really knew where his towel was.

  10. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    So the internet does some good

    and it's not just cat videos and porn?

    1. DiViDeD Silver badge

      Re: So the internet does some good

      Cat videos and porn ought to be enough good for any reasonable enterprise

      1. ian 22

        Re: So the internet does some good

        Yes, the sacrament of cat video porn. My moggie has a god complex, no doubt from watching too many cat video pornos.

  11. Denarius
    Meh

    did he control for

    A fundamentalist culturally mandated materialist based based belief system managing most schools having an influence ? Meanwhile, Dr S Jones, well put except for last assumption. The existence of forgeries is no proof the genuine does not exist.

    Most of the "internet groups" I observe are just like small communities, especially the materialist ones. I might know, because unlike most commentards, I have lived in multiple small remote communities. Very few had decent coffee too.

    In a cynical moment I question whether the USSA ever had much Christian influence after 1880. The rapid adoption of Darwinian derived politics and social practices suggests a Christian derived view of humanity was weak. Recent surveys( Barma et al) of religious adherents claims of belief were contradicted by their lack of knowledge of their belief systems tenets. Dropping the meaningless labels is merely honesty, not a drop in belief. That I could ascribe to internet use, as more people realise their doubt or disbelief is common.

  12. poopypants

    You know what else was invented at the same time as the Internet?

    The digital answering machine. Coincidence? I think not.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: You know what else was invented at the same time as the Internet?

      I was thinking about blaming the widespread use of unleaded petrol (gasoline, for the Left-pondians).

  13. wx666z
    WTF?

    What's the problem here?

    Having been raised in the Southern Baptist church by my father, a pastor. What's the problem? There is a lot of bovine fecal matter on the 'net, to be exceeded only by religion..

    1. Tromos

      Re: What's the problem here?

      The amount of bovine fecal matter cannot be exceeded by religion. A set is, de facto, larger than one of its subsets.

      1. SumDood

        Re: What's the problem here?

        "A set is, de facto, larger than one of its subsets."

        A set is, de facto, larger than one of its /proper/ subsets.

        FTFY

  14. julianh72

    Great news!

    So the internet causes people to lose their religious faith? That's fantastic news - and I thought all it was good for was porn and cat videos.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: Great news!

      Perhaps it is *precisely* those elements that are responsible!

  15. joe 14
    Mushroom

    Maybe

    We are seeing that part of the brain join other handy but failed appendages like the back boob evolve into oblivion! Darwin and the Internet 1, blind faith 0.

    :)

    1. lambda_beta

      Re: Maybe

      Hey Blind Faith was a great group.

  16. David Walker

    Me thinks me smells the Ecological Fallacy

    Pretty much says it. I would like to think that rational people have come to the conclusion that the god hypothesis is indefensible and this is a trend based on evidence (from the internet et al). But somehow I know it is not. After all the internet is about porn. Information is just a side-effect. The study is specious and based on false correlation - unless some boobies are thrown in.

  17. fishman

    What saved me

    What "saved" me was the Usenet newsgroup talk.origins - I lurked there for years, and came to the conclusion that religion was just bull****. This was before the web even existed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What saved me

      Alleluia, he's Saved! it's a miracle (that he could reach Usenet without an internet connection).

      1. hplasm Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Alleluia, he's Saved!

        Repeat after me:- The Web is not The Net.

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: What saved me

        (that he could reach Usenet without an internet connection

        One word: UUCP

  18. Grikath

    It's "obvious" , but try to quantify it....

    Downey has done a nice bit of work there, really. Not that the conclusion is surprising, or incontentionable, but the article is certainly a step up from the usual trick-cycling.

    Secularisation has been going on in at least the "western world' for at least a century, and is indeed intimately linked with personal prosperity and education. A large part is also caused by a definite shift in social structure which makes Religion less Socially Mandatory. Try the difference in Not Showing Your Ass in Church (any denomination) in the 1970s , 50's , 30's and turn of the 19th century and the impact it will have on your life ( and still has in some parts of the Western World) ... It's a bit of an eye-opener.

