Facebook is the new church, says Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergReuters

Facebook is the new church, the head of the social network Mark Zuckerberg has suggested.

Zuckerberg says that with declining church attendance, the social network he founded in 2004 can offer that same sense of community, filling the gaps for the godless. 

He spoke as Facebook introduced a new mission statement aimed at building community through groups that will 'bring the world closer together'.

The mission statement was changed from 'Make the world more open and connected' to 'Bring the world closer together'. 

Zuckerberg also announced on his own Facebook page that the network had reached two billion users, meaning one in four people now uses it.

But just 100 million are part of Facebook's network of groups.

Zuckerberg has recently implemented a project to increase the numbers using groups which he says help users play a similar role to that of church pastors, helping to bring together our 'divided' society and help people feel part of 'something bigger'.

He said: 'If we can do this, it will not only turn around the whole decline in community membership we've seen for decades, it will start to strengthen our social fabric and bring the world closer together.

'As I've travelled around and learned about different places, one theme is clear: every great community has great leaders. Think about it. A church doesn't just come together. It has a pastor who cares for the well-being of their congregation, makes sure they have food and shelter.

'Leaders set the culture, inspire us, give us a safety net, and look out for us. Communities give us that sense that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are not alone, that we have something better ahead to work for.

'We all get meaning from our communities. Whether they're churches, sports teams, or neighbourhood groups, they give us the strength to expand our horizons and care about broader issues. Studies have proven the more connected we are, the happier we feel and the healthier we are.

'People who go to church are more likely to volunteer and give to charity – not just because they're religious, but because they're part of a community.

'That's why it's so striking that for decades, membership in all kinds of groups has declined as much as one-quarter. That's a lot of people who now need to find a sense of purpose and support somewhere else.'