What Part Did the Internet Play in Your Loss of Faith?

What Part Did the Internet Play in Your Loss of Faith? March 3, 2016

CulpeperBaptistby Bruce Gerencser cross posted from his blog The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser

I am of the opinion that the advent of the internet is hastening America’s march towards secularism and unbelief. Prior to Al Gore inventing the internet, knowledge was controlled by academic institutions, libraries, churches, and mainstream media outlets. Today, Americans are exposed to dizzying amount of data. Thanks to Google, known as GOD at our house, the answers to every question are but a search away.

Before the internet, Evangelicals relied on their pastors and Sunday school teachers to tell them the “truth” about God, Jesus, church history, and the Bible. Questions and doubts were taken to pastors for resolution. These men of God were expected to speak authoritatively and put church members’ doubts to rest. Doubt is a tool used by Satan to rob Christians of their joy, peace, and happiness, countless Evangelical pastors told their congregations. If in doubt, just BELIEVE! The problem, of course, is that most people, Christians included, do have doubts and questions. Now that three-fourths of American homes have broadband internet access, doubting and questioning Evangelicals no longer have to rely on their pastors for answers.

I started blogging in 2007. At the time, I was still a Christian. On the last Sunday of 2008, I attended church for the last time. Filled with questions and doubts that had been percolating for years, I came to the realization that I was no longer a Christian. The internet played a crucial part in my deconversion. It connected me with like-minded people, those with similar doubts, questions, and fears. Thanks to internet (and search engines), hundreds of thousands of people have come to this blog (or one of its previous iterations) seeking answers to their questions and interaction with like-minded people. I have been blessed to meet countless people from the vast corners of the world. I have hundreds of what I call digital friends, people I likely will never meet, but who play an important and helpful part in my life. And I hope that in some small way, telling my story and critiquing Evangelical Christianity has been a help to those who visit this site.

Recently, I stumbled upon a post by Joel Miller. Miller’s blog is hosted by Patheos on the Evangelical channel. In April of 2014, Miller wrote a post titled, Is Internet Porn to Blame for the Rise of the Nones? He later changed the title to How Internet Porn Explains the Decline of American Faith. Miller, who is vice president of acquisitions for Nelson Books at Thomas Nelson, doesn’t think the internet plays an instrumental part in the rapid rise of the NONES, those who self-identify as atheists, agnostics, or indifferent towards religion. Instead, Miller blames porn. That’s right. It is not doubts and questions that have caused a loss of faith; it is easy access to internet pornography.

Miller writes:

Since the early 1990s, there has been a significant uptick in Americans abandoning their faith. After crunching the numbers, one researcher says contributing factors such as upbringing and education only explain part of the increase. What about the rest?

After controlling for variables like income, environment, and so on, computer scientist Allen Downey of Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts found 25 percent of the decline can be correlated with Internet access. More Web, less faith.

Why? Here’s Downey’s stab at an answer: “For people living in homogeneous communities, the Internet provides opportunities to find information about people of other religions (and none), and to interact with them personally.” So increased exposure leads to doubt, disagreement, disenchantment, and ultimately to discarding your faith.

….

Disaffiliation should come as no surprise. We’ve already seen that porn makes prayer and beneficial contemplation impossible. Given the Christian understanding of the spiritual life, we’re not capable of simultaneously pursuing our lusts and sanctification. Such a pursuit causes internal dissonance, and the only resolution involves eventually conceding to the pull of one or the other.

….

If the rise of the internet has anything to do with a loss of faith — and it’s an interesting thought — the role of ideas is likely minimal. Arguments don’t cool many hearts, but sin surely does.

While I certainly agree that the internet gives us ready access to a wide array of eroticism and pornography, I seriously doubt that the road out of Christianity is paved with YouPorn videos and JPEGs of naked men and women. Miller, a committed purveyor of endless books that are meant to answer Christian doubts and questions, dares not admit that the real problem is one of knowledge. Doing so would put the blame for the NONES squarely back on Christian sects, churches, and pastors. Doing so would open pastors up to charges of deceit and promoting ignorance. We can’t have that, so those who have exited the Evangelical church stage left and found purpose and meaning elsewhere, are doing so because they are lustful.

