God's In Google: How The Rise Of The Internet Has Led To The Decline Of Religion

The religion of Google is an idea my brother gave me. He told it to me in passing and it took me a few months to wrap my mind around it. Once I really started thinking about it, I realized it might be the most honest and boldest statement made of this generation. It’s a major discovery and a pretty deep observation about the direction of faith and existence; it’s the first real threat to the church since Tom Cruise.

For the first time in the history of religion, we have answers. Since the birth of Google, we have the ability to assuage any doubts and alleviate any fears, whenever we want. Nothing is a mystery, nothing is "up to God," and everything has an answer… even if it’s wrong.

If you want to find the meaning of life, all you have to do is Google Kafka or Nietzsche. If you want the weather, all you have to do is type in your zip code. If you want passages in the Bible explained and theorized, just search the right pages. If you want to learn about the Qur'an, just download some PDFs. You can get a million answers to the meaning of existence, death and the afterlife. If you really think about it, God is in Google.

In Google, all of our fears are answered and consoled. We can diagnose ourselves, find our own meanings to life and project our own thoughts and feelings for others to hear and respond. We can confess in the open, air out all our dirty laundry and find penance in angry comments and threats. We can attest to our fears and vices and indulge in pleasures. We can sin and pay atonement all within the same screen.

According to a survey conducted in 2008 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the landscape of religion in America is changing, with the habit of "constant movement" characterizing the religious marketplace. Never before have there been such shifts from religious affiliation to non-religious, paralleled with those raised as agnostic switching to religion later in life.

"People moving into the unaffiliated category outnumber those moving out of the unaffiliated group by more than a three-to-one margin. At the same time, however, a substantial number of people (nearly 4 percent of the overall adult population) say that as children they were unaffiliated with any particular religion but have since come to identify with a religious group."

People are starting to change their minds. There's a widespread conversion of principles and beliefs as people begin to find answers somewhere else and reevaluate how their own religion (or lack of one) defines what they've learned and come to believe as true.

However, as I delve deeper into the portal of algorithms and embedded codes, I think it becomes less that God is in Google and more that Google has taken us away from God.

According to the same survey conducted in 2008 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life,

"More than one-quarter of American adults (28 percent) have left the faith in which they were raised in favor of another religion -- or no religion at all."

It may be a wide variety of factors, but I like to think that these shifts in religious beliefs are due to the Internet's availability of ideas. People have another portal to obtain truth, maybe even some truth into the cult they’ve been bred to believe is the right way to live life and praise an unknown entity. The trust and unwavering faith in the church and words of men behind closed doors and robes is unraveling as we become quicker at the keys.

There’s a rise of people leaving religion for the a new type of acceptance. There’s a cross over from faith to reasoning. According to a poll called, “The Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism," reported in The Huffington Post,

“The number of Americans who say they are 'religious' dropped from 73 percent in 2005 to 60 percent in 2012."

Some have argued that atheism itself isn’t on the rise, but that people are more willing to identify as atheists. Even if that is the truth, it’s still a product of acceptance; acceptance in admitting that religion might not be in churches and temples. It’s a widespread affirmation that more people will understand when you say you don’t believe in God.

Suddenly it’s not a heinous crime to tell your parents you don’t want to go to church with them anymore, because now you can support your argument. Now you have research and basis to claim why you think the priests molest children and there’s too much emphasis placed on certain passages that only contradict themselves later on.

Our generation has grown up unlike any before us; we had computers. We had unlimited access to information as children and have only grown up to find more. We've never been denied answers to questions our parents didn't want to talk about or had to find reflection and reasoning in church pews or libraries.

We didn't have to sit in our room asking God why things were happening or finding comfort in his presence. We've had company, answers and concrete truths all on the digitized monitor just steps away.

Photo via Fast Company