The Great Awakening

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:

20 thoughts on “The Great Awakening

  1. Yes the internet was great for information and bad for religion in general. No longer can pastors/popes rule with an iron whip. Also, if you’re religious, you can secretly read what you want without consequence – that alone has probably made a big difference.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Agreed. The guilt and shame people in the church feel for just asking questions can be reduced greatly by finding answers on their own. Having to ask a pastor in person is an uncomfortable thing to do. But if you have questions, or doubt or just want to check up on something said in church, you can do so anytime you want to without fear of being reprimanded.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. Remember the 1979 song “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles?

    😄 OMS&G Ben!!! As I was reading and getting to the end of your post that is exactly the song/video I was humming in my head—and 1 or 2 others! 😉

    This is one of my favorite remixes of Gary Numan’s hit “Metal” about technology changing everything like electricity did, the light-bulb did, oil/petrolium, and now the mass internet/social-media—it goes along with your Buggles “Video Killed the Radio Star.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you.

      When you don’t have access to the information, you can be easily influenced if you have trust in those who teach you. But when you do have access to information, those nagging doubts you feel can be investigated and you can see for yourself if your trust in someone was warranted.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Another nice post Ben! And the men of words have also hopped on here to cling to power in the form of internet apologists, clinging to their relevance through fear. One thing I love about the internet is now i have access to people that can reason better than I. I have been too believing at times, and I love the fact that I can see any topic through the eyes of a skilled thinker/skeptic in ways I couldn’t do myself. Now I am practiced in the skeptical skills that should really be taught in school. I also learned how wording things takes skill and practice, and so does unwording. It is easier to be conned that to admit to being conned—the internet has helped tremendously with access to professional journals and peer reviewed articles. Something Christianity has avoided like the plague since preachers were canonizes as legitimate teachers.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Access to seemingly unlimited information makes taking the position of faith seem rather foolish and is becoming increasingly difficult to justify. The facts are out there. All one has to do it look. The question is, how many really want to know the truth and how many are content to live in blissful ignorance?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Christianity is set out to prove itself by waiting, but as time passes we continue the fact that no religious belief has ever supplanted a scientific discovery. They may claim it and say, “see, see, our god is great”, but no discovery has ever been initiated by a biblical teaching. There is some shoehorning going on because, without that they solidify their irrelevance.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. God is great when people get what they want. When they don’t, then God is patient and just and that’s why we are going through “trials.” There is always a reason given for why God exists, but never any evidence. There is an endless supply of “God does this or that and God is great” but there is never any “this is undeniable evidence that God does this or that and because of that, God is great.”

        Things happen in life every second of every day in every place in the universe. These things are observable. God being responsible for any of those things is not observable. People take everyday occurrences and label them as “God’s works.” And the proof of this is?

        Liked by 2 people

      3. It does make sense in a way (since god is a representation of our own selves) that he should do nothing to fix anything. We should be so wise not to meddle in every little thing, for the more we try to repair the world, the more we wreck it. We seldom let nature prevail without a fight, then we spend the next generations trying to fix the mess that previous fix caused.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m far more cynical about the internet. The internet can be a great tool and do a great deal of good, but at the same time it is also doing an enormous amount of harm as well. It makes it easier for attacks to be launched against people, financial fraud, government and corporate censorship… How effective the technology is as a distributor of information and communications method depends solely on who controls it. With the advent of AI at the same time we are rapidly approaching the point where everything can and will be monitored, censored, restricted, controlled, etc. It already is to a significant extent. And it makes it easier for governments, corporations and others to track where you are, what you are doing, what you are reading… In China they are testing technologies that use facial recognition systems that monitor the mood of students in school to make sure they are conforming to what is expected of them, the “social” credit score system that penalizes you and prevents you from getting credit, renting an apartment, even traveling if you aren’t a “good citizen”. Blasphemy laws are starting to spring up even in allegedly free countries like Italy where saying anything even remotely derogatory about any religion can result in fines and even jail time. If some of those laws were in place here this blog would be illegal and most of us who comment here could be locked up or fined. I read one report that claimed two professional soccer players in the EU were suspended for several games simply because they uttered the phrase “god damn” when angry about something.

    But to get back to the internet, I don’t see the internet as an enlightening technology. It has the potential of being just that, but the way it is is being used today is exactly the opposite.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The internet was designed and created for the purpose of sharing information. It has been used for all sorts of things that it was not meant to be used for. One of the most disturbing things to me, as a father of four, is cyberbullying. All too often I read a story of some child who was bullied online and ended up taking their own life because of the emotional toll it takes on them. Something created for the sharing of information has become weaponized and used for truly heinous acts.

