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Going by the numbers, Facebook is now the second largest religion in the world – and growing fast. Are traditional religions at risk?


Regardless of their religious beliefs, people are worshiping more and more – just not in the manner you might think. They don’t worship by going to church, praying to God, or reading a religious text. They do it by opening Facebook.

As of this summer, the number of active users on Facebook has surpassed 2 billion, making it more popular than Islam (1.8 billion followers) and puts it hot on the heels of Christianity (2.3 billion followers). Going by the numbers, Facebook is now the second-largest religion in the world.

Facebook is the new religionModern Worship

Although traditional religion remains important in the lives of many people, membership in organized faith groups is on the decline. All across America (as well as in other countries) churches are struggling to keep the pews full on Sundays. Studies show that more people than ever before claim no religious affiliation whatsoever. So, what’s filling the void? Where are these Godless people turning? Well, they’re on Facebook.

The social media giant has seen membership skyrocket over the past few years at a rate that would make any religion envious. Consider this, too: Facebook owns 3 of the 5 largest social media networks in the world (WhatsApp and Instagram, in addition to the Facebook platform). All told, their combined users total a quarter of the world’s population.

The rampant growth of this new “congregation” has taken many people by surprise, and it’s making traditional religious institutions a little worried.

Connecting with the Community, from the Couch

What are the larger implications of this “new religion”? Well for one, people suddenly have an alternative way to engage with their community. For many, church is as much a social event as a spiritual one. But why drag yourself to church on Sunday morning when you can chat with those same people online, all from the comfort of your couch?

But that’s not all. There are countless religious Facebook pages which serve as 24-hour faith discussion forums. Plus, with the advent of Facebook Live and other video applications, some worship services are now live-streamed – allowing people to watch at home on their devices. How can brick-and-mortar churches possibly compete with that kind of convenience?

Facebook icon towering over other major religions.The Church of the Future

Think about it: people use Facebook to gather and offer comfort in the wake of a tragedy. They extend encouragement and well wishes to those in need. They wish each other happy birthday. All of this used to happen in person, in houses of worship. Increasingly, it’s happening online. 

Don’t think for a second that any of this is accidental, either. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg recognizes the social media giant’s potential to create successful virtual communities, and is actively pushing the company in that direction. Just look at their newest mission statement: “Bringing the world closer together.” The goal couldn’t be clearer.

So what will the consequences be? Could Facebook’s rise result in the slow deterioration of physical faith communities around the globe? Is it possible that the church of the future will exist entirely online?

As the public – millennials especially – live more interconnected, technology-focused lives, it’s a real possibility that the need for human interaction once served by churches and religion at large will be supplanted by social media.

A Changing World

Maybe you still attend church regularly and scoff at the notion of this ever changing. Just think for a second, though – technology is only going to get better. Perhaps a live-streamed service doesn’t interest you, but what will the next few years bring? What if you could put on a Virtual Reality (VR) headset in your living room and experience the church service as if you were in the front row?

That’s not just a possibility, it’s an inevitability. The technology is not far off. But here’s the most interesting part: What company has the resources and incentive to develop, produce, and market such technology?

Facebook, of course.

The church of the future may be coming faster than you think.

 

17 comments

  1. Miranda Allison Young says:

    I use Facebook a lot. I spend four hours at the city library, about 1/3 of that time on Facebook. I also use it at home on my smartphone. However, it will never replace going to a real church on Sundays. One of the reasons I love going to church is the people. My particular church has the most wonderful people in the world. When I have to miss it, I really MISS it. I only stay home when I have a horrendous headache (I have suffered from bad headaches most of my life, and I am 79). Reality churches will never be replaced by virtual ones.

    1. John Smithkey lll, RN, BSN says:

      I FULLY AGREE with Ms. Miranda Young’s comments! Modern technology will never be able to replace the traditional brick and mortar churches. This country was founded on the idea and the dream of religious freedom. Ms. Young mentioned that her church has ” the most wonderful people in the world”. This is indeed a quality that you cannot find in the world of the virtual reality “churches”! If you want to meet wonderful people, simply attend a brick and mortar church of your choice! Have a blessed month everyone! JOHN SMITHKEY III, RN, BSN

  2. angel722 says:

    Your basing your theory on the number of user’s? If this were the case, then over 6 billion people also worship food because everyone eats.
    Religion is a spiritual belief system that is based on certain spiritual beliefs and requires follwer’s to follow specific rules within that religion. Though some will use it to enhance their spiritual beliefs, it’s not a belief system, it’s globalism,The same type of globalism that religious,government and buissness leader’s are trying to reproduce in the real world! I do not “worship” Facebook, but I do talk to my family in Germany who I would have not otherwise have ever even met. I use Facebook as a platform to to post my own spiritual beliefs and to share them. As a Medium, I also use this as a platform to help other people and give readings. Many other people use it for many others reason. Some for good reasons, some for not so good reasons. I have seen Christians use to it ” GO LIVE” and spread the word of Jesus! I do believe that everyone as their own opinions, but I find your article a radical interpretation of what Facebook is. Just like the internet in general, it’s simply a tool, but people decide what they will use it for!

