Internet Appears to Fuel "Personalized Religion"

While the Internet can certainly aid in promoting the truth and spreading the gospel, one recent study reveals the profoundly negative impact it has had on young peoples’ views of church affiliation in general and orthodox Christian doctrine in particular. A Baylor University study titled “Tinkering with Technology and Religion in a Digital Age,” authored by Baylor professor Paul McClure, seems to indicate that the Internet is becoming an authoritative resource for unorthodox views of Christianity and is also pushing young people further away from interest in connecting with a church or religious institution. McClure told Baptist News Global, “Where the Internet did have an effect … was with religious affiliation as well as the exclusivism index,” that is, a belief in the idea that all religions “essentially believe and worship the same deity” (Baptist News Global, “Do-It-Yourself Faith on the Rise Thanks to the Web, Study Finds,” 1-22-18). The BNG article noted that McClure’s analysis of a 2010 Gallup poll of 1,714 people “discovered a correlation between increased Internet time and decreased religious affiliation” due to the vast number of religious ideas and texts available online. “That kind of tinkering mentality, or cut-and-paste approach to religion, has been around for a long time,” he said, but added, “Technology just intensifies it.” According to McClure, the Internet enables users to arrive at a customized religion by “making reality fit personal preferences.” This final observation by McClure seems to be the root of the problem today, and most pastors who have witnessed this trend in their own churches would probably admit that people—especially young people—desire to find a religion that fits their own perceptions or lifestyles and desire to “worship” on their own terms rather than on God’s terms. The vast amount of instantaneous information available today is not inherently evil, but when unbelievers or immature Christians begin to “surf the web” and find false teachers—“Christian” or secular—who use the Internet as a platform to disseminate their errors, such individuals will always find what they are looking for. Bible-believing Christians today not only must be acutely aware of the dangers of false teaching so readily available via the Internet, but they also must counter such error with the unchanging truth of God’s Word.