A computer scientist analyzed data to determine factors contributing to the drop in religious affiliation among Americans and concluded that the Internet was helping drive this trend.
After conducting rigorous research, Allen Downey from the Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts identified several factors, but highlighted the Internet as a key component propelling a declining association with a specific religion in the U.S., according to the MIT Technology Review.
In 1990, about eight percent of Americans reported no religious preference. This percentage more than doubled to 18 percent by 2010.
Downey said this increase correlates to an uptick in Internet use.
To reach this conclusion, he pulled data from the General Social Survey, a sociological survey led by the University of Chicago that looks at people’s behaviors and demographics.
The General Social Survey asked people questions about their current religious preference, what religion they were raised with and the number of hours they spend surfing the web — it also gathered information on people’s backgrounds, including age, level of education and socioeconomic group.
Downey studied the responses of nearly 9,000 people. He determined that religious upbringing and level of education were important factors. However, they didn’t account for the entire percentage of individuals losing their faith.
He noticed that an increase in Internet usage mirrored a decrease in religious affiliation.
While it is not a black-and-white matter, Downey said the “correlation does provide evidence in favor of causation.”