The Internet Significantly Contributes to the Rise of Secularism
I will argue that the internet significantly contributes to the rise of secularism. My opponent will argue that the internet does not significantly contribute to the rise of secularism.
Significantly: in a way that is large or important enough to be noticed or have an effect
Secularism: indifference to or rejection or exclusion of religion and religious considerations
Round 1: acceptance only
Round 2: main arguments
Round 3: rebuttals
Round 4: conclusion; no new arguments
Time per round: up to 72 hours
Characters per round: up to 10,000 characters
No trolling; serious debaters only please
Forfeiture results in a loss
If there are questions, please write in the comments. Thanks!
Thank you DavidMancke for accepting my debate. I hope we both come out of it having learned something new. Let's have some fun!
I will argue that the internet significantly contributes to the rise of secularism.
It is a fact that countries like the United States are becoming less religious. The following visual from the Pew Research Center shows the decline of religion among adults and the rise of the "Nones," those who do not affiliate themselves with a religion . As we see, the number of adults who are religiously unaffiliated has increased almost 7% between 2007 and 2014, from 16.1% to 22.8%, respectfully.
This next visual shows that the people who were already unaffiliated are becoming even more secular, shown by the increase in people saying that religion is not important to their lives and a decrease in the number of people who believe in God or a universal spirit. People are also attending religious services less as well as praying less .
It is imperative to note that the terms secularism and atheism are not equivalent, contrary to popular belief. The "Nones" include atheists, but the majority of them are people who simply don't associate with any particular religion. While atheism is the lack of a belief in God or gods, secularism is the practice of separating oneself from organized religion. The "Nones" may be secular, but that does not mean none of them believe in some sort of deity. In fact, two-thirds of the religiously unaffiliated adults say they do believe in God .
We have settled that America is becoming less religious. Now, the question is not whether secularism is on the rise but what is the cause of its rise? While there are most likely several reasons with varying degrees of influence, I believe that the internet is making significant contributions to this change.
The following image shows that as internet use began to increase around 1990, there was a noticeable spike in the number of people losing interest in religion .
Of course this a correlation and does not imply direct causation. I will now provide reasons why the internet does significantly contribute to the rise of secularism.
The spread of the internet has given people all over the world the ability to expose themselves to knowledge. They are able to ask questions which they may have previously been too scared to put forth to their friends or family for fear of rejection. They can find answers from places they may have never knew existed. In some areas around the world, asking questions and criticizing religion is extremely dangerous. For example, in several countries where Islam is the dominant religion, blasphemy and apostasy are considered crimes punishable by death . Unfortunately, many Muslims in these countries support these harsh punishments . While the United States is nowhere near as oppressive, many people still find it difficult to openly identify as a nonbeliever, given that 70% of Americans are of Christian faith . Thanks to the internet, people who have been unable to question their religious beliefs due to these types of fears can do so in the privacy of their homes. Upon doing this, people may find that the beliefs they have grown up with don"t make an awful lot of sense when compared to what they actually feel is right or true. For example, if someone were to ask why homosexuality is wrong, their church may say it is because God says it is wrong, as written in the Bible. If someone asked the same question on the internet, they would receive a significantly larger variety of opinions from which they can decide which makes the most sense to them.
The internet also brings science to the world. A controversial debate that continues to this day is whether religion and science can coexist. In some aspects, they can. But in others, they do not. Popular on YouTube are "atheist vs. theist" debates, where self-proclaimed atheists, often with a background in the sciences, will engage in thought provoking debates with theists on matters such as the existence of God or the Bible. One debate on YouTube between evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and Cardinal George Pell has received almost 2 million views . Bringing this type of dialogue directly to people gives them the ability to learn about the factuality behind their beliefs through multiple lenses. For example, the Bible asserts that the Earth is only a couple thousand years old, while science shows it is actually much older; billions of years older. This contrast encourages people to consider the truth and validity behind their beliefs. Many people find that science (which is secular in nature) overwhelmingly offers more rational explanations of how the universe works than religious teachings. This attitude can lead to more secular thinking. Science will most likely never disprove entire religions, but it continues to demonstrate that many deeply held religious stories and beliefs lack any sort of scientific evidence. In 2014, science educator Bill Nye engaged Christian apologist Ken Ham in a debate on evolution versus creationism. The debate received a lot of attention on the news and social media, and the full dialogue (nearly 3 hours in length) has been viewed over 5 million times on YouTube . In one section of the debate, Bill Nye demonstrated how the Biblical story of the Great Flood and Noah's Ark cannot be literally true, due to the improbable physics of the ark as well as the lack of evidence. Videos like these encourage people to question the beliefs they have grown up with and open their minds to new perspectives and ideas, something many people may have never done without the help of the internet. People may start wondering and caring about whether their beliefs are actually true or just a story. This will likely lead people to further wonder whether they should continue affiliating themselves with organized religion if they know that parts of it cannot be true and simply do not make sense.
Social media allows for the rapid sharing of ideas by way of the internet. It allows individuals to express their thoughts and be heard by a massive global audience, as well as interact with them. For example, many sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are centered on the promotion of freethought, skepticism, secularism and atheism, and they have seen tremendous growth and popularity. "The Amazing Atheist" is a YouTube channel that discusses relevant matters relating to atheism and religion. The channel has over 800,000 subscribers and has accumulated more than a quarter of a billion views . The success of channels like these show that people want to question religion and open their minds.
To summarize, the internet has given people access to greater knowledge. Access to the internet allows and encourages people to ask as many questions as they desire, it allows them to experience new perspectives, and it lets people learn about science. Secular individuals tend to exhibit these mindsets because they would rather not submit themselves to a religious authority. Many religions declare that its adherents must obey scripture and not question its teachings, which prevents people from learning. Secularists do not want this, and would prefer to believe what they'd like and what makes sense to them, without having to bind themselves to religious authority. The internet gives people the tools to educate themselves and to analyze their religious beliefs, which usually causes them to arrive at rational conclusions about whether their beliefs make sense according to science and reality.
"The Internet Significantly Contributes to the Rise of Secularism"
The negative offers the following analysis of the resolution and mechanism for judging the debate, along with a definition of the internet, collectively called the "Opp Analysis"
The internet: A utility for sharing messages and information worldwide.
Resolution of Fact: The resolution is a "truth claim," evaluated under preponderance of the evidence. The side that demonstrates the resolution is accurate or not, and provides the most significant examples should win the debate.
This brings us to the Affirmative definition of "Significantly." I don't object to the definition, but the ontology in context of this debate. Significantly is not intended to mean any level of impact we can observe, but rather the greatest/most significant impact we can observe.
Observation 1: The general trend of secularization in the western world has been on the rise for centuries before the internet existed or was even imagined.
Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Max Weber, Jean-Paul Sartre all share a common denominator; they surmised that religion was on the decline and that science, education and individualism could be given the credit.
These celebrated secular thinkers advanced secular understanding of the world and society as they called attention to the inherent advantages of a more secular society and recognized the inherent harms of a society wedded to religion.
Early in the 20th century Max Weber described an evolution of religion(s) observed over history as a function of increasingly complex societies; from superstition and magic to polytheism and monotheism and more recently, with the rise of naturalism and humanism in tandem with science and technology, to prolific secularism. Weber called this process, "the disenchantment of the world."
An example early in our history highly relevant today is constitutional separation of church and state, but even by the time the western world reached the enlightenment era science and individual liberty were the champions of the day. The potential for industry and medicine, as well as the value of self-determination carried decisions from separation of church and state to the study of science. From Ben Franklin's lightning to his signature in 1776.
Science, medicine and invention, were then and are now, pursuits better served by an understanding that does not rely on superstition, with historical regimens most often recognizing the 18th and 19th centuries as providing ontological and a methodological platforms for eschewing theistic and supernatural concepts from the exploration and explanation of the natural world.
Educational institutions have increasingly, continuously and robustly embraced secularism and naturalism as the most reliable (methodological) and most egalitarian (ontological) framework for understanding and developing sciences and societies for more than 200 years. Many of the oldest universities in the US, such as Harvard, began as a religious college and became a secular, and did so long before the internet entered our classrooms or homes.
The internet cannot be credited with significant increase in secularization when it started centuries earlier.
Observation 2: Liberal values are increasingly popular in the western world, and at odds with many traditional conservative religious values.
There's no doubt that secularism is increasing in the west. The affirmative offered studies to demonstrate that. And while the negative has shown the pattern goes back much further than the mid-nineties, today the trend in the west is amplified by ideologically irreconcilable differences.
Conservative religion frequently prescribes attitudes and behavior sets across a spectrum of issues that are increasingly indigestible in the western world. Stock examples include, disapproval of homosexuality, intolerance of abortion in any form paired with an ironic disdain for social welfare programs like food stamps, recalcitrance to scientific realities like global warming or the importance of vaccines and in some cases a desire for religious values and belief to play a greater role in civic life, while seeking the the censorship of competing religions or ideas.
The trend goes back to the late seventies and early eighties, well before the onset of the internet, in movements like the Christian Coalition and the rise of the televangelism, seeking prayer in public schools, legal restriction of abortions rights and marriage rights; to get the Christian masses to represent the conservative Christian position at the polls.
The evangelical movement gave rise to the evangelical voter, through the careful courtship of conservative political forces like the GOP in the United States. Today this group has become a cornerstone of politics in the nation that controls the largest military in the world.
Nevertheless secularism continues to rise overall and the negative perception of religion by westerners deserves a significant portion of the credit. Values like marriage equality, abortion rights and publicly funded social welfare are rejected by highly conservative religions like evangelical Christianity and fundamentalist Islam. Moreover, these sects are some of the most publicized and hostile in the rejection of those values.
What they may call a defense of faith and tradition is perceive as intolerance, recalcitrance and a desire for theocracy. One of the most incendiary examples include the Westboro Baptist Church, typified by its slogan, "God hates f*gs." The most dangerous and extreme including religious terrorists like ISIS.
Westerners more and more embrace science, diversity and tolerance for alternate worldviews and lifestyles. They resoundingly favor secular government and public education, and disapprove of recalcitrance toward science as well as doctrinally prescribed intolerance. Westerners are secularizing because they are rejecting religious messages that reject science and egalitarianism.
This is all material to show the perceived paranoia, hypocrisy and vitriol of conservative religion are a greater driving force to the rise of secularization than secularist articles or videos on the internet.
Rather, secularist messages on the internet are an indication of secularization that is already taking place. The artifacts of secularism online are not a cause in and of themselves. This is simple supply and demand. The demand for secularist media drives publication. The affirmative has the shoe completely on the wrong foot. It's because westerners increasingly see religion epitomized by the greed, vitriol and even violence of hateful charlatans. Rejection of religion, ostensibly, happens before searching out the "HitchSlap" video on YouTube.
Observation 3: Rejoinder of Obs 1 and 2
The internet is a utility for conveying ideas. On balance it is equally available to the religious and the secular, with the published content catering to a preexisting market of viewers. It is the contents and implications of a statement or attitude that compels a belief or the rejection, not the medium it's published within.
The current point in this centuries long pattern we see today reflects the projection Max Weber made nearly a century ago. As societies becomes more diverse and complex religion becomes increasingly archaic. Today it is magnified by the inherently contrary propositions of conservative religion and liberal western values, further driving secularization.
Secularization is increasing because society's values are and have been changing for a long time. Even the most recent changes began over a generation ago and are still going on now. Internet or no, it would still be happening.
Observation 4: The internet as a utility has a bigger impact on the advancement of religion.
Social media is a powerful recruiting tools for the so-called "Islamic State." Without today's social media this terrorist group would not be able to recruit or radicalize others abroad with such alarming degrees of success. It inspired Donald Trump to suggest, "shutting down parts of the internet" last December in a public debate.
His silly statement highlights what we already knew about the propaganda and recruiting program of daesh. The internet is an invaluable tool in the hands of these terrorists. It allow a dangerous and violent religious message to reach anyone. It has been used to facilitate acts of terrorism. From the emails they send to travel tickets they purchase, the utility of the internet is a weapon when used by these terrorists.
The Aff Case:
As a utility, the internet is a far more powerful tool for violent zealots than for Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins to publish content for their fans, and is far more significant than the low impact of atheistic videos on YouTube.
