Digital Transparency Has Led to the Downfall of Organized Religion May 7, 2015

Digital Transparency Has Led to the Downfall of Organized Religion

In an interview with Andrew Aghapour of Religion Dispatches, Daniel Dennett explains why the transparency of the Internet Age hurts religion specifically:

In the March issue of Scientific American, Deb Roy and I compare this to the Cambrian Explosion. The Cambrian Explosion happened 540 million years ago, when there was a sudden, very dramatic explosion of different life forms in response to some new change in the world. Oxford zoologist Andrew Parker argues that the increased transparency of the ocean made eyesight possible, and this changed everything: now predators could see prey, and prey could see predators, and this set off an arms race of interactions. Well, we think something similar is happening in human culture. Institutions — not just religions but also universities, armies, corporations — are now faced with how to change their fundamental structure and methods to deal with the fact that everybody’s living in a glass house now.

Protecting your inner workings is becoming very difficult; it’s very hard to keep secrets. Religions have thrived in part because they were able to keep secrets. They were able to keep secrets about other religions from their parishioners, who were largely ignorant of what other people in the world believed, and also keep secrets about their own inner workings and their own histories, so that it was easy to have a sort of controlled message that went out to people. Those days are over. You can go on the Internet and access to all kinds of information. This is going to change everything.

I’ve been saying this in my public speeches for a while now, but it’s possible to fact-check your pastor with your smartphone while he’s giving a sermon. It’s possible to know when you’re being lied to because your church is no longer the ultimate source of information. And while church leaders might tell you to “just have faith” when you ask tough questions, Google won’t run away from your line of inquiry.

Check out the whole interview.

(Image via ☻☺ on Flickr)


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