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Searching for God on the Internet

Casual Diversity Social Media Communication Concept (Credit: Rawpixel via Fotolia)In a recent article for the New York Times, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz examines God's popularity on the internet. He describes how Google searches for churches decreased 15 percent in the last five years when compared with the latter half of the 2000s. Over that same period, searches questioning God's existence have risen while pornography searches have increased by 83 percent and heroin searches by 32 percent. "Love thy neighbor" is still the most popular search with the word "neighbor" in it, but "neighbor porn" is a close second.

Perhaps that information is somewhat misleading. After all, as the author notes, "While the usual sources are biased in favor of wholesome activities, Internet data is probably biased in favor of debauched activities." However, people's search habits can still inform us regarding the topics in which they are most interested. With that in mind, the number one question in every state regarding God is, "Who created God?" with the second most popular asking why he allows suffering. Sadly, "Why does God hate me?" was the third most common, with the top three answers to "Why did God make me ___?" being ugly, gay, and black.

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The line between civil and religious rights

Surrounded by Rowan County Sheriff's deputies, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, center, with her son Nathan Davis standing by her side, makes a statement to the media at the front door of the Rowan County Judicial Center in Morehead, Kentucky, Monday, September 14, 2015 (Credit: AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley) Kim Davis's story has elicited strong opinions from people on both sides of the political spectrum. She was a talking point in the latest Republican debate, and her story continues to polarize as people are seemingly forced to choose whether or not her religious rights are more important than her duties as a government employee. Linda Greenhouse reflects on that choice in her latest opinion piece for the New York Times. In "Drawing the Line Between Civil and Religious Rights," Greenhouse asks "For all the reasons to object to a public policy…should claims based on religion receive more respect than the others? If the answer is yes, is it yes without limits?"

Religious liberty is one of the foundational tenets of the United States. The first colonists left England in the hopes of finding a place where they could practice their beliefs without government interference. And while those early settlers were more concerned with their religious freedom than that of others who believed differently, it was still a principle that eventually developed into our First Amendment right to live free from Congress passing any "law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

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Does God hate sagging pants?

Trevor Smith, front, and Justin McClendon pose for a photo wearing their sagging, baggy pants as a fashion statement in New Haven, Conn. Opinions vary on the origin of the sagging pants movement. While some see them as a fashion statement, others say it perpetuates racial stereotypes, or could lead to health complications based on the way it can force wearers to walk. (Credit: AP Photo/Peter Casolino)Does God hate sagging pants? Is the Lord pleased when a belt is accompanied with suspenders, revealing partial trust issues but a well thought out back up plan should one fail?  

Dadeville, Alabama city councilor Frank Goodman made the news this week with his prophetic announcement concerning a prevalent problem. Describing to The Daily Beast the situation, Goodman said: "We have a lot of older people here who don't want to see it. A lot of middle-aged people don't want to see it either…They don't want to see anybody walking around with their pants down with underwear that is showing."

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The search for authentic originality

Socality Barbie is a fantastic Instagram account satirizing the great millennial adventurer trend in photography (Credit: socalitybarbie via Instagram)Authentic originality seems to be in short supply these days. Whether it's the plethora of sequels and spinoffs that dominate the entertainment world or the philosophizing platitudes that litter social media, it seems like true originality is an increasingly rare commodity. Or, perhaps we are simply so interconnected with the world around us that we more easily recognize the lack of uniqueness. Either way, it seems to have created an atmosphere in which people often try so hard to generate content that sounds authentic and original that it results in more of the same derivative clichés and phrases they initially tried to avoid.

A recent article in Wired by Taylor Glascock highlights the issue. Glascock profiles an Instagram account called Socality Barbie that, as she describes, satirizes "the great millennial adventurer trend in photography." The account is filled with pictures of a Barbie doll dressed in various trendy outfits posing in front of picturesque landscapes or taking photos of her latest culinary experiences. The images are often accompanied by captions like "Always gram your coffee or it didn't happen and Great things never came from comfort zones," phrases Glascock describes as "pitch-perfect platitudes."

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Live murder, abortion, Ashley Madison: numbing effect

Couple watching television bored (Credit: Eelnosiva via Fotolia)Around 6:45 on a Tuesday morning, Vester Flanagan fumbled with his phone, walked towards a local TV crew filming a segment on tourism, pulled out a gun, and murdered Alison Parker and her colleague Adam Ward on live TV. Earlier last week, the infamous website Ashley Madison was hacked and millions of names were released— names of married individuals who were interested in extramarital affairs. Last month, The Center for Medical Progress began releasing a series of eight videos that depicts Planned Parenthood officials nonchalantly discussing trafficking fetal tissue and organs from aborted babies. All of this is happening while, across the world, ISIS continues to kill innocent people, kidnap children, and embrace a theology that justifies rape.

Each one of these tragic stories falls upon our conscience and triggers a type of emotional fight-or-flight response. One can take flight—refuse to acknowledge the evil in Roanoke, downplay the prevalence of infidelity, ignore the national conversation concerning aborted children, or be aloof towards the atrocities overseas. Or one can fight against these atrocities. Research indicates, however, that the desire to fight is increasingly harder the more inundated we are with these acts of violence.

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