Digital religion

(Photo by Grant Whitty on Unsplash)


WATERLOO, Ontario — Digital religion is leading to a “spiritual revolution” among many young adults, according to a new study.

Although it may sound like it, this isn’t a worship of technology and social media. Instead, researchers from the University of Waterloo say religious communities are using these tools to reach millennials who are looking to participate in organized religion — without having to attend in-person services.

“We know that more and more people are turning towards digital mediums for spirituality such as chat groups with pastors, online sermons, and religious content on social media,” says Waterloo sociology professor Sarah Wilkins-Laflamme in a university release. “We’ve found that while digital religion isn’t necessarily attracting a lot of new millennials to participate, it is making the experience of those already involved richer.”

During the early months of the pandemic, remote church services allowed many people to continue practicing their faith without having to leave the house. Although the study finds modern technology is making organized religion much more appealing to millennials who are spiritual, the vast majority are not practicing.

“It is still present though for a sizeable minority of the young adult population, and for many of them, digital religion plays an important complementary role to the in-person practicing of their faith,” Wilkins-Laflamme adds.

While previous studies have examined the role digital technology, social media, and other mediums play in religious services today, Wilkins-Laflamme says this study is the first to look at who actually participates in remote services and how it affects their faith.

“Social environment does play an important role, with digital religion practices much more prevalent in the generally more religious U.S. context, compared with the generally more secular Canadian context,” Wilkins-Laflamme concludes. “Digital religion practices are often, but not always, tied to other in-person religious and spiritual activities among millennials.”

The study is published in the Review of Religious Research.

About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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26 Comments

  1. John Macarthur says:

    The fastest growing religion in the world are the Nones. They worship No invisible Sky Gods.

    1. Stan says:

      They believe in nothing, how wonderful. No wonder suicide rates and drug overdoses are going up among those “nones.” God isn’t a “sky god,” he’s just God. Also, if you didn’t believe in God why even comment? This article shouldn’t interest you in the slightest. But you do believe in God and hate him. And shame on you for using John MacArthur’s name. He is one of the few truly holy men of God preaching.

      1. Vendicar Decarian says:

        Only intellectual inferiors claim to believe in invisible sky fairies.

        Religionists are a plague on humanity.

      2. Polycarp Flavius says:

        You have an INFINITE Superior intellect?
        God is called infinite, because He is a form unlimited by matter; whereas in material things, the term ‘infinite’ is applied to that which is deprived of any formal term. And form being known in itself, whereas matter cannot be known without form, it follows that the material infinite is in itself unknowable. But the formal infinite, God, is of Himself known; but He is unknown to us by reason of our feeble intellect, which in its present state has a natural aptitude for material objects only. Therefore we cannot know God in our present life except through material effects. In the future life this defect of intellect will be removed by the state of glory, when we shall be able to see the Essence of God Himself, but without being able to comprehend Him.
        Aquinas

    2. Catherine Alexander says:

      It’s my understanding that Nones *are* believers. The “none” refers to their lack of denominational affiliation.

    3. Alex in Oregon says:

      Fools talk a lot!

  2. SuzanneL says:

    Well sure. I read my bible online, because the print in most paper bibles is too small. Online church services also allow for a more contemplative form of prayer, and less of the handholding and dancing in the aisles, which I would think would help clear people’s heads in these times.

    1. Vendicar Decarian says:

      Send me your bible. I’ll burn it for you.

    2. lato says:

      e-sword.org the electronic sword of the Lord

  3. Soren Bro says:

    we really should identify and subsequently CRISPR the heck out of the relgious gene. You can just as well be all into social invironmental stuff without the superstition. Faith can be ok on an individual level, but when it is organized and try to mess with the real world, all hell breaks lose.

    1. Catherine Alexander says:

      That’s not likely to happen. Religion has been consistently found in all cultures throughout human history.

      1. Vendicar Decarian says:

        Also true of syphilis.