Is this your experience too? Are you an unbeliever today due to your insatiable desire for porn? Or did the internet and sites like this one play an instrumental part in your deconversion? Please share your experiences in the comment section. I am certain that Miller is far afield in his assertion about the NONES, and I ask that readers educate him about the real reasons people leave Christianity.

~~~~~~~~

Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network member, Bruce Gerencser blogs at The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser He writes from the unique perspective of having been a pastor for many years and having seen it all in churches. His journey out of being a true believer and pastor has been an interesting and informative one. He is also a kind and compassionate man who seeks to help others understand how best to leave and recover from toxic belief.

Bruce Gerencser spent 25 years pastoring Independent Fundamental Baptist, Southern Baptist, and Christian Union churches in Ohio, Michigan, and Texas. Bruce attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. He is a writer and operates The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser blog. Bruce lives in NW Ohio with his wife of 35 years. They have six children, and eleven grandchildren.


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  • Integer

    “Or did the internet and sites like this one play an instrumental part in your deconversion?”
    This describes my experience. I was still a Christian when I started reading NLQ, and started watching atheist videos and subscribing to atheist channels on Youtube. I was originally looking for info on atheists to reinforce my conviction that they were just biblically ignorant, blindly espousing science and reason, and looking to justify their sinful life. In retrospect, I was already starting to lose faith and needed the boost I thought I’d get from finding God-shaped holes in their arguments. Instead, atheists on the internet taught me more about the bible and Christianity than 10 years of church and bible study. Although I come across NSFW pictures in articles and blogs all the time (who doesn’t??) I have never sought out porn, on the internet or otherwise, so Miller definitely has it arse-about according to my anecdata 🙂

  • Nightshade

    Yep, it was that ebil porn what done it, all it took was one pic of a nekkid man and I turned into a god-hatin’ atheist person!

    …or not. The internet mostly showed me that I wasn’t alone, that many, many others shared my doubts at a time when I was surrounded by believers and the nonbelievers who I actually encountered in real life were scary because I didn’t understand them. Over time I realized that atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc, on and on, weren’t that much different from the Christians I already knew, and gays weren’t totally obsessed with sex and rebellion. Actual information about the Bible and the god I was questioning did play a part, but had a lesser role than simply breaking through the relative isolation.

  • Rachel

    The internet was crucial for me because it got me in touch with a network of bisexual, lesbian, and trans* women who were comfortable with their identities and didn’t need God’s (or anybody else’s) approval. I realized I could love myself, even if God hated me. After that, threats of hellfire couldn’t scare me back into line anymore.

  • Julia Childress

    The internet actually helped restore my Christian faith. I was raised uber fundy Baptist, which I ran away from the minute I turned 18. I was a none from 18 to about 30, when my first child was born. I returned to church and raised my children as Methodists. In 2008 I had another faith crisis. I was exhausted from caring for my aging parents for several years (who lived in two cities, 100 miles apart), serving as executor of their two complicated estates after their deaths, getting three children through high school and college, working full time at a demanding job and over-committing myself at church. I completely disconnected from church and most other non-essential activities. After a couple of years, I was spiritually restless and began doing a lot of internet reading (including this site). I found Bonhoeffer, Barth, Brunner, Lewis, Martin Marty, Barbara Brown Taylor and many others that I probably would not have discovered had it not been for the internet. I discovered a far broader kind of Christian faith, and it was a relief to give up the notion of Christianity as a private salvation club. I am now happily involved in a Methodist church that has many care ministries and see the Christian faith as a means of bringing help and healing to people who are suffering.

  • Abigail Smith

    The internet restored my faith, too, Julia…I found other likeminded Christians who also were done with the phoniness of church people…I became a Christian before the internet, and I didn’t have a church because my husband wasn’t a believer and didn’t want to go…I valued my marriage, so I didn’t make it a “thing” and I just spent lots of time reading the bible on my own…and I am so glad. It allowed me to see through alot of the smoke and mirrors stuff going on in churches…but I did think I was the only one…

  • There were numerous factors for why I left Christianity, the Internet being one small sliver in the pie. In doing online research on cults, I realized the questions Christians used to attempt to disprove Joseph Smith and the Mormon faith could just as easily be turned around on Christianity with the same result. In searching out ExMormon sites to understand why they bailed on Joseph Smith, I came across ExChristian sites, particularly ExChristian.net. Sounds naive, but I really didn’t know that Christians willingly left the faith. Backslide? Yes. But reject Jesus? It was a revelation.

  • Evelyn

    Same here. The internet was a large part of my discovery that fundigelical Christianity is not the only kind out there.