Does faith require a “closed information” system?

“Nones” are getting a lot of attention these days (so much so that I probably don’t need those quote marks to describe people whose religious affiliation is “none”). Salon presents an interesting piece by Valerie Tarico (originally posted at Alternet) positing that the flood of information available on the Internet makes it near impossible to maintain one’s religious beliefs– there is just too much information out there that runs counter to anyone’s ancient, tightly woven doctrine.This is bad news for organized religion:

A traditional religion, one built on “right belief,” requires a closed information system. That is why the Catholic Church put an official seal of approval on some ancient texts and banned or burned others. It is why some Bible-believing Christians are forbidden to marry nonbelievers. It is why Quiverfull moms home school their kids from carefully screened text books. It is why, when you get sucked into conversations with your fundamentalist uncle George from Florida, you sometimes wonder if he has some superpower that allows him to magically close down all avenues into his mind. (He does!)

Religions have spent eons honing defenses that keep outside information away from insiders. The innermost ring wall is a set of certainties and associated emotions like anxiety and disgust and righteous indignation that block curiosity. The outer wall is a set of behaviors aimed at insulating believers from contradictory evidence and from heretics who are potential transmitters of dangerous ideas. These behaviors range from memorizing sacred texts to wearing distinctive undergarments to killing infidels. Such defenses worked beautifully during humanity’s infancy. But they weren’t really designed for the current information age.

Tech-savvy mega-churches may have twitter missionaries, and Calvinist cuties may make viral videos about how Jesus worship isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship, but that doesn’t change the facts: the free flow of information is really, really bad for the product they are selling.

She notes that in the information age, hipster atheists like the brilliant Neil DeGrasse Tyson have multiple platforms on which to make a convincing case that religion and science are incompatible. She goes on to list five threats the Internet poses to organized religion, expounding on each in her piece:

1) Radically cool science videos and articles.

2) Curated Collections of Ridiculous Beliefs.

3) The Kinky, Exploitative, Oppressive, Opportunistic and Violent Sides of Religion.

4) Supportive communities for people coming out of religion.

5) Lifestyles of the fine and faithless.

6) Interspiritual Okayness.

The Episcopal Church is poised, I believe, like no other, to withstand the information threat because of our invitation to embrace Scripture, Tradition and Reason. Religion and science incompatible? I’m an Episcopalian. I don’t buy that. We are not a “closed information” system. So how do we get the word out about that? Um, well, the Internet isn’t a bad place to start…

Read Tarico’s full post here.

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