Nearly two-thirds of online Americans use the Internet for faith-related reasons. The 64% of Internet users who perform spiritual and religious activities online represent nearly 82 million Americans. Among the most popular and important spiritually-related online activities measured in a new national survey: 38% of the nation’s 128 million Internet users have sent and received email with spiritual content; 35% have sent or received online greeting cards related to religious holidays; 32% have gone online to read news accounts of religious events and affairs; 21% have sought information about how to celebrate religious holidays; 17% have looked for information about where they could attend religious services; 7% have made or responded to online prayer requests; and 7% have made donations to religious organizations or charities.
The survey provides clear evidence that the majority of the online faithful are there for personal spiritual reasons, including seeking outside their own traditions, but they are also deeply grounded in those traditions, and this Internet activity supplements their ties to traditional institutions, rather than moving them away from church. Higher percentages of the online faithful report online activities related to personal spirituality and religiosity than activities more related to involvement in traditional religious functions or organizations. This is interesting because many analysts have assumed that the Internet would make it more likely for people to leave churches in favor of more flexible online options for religious or spiritual activity. Faith-related activity online is a supplement to, rather than a substitute for offline religious life. The survey found that two-thirds of those who attend religious services weekly use the Internet for personal religious or spiritual purposes. They are more likely to be women, white, middle aged, college educated, and relatively well-to-do. In addition, they are somewhat more active as Internet users than the rest of the Internet population.
Online Evangelicals are a significant subgroup of the American religious landscape. This study found them to resemble other Protestants in terms of their Internet behaviors in some ways, but to be unique in other ways. They are slightly less experienced in Internet use than other categories of religious affiliation. But they are more likely than others to engage in all categories of online religious activity.