      I can see why you are cynical about the internet. I try to look at the positives although there are many negatives as well. Even things like Facebook are troubling to me. I used to have an account but I no longer do because there’s always the compulsion to either post an update or to read about someone else’s. It becomes a time-consuming endeavor that removes us from reality a bit. It’s not something I find to be a productive use of time. WordPress, which I love, can have the same effect if I allow myself to get lost in the reading of everyone’s posts all the time. I also find myself spending too much time checking sports stories, news stories, useless Wikipedia trivia, etc…it’s always good to take a break every now and then.

      Overall I would like to think that more good than bad has been accomplished with the internet, but I don’t know. For what I use it for, the unlimited information is valuable as long as I can block out the other noise.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I agree with your assessment. Technology in general is leading toward less freedom. Modern regimes of all sorts have more power over people than any in the past. Imagine if the Inquisition had the power to monitor and control information that the US government has now.

      I have seen Christians on the Internet talk about burning unbelievers or about throwing them to the lions. Christians in the past did use the old damnatio ad bestiam as a method of punishment, something they are not eager to point out in their movies and novels. There are countless apologists and Christian conspiracy theorists on the Internet too. Though it does look like more easily available information has put a dent in Christianity.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree with grouchyfarmer about where the internet and it’s ever more cloudy information seems to be evolving. For every so called “truth” you can find an optional opposite viewpoint. It’s becoming a jungle of misinformation, personal views and self-benefiting opinions. As our own opinion is merely part and parcel of opinions from others, taken from those (strangers?) whom we all share access with from the same media sources; Today, choosing who to believe, where you get and trust your news and information, your facts and figures has now become a form of “personal opinion” — in itself!

    In other words, where you go and who you trust for the Truth is becoming increasingly blurred. Fake news, network agendas, pseudoscience and everyone and his mother now have a vehicle (the internet) to spread their own personal opinions right or wrong or in-between? What makes matters worse is our human nature to seek out and confirm our own beliefs and disregard that which opposes — called confirmation bias.

    I continue to come back and seek out Posts from Ben, not only because I enjoy his way of writing and the honesty in his words but primarily because I register the fact of his past experiences relating to what he writes. I get the information from someone who’s been there. But not everyone (in fact probably most) seek out information in this way? It seems to me, learning to navigate through the vast misinformation available on the internet today to get to the Truth — should be every information seekers priority.

    I know I try and make it mine.
    It’s hard to find the truth anymore when everyone is stating that THEY are!
    Once upon a time you could get them to swear to it on a stack of Bibles! But as Ben has taught me — that doesn’t work anymore.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Let’s not confuse value with social media though. If we are getting our info from Facebook feeds vs Google Scholar (which few regular people are even aware of) then you are right. But there are thousands upon thousands of peer reviewed essays and studies available, which are very important in forming our truths and opinions.
      The second part would be to just shut it all off a while and simply observe the world without the opinions of the experts. It’s amazing what you can conclude with your own eyes.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ah, but that’s my point! Where does the bulk of Internet users go for their Information? What percentage of information seekers actually go to or will ever go to, peer reviewed academic studies or authentic scientific research papers or the Google Scholar page (which few regular people are aware of) — 10% of the populace? — 5%? — 2%?

    When the average browser wants information, almost everyone — just Google’s it! This brings up a list of thousands if not millions of sights, but most just select from the first page where almost certainly no peer reviews or scientific pages are found? We live in a satisfy me now society and most people will not dig for “Value.” They want quick and easy answers and can’t be bothered with long frustrating (to them) information searches. Or? As I stated, maybe they just don’t know how to look?

    Not only that, but where do Christians go for there religious information? Muslims for theirs? Liberal or Conservative Ideology followers? They go where their long-held beliefs are re-enforced, verified and accepted as fact. Most are not interested in the so-called truth, not looking for an opposite contradictory opinion to begin with. They want confirmation and no matter your belief there are hundreds of sites that will cater to yours.

    There were some 2.41 billion Facebook monthly active users as of the second quarter of 2019 (yes I googled it!) Social media, like it or not, is a worldwide source of information. So that leaves? How many of us who search the web and prioritize validated information? Willing to spend some time and dig through the vast maze of misinformation and misleading facts. Not many? And sadly, I for one, don’t see this changing, anytime soon!

    The Answer? Perhaps If we educate our children now (to late for us?) their generation will be more well-equipped in finding the truth in the future. Both On-line, and perhaps, in life as well?

    NOTE: Thanks Jim for your Google Scholar tip. I gave it a quick once over and it seems promising! And Ben, keep rocking on at what you do, I Too need to occasionally switch gears and I do enjoy the intelligent distraction of your site.

    Like

  7. I think that no matter where we get our information from, we need to fact check it and look for peer reviews whenever possible. Never rely on just one source no matter how much you want to trust that source. One source is like one eyewitness testimony in court. It might sound persuasive but there’s no way to corroborate it.

    Thanks for the compliment, by the way. I appreciate the positive feedback.

    Liked by 1 person

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