Letter: Information and disinformation – Part 2
With our global mess of political tangles, progress escapes formal leadership. An incredible number of Americans also lack faith in the released information, science, or other facts presented for careful public scrutiny (as evidenced by COVID-19 vaccine refusal rates). To find answers to major societal questions, we could “do research ‘online. However, hidden algorithms guide Internet researchers to global belief networks backed by disinformation.
Others take a more spiritual approach. Although many Americans have abandoned established churches, those with natural inclinations for the faith are turning to “internet religion ”, Vox reported on December 14, 2021. Common religiosity has thus found a new platform. Especially through social media, a wide variety of religious themes appear in the feeds. The conspiratorial acolytes join with false prophets and shamans, spreading the good word.
Bad religious orientation is nothing new. This can be seen for example in the experience of the Puritan pilgrims who inhabited the border villages of New England. The pioneers of those difficult times largely ignored the line separating body and soul, living in superstition everywhere. The settlers were also threatened by Indian raids, frost and poverty. In constant torment, the Puritan rulers viewed some women as witches.
The Puritans and the Great Awakenings that followed shaped America’s heritage of piety and individualism. the “Protestant ethics ”emphasized the individual‘s personal relationship with God. Modern charismatic preachers promote a “prosperity gospel ”online, emphasizing individual responsibility‘own circumstances.
On the Internet today, spiritual messages proliferate as much as cultural and political messages. Witchcraft and demonic spirits are also imagined and promoted. Of course, even atheists are interested in morals. The aesthetics of good and evil, demons and angels, as well as prosperity, even health, all have worldwide religious application. When people feel powerless against evil, they can turn to simplistic explanations on the Internet – communist plots, Satanic symbolism, etc. Indeed, the government is now seen as a vast conspiracy (including the development of public health policies).
It has been an eternal human tendency to organize uncertainty within spiritual frameworks. However, spirituality is of course human-led and is likely to be disposed to the human impulse to scapegoat, manifest hatred, distinguish between good and evil, and even instigate violence. Traditional churches are also subject to human fragility, but may have institutionalized better doctrines and coping mechanisms.
Douglas Sikorski, Laguna Beach
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