Saturday, 24 May 2014

Spirituality is changing because of the Information Age. It is all becoming "me" centred.

Information Age Spirituality: Personalized religion is here to stay.

by Tom Thorne

In the past I have made the point that one of the outcomes of the Information Age is a more personal focus on all aspects of life. This situation is brought about by highly personalized digital media largely focused on the individual and their needs and wants. Life events are focused as a series of "selfies".

This phenomenon may account for the much more personal view that people have towards how they see metaphysics and God. They now do not need a church liturgy or structure to have highly personalized ideas about spirituality and ethical behaviours. They can do it themselves without the benefit of clergy or if they go to a church for help they ask clergy to adapt to their personal spiritual and religious ideas.

Pentecostal church attendance has grown mainly because they enable ways for people to define and focus their personal views and find their way to come to Jesus. Other churches maintain a formula way to God which has less appeal than finding your personal Saviour.

Churches with hierarchical liturgies are in decline because contemporary people have to fit into a way of thinking rather than define and tailor their own. Decline is also partially due in North America and Europe to an aging demographic. Younger people are less evident in hierarchical places of worship. 

However, they seem to have a sense that life, death, and events like births,  and marriages need some kind of ceremony. The actual regular attendance at churches and other places of worship has fallen off. Church is now a drop in centre where liturgical services are accessed as needed.

This change may be a result of the downgraded  influence and importance of hierarchical structures in daily life. It may also be  the general dislike people now have for top down ways to worship. One thing is certain attendance at church is falling as most clergy can attest. 

Because people do not attend places of worship it does not mean that they have abandoned goodness or abandoned themselves to wanton lifestyles. They have personalized how they deal with ethical matters and religious ideas.  Some see nature as a spiritual experience. Some focus on their families and children without the benefit of clergy and formal churches, often bringing up highly motivated and ethical children. Church is often Christmas and Easter services that evoke some ethereal connection to another time and place. 

They don't like rituals or formal services. They tend to take over wedding liturgies of churches and tailor them with their own vows to each other. They ask traditional clergy to do untraditional things with their formal services such as having a wedding outside of the church or allowing people to comment and make highly personal commitments concerning their union.

I have seen a Roman Catholic priest deal with two funerals both held at a funeral home. The children provided input to the priest about what they wanted to do for their parent's funeral and the priest wove the traditional Catholic commitment service into their ideas as best he could. When I quizzed the priest about this he said that he would rather do something than nothing. He also said that the children had no real idea about Catholic practice for a funeral and so the starting point was to listen to what they wanted. The children simply wanted to honour their parents who were practicing Catholics.

Nothing was really compromised. The service turned out to be respectful and a refreshing celebration of life. It never occurred to the children that what they wanted for their parent's funeral was wrong or stressed out any church principles. They personalized what they thought was appropriate and in this case it turned out well if not really a traditional Catholic funeral.

Doing your own thing is an effect of the Information Age. If you need a wedding or a funeral you Google the topic where you will find a plethora of notions, ideas and ways to do the job. Then you pick and choose what you think is appropriate for you. It is very "me" focused which is a feature of the children of the Information Age. Information technologies are so ubiquitous today that they will be the toolkit to redefine deeper thoughts and spirituality of their users.

© Copyright 2014, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved.


  1. A very thoughtful piece. It occurs to me that more or less the same sort of process is happening across every aspect of culture in modern liberal democracies. And the result is a fragmentation of society.

    I don't know where this will end but it seems as if eventually nobody will have anything at all in common with anybody else, and at that point there is no shared experience and therefore no culture.

  2. I was taken by your idea that fragmentation of society is an outcome of the Information Age. Even before the digital web age started sources of information began to fragment as information sources increased. This was also true in traditional broadcasting especially when it was spread to new markets by satellites. This act had the effect of fragmenting local markets with a plethora of television sources. Digital media have the effect of intensifying this process.