Greg Cootsona, who has done a lot of work studying the faith of emerging adults, notes that there seems to be a correlation between a “drop in religious affiliation and a rise in Internet use.” He suggests that this might be because of the “strong correlation between empathy and religious belief—that is, believers tend to show higher levels of empathy.” Studies have shown that decreased empathy often corresponds to heavy technology (internet) use and limited participation in non-virtual relationships, so it is not entirely surprising that people, especially young adults who’ve grown up in a digital age, are less involved in religion today. On top of this, from a practical standpoint, the significant number of technological distractions present today limits the time and energy (and focus) that individuals put into spiritual and religious activity.
As Cootsona notes:
If using technology decreases our empathy, and empathy is correlated with faith, maybe technology decreases our capacity for spiritual life. We need more studies on this, but I can report anecdotally that the college students I teach and the emerging adults that have been part of my ministries seem increasingly anxious, even twitchy. They’re less present to one another and therefore diminished in their ability to care.
See Cootsona’s blog for more thoughts on how science (+ technology) and faith relate.