My first caveat, obviously, is that I’m not a professional historian. My background is in math and science; I only study religion as an interest of mine though it would be nice if I could do it professionally.
Anyway, I have a prediction about what the Internet will do to religion. This is based on how religions like Christianity and Islam became dominant religions, which is also related to how languages like Latin or English became dominant languages.
As most people know, religions like Islam and Christianity didn’t spread because their arguments were so cogent. They spread because they were the official religion(s) of their particular vast empires. If one wanted to be a full member of those empires, you had to speak the dominant religious language(s). Which is why Christianity spread most successfully to all nations that were originally Latin speaking (i.e. Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, etc.) or were heavily influenced by Roman rule / Latin language (English, German, etc.).
Dominance by way of the sword then began to be conjoined with economic dominance. Hence the spread of English (and thus Christianity) as a dominant world language, and another reason why Islam fell to second place.
We are now in the Information Age. Whatever religion is most associated with “the Internets” and communities therein will eventually become the religion of anyone who wants to participate on the Internet; the “language” of the Internet. What religion is that? I obviously don’t have any numbers for the religion of the most vocal people on the Internet.
But I have a sneaking suspicion it’s atheism.
So my amateur “historian’s” prediction is that the societies most plugged in to the Internet will eventually become the most predominant religion of the people who already engage the most on the Internet. Whoever is the most vocal, the most unapologetic, or what have you will become the voice of the Internet in total, and anyone who wants to participate in the New Empire Of The Internet will have to join their “religion” or be left in the past. And I have a sneaking suspicion that Christianity won’t survive the Information Age.
For example, if someone says “the gospel of Matthew wasn’t written by Matthew” how easy is it to whip out your smartphone and Google that fact? Most sites, like Wikipedia, will of course confirm that fact unless you specifically try to land on an apologetics website. But most apologetics are pathetic, especially on arguments about why the gospels are eyewitness testimony, or why the gospel of Matthew was written by Matthew. Of course most people after this might even go a bit further and read about the Synoptic Problem and might learn a bit about early Christianity.
Just like the Catholic Church of 500 years ago feared the idea of laypeople reading the Bible for themselves (which their fears were, in hindsight, entirely justified since the reading of the Bible for oneself directly led to Protestantism), Protestants now have the same fears about the Internet.