When in Doubt, Google “Who Created God?”

For all our complaining about the religious right’s inappropriate influence in politics and religious conservatives’ attempts to tear down the church-state wall, the secular movement is actually doing quite well. The most recent Pew Research Center poll says 23 percent of Americans are religiously unaffiliated; that percentage increases to 35 percent for Americans under thirty-five. If secularism hasn’t yet taken over the country, we’re on track to.

The questions that Americans type into Google searches about God appear to confirm our country’s rising secularism. According to economist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, writing in the New York Times:

Despite the rising popularity of Pope Francis, who was elected in 2013, Google searches for churches are 15 percent lower in the first half of this decade than they were during the last half of the previous one… The top Google search including the word “God” is “God of War,” a videogame, with more than 700,000 searches per year.

And great news for humanists: Stephens-Davidowitz also discovers, “Searches questioning God’s existence are up.” He goes further to seek what questions people Google whilst in their period of doubt:

The No. 1 question in the country is “who created God?” Second is why God allows suffering… The third most-asked question is why does God hate me? The fourth is why God needs so much praise.

With the click of a button, Stephens-Davidowitz suggests that the era of seeking answers and advice about God directly from rabbis, pastors, or imams may be coming to an end. He recognizes that the conclusions drawn from Google searches do not indicate a decline in religiosity overall, though “long-term polling data… has consistently shown an increase in the number of people who identify as atheists or agnostics.”

But what’s leading people to question God through Google? God’s human-design choices. Stephens-Davidowitz delves deeper:

What is the most common word to complete the following question: Why did God make me ___? No. 1, by far, is “ugly.” The other sad answers in the top three are “gay” and “black.”

For those who are curious, the first link that appears when you Google “Why did God make me ugly?” brings up a page from Christian Answers Network, “a nonprofit, donor-based ministry of Films for Christ,” that appears to answer questions on everything from morality and political correctness to dinosaurs and kangaroos (“wonderful examples of God’s craftsmanship”). The page features a letter writer named Erin who is angry at God for making her unattractive. The advisor cites Bible verses about how God doesn’t judge (1 Samuel 16:17) and how Jesus himself wasn’t very good-looking (Isaiah 53:2). In the end, the website’s advice is to focus on worshiping God to help you become “more beautiful on the inside.”

I’m certainly not opposed to finding inner beauty, but it breaks my heart to see people ask these questions in the hopes that Google—or God for that matter—will produce a magical answer that will satisfy everyone. But I rest happy knowing that more people are questioning the existence of God than ever before, and access to the open Internet is making it possible.