WASHINGTON, May 22--Some 8% of adults and 12% of teen-agers inthe United States use the Internet for religious or spiritualexperiences and the number is likely to grow rapidly in coming years,according to a new study released on Monday.

The study by Barna Research, a California polling company thatspecializes in religious issues, was based on three surveys conductedlate last year: one of 1,017 randomly selected adults, a second of 605teen-agers and a third of 604 Protestant pastors.

The polls found that less than 1% of adults and 2% ofteen-agers currently use the Internet as a substitute for a physicalchurch. However, more than two-thirds of respondents said they werelikely to engage in some kind of cyberspace religious activity in thenext 10 years.

Activities deemed most appealing included listening to archivedreligious teaching, reading online ``devotionals'' and buying religiousproducts online.

Such figures, if they held true, could attract a huge potential audienceand create a market of up to 100 million adults, survey director GeorgeBarna said.

``By the end of the decade, we will have in excess of 10% of ourpopulation who will rely on the Internet for their entire spiritualexperience,'' Barna predicted.

``Some of them will be individuals who have not had a connection with afaith community but millions of others will be people who drop out ofthe physical church in favor of the cyberchurch,'' he said.

``Born-again and evangelical Christians are every bit as likely asnon-Christians to use the digital superhighway. Catholics and mainlineProtestants are slightly more likely to use the Internet than areBaptists and Protestants who attend non-mainline churches,'' the reportfound.

The survey of pastors found that more than 90% had computers athome or in their offices and 80% had access to the Internet.Around half logged on to the Web every day.

One in three Protestant churches had a Web site. Of those that did not,19% expected to have one up and running within the next year. Some other findings: so-called born-again Christians spend twice as muchon consumer electronics as they donate to their church; ChristianInternet users already spend more time surfing the Internet than they doat prayer and self-described religious believers spend seven times morehours each week watching television than they devote to all theirspiritual activities.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus