Facebook now has more than 1.6 billion users. Think about that fact for a moment. This means that Facebook is now larger than every nation on earth, surpassing China by nearly the population of America. It’s also larger than the global number of Muslims, or Buddhists, or Hindus. At the rate Facebook is growing, it may soon surpass the world’s 2.2 billion Christians.
Here’s another interesting fact: the average follower of the four major religions spends up to forty-five minutes a day in spiritual activities. By contrast, the average Facebook user spends fifty minutes on the platform each day.
Would a visitor to our planet say that Facebook is our newest religion?
Consider the parallels. The world’s religions appeal to their followers for three reasons:
One: They offer connection with the transcendent, something or Someone beyond ourselves.
Two: They offer connection with each other, a community with whom to do life.
Three: They offer connection with ourselves, various spiritual disciplines we can use to become our best selves.
Facebook is a secularized religion that offers all three:
One: We become our own deity, the god of our virtual world. We are empowered as the lord of our alternate reality.
Two: We can connect with everyone who is on Facebook as they and we wish.
Three: We display our best selves to the world, the people we wish to be.
Consider the third factor for a moment. Facebook doesn’t change human nature—it reveals it. We have actually been trying to cover up who we really are since our fallen first parents “sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths” in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:7). Psychologists have a clinical description for this phenomenon: we construct an “idealized self,” the person we wish to be. Then we spend our lives projecting this person to others and to ourselves.
John Powell’s Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? answers its own question: If I tell you who I am, I’m afraid you won’t like me. So I make various masks to wear in public, each designed for its particular purpose. You do the same. We have our Sunday masks and our Monday masks, our church masks and our school masks and our work masks.
Facebook is just the latest way we can be in public who we wish we were in private. We get to be our own god, with our own community and our own best self.
My point is not to criticize Facebook. As a way of communicating with friends and family, it is clearly beneficial. Nor did Mark Zuckerberg invent the concept of secularized religion. Satan did that long ago—his first temptation is the same temptation we face today: “you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5).
Why does Satan still tempt us to be our own god? Because he knows that there is a “God-shaped emptiness” in us all (Pascal) and that our hearts are restless until they rest in God (St. Augustine). So our enemy redirects this innate longing for the transcendent from the true God to false gods and even to ourselves as our own deity.
Dwight Moody: “It is as natural for man to feel after God as it is for the ivy to feel after a support. Hunger and thirst drive man to seek for food, and there is a hunger of the soul that needs satisfying, too. Man does not need to be commanded to worship, as there is not a race so high or low in the scale of civilization but has some kind of god. What he needs is to be directed aright.”
That’s why the first commandment does not command us to worship. Rather, it commands us to worship God: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).
Would the one true God say that he is your true God today?