I’ve been reading, and enjoying, Bradley Wright’s Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites… and Other Lies You’ve Been Told. Wright is Associate Professor of Sociology and UConn. The assertion of his book is pretty simple: The numbers purported to tout the decline of evangelicalism are being wrongly used…
- By liberals and secularists who want to see evangelicalism go away
- By evangelicals wanting to whip up their troops
From my perspective, both of these observations are spot-on.
Of course, the “numbers” I’m referring are what Time Magazine called The Rise of the Nones. Who are these rising “nones”? They are the “none of the aboves,” those 16% of Americans who eschew religious affiliation. It’s a growing demographic that has caused much consternation among evangelicals and much glee among non-evangelicals.
But by far, it’s opponents of evangelicalism that have piled on. Seems like every other religious poll or statistic fuels their narrative that Organized Religion is Dying. At least, according to them. However, the degree to which this religious decline is celebrated smacks of over-compensation. In other words, they want to see evangelicalism decline and will play up every possible angle to ensure it does.
Which is what I felt as I read the following article.
In Does the Internet Spell Doom for Organized Religion? psychologist Valerie Tarico writes::
A traditional religion, one built on “right belief,” requires a closed information system. That is why the Catholic Church put an official seal of approval on some ancient texts and banned or burned others. It is why some Bible-believing Christians are forbidden to marry nonbelievers. It is why Quiverfull moms home-school their kids with carefully screened textbooks. It is why, when you get sucked into conversations with your fundamentalist Uncle George from Florida, you sometimes wonder if he has some superpower that allows him to magically close down all avenues into his mind. (He does!)
Religions have spent eons honing defenses that keep outside information away from insiders. The innermost ring wall is a set of certainties and associated emotions like anxiety and disgust and righteous indignation that block curiosity. The outer wall is a set of behaviors aimed at insulating believers from contradictory evidence and from heretics who are potential transmitters of dangerous ideas. These behaviors range from memorizing sacred texts to wearing distinctive undergarments to killing infidels. Such defenses worked beautifully during humanity’s infancy. But they weren’t really designed for the current information age.
And just when my info-bubble got cozy.
According to Tarico, there are six kinds of web content that is progressively destroying organized religion:
- Radically cool science videos and articles.
- Curated collections of ridiculous beliefs.
- The kinky, exploitative, oppressive, opportunistic and violent sides of religion.
- Supportive communities for people coming out of religion.
- Lifestyles of the fine and faithless.
- Interspiritual okayness.
Nothing like a “radically cool science video” to obliterate thousands of years of church history.
Sorry, but if this is the “information” I’m supposed to fear, it’s not working. In fact, it’s rather fitting that the author ends her article with this blustery warning:
The Vatican, and the Mormon Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and the Southern Baptist Convention should be very worried.
Can the Catholic Church withstand the unfiltered fury of the interwebs? Will the Southern Baptist Convention endure the onslaught of “Lifestyles of the fine and faithless”? Can evangelicalism survive the “Curated collections of ridiculous beliefs”?
It leaves me yearning for the Dark Ages.
Oh. One other ingredient for the blender. The author has written a book entitled Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light. Is it a coincidence that a “former evangelical” is opining about the impending doom of organized religion? I think not. Which brings me back to my initial assertion: They want to see evangelicalism decline and will play up every possible angle to ensure it does. Including how the Worldwide Web spells out our doom.
Jesus said that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His Church (Matt. 16:18). But that was before the internet.