The Aff offered the example of the Ken Ham/Bill Nye debate with over 5 million views, which on balance is not significant. Even if each viewer had only watched one time, that is less than half of number of non-religious people the state of California. This content is for an audience that preexisted its publication. Likewise, "the Amazing Atheist" may have 800,00 subscribers and over a million views (not a quarter billion), but the world has 1.1 billion non-religious people. This does not reach a reasonable threshold for significance.
The negative has shown the true catalysts for secularization, and both the the internet is not one of them, and the internet is a more powerful tool for advancing religion for agencies like daesh, and the impact is more significant.
Thank you DavidMancke!
I will now respond to my opponent’s arguments in the order presented.
1. “The general trend of secularization in the western world has been on the rise for centuries before the internet existed or was even imagined.”
My opponent writes “Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Max Weber, Jean-Paul Sartre all share a common denominator; they surmised that religion was on the decline and that science, education and individualism could be given the credit.” I completely agree that science and education, as well as increased value placed upon independence, are strong contributors of secularization. At the times that these intellectuals were alive, those were likely the most obvious causes on secularization. But we are in a new age, one that those men didn’t get to experience. I strongly believe that if they had the opportunity to observe the power of the internet they would classify it as a strong contributor to secularization.
I believe my opponent is missing my point that of all the applications that have arisen from the world wide web, the internet is perhaps best at educating people and allowing them to experience new fields such as the sciences, more so than they ever could without the Internet. Consider the growing number of fully online universities which make getting an education so much easier, such as the University of Phoenix. This allows a greater number of people to get an education due to the convenience of learning from home. Other sites like YouTube offer an ever-growing amount of channels dedicated to education, such as Vsauce. The channel, which mainly publishes videos on science, has over 10 million subscribers and nearly 1 billion total views .
People’s ability to educate themselves is significantly greater now than it ever was without the internet. Before the coming of the internet, people had to rely on local resources such as libraries and universities to learn; people had to go to where the education was. Now, we can bring the education to us. We now have, quite literally, the ability to learn anything thanks to the internet.
Con writes “The internet cannot be credited with significant increase in secularization when it started centuries earlier.” The fact that secularization begun without the internet is irrelevant. In no way does this necessarily mean that later advancements such as the internet cannot act as a catalyst for secularization. Thus, to claim that education and science cause secularization and the internet does not, despite the fact that the internet delivers these opportunities straight to people in unlimited amounts, is illogical.
2. “Liberal values are increasingly popular in the western world, and at odds with many traditional conservative religious values.”
The Negative writes “The artifacts of secularism online are not a cause in and of themselves. This is simple supply and demand. The demand for secularist media drives publication.” I believe I have provided several ways in which the internet directly contributes to secularization, such as making access to education so much easier, but my opponent has failed to support this claim that secular articles and videos on the internet are simply byproducts of secularization rather than contributors.
Perhaps my opponent misunderstood what I was saying. I did not say that YouTube videos that promote secularism directly cause people to drop their Bibles. I was saying that they contribute to the larger picture by getting people to think rationally. Con writes “Rejection of religion, ostensibly, happens before searching out the ‘HitchSlap’ video on YouTube.” Not all the time. If I have already rejected religion, I may seek out Hitchslap videos purely for entertainment (for those unaware, “Hitchslap” videos are videos of Christopher Hitchens, once a popular anti-theist known for his wits and clever responses while debating theists). But, if I am in a state of limbo and am unsure of what I believe, coming across videos like these will certainly make an influence on my final decision.
3. "Rejoinder of Obs 1 and 2"
Con states “Secularization is increasing because society's values are and have been changing for a long time. Even the most recent changes began over a generation ago and are still going on now. Internet or no, it would still be happening.” Of course our society would still be undergoing social changes if the internet hadn’t been invented. But not nearly as fast. As my opponent writes, “The internet is a utility for conveying ideas.” The internet is the fastest method in the history of mankind of spreading ideas. Consider some of the recent social movement we have witnessed. Without the internet, they would have never gained the traction and speed that they reached. For example, think about the gay rights movement and how much the internet bolstered the ideology behind it. Remember that Facebook profile picture filter that put a rainbow over your picture? Within three days, 26 million people had changed their profile picture in support of gay rights, and the filter would go on to gain over 500 million likes and comments from Facebook users around the world . There is no way that such a movement could have gained that much attention in such little time without the power of the internet.
