Tinkering with technology and religion in the digital age : the effects of Internet use on religious belief, behavior, and belonging.
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McClure, Paul Knowlton.
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The intersection of religion and technology has been a primary issue in sociology since the inception of the discipline. Internet technology presents a new conceptual reality, one that could potentially challenge religion in previously unimaginable ways. Few sociologists of religion, however, have attempted to evaluate whether using the Internet impacts the way people think about and practice religion. This paper elaborates on the concept of “tinkering” discussed by Berger, Berger, and Kellner (1974), Turkle (1997), and Wuthnow (2010) to argue that Internet use affects how people think about and affiliate with religious traditions. Using data from Wave III of the Baylor Religion Survey (2010), I find that Internet use increases the likelihood of being religiously unaffiliated and weakens religious exclusivism. At the same time, I find that television viewing is linked to decreases in religious attendance and other time-related religious behaviors, but these outcomes are not impacted by Internet use. To explain these disparate findings, I argue that the Internet is fundamentally different from previous technologies like television and thus impacts religious beliefs and belonging but not time-related religious behavior.