Friday 22 August 2014

Web searches about apocalyptic religions only come from disadvantaged regions

Researchers at the New York Times have found the most socially disadvantaged regions of America spend a lot of time thinking about religion and diets. The hardest places to live in America have the highest unemployment and obesity, and the lowest incomes and life expectancy. An analysis of ten years of Google searches in the regions show that health problems, weight-loss diets, guns, video games and religion are the most searched for topics. David Leonhart notes that the apocalyptic religions are searched for only in these regions:
The dark side of religion is of special interest: Antichrist has the second-highest correlation with the hardest places, and searches containing “hell” and “rapture” also make the top 10.
At the same time, the most well off areas of America show Google searches for jogging, cupcakes, baby strollers and consumer technology, all diversions that healthy, educated and affluent people can afford.

Sociologists have long argued that economic and social disadvantage is one factor that makes people cling to religion. Gregory Paul and Phil Zuckerman argued in 2007 that
Every single 1st world nation that is irreligious shares a set of distinctive attributes. These include handgun control, anti-corporal punishment and anti-bullying policies, rehabilitative rather than punitive incarceration, intensive sex education that emphasizes condom use, reduced socio-economic disparity via tax and welfare systems combined with comprehensive health care, increased leisure time that can be dedicated to family needs and stress reduction, and so forth... Not a single advanced democracy that enjoys benign, progressive socio-economic conditions retains a high level of popular religiosity

Zuckerman found that secular Europeans hardly think about the issue of God, not finding the concept relevant to their contented lives.

Commenting on the latest findings, Zuckerman noted:
I'm not surprised by the findings at all. The trend is very clear: in America, religion is strongest in those parts of the country where people are most likely to be overweight, most likely to be without health insurance, and most likely  to love guns. America's highest homicide rates, obesity rates, and gun ownership rates are the highest in the Bible Belt, where faith in God is the strongest.
The International Telecommunications Union estimates that by the end of 2014, over three billion people will use the internet, changing the way they relate to one another and research information. Zuckerman argues that the internet can potentially increase secularization in many ways:
  1. People can look up their religion and suddenly see all kinds of skeptical, debunking, or critiquing there-of, which can affect the surety of their faith,
  2. People can easily and readily connect with other people having doubts about their faith, or other budding atheists, or other secular folks, and this social networking can create a sense of support and thus decrease the loneliness and isolation a person might otherwise feel,
  3. Use of the internet for research and leisure can may stimulate people's in a way that makes "religion less interesting, less compelling, less attractive; just as TV cut into books/ reading, the internet is yet another technology that may be cutting into and replacing previously popular forms of thought and association"
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