4. "The internet as a utility has a bigger impact on the advancement of religion."
My opponent is right when he states that extremist religious organizations use the internet to spread their dogma. But in order for this point to further his case, my opponent must demonstrate that the internet contributes more to the advancement of religion than to secularization, which he failed to do.
Con states that even though the Ken Ham vs Bill Nye debate got 5 million views, this is insignificant. It seems to me that my opponent is implying that in order for a video to be significant it must have received billions of views. I beg to differ. 5 million views certainly means something. It shows that people care and are paying attention to these sorts of matters. If my opponent actually believes that in order for any video to carry any significance its view count must match the number of people associated with the video’s content, then that is simply unrealistic. Very few internet videos receive over a billion views, let alone hundreds of millions. Yet they still convey meaning and create social change.
And just to clarify: The Amazing Atheist’s YouTube channel has indeed been viewed over a quarter of a billion times: 267,714,483 views as of this posting, to be exact .
I look forward to my opponent’s rebuttal to my main arguments!
Thanks once again for providing such a great topic. What attracted me to the resolution is that there is so much ground for either position when the trend in questions is analyzed in the context of significance. Nevertheless, I have to confess my disappointment that the affirmative largely missed the opportunity.
To start out, the affirmative has asked that this constructive only deal with argument(s) put forward in the first constructive (round 2). It bears mentioning that the counter-analysis they provide in round three deliberately suppresses portions of the arguments offered by the negative side during round two, in order to review them in partition and out of context. Simultaneously, they have offered rules for the debate that would prevent me from calling attention to this until the next round.
The affirmative first constructive offers two contentions/observations.
If the affirmative had not already lost by building a case on a fallacy, they lose on the threshold of significance as well. Here’s why:
The negative provided a more believable and far more robust explanation of the trend of secularization, and highly significant examples of how the internet contributes to advancement of religion that is far more significant than anything offered by the affirmative.
The obvious choice is a negative ballot.
If history can teach us anything, it is that rationality prevails; gradually, yet continuously. This is the reason we no longer believe the Earth is flat. It is why we don't believe in Thor, why we don't believe masturbation causes blindness and why we don't believe in the geocentric theory. How does this tie into the debate? Put simply, the internet spreads ideas; many ideas. Similar to the mechanics of natural selection where the most beneficial traits will endure while disadvantageous traits will die off, the most rational ideas will persevere and eventually take precedence in society, while the ideas that lack rationality will lose their influence on people over time. Likewise, a notable reason people separate themselves from religion is because they find it irrational to abide by and believe in ideas that do not make sense to them. The internet drives this process forward by making rational ideas more available to people.
My goal in this debate was not to provide numbers showing that the internet itself directly causes secularization. Rather, my goal was to demonstrate that there is strong reason to believe that the internet significantly contributes to the rise of secularism, by taking matters which have historically caused its rise such as science and general education, and enhancing their influence on society through the spreading of ideology.
I believe I have supplied sufficient reason to show that the internet significantly contributes to the rise of secularism.
I thank DavidMancke for debating me! I am glad to have debated someone of his intellect.
A big thanks being for such a great topic JayShay has asked us to consider the catalysts of major change when we stand at the high watermark of that change, and while we may disagree about the cause, we resoundingly agree about the benefits. I tip my hat to JayShay.
Nevertheless I respectfully submit the following counter analysis:
The fourth round was specifically for counter-analysis of the material offered by each side in round three. It bears some mentioning that my opponent did not specifically respond to anything in my last round in his final post. Out of respect for the rules I don't want to hammer this, but debate theory holds that the negative arguments flow across and the negative wins all those arguments. That being considered let's move on to the material from my opponents round three.
The resolution is a "truth claim" and for either side to win they must, A; show the resolution is accurate or not and, B; provide the most significant examples. Those burdens were overwhelmingly better upheld by the negative and deserve your vote.
Round Three Aff:
My opponent started by trying to respond to the historical analysis of the overall trend of increasing secularization in the west by dismissing the impact that secular advocates have had on the trend of secularization over time. And it is as bad as it sounds.
"..we are in a new age, one that those men didn't get to experience. I strongly believe that if they had the opportunity to observe the power of the internet they would classify it as a strong contributor to secularization."
