1. nate

    Nice post. I can honestly say that the Internet has provide me a refuge and a lighting in my spiritual journey. As someone that was moving away from fundamentalism I have found comfort in the words of those that have come before in that journey. Places like this blog have been a blessing to me and helped talk me down from the edge a couple times.


  2. I’ve thought along those same lines, though I think the internet is ephemeral for those who are ephemeral, and it’s the largest library for those who dig deep. It’s a puddle from which a gnat may drink, and a sea in which an elephant may bathe. And it’s a place for people to sharpen their wits and learn from each other via debate. You can find anyone to debate on any subject on the internet, and if you simply look you can run into some pretty sharp folks you never would have met in pre-internet days. And such discussions usually leads to more reading and research. Sure, I’m not saying all internet debates are scholarly nor that they won’t devolve into more heat than light. But back in the days before the internet you couldn’t fact check political debates easily or speedily. (I suspect Romney and Ryan’s campaign was fact-checked to death, but they probably could have gotten away with of their claims in the good old days. And in the good old days you had to wait for a few wits like Mencken to write columns, but today everyone is writing a column, and it surprises me how articulate some online bloggers can be.)

    I suspect conspiracy theories rise in proportion to how down the future economy or state of the planet seems or how out of control and dangerous it seems. But most people on the internet don’t hang round at any particular conspiracy website for long or they also hang round on other sites, many of which have nothing to do with conpiracies because ringing the same bell gets pretty boring. There’s a zillion other things out there and people to learn from.

    The mind is such that it can get bored and naturally seek something “different” just like the taste buds. And there’s a limitless buffet served all day and night on the internet, comedy, music, theology, philosophy, science, photos, videos, God, dating, sex, and communication with friends and family and with people of similar interests, or people to debate. People like variety.

    I agree that atheism does not provide or ensure emotional stability, neither does fundamentalism, neither does any worldview. That’s because it’s the world itself, not one’s “worldview” that can drive a person nuts, make them frustrated, or depressed. It’s a grindhouse of a planet with its pains, frustrations, all the slings and arrows of fortune, the necessity of labor, bodily necessities, physical and mental needs, and clouds of emotion.

    I think atheism includes learning to live with the ideas that upset us most, and dares us to find beauty in a garden even if it’s not filled with fairies, dares us to linger over connections between us and other animals and the stars, and if one has an agnostic or mystical bent, noting that there is a mystery to this matrix in which we live, of which we don’t know the beginning or ending, or what else is out there besides us and our cosmos.

    Somebody asked Confucius about another world, and his reply was “How should I, who know so little about this world, know anything about another?”

    If you live right, death is a joke to you as far as fear is concerned.
    -Will Rogers

    He deserves paradise who can make his companions laugh.
    -The Koran

    We have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.
    -Tombstone epitaph of two amateur astronomers, quoted in Carl Sagan’s Cosmos


  3. I should add in reference to your musings on the lack of power of internet atheism that the internet DOES have an influence when it comes to the God question. Atheists have never been so noticed before. Atheist bestsellers and websites and blogs. Christian apologists live to debate them. And Christians can be seen debating each other as never before on conservative Protestant blogs and conservative Catholic blogs. On and on it goes. The diversity and exposure that the internet gives to any belief or topic is clearly visible, especially the width of the spectrum of views, so the internet can’t help but have a general moderating or even liberalizing effect, or agnosticising effect on folks who see how few debaters ever change sides and how the rationalizations and assumptions on all sides go on endlessly. And just seeing how MANY sides there are, as in the “viewpoints” series of books by a Christian publisher, adds to the moderating, liberalizing effect I mentioned.

    A recent poll in the U.S. also showed that non-believers were growing faster than a lot of other groups, and that even among Christians, the percentages of those switching denominations, back and forth, was at an all time high. And Protestantism in the U.S. has slipped beneath the 50% mark for the first time ever.


  4. I also like the fact that the internet provides Christians with greater diversity of views, including the newly formed Christian group that is pro-evolution and anti-I.D., the BIOLOGOS website. To start a physical BIOLOGOS institute with a print journal would have required far greater expenditures of money, like the kind fundamentalists at ICR and AIG could come up with. But now even Christians who are evolutionists are speaking out and sharing their views. It’s a fine thing to see, as well as Christians who are not simply spouting that gays are damned, and also Christians who are not demanding that the Bible is inerrant. It’s far easier to find such folks now. While the truly strident folks like the Westboro Baptist Church or other strongly fundamentalist websites and writers can be seen bemoaning the fact that they are losing the next generation. So even conservative Protestantism in the U.S. seems to be shifting more to the left.


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