    The internet has certainly accelerated secularisation, but I don't feel that it's simply a matter of "available information". A person suffering from Religion not happy in his/her current denomination would simply use that information to switch to some denomination that is more true to his/her "vision" of "proper worship", be that more or less ...radical.

    I think the most likely impact the internet has had is that people who were only Going through the Motions ( which, be honest, is a vast majority) to appease the local busybodies, were suddenly able to get in contact with an extremely large group of like-minded people at relative small cost, making them less isolated, and less dependent on local Opinion, eventually dropping the act.

    There's still many pitfalls in the picture painted by Downey, but I think he's on to something.

  19. Stoneshop Silver badge

    Ahem

    correlation .nes. causation

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Ahem

      Yes, as Downey himself points out in the frickin' article.

  20. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Angel

    They haven't deserted religion

    They've just used the Internet to discover the ultimate truth in the universe and converted to Pastafarianism.

    May you all be touched forever by His Noodly Appendage.

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      Re: They haven't deserted religion

      Ramen.

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: They haven't deserted religion

      The Great Spaghetti Monster in the sky?

  21. 27escape
    Flame

    Should have used perl

    Everyone knows God uses perl.

    He messed up the results because the researcher uses the language of Satan!

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  22. OldDude

    Yikes!

    Y'know.... Using this logic to come to that conclusion has me wondering what qualifications this fellow has that classifies him as a "Computer Scientist".

    If I was to substitute 'XBOX' for 'The Internet' in his paper he might come to the same conclusion....

    I sincerely hope that he only teaches at this school of Engineering.

    Gawd help us if he actually writes code that is used in actual Engineering applications

  23. N2 Silver badge

    Good

    Religion is a cause of great division anyway

  24. jai

    Stewart Lee..

    ..said it best when he compared having religious beliefs with having a mental illness.

  25. Caaaptaaaain kick arse

    Is the Dali Lama a Buddhist?

    Remove the ability for the local witch doctor to be the only source of "knowledge" and people start to think for themselves, well really; who'd a thought it.

    Sure there is nonsense out there, but there's also a 'ess haitch one tee' load of quality educational info too.

  26. The last doughnut

    Something he probably didn't control for

    The rise to dominance of a right-wing media and the decline of reasoned debate.

  27. Big_Boomer Bronze badge

    It's not TRUE?

    You mean that it might all be a pack of lies invented by various people and compiled together hundreds or thousands of years ago by self serving control freaks? Next you'll be telling me that everything I read in newspapers and on the internet isn't necessarily true either. In my opinion the sooner the gullible and uneducated get some education, the better. The world could use something new to fight over. Going to war over religion, resources or damaged pride are all soooooooo last year. So, any bets on when the First Internet War will start and between which factions? <LOL>

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: It's not TRUE?

      1) So last millennium.

      2) The Internet wars are taking place right now.

  28. Swarthy Silver badge

    A friend of mine held the belief that Google had supplanted God

    His reasoning:

    In the past (BG) when people had a question that they could not reason out an answer to, they asked their priest, or prayed; now they just Google it.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: A friend of mine held the belief that Google had supplanted God

      Well, some people do. It still seems most can't be bothered.

      What can you say about a person who has almost the entire knowledge of mankind at their fingertips, but won't bother to access it? Not nice things, for starters.

  29. DougS Silver badge

    I don't see where he makes the correlation

    It sounds like he sees a big change since 1990, and says "hmmm, what else has happened since 1990? Aha, the internet!"

    Since 75% of people are using it, why aren't there a lot more non-religious if it causes people to lose their faith?

    What else has become more prevalent in the US since 1990 that might account for this? Let's see....cell phones....craft beers.....antilock brakes....

