Modding my religion : exploring the effects of digital technology on religion and spirituality.
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McClure, Paul Knowlton, 1982-
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Digital technology has greatly altered daily life and social institutions. While studies on the Internet and social media are growing, few researchers have explored how using these technologies may impact religion and spirituality. This dissertation uses three different datasets and combines quantitative and qualitative methodologies to show that digital technologies of the past two decades reshape American religion and spirituality. I argue that digital technology underwrites a fluid, self-reliant, and experimental approach to religion and spirituality that can be collectively understood as “modding.” Already a popular expression in the technology community, modding here implies reconfiguring religious and spiritual beliefs and practices to suit individual, customized preferences. In the substantive chapters of this dissertation, I find evidence of individuals modding their religion in three distinct ways: (1) social media users are more likely to think it is acceptable to pick and choose their religious beliefs and endorse the practice of multiple religions, independent of what their religious tradition teaches; (2) technology writers at the popular monthly magazine Wired export a narrative that views technology as the natural fulfillment of traditional religious beliefs and ideals; and (3) Internet users are buffered from religion, which I posit by finding that higher levels of Internet use correspond with lower levels of prayer, reading sacred texts, attending religious services, and considering religion personally important. Internet use also correlates positively with being an atheist and being religiously unaffiliated. Taken together, these results suggest that the proliferation of digital technology will continue to impact the religious and spiritual landscape in the postindustrial world.