2016-06-30
WASHINGTON, May 22--Some 8% of adults and 12% of teen-agers in the United States use the Internet for religious or spiritual experiences 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 that specializes in religious issues, was based on three surveys conducted late last year: one of 1,017 randomly selected adults, a second of 605 teen-agers and a third of 604 Protestant pastors.

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

Activities deemed most appealing included listening to archived religious teaching, reading online ``devotionals'' and buying religious products online.

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

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

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

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

The survey of pastors found that more than 90% had computers at home 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 much on consumer electronics as they donate to their church; Christian Internet users already spend more time surfing the Internet than they do at prayer and self-described religious believers spend seven times more hours each week watching television than they devote to all their spiritual activities.

more from beliefnet and our partners