Last year, Christian apologist Josh McDowell made a remarkable claim about the Internet, stating that “the abundance of knowledge, the abundance of information, will not lead to certainty; it will lead to pervasive skepticism... the Internet has leveled the playing field [giving equal access to skeptics].”
He said that like it was a bad thing.
It’s not hard to see why McDowell is afraid, though. Open access to knowledge -- the ability to fact check your pastors and imams and rabbis -- is a death knell for religion as we know it, and the Internet is only hastening the process. (I focus on Christianity in this piece because it has the largest Web presence in the United States.)
It wasn’t long ago when statements made in a pulpit were simply assumed to be true. Now, a child with an iPhone in the pew can find ample evidence contradicting whatever the men of God are saying. That “true story” your pastor is telling? Snopes.com debunked it long ago. Gay marriage is destructive, he says? Thousands of YouTube videos made by gays and lesbians in love -- as well as other Christians -- can attest otherwise. Evolution is a liberal conspiracy? TalkOrigins.org will show you how to respond to every argument on the Creationist side. Abstinence-only sex education is working? Not according to the new scientific study you just read.
It’s not only the abundance of information creating nightmares for church leaders. It’s the simple fact that, with a lack of physical buildings in which to meet, atheists tend to congregate online. Until the Internet came along, we didn’t have a space where we could talk about our (lack of) religious beliefs but between blogs, podcasts, and social media sites, atheists have thrived in the age of the Internet.
All the evidence -- and quite a bit of the commentary you read online -- is in our favor and, unless a church forces members to exist in complete isolation from the rest of society, it’s inevitable that they’re going to be exposed to the evidence contradicting their own beliefs one way or the other.
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