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One-fifth of Americans share religious experience online

One in five Americans share their religious thoughts and experiences on social networks, and nearly half said they saw someone else post “something about their religious faith” on the Internet, according to a Pew Research Center study on religion and electronic media.

The findings, released Thursday, suggest engagement online or through religious television, radio and music does not replace conventional means of religious participation. Rather, online engagement complements religious traditions, such as going to church.

“Among adults who say they attend religious services at least once a week, 31% report sharing their faith online in the previous week, compared with just 8% of those who seldom or never attend religious services,” the report said.

Religion has been a major force in the development of technology, said Karen North, an expert in social media at USC. North points to Pope Francis’ use of Twitter as an example of the way faith and social media can come together.

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“It’s not surprising that the Vatican decided to reach out on social media, or that the Dalai Lama has a Twitter acount,” North said. “Any area, like religion, where people feel passionately, they look for a voice and a vehicle to share their passion.”

Social networks, she said, provide people the opportunity to have that platform.

Black Protestants and white evangelicals -- both highly engaged in the religious experience -- are among the most likely to express their faith online, the study says.

Thirty-four percent of white evangelicals shared their faith online and 30% of black Protestants posted about their religion during an average week. By contrast, only 15% of Catholics talked about their religion over the same time period.

Young adults -- ages 18 to 29 -- are nearly twice as likely as adults older than 50 to express their faith online. Younger Americans also see more religious engagement online than their older counterparts, who watch more religious television.

“This pattern reflects broader generational differences in technology adoption and media consumption, with young adults using the Internet more than older people do,” the study said.

The Pew survey was conducted between May 30 and June 30 among 3,217 respondents.

Follow me on Twitter: @ParviniParlance


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