    Or maybe something has left our lives and the lack makes people lose their faith? What could that be? Landlines.....fax machines.....leaded gasoline...

    Of all these tongue in cheek reasons, leaded gasoline is the only one that might have a chance at being true. It has already been linked pretty well to the drop in violent crime in the US (even down to the county level, the data is quite amazing) Maybe lead in the bloodstream makes people more likely to seek religion, and with environmental lead at the lowest levels for centuries it could be causing people to abandon religion :)

    Or hey, maybe it is because bible thumpers keep wanting to condemn gays, but most people under 40 or 50 have had gay friends for a long time now, and having failed to be raped by them or otherwise corrupted, realize that if the evangelicals are wrong about that, maybe they're wrong about other stuff and shouldn't be listened to any more.

  30. localzuk

    Correlation/Causation?

    From this article, it screams a typical example of lack of proof of causation, but that there is merely correlation between the 2 things. Does internet access drive reduction in religious beliefs? I fear the only way to figure that out would be an in depth study of internet users and their religious beliefs over time.

    Otherwise, its basically guesswork.

  31. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Be Afraid

      Yes.

      Have an upvote.

  32. The Grinning Duck
    Pint

    Outstanding Work, El Reg. Outstanding.

    The 'That's me in the chatroom...' sub-heading for some reason had me giggling like a giddy squirrel.

    When one of my young whipper-snapper co-workers asked why I was unceremoniously spilling tea everywhere I showed her the article, and was met with a blank; "I don't get it."

    The young lass had no idea what either REM or a Chatroom were.

    So, not only is the internet killing religion, it's also showing signs of evolution before our very eyes.

    The whole thing has amused me so much that I can, for the moment at least, manage to not be too bothered by the fact that I appear to be a doddery old git at the ripe old age of 35.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Outstanding Work, El Reg. Outstanding.

      After 30, it's all downhill.

    2. southpacificpom

      Re: Outstanding Work, El Reg. Outstanding.

      "The whole thing has amused me so much that I can, for the moment at least, manage to not be too bothered by the fact that I appear to be a doddery old git at the ripe old age of 35."

      You think you have it bad now, just wait till you fucking hit 50...

  33. whitegoat

    The Teflon God & his Whipping Boy

    If only religion could have figured out the incest thingy maybe knowledge wouldn't have gain a foothold. Gawd I miss good old fashion ignorance, maybe I'll join the Teaparty.."ignorance for all". The decline in religion started long before the web was in place, the web is most likely an accelerator of an on going trend. If you can't eat, spend or screw it..who cares? Welcome to the 3rd millennium...

  34. BongoJoe

    And that leaves how many?

    "the number of people citing no religious belief increased from 8 to 18 per cent between 1990 and 2010"

    1. Fan of Mr. Obvious

      Re: And that leaves how many?

      It would be good to know just how many, but just how 'much' of the additional 10 percent was along which of the last 20 years. I seriously doubt the Internet had much impact on the uninitiated from 1990 to 1998-- maybe even until 2003. In fact, I do not recall a single conversation about religion in any BBS I visited. Or wait, maybe that was what the gal on CompuServe was talking about when she mentioned heaven. All this time I thought she was talking about... well, you know.

  35. This post has been deleted by its author

  36. ecofeco Silver badge

    The Interent destroys relegious belief?

    And here I thought it was the never ending, once every decade, soul crushing, saving's draining, jobless recovery recessions.

    Silly me.

  37. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Homeopathic Space-Aliens are to blame. I read it on the webz.

  38. The Grump
    Pint

    No Gods, No Kings, just men

    Basically, religion and government are the same thing. "Believe in me, and good things will come your way" can be heard not only from churches, mosques, synagogues, etc., but from almost every politician on the planet. Here in the states, we have a man called Obama who desperately wants to be a God. "Pray to me, do EXACTLY what I say, and good things will come your way". Obama isn't the only God wannabe - all politicians wish people everywhere would just OBEY them. The US founding fathers knew this - that is why they tried to keep the US government as minimal as possible.

