Drawing on social-science research that has noted Americans’ declining participation in associations both religious and secular, and that has also found a strong correlation between churchgoing and charitable activities, Mark Zuckerberg recently argued that social media can help rebuild social bonds and encourage good deeds. Mark Bauerlein is skeptical:
Zuckerberg [sees churches as] communities held together by no other glue than the interests and needs of their members, plus strong leadership. God plays no necessary role in the process, though nothing in Zuckerberg’s description rules Him out. We can find our “sense of purpose” in one another. We don’t make strong demands upon ourselves and our brothers and sisters (and we certainly need not allow God and His deputies to tell us how to live), but we do give comfort and succor and belonging to each other.
A little more than a century ago, this draw-down of God went under [the label of] humanism. . . . Once you’ve adopted the humanist we-can-do-it-alone conception, you may start believing that the church did indeed come together as a therapeutic social contract. We convene and pray and give because we love one another. A religious community/church is just one kind of gathering, and it’s declining. . . .
Two years ago, I chaired a panel at Virginia Military Institute on social media and the social good. . . . [One] speaker . . . stated that [social media] were the largest and most effective instrument of charitable giving in existence. He displayed data demonstrating the diverse causes and promptings of donation in the United States, with social media standing clearly at the top. . . . I had to ask, “In your surveys, did you include weekly church collections?” He paused before issuing a modest “No.”