    1. Alicja says:

      Greetings: ANGEL722.
      I heartily thank you for this response. Admittedly, I was responding in mind to what I was reading in this article. I believe it to be Classist in its misunderstanding. Among many other quite charged adjectives. As I linger over a looming task, messages are coming through. I cringe at each little electronic notification *Ding!*
      Will it be a Lovely Some One not yet known to me, amongst World atrocities, how can I help?
      Of course, the Communities that have sprung an incarnation ‘on line’ help me do my work so beautifully. This is no thing that I need, there is need there/here. I get to witness the Love in Global Communities helping as a choir, many voices, a spectrum of vista; many help A One in beautiful numbers. For this, and so much more; I am grateful.
      And, on the concrete battlefields that I get to Live in; email ain’t no thing, it’s an idea no where near this reality. I appreciate your honesty and bravery to even reveal the words so misunderstood: A Medium. You well know the beauty of the conduit of internet as infrastructure in which to help others. I am profoundly inspired that you do. It’s not easy; it wasn’t meant to be. Help change a mind? You change the World.
      In Respect.
      LoveLightPeace,
      Ali

  3. tyford says:

    Wow! What an alarmist piece of writing. A warning shot over the bow of Organized Religion? But, as with most FB posts, it’s just words on a page with little power behind them. In all of its uglier permutations and efforts to control people and live off of them. Organized Religion could probably take some lessons, but given the fallibility of mankind, it’s not likely that many Christians could get out of their own way for the benefit of others.

    Yes, I know there are some who do good, however, I’m lately upset by the bad that is done under the guise of religion. I hope it will lead to justice in the case of Sister Cathy Cesnic, murdered in 1969 in Baltimore. Netflix has a chilling seven part documentary well worth watching. Here is the advocacy FB page. https://www.facebook.com/groups/454252571596239/
    God bless us all.

  4. George Jonte-Crane says:

    Another interesting read. This article, however, hints that the virtual service is on its way in. How many of our mainstream churches already live stream their Sunday morning service. The last three churches I have served all provided that technology to its members, constituents and non-members seeking a spiritual outlet on Sunday morning without dressing and sitting in the pews.

  5. cindirs says:

    Stupid article with ignorant thoughts on organized religion.

  6. SqurePegRoundHoke says:

    Not everyone fits into the mainstream churches in their area

  7. AnotherSquarePeg says:

    I know that my wife and I have tried to find a local church to attend, without much success.
    We are an interracial lesbian couple with very different religious backgrounds, she’s Episcopalian, I’m Prespaterian.
    Most of the churches in our town are mostly attended by a single race, or are so large that we don’t feel connected.
    I love technology, about to get my degree in Informatics, but just not at my church service. How can anyone sing alone to words and a bouncing ball on a screen when there isn’t any music. I also don’t feel comfortable with the Episcopal service.
    My wife has difficulty with being the only non-white person in attendance when we have tried other churches within our area, sometimes doing over an hour each way, only to find the same results.
    Having an online options available to those who, don’t fit into the churches in their area, may not feel comfortable being turbaned, aren’t always able to get to church because of, work, disability, frustration with mainstream religion, or whatever the reason, is a welcome relief to me and other that I know. We don’t have to feel disconnected from beliefs which are a big part of who we are.

  8. linda capps says:

    Having become “ordained” through this medium, I do believe that the new wave of religion will be online/home based. I long to start a church with NO buildings, where our believers could meet online at the same time we are at a home or even a restaurant having worship service…there would be NO tithes collected, because the “congregation would tithe to their “favorite” charity or can choose a “charity” of the month to give to.

    That way their “giving” is between them and God and not a matter for the “church” to be involved in…members could help each other as is their Godly calling via a “call out” via text/email/FB/etc…

    I have been a believer since 1995 and while I LOVE church, I don’t like to politics or the Pastor having to bow to the will of the biggest contributor or Elder Board…

  9. Johnny L Pry Sr says:

    The 1.8 Billion “followers” of islam is a misnomer. When islam conquers a region, the people are forced to convert or be killed(most likely)/exiled(least likely) or pay Jizya(less likely). Please stop blowing smoke up our backside. Islam is not a religion. It is a murderous political ideology.

  10. Bill Fox says:

    Matthew 18:20New International Version (NIV)
    20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

  11. Kevin Von Zell says:

    I am a seminary-trained, ordained, experienced senior pastor with a desire to form a new tribe of non-faithist, non-gullible SAN DIEGANS who wish for what only heart-to-heart fellowship can provide… love, real caring, fun together, playing and growing close together in a new tribal group, that for lack of a better word we could call “church!” If interested in becoming a part of such a tribe, and if you are a local, or willing to fly in, please feel free to contact me with your wishes @ zeller@live.com I will get back to as to time & place.
    Love ONLY, Always, Rev. Kevin Zeller, MDiv, B.Mus.

  12. James says:

    In my opinion, religion is a set of rules. Actions are in the individual. However, in my faith, when to or more have in his name. That is church. The house of the lord is also church. That being said, I think something should remain heritage. Technology can ruin a society. We must inactive on a physical level, less we parish. Society is by definition the interaction of humans. Again, my opinion :if we don’t follow the idea of a creator then we are left to follow the rule of man. Then we are just animals, animals devour one another with out remorse. They do as they please out of instinct. I pray we don’t go there.

  13. Robert Walters says:

    This article is an excellent commentary on the impact of Face Book on social change on how we relate. While it does indicate FB as one of the factors involved with the decline of interest in mainline church attendance and religious emphasis, it is not attack on religion, churches or Face Book.

    Many of the comments, however, seem to ignore the timely comment on a very real social situation in favor of defending their own faith and FB participation, when no defense is needed. It’s not clear to me that Face Book follows all the criteria for being called a religion. Possibly that may have been a factor in all those negative comments? Otherwise, I applaud this timely and well written article.

  14. Tom says:

    What is actually happening is that Facebook, along with technology, is rushing humanity toward isolation and obesity…both cut down on actual human contact and activity, by letting people pretend they have many friends and they are using their minds…it is sad…Tom

  15. Brian Balke says:

    Ummm. The Holy Spirit was the original internet, with the benefit that it only demands your attention when your physical expression of love is necessary to another. Facebook monetizes everything that occurs on it. It’s not a substitute.

    Of course, for those that think of religion as a “brick-and-mortar” practice, this won’t make sense…

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