Is The Internet Accelerating The Disruption Of Religion?
We’ve long since made the point that religion is one of the best examples of the efficacy of marketing. Take your personal beliefs out of the picture and think critically about it for a moment: people are persuaded to believe in a story and follow a group of others without any real evidence. Other than marketing.
How so? Religion is in essence an ideavirus, one children are infected with at a young age by their parents. As noted in my previous thread on religion and marketing, here are some commonalities between religions and businesses from a marketing viewpoint:
- Countless religions the world over have packaged a compelling story which has been improved and edited for generations.
- Religious leaders wrap their story in messaging and jargon that feels legitimate to many people.
- Religion offers both tangible benefits (community) and intangible benefits (promise of afterlife) at both a monetary and time cost to you.
- Religion successfully rallies people the world over to publicly brand themselves as subscribers and work without any compensation as word of mouth marketers to attract new members to their religious brand of choice.
- Religions have logos.
- People gather at their religion of choice’s physical location with frequency.
- People celebrate during established days during which they devote time, make purchases and give resources to their religion of choice.
- Other viewpoints and even science are told to be wrong, because questioning truth has been blocked by design.
- Religion fights change to keep itself relevant by updating or changing its messages, its appearance and the manner it spreads.
I know this is a taboo subject but that’s exactly the reason we don’t shy away from it here. It needs more discussion in the context of marketing. Scared of that? You’re in the wrong industry. In an internet-powered world, we need to be closer to sociologists, taking a data-driven approach to what we do and be comfortable analyzing what is happening around us. This needs to happen before we infuse any creativity or emotion with our ideas.
Science has already disproven much of the religious beliefs that were previously widespread. I’d argue the internet is accelerating this and as marketers we need to understand how and why all ideas spread throughout society: especially those that get disrupted.
Here are two ways I see the web disrupting religion:
1. Splitting the world vertically by interest
As a digitally-savvy generation grows up connected to each other, to research and to a myriads of opinions, we are nurturing a media-literate culture capable of critical thinking and independent decision making. Such a group is less likely to accept what they are taught as fact without evidence.
I’ve noticed this subjectively in my own experiences in life: it is becoming increasingly difficult to find those my own age who attend religious services on a regular basis or who believe in a religion as a pivotal part of their life.
Instead of religion which is in a sense horizontal, the web is splitting the world and our time vertically: connecting us around common interests we are passionate about. Whether sports, music, knitting or other interest, we now have a mechanism to create communities around anything. Not simply a common religious belief that was passed down to by our tribes. We are breaking down our culture on a more specific level of interest in a fashion that is location agnostic.
2. Building a database of referential content
Through link journalism, the web is spreading the notion of referential (verifiably so) content. Despite the media’s unfortunate rush to publish information, scientists, researchers and professors are making available a volume of content in the public domain never before possible. Individuals and subject matter experts are adding context. Future generations will benefit from a more threaded and nested library of content that is instantly accessible. Including a history of current and past religious beliefs alongside scientific data.
If you dig even a bit into the past, our society had common beliefs that have been proven wrong. For example, we used to think some people were witches, Ra was the Sun god, leeches cured illness, etc. It is my hypothesis that an open-information society will cause belief in religion to eventually tip to the side or irrelevance in the future as we build upon the information available to us. It may take several decades, or perhaps even a century due to how deep religion is ingrained in our society, but I think we will eventually move away from it.
As a marketer, I think it is a fascinating time to be alive and watch as something which previously reigned supreme gets disrupted. I also think that is half the fun of the web and the world we live in: creative destruction and replacing past beliefs, companies and trends with new ones.
I’m curious what you think and was hoping to engage the community here – regardless of belief – in a discussion on how the internet is affecting religion.
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