By Dr Stephen Pihlaja
For the last 10 years, I have been studying interactions between Christians and atheists on YouTube and social media, focusing particularly on how they structure arguments and categories to fit very specific social contexts. One recurring issue in my work, and one that seems particularly prescient as we collectively practice saying the words ‘President Tump’, is how arguments about theology and science are often used to reinforce beliefs which a user’s audience might already hold. They need not be logical or fact-based, but they must appear to be delivered by an ally and broadly comport with a viewer’s own belief system.
One social media user, Joshua Feuerstein, provides a particularly good case study of how this operates. He has over 2 million likes on Facebook and holds a set of intersectional beliefs that are not uncommon—the redemptive power of Jesus Christ, the right to bear arms, a small government, and Donald Trump. His videos are portrait—shot on his phone—and feature two minutes of focused and simple sermons meant to be shared for the encouragement of all.