A new survey by researchers at Baylor University finds that most Americans don’t use the Internet to find religious or spiritual content and most don’t see technology and the Internet as threats to their faith.
According to the study, “American Values, Mental Health and Using Technology in the Age of Trump,” researchers at Baylor University, a private Christian University in Waco, Texas, found that 62 per cent of Americans say that the Internet has no effect on them spiritually and 55 per cent said that they never use the Internet to access religious or spiritual content.
The survey polled 1,501 adults randomly chosen from across the country, representing a wide diversity of religious faiths, including those who ascribe to no religious faith. Although nine out of ten respondents said that the Internet exposes them to new perspectives, online activity does not appear to be where most people go to seek out or communicate with others about their faith.
“Regardless of religious tradition, a vast majority of respondents have never used the Internet to share their religious views,” says Paul McClure, co-author of the report. “Only 23% of all respondents say that they impart their beliefs online.”
A full 77 per cent said that they never use the Internet to share their religious views and only 18 per cent agreed with the statement that technology has improved their relationship with God. Almost 90 per cent disagreed with the idea that science and technology will make religion obsolete.
A similar disconnect between faith and the Internet seems to be par for the course in Canada, too. Derek Ouellette writes regularly on the topic of Christianity and social media for the (online, of course) publication, Christian Week, and he argues that although churches have much to gain from having a social media presence, churches in Canada have been slow to expand in that direction, even more so than similar organizations in the United States.
“I think one of the main reasons why Canadian churches are less likely to embrace social media than our American counterparts is that we have more small churches per capita with an older ministerial,” writes Ouellette. “Smaller churches don’t have the resources to commit to a social media strategy and an aging ministerial is less prone to embracing the digital ministry avenue.”
But Ouellette thinks that an online presence today is key, if a church wants to fulfill its mandate.
“In other words, go to where the people are,” writes Ouellette. “And when almost 1 1/2 billion people are on Facebook and more than 3 billion people are on the internet, there can be little doubt about what Jesus’ commission means for his Church today.”
The Baylor survey also looked at how religious values predict political support for US President Donald Trump, finding that of those that voted for Trump in last year’s election, the majority consider themselves to be “very religious,” to believe that God is actively engaged in world affairs and to think of the United States as a Christian nation.
The rport found that 63 per cent of Evangelical Protestant respondents said that they support Trump, in comparison to 42 per cent of Roman Catholics and 40 per cent of “mainline Protestants.”