‘Digital religion’ sparks ‘spiritual revolution’ among millennials

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WATERLOO, ON — According to a new study, digital religion is leading to a “spiritual revolution” among many young adults.

Although it may seem like it, it is not a cult of technology and social media. Instead, researchers at the University of Waterloo say faith communities are using these tools to reach millennials who seek to participate in organized religion — without having to attend in-person services.

“We know that more and more people are turning to digital media for spirituality such as discussion groups with pastors, online sermons and religious content on social media,” explains the sociology professor from Waterloo Sarah Wilkins-Laflamme in a university outing. “We’ve found that while digital religion doesn’t necessarily attract many new millennials to participate, it enriches the experience for those who are already involved.”

During the early months of the pandemic, remote church services enabled many people to continue practicing their faith without having to leave home. Although the study finds that modern technology is making organized religion much more appealing to millennials who are spiritual, the vast majority do not practice.

“It is still present for a significant minority of the young adult population, and for many of them, digital religion plays an important complementary role to the in-person practice of their faith,” adds Wilkins-Laflamme.

While previous studies have looked at the role digital technology, social media and other media play in religious services today, Wilkins-Laflamme says this study is the first to look at who actually participates in remote services. and how it affects their faith.

“The social environment plays a significant role, with digital religious practices being much more prevalent in the generally more religious American context, compared to the generally more secular Canadian context,” concludes Wilkins-Laflamme. “Digital religious practices are often, but not always, linked to other in-person religious and spiritual activities among millennials.”

The study is published in the Religious Research Review.

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