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The internet has led people to mix and match religious beliefs

The internet may be forever changing the nature of many people’s relationship with religion, according to a new study by Paul M McClure, a sociologist, and researcher.

McClure, a doctoral student at Baylor University, found that smartphone and internet use has led more people to pick and choose what parts of a religion they wish to follow, rather than sticking exclusively to one specific set of beliefs.

This à la carte way of looking at religion is known as “religious tinkering,” and it’s a concept that’s been studied before.  

“Tinkering means that people feel they’re no longer beholden to institutions or religious dogma,” explained McClure. “Today, perhaps in part because many of us spend so much time online, we’re more likely to understand our religious participation as free agents who can tinker with a plurality of religious ideas.”

The study, “Tinkering with Technology and Religion in the Digital Age,” was published in the  Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

McClure collected data from the Wave III of Baylor Religion Survey to show how the internet, social media, and smartphones had influenced religious habits and preferences.

The nationwide survey included 1,714 adults ages 18 and older, and took into account TV use and internet habits. Respondents were also asked about religious affiliation and how much time was spent on religious activities.

The results show that the more time spent on the internet, the less likely it is for a person to claim to be exclusive to a single religion or be affiliated with a formal religion.

The findings also show that TV watching was linked to less time spent on religious activities, but internet use did not affect religious activities.

According to McClure, the internet is drastically changing religious beliefs and how people perceive and understand religion. He also notes that this study presents an opportunity for future research on how the internet shapes religion.  

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

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