      2. ltcajh says:

        Dufus Vendicar is getting a rise out of making you mad. I don’t care one iota what he thinks! You don’t believe in it? Fine, don’t believe it, but I’m not interested in your opinion either.

  4. rightagain says:

    You should look at all of that “generalization” thought you’re experiencing. NOT everything that is organized is BAD. It’s a ridiculous assertion dumb ass college professors make about religion to their braindead freshman. It was a very popular pronouncement from the 70’s druggie culture, who were usually pissing in the wrong place…again.

    1. Ben says:

      You’ve never been to a secular college, have you? I have never once had a college professor mention their religion, or even get overtly political. College professors are the straw man of the religious world.

      1. Catherine Alexander says:

        “College professors are the straw man of the religious world.” Close, but not exactly. They are the straw man of the political right, many of whom aren’t really religious at all. But they love stoking fear and rage among the religious people who are willingly influenced by them.

  5. Ed Grimley says:

    The Universe is infinite. Believing in the infinite is believing in the Universe. The Universe is God, a self recognized entity of existence. We are all a part of the infinite universe. The universe/God is infinite with no beginning or end.

    1. Vendicar Decarian says:

      “The Universe is infinite.”

      False. The infinite is a mathematical concept that has no place outside of mathematics.

      1. Polycarp Flavius says:

        Universe is infinite, as in, you should read More Science Websites.

  6. Richard says:

    Digital Bibles are fine and online worship is a good fallback when one is unable to worship in person however a screen is no substitute for corporate worship. The Bible teaches us that we are humans who are intended to interact with one another and worship Him together with others. A screen is not another human. My fear is that this is yet another crutch for the lazy so they don’t have to go through the “hassle” of getting up and dressed and walking or driving to worship on Sunday morning.

  7. Bandit says:

    The best thing I have experienced from organized religion is the community of people of peace. I am not sure how that is replaced by an online forum. I used to do food deliveries for St. Vincent DePaul charity and they had strict rules about how the deliveries were done. They stressed that the food was important what was more important was bringing the people into the community. The food couldn’t be left on the doorstep and had to be delivered by a man and a woman and be accepted by the recipients. This was partially for safety reasons but also that the interaction was important and their acceptance by the community was the greater gift.

    I don’t see how that’s replaced.

  8. Scott Cheever says:

    I found a podcast called “Talking Scripture”, on YT. Other platforms, too. Stumbled upon them a few months ago. Mind go bang!

  9. Vox Veritatis says:

    Stop sleeping through the lectures.

  10. Carl says:

    Just as scrolls gave way to bound books, digital bibles are a logical next step to accessing the Word of God. But I have to wonder what the millennials who choose not to attend church think when they read Hebrews 10:25: “Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Fellowship is a vital part of the Christian life, not just for encouragement, but also for holding each other accountable.

  11. Greg Dougall says:

    I participate in online spiritual meetings with FIGU interestgroups.
    FIGU stands for the Free Community of Universal Interests.
    We have members around the country from their 20’s to their 80’s. We use skype and zoom.
    FIGU studies spirituality and a spiritual teaching.
    Spirituality is the opposite of religion. We don’t preach or proselytize,
    we don’t have beliefs and we don’t have dogmas or rituals.
    We seek only the truth. If you believe, then you don’t know- you can’t know.
    I did a presentation about how part of atheists, agnostics, and religious people share common values but the truth lies somewhere in between. My presentation is called “The 5 Rings”. It will be up on YT soon under FIGU Arizona’s channel.

  12. Gran Torino says:

    Hey Vindicar, your nihilism is showing. Organized religion crucified the Messiah. Just admit and agree with historical facts that Jesus only did the following: heal, feed, raise from the dead, love people, scold religious hypocrites, die for sinners, obey his Father, pray for His people, forgive sinners and is still doing this while we curse him.

    “For the power of paradox opens your eyes and blinds those who say they can see”!