Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Facts on the Internet Cutting into Religious Base

The power of the internet is affecting religions.
During my regular forays into Florida religious institutions to make presentations on religious history, I occasionally find priests, rabbis and other clergy in the congregation.  Invariably they are attending because they have doubts about the historical pap they have been fed by their religion.

Religions tend to shy away from history – as they do from science – because they realize that the factual information can cause a crisis in faith.  I had one Protestant minister tell me he regularly attended programs like mine, but didn’t share what he learned with his congregation because they are in church “for faith, not facts.”

The problem these days is that the internet doesn’t have a filter.  If you want to find out what research has determined about a particular faith, just log in.  It’s all there.  At one time, you would have had to read a book on the topic – and you are welcome to pick up one of mine – but the same data is readily available online.

No religious institution can sit on the facts anymore.

That has led to a crisis in faith among sincere believers as well as changes in religious attitudes.  Various polls have shown how much has changed since the 1990s when the internet became widely accessible.

For example, less that 75 percent of Americans now see themselves as Christian, a number that has dropped from above 90 percent in less than 20 years.  In some regions, like Scandinavia, Christianity has virtually disappeared.

Empty pews are commonplace.
The last-ditch efforts by arch-conservative political leaders to impose their limited views on the population -- in North Dakota, North Carolina and Texas, for example – reflect the growing realization that they are losing power and support.

The Anglican Church in England has seen steep declines in attendance and interest.  That parallels an international fall off in the use of Roman Catholic facilities for marriages and other life changes.

At the same time, Americans have doubled their support of evolution. The number is still below 50 percent, but increasing knowledge is beginning to shove the percentage higher. 

King David's palace?
The growing awareness of both biblical inaccuracies as well as gaping holes in the fabric of belief has impacted science as well.  Recently, archaeologists claimed they found King David’s palace outside Jerusalem.  No, they didn’t.  They found administrative buildings in a community outside Jerusalem, but none had names attached.  They could be connected to King David or to any other monarch of the time period.  They could even belong to some other culture.

The archaeologists announced the King David to because they know believers are frantic to find anything that might “prove” that history supports their religions.  So, far, historical findings have only done the opposite:

There was no Exodus from Egypt, which is the base of Jewish religious claims; the Gospel accounts of Jesus was written long after events and not by eye witnesses, so are replete with multiple factual errors and obvious misrepresentations; and so on. 

You can read the supporting evidence for these claims on the internet with no problems at all.

The Mormons have been particularly hard hit by the exposure of the real facts.  Hans Mattsson, who headed the Church’s activities in Sweden, ignored information on the internet as propaganda until doing his own research.

He quickly discovered the real facts.  In a published account, Mattsson said,” I felt like I had an earthquake under my feet.  Everything I’d been taught, everything I’d been proud to preach about and witness about just crumbled under my feet. It was such a terrible psychological and nearly physical disturbance.”

Death to doubters
That’s why, for centuries, Roman Catholic leaders encouraged illiteracy and effectively stopped everyone from actually looking at the Bible.  That’s why those who raised questions were excommunicated or even burned at the stake. 

Nevertheless, the truth does win eventually.  The first translations in the 1300s began the process of underlining belief.   In our time, the internet has greatly expanded the process. 

“I don’t want to hurt the church,” Mattsson said. “I just want the truth.”

Unfortunately, for all religions, the truth comes with a very high price for the faithful.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus occasionally writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at