Again, just as in the first affirmative constructive (Pro Round 1), we get no reason that these folks may share his view. More importantly, the Aff case and follow-up forgets that it is the content of a claim that drives acceptance or rejection of said claim.
This principle is unfortunately missed by the affirmative throughout the debate. In reality, the very theses of these several secular advocates offered in round two all, all of them contend; that it is the inherent advantages of secularism that drive its increased acceptance, as opposed to whatever venue in which it is published, especially today, after the hardest work has been done generations before against more powerful entrenched resistance than today. These paragons forecast the secular culture of today decades and decades before the advent of the internet.
The affirmative tries to suppress the last 500 years of scientific (methodological) and humanist (ontological) sudden and specific changes (Charles Darwin, Pierre-Simon Laplace**) and ensuing progress, by suggesting that secularism's recent-era jump is credible to the internet as a utility in and of itself. Keep in mind Laplace was speaking to Napoleon in the early 19th century when he famously said, "I had no need for that hypothesis."**
To remain resolutional the Pro has to remain unique, specific and consistent in support of the resolution, or "truth claim." They also have to provide the most significant examples, and have missed on both counts. The internet deserves no credit for ideas predating it, not when the ground was toiled in the "Scopes Monkey Trial" in 1925.**
The message is the song, the internet is merely Auto-Tune.
The printing press was less powerful than the internet, but did more inthe 1500's to raise basic questions about contemporary religion than the internet does today**. Again, the philosophical framework for the level of social change we see today has been laid down generations ago.
The Aff also offers: "the internet is perhaps best at educating people and allowing them to experience new fields such as the sciences, more so than they ever could without the Internet."
Good material and teachers are the best at educating people, the UofPhoenix example turns for the negative case. Often "online universities" offer a poorer education than a community college, are more expensive and predatorily seek out students eligible for state/federal aid. This has been robustly established, and has even triggered congressional inquiry into the merit of publicly funding an education via an online, for-profit university like UofPhoenix. Rather, good learning is rooted in material and expertise. Fox News and its ilk have a sweeping presence on the internet. So do Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen and Benny Hinn. The impact comes from the message, and anyone can pick up a microphone, even broadcast charlatans, even so called "islamic state".
The negative provides better reasons for not assigning credit to the internet for the advancement of secularism, while the affirmative offered no reasons beyond conjecture/speculation. All of the affirmative analysis is built on a fallacy, "cum hoc, ergo propter hoc." Even worse for the affirmative, they failed to respond to this in the final round of arguments; they "dropped" or conceded, this point, and can't win the debate when they built a case on a fallacy, and failed to even respond when it was pointed out.
The Aff suggested that someone, "in limbo," or undecided on religion might be impacted by a video like this, but if the person is in limbo, the tilling of the ground has already been done. This resonates even more with the "Facebook filter" example the Aff offered. He seems to forget that the supreme court had to act on years of work going back to Harvey Milk for Mayor in order to make that filter so popular. This is a reflection of sentiment previously popularized by generations of work, not attributable to the internet.
The affirmative actually concedes in round three that online media he describes may not, "cause people to drop their bibles," in providing his, "person in limbo," scenario, however this in fact is the level of threshold they must to reach in order remain consistent with the affirmative case from round two, where they acknowledged that "correlation is not causation." And supposed to offer examples for cause that turned out to be merely speculative and weak.
They also need to reach this threshold to provide an example anywhere nearly as significant as those offered by the negative. Daesh online recruiting and radicalization as well as utilization of the internet to facilitate terrorism means the internet is being used to significantly advance religion in a way we can measure and observe, far more than offered by the affirmative.
That gets us back to the question of significance. Again, the affirmative offered only speculative, trivial examples of secularist videos online. And not only does the affirmative fail to provide a causal reason to believe the media he points at will change people's perspective, he fails to provide an example, however speculative, as significant as what Daesh is doing today, which is not a speculation, it's an alarming reality.
Thanks JayShay for the topic, thanks to readers for following, and to those of you voting, strongly urging a negative ballot.
"Freedom is hammered out on the anvil of discussion, dissent, and debate." -Hubert Humphrey
**This is a new example, not a new argument
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