The internet is killing religion with nollij! It's true! I read it on the Internet!
In recent months, this sense that the Internet is the key for atheist outreach has started to move from “hunch” to actual, evidence-based theory. Earlier this year, Allen Downey of the Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts examined the spike in people declaring they had no religion that started in the ’90s and found that while there are many factors contributing to it–dropping familial pressure, increased levels of college education–increased Internet usage was likely a huge part of it, accounting for up to 25 percent of the decline in religious belief. While cautioning that correlation does not mean causation, Downey did go on to point out that since so many other factors were controlled for, it’s a safe bet to conclude that the access to varied thought and debate the Internet provides is persuading people to drop their religions.
That quote skips my favorite line from the piece: "Above all else, it’s private. An online search on atheism is much easier to hide than, say, a copy of The God Delusion on your nightstand."
Because nothing says "nollij" like that steaming pile of crap! Unless it's that quote, which literally makes a leap of faith, or certainly of logic, from "cautioning that correlation does not mean causation" to "conclude that the access to varied thought and debate the Internet provides is persuading people to drop their religions." Because why let matters of causal analysis stand in the way of a good conclusion? Amirite?
The irony here is that, in the name of information and "varied thought" and "debate," this article presents none of those things. The information is woefully wrong and baseless; the thought is the same Johnny One-Note that religious people don't think and atheists alone have the power of ratiocination; and that comments and posts on the internet constitute "debate." Consider this comment, from the article:
I know! In 1718, Pope Gregory XV established a committee of cardinals to handle missionary work (and we all know how important missionary work is to the church of the LAtter Day Saints, do we not?). It was called a "congregation for propagating the faith", or in the original Latin, Congregatio de Propaganda Fide, later shortened to the third word. Just a single word one can use in place of over a dozen!
What? You don't like it? But it's perfect! Why should such a catchy word not be used?
Which prompted this enlightened (and, as far as I can tell, thoroughly un-ironic) response:
Thanks for the history lesson!! I never knew that's where "Propaganda" came from!
We are smart! We make things go!
Adding: for those interested, this article links to the study mentioned in the quote above, and also gives good reason not to put nearly as much stock in it as Marcotte does. But, again, even in the "reality-based community," reasoning is hard; ranting is easy.