As one who has studied religious phenomena for the majority of his adult life, I’ve always been fascinated with what people believe and how it affects and alters their daily life. What’s really interesting these days, however, is seeing what human beings generally do when there’s no traditional ‘Religion’ present, leading them to find the sacred in what otherwise might be considered relatively mundane things.
At first it was sports, with many half-joking that football (for Americans) or hockey (for Canadians) had become the national religion of choice, with parishioners passionately dedicating themselves to attending the regular ‘services.’ But over the past several years other facets of our common experience have started to compete for our definition of the sacred, and technology, more than any others, has emerged as the focal point of our fervour.
In fact, following the recent launch of the iPad Mini and iPad 4, Dr. Kristen Bell of University of British Columbia noted that Apple–with its lavish release events, its cathedral-like venues, its symbols, and its throng of followers—has all the makings of a modern day religion…leading me to wonder when Rev. Tim Cook will seek tax free religious status.
While some may initially scoff at the notion of Apple as a religion it’s not difficult to see the comparison (in fact for some its long been blindingly obvious), given the continually blurring lines of religious and corporate life. In fact, looking at the inner workings of any faith-based organization and you might be surprised just how much it resembles the operation of a complex business enterprise.
With that in mind, there’s something depressingly unsurprising about Dr. Bell’s comments regarding the Apple religion following the company’s latest product release, as for the better part of a decade now Apple has demonstrated a masterful ability at speaking to the entirety of one’s being, promoting the same all-encompassing lifestyle that one might hear preached from the pulpit on any given Sunday.
Dr. Bell noted that even at the release event itself, held inside a cathedral-like auditorium in San Jose, the room was littered with sacred symbols—including the iconic bitten apple—musing that the Rev. Cook and his acolytes “[address] the audience to reawaken and renew their faith in the core message and tenets of the brand/religion.”
Now granted the comparison between religion and business can only go so far, one exists solely to generate revenues while the others exists to…wait, I’m confused. What was I saying? What’s obvious, however, is that both Apple and the church on the corner are promoting the same sort of thing, a comprehensive lifestyle that promises connection and satisfaction; although religious adherents would probably tell you the emptiness inherent in chasing such fleeting material goods (or they might text it to you from their iPhone).
In the modern world it’s clear that people in general are frustrated with the religious views of their collective forefathers, content instead to seek out a new way that points to a more complete and more satisfying life. But, of course, the time will come when the Apple religion to, with its myriad of sacred symbols, will fall by the wayside, replaced by a newer, shinier object of veneration promising a better, more wholistic lifestyle on an even cooler gadget.