Social Media’s Effect on Modern Religion

I am writing this from the perspective of an American Reform Jew.

I had a conversation with a friend recently, where we got the chance to talk about pork. As many modern Reform Jews do, I consciously choose to eat pork. In my experience, eating pork amongst Jews is a common point of discussion (and humor), so I asked him why he chose to eat it.

My friend gave me a very interesting answer which I’ll discuss, but it also got me to think about Judaism, and the evolution of religion. The Torah specifically states not to eat pork, but is that outdated?

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What is the Torah?

From Wikipedia, “The Torah refers to the entirety of Judaism‘s founding legal and ethical religious texts.  There is the written part of the Torah, commonly referred to as The Five Books of Moses, and the oral portion which consists of the “traditional interpretations and amplifications handed down by word of mouth from generation to generation.”

As part of our discussion, my friend discussed how he viewed the Torah as the mass-communication tool of their era. The world had no other way to mass-communicate to citizens, and the world lacked a moral and legal standard. For pork specifically, the Torah outlawed those foods because they posed a health risk for people in that day.

The question I have posed is, if those foods didn’t pose a risk, would the Torah have outlawed them? If you believe that Man created the Torah, and not God, then the answer is probably no; the Torah wouldn’t have outlawed those foods had they not posed a risk.

Social Media’s Effect on Modern Religion

Obviously, pork does not pose the same kind of risk that it did 3,000 years ago. More importantly, the majority of Jews in the world aren’t following the Torah’s interpretations the same way they used to.  I think this brings up the larger question. 3,000 years ago, if the Torah was the only way a Jew could feel Jewish, it was the only way they could learn about the world, it’s laws, and moral code, then can we say that in a world so different, the Torah is outdated?  Could we agree that this extends to other religions?

The world has changed. We can get information about the world in ways people in biblical days never dreamed possible. We no longer have to rely on religious texts for information on social norms and moral codes, we get that from each other. How does religion survive over the long haul when generations start to get their information not from the Torah, Bible, or Koran, but from each other?

Will social media made religion a thing of the past? What does religion look like 500 years from now?

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4 thoughts on “Social Media’s Effect on Modern Religion

  1. I think our ability to connect so readily through social media brings up a lot of questions about the future … religion is interesting because no matter how quickly information technology makes advancements I see no change in the hostility between rival religious groups throughout the world.

    Perhaps one outcome will be less religious sects and more concrete versions of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc.

    I don’t think we’ll ever come together as one core religion though … and if we did, we’d find something else to argue about 🙂

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  2. Hi Ryan,

    Thanks for the thoughts. I agree with some of your points, but respectively disagree on others.

    I agree with you that we won’t see religious fighting end any time soon, but I think that will begin to change as much of the technology poor countries start to get more connected and religion becomes less pronounced.

    Regardless of whether religion splinters or consolidates, I think religion will continue to have less of an impact on a person’s every day actions than before. 1,000 years ago, religion was a driving social and legal force. I see that dying to a certain extent today and in the future.

    I don’t by any means believe that war will ever end. After all, I think that’s human nature, but it may be caused more by economic imbalance, geopolitics, or race.

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  3. Hey Adam,

    You may be right. I definitely see religion playing less of a role in our everyday lives.

    Who knows though? Social media could hit a major speed bump, the Web 2.0 evolution could blow up in our faces … then it’s back to basics. People need to put their faith in something, and religion is always there, regardless of what we chose to believe in.

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  4. Agree with you on this.

    Religion used to serve it’s purpose as a political, legal, spiritual, and community vehicle. If 3 of those 4 are taken away, then only the spiritual place of religion still lives on.

    As you mention, anything can happen with technology, though.

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