The Theology of Google Autocomplete

We used Google’s autocomplete function to see what questions people have about Christianity. The results are concerning.

In the last decade, Google has become so synonymous with looking for answers, that to “Google” something is a part of everyday life for almost anyone with an Internet connection. And, thanks to an algorithm that tracks every search in history, the search engine is getting smarter with each individual query. This makes the autocomplete feature a weird look into the collective questions plaguing modern culture and the thoughts of the masses.

We decided to plug a few faith-related questions and statements into the search field, and let autocomplete—which tries to guess what you are going to type based on the volume of searches it has seen in the past—tell us what people have been looking for.

The results weren’t always encouraging, but for Christians who are seeking to shape and influence culture, they can provide some interesting insight into the answers people want to know.

A quick note about our methodology: We paused all of our personal settings, so none of our past searches would influence the results. Also, we changed the location setting from local (using the IP address of where we were), to showing the entire U.S.

On Christians

This one is the most discouraging. It seems that most people who turn to the Internet for answers about the Body of Christ mostly want to know why Christians are such a bummer. Hopefully, this is one area we can all be a part of changing.

It also seems Googlers are curious about Christians' bacon consumption.

On Jesus

In terms of Jesus, questions Google-users have about Christianity's central figure are all over the map, though they seem particularly concerned with the second coming. Also, there are a shockingly large number of people who are curious about whether Jesus has any ink.

On Sin and Salvation

Unsurprisingly, people seem pretty concerned about Hell and what is and isn't considered sin. But the questions about how salvation is obtained may be a sign that despite the prevalence of Christianity in culture, the Church needs to do a better job communicating some of our basic theology.

On Christian Practices

Considering there is frequent debate within Christian circles about issues like prayer, worship, the Church and reading the Bible, it's not all that surprising that Googlers have questions, too.

The autocomplete experiment isn't exactly an all-encompassing look at the cultural misunderstandings about faith and Christianity, but they do provide some insight into perceptions large numbers of people have, and the questions we can all do a better job addressing.


Mike D'Virgilio


Mike D'Virgilio commented…

Jesse, I don't think you should at all be discouraged by the perception of Christians this seems to imply. When Barna does their sometimes annoying surveys that show what Americans, especially young people, think about Christians, it's what we all expect: Christians are perceived as judgmental, moralists, hypocrites, homophobes, self-righteous, etc. Not a pretty picture to be sure. But you know what? These traits bear a striking resemblance to what our secularist cultural elites think of Christians. Coincidence? Not on your life. Whether it's in education, media or entertainment, Christians are uniformly portrayed in a negative way.

This may actually be getting better given Christians have slowly but surely been coming out of their cultural cocoon, but Christians have been cultural punching bags for a very long time. The Scopes "Monkey" trial in the summer of 1925 was a watershed in Christian cultural mockery. A play called "Inherit the Wind" based on the trial was written in 1955, and then the movie came out in 1960, just before the pill, the sexual revolution, feminism, etc. blew the lid off the culture in the 1960s. From the early 60s, then, it's been open season on orthodox Christians. In many ways, social media has only made it worse.

I'd like to do my own survey (not that the Barna folks would ever think of this). Let's take 100 percent of the people who think Christians are, in Trumpian terms, losers. I would love to ask them this: Exactly how many born-again, evangelical, Bible-believing Christians do you actually know? How often do you interact with them? And what exactly is it that makes you have a negative perception of them? I would wager that the answer to that first question would be very near zero. Nope, negative reactions to Christians are cultural caricature, pure and simple.

Dorothy Willfred


Dorothy Willfred commented…

HAH! I like this your experiment. Some questions were really funny. Some make me think that people are afraid of faith and it seemed sad for me. My colleagues best writers decided to do the experiment like that but with another topic of searching. It is cool social experiment.



Sabrina commented…

Why the whole of the screenshots are related to Christians only. I find them really good.


Please log in or register to comment

Log In