    Religion was founded originally to give the poor people of various towns and kingdoms who had nothing to lose - something to lose if they misbehaved - their immortal soul. A brilliant invention, now the peons had to behave, or risk a one way trip to hell, hades, etc. You cannot disprove the existence of a soul, so now churches had the perfect racket to make big bucks - until the internet. Weren't "round earthers" prosecuted by the church back in the day?

    I lost my religion while raised as a Methodist Christian. Cracks began to form when they told me that Rock and Roll music was "the devil's music". Then they couldn't tell me why dinosaurs weren't in the Bible, after the existence of dinosaurs was proven without a doubt. No "a great lizard swallowed the third brother of Issac" or anything like that. Another crack in my belief. Finally, after years of watching these so-called "Christians" acting like jerks while patting themselves on the back for being so "holy" - my belief finally shattered, once and for all.

    God doesn't answer prayers anymore. I bet Anne Frank was praying her little butt off for the Nazi's to not find her - we all know how well that worked. Try praying for the Sun to rise in the west and see what you get. The truest thing I ever heard about religion is - "God helps those who help themselves". Even Jesus knew if he stepped off that mountain that God wouldn't catch him. Smart guy! God will also not help - your team win - your uncle to recover from cancer - you win the lottery - or make your beer any colder. I have relegated God to the same bin of mythical characters as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Government "help". Believe in yourself. NEVER believe in religion OR politicians. YOU are the only one you can truly trust. Oh yeah - believe in beer, and all the women in the bar will look more attractive. It's a miracle !

  39. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Where have I seen this before...?

    ..."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. Also, in order to explain changes over time, this third factor would have to be new and rising in prevalence, like the Internet, during the 1990s and 2000s. It is hard to imagine what that factor might be."

    So the argument is

    1 - the cause needs to be fairly new and expanding over the 1990s and 2000s

    2 - we can't think of anything that matches apart from the Internet

    3 - it must be that, then.

    Does this remind you of:

    1 - the average Earth temperature rose in the 1980s and 1990s

    2 - we find that CO2 concentration was also rising during that period

    3 - it must be that, then.

    Both of these hypotheses assume that there is one single cause for your phenomenon, and once you have identified a likely candidate there is no point examining the data closely or looking any further...

    ("Won't someone think of the children!" - because climate change and religion also use exactly that argument as well...)

  40. southpacificpom

    Monty Python

    "Using Python scripts for analysis, Downey found that the biggest influence on religious belief was whether or not children had been raised in a particular faith"

    Yeah but did he use Python 2.x or 3.x?

  41. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    Bravo, Reg commentators!

    I'm cheered to see so many of you - Andrew Jones 2, Fan of Mr Obvious, Martin Budden, Denarius, David Walker, Stoneshop, OldDude, The last doughnut, DougS, localzuk - took the time to read the paper and develop thoughtful, informed, trenchant critiques of the methodology and analysis employed by Downey and his team.

    Otherwise, we might have missed out on the knee-jerk accusations of mistaking correlation for causation and so forth that Reg commentators feel they must post whenever any study is reported here. No doubt there are still some readers who have never encountered these concepts, and likely the authors of the study never have either.

  42. JustWondering
    Happy

    Really?

    What's that? Education and information are cutting down on cult members?

  43. Richard Altmann
    Devil

    OMG!

    "the number of people citing no religious belief increased from 8 to 18 per cent between 1990 and 2010"

    So, if one looks linear, it will take another ~ 200 years for mankind to overcome the worst desease that ever befelt it. At that time waterlevels will have risen to catastrophic heights, due to a popular religion (Treehuggers). Resulting in the launch of Noah´s Ark 2.0 and it all starts over again. We are trapped in a hamster wheel!

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