There have been several “Great Awakenings” in American history. These are periods of “increased religious enthusiasm.” These were times where more focus was placed on the Christian religion and church memberships increased as a result. Religious revivals were prevalent as well during these times.
The first great awakening was said to have occurred between 1730 and 1740. The second wave was said to have taken place between 1790 until the late 1840’s. Then there was a third great awakening of this country. It happened between the late 1850’s and went all the way into the early 1900’s. Somewhere between the late 1960’s and early 1970’s there was a fourth awakening, though this has been the subject of debate. It was not as widely accepted as the other three awakening periods.
During these periods of awakening in the United States, many changes in the church and in religion in general were occurring. The way messages were being taught began to change. Instead of only preachers delivering the messages, the information was becoming available for all to share, though it was still the one source (the Bible) and there was no way to confirm or reject it. African Americans were slowly leaving the white-run churches and forming their own churches. Other things that were changing during these times were things such as banning the consumption of alcohol, abolishing slavery and the fight for women’s rights, especially the right to vote. There were several new denominations introduced as no one could agree on doctrine. Church music styles changed and a laid back approach to church was employed in more recent times in order to increase attendance.
The term awakening with regards to religion implies that there was a period of religious “slumber” where religious attitudes were not overly enthusiastic. Out of fear of becoming a secular nation, great efforts were employed by the church to garner religious fervor. But as you can see by the number of religious awakenings, it doesn’t last. Many positive changes happened to churches across the country and many new members walked through their doors. However, the source material didn’t change and that’s a problem for a lot of people.
Back before the internet, libraries and access to historical archives, people were limited to what their source of information was. In almost all cases in those early days, your source of information was the person telling it to you. In many cases, it was your family. You parents taught you most of what you needed to know to succeed in life. But when it came to religious things, the church was the one source. Not everyone had a Bible and even if they did, they had to have someone in a leadership position behind the pulpit tell them how to interpret it. They had reassurance from the church that the story was all true and had no way to verify that so it was accept it or reject it based on one source.
Many people throughout history have believed or have gone through the motions, feigning belief, because they had no other options. They didn’t have access to the history of the formation of the Bible. They didn’t have access to other competing creation stories and mythology from around the world. They didn’t have access to the surviving manuscripts that show the alterations and deliberate changes to the scriptures they regarded as sacred. They were limited to just a book and those who interpreted that book for them.
This country would lose interest and need to be “reawakened” when the people strayed from the teachings of those who held all of the cards. And it went on this way for a long time. Until there came a day that changed everything. It was a day that I would argue started the real great awakening. That date? August 6, 1991.
On August 6, 1991, the World Wide Web went live for the first time. When it launched, not many people knew about it. But by the end of the decade, most homes were online, not just here in the U.S, but all over the world. We now had access to just about every piece of information we could ever want to have. All the history we could want to learn about was now at our fingertips. I believe that is what really started the decline of religiosity in this country which is now at an all time low. Here is a fascinating article that shares some eye-opening numbers. The nonreligious in this country, for example are now about 1 out of every 3 people. Christians dropped from 91% in 1948 to 70% by 2014. Those numbers will almost certainly continue to trend in that direction with the number of believers going down and the number of nonreligious going up.
Here is what the internet has done to religion, Christianity especially: it has pulled back the curtain. The evidence or lack thereof regarding religion cannot be kept from anyone who wants to know. With the click of a button, the history of the world is on a screen before our eyes. The lies that we once believed are exposed to the light of day. Misconceptions, misinterpretations, misdirection, contradictions, errors and religious sleight of hand are no longer hidden from the public. Where once you had to accept what the preacher said on Sunday as absolute fact, you can now check on that and verify it for yourself. It makes the confusing less confusing…and the absurd things that make no sense? Well, now you can see for yourself why that is.
When I started losing my faith, the first thing I did was pray. Then I did some research. Then I did some more. Then I did so much more. I logged onto the internet and spent countless sleepless nights looking into the history of the religion I once gave my life to. I saw for myself the plagiarism from other religions. I saw the adoption of pagan rituals by the church while they simultaneously condemned pagan things. I saw that there was no evidence of the divinity of Christ though I had be assured there was some by my pastor and by religious authors whose books I had purchased to bolster my faith. I saw the obviously man-made religion I was once taught was ordained from above. I saw all of the fingerprints of power-hungry men on Christianity. I could see it all for myself and it was startling at first, and then infuriating to realize how I had been deceived.
There have been many “awakenings” in this country trying to reinstall religion into the culture. Each time, it failed because it never lasts long. But the incredible invention of the internet has awakened so many more people to the truth (and lies) of religion. Eyes, ears and minds have been opened and are able to take it all in from the comfort of our own homes. We can learn all we want without fear of being shamed for reading things contrary to what was once popular belief. All the information of the history of the world right here in front of our eyes 24/7 is the greatest awakening we have ever seen and it has changed religion forever. Ancient hearsay and mythology cannot compare to actual documented history that we can see for ourselves.
Remember the 1979 song “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles? It was the first video ever played on MTV back in 1981. It is about how radio was once the preferred method of entertainment until the age of video came about. Video lifted the veil and exposed the people we could once only hear on the radio. It eliminated doubt and misinterpretation. We could see for ourselves instead of only hearing and using our imagination. This is what the internet has done to Christianity and other religions. It has pulled the curtain back and exposed the truth that was once hidden. In short…
The Internet killed the Bible Star
And now for some cringe-worthy entertainment, here are the Buggles: