Marketing Religion

It’s 1000 BCE and the tribe living across the mountains is considering its future. It was a simple village that lived in harmony with the seasons and each other. Everyone in the village took responsibility for themselves but was also generous in their support of others. They knew that life had meaning when it was lived in connection to the ‘all.’ An onlooker would have called this balance between the practical and energetic elements a ‘religious way of life.’

But change was afoot…

The executive team over in hut number one felt the responsibility for the survival of the tribe and were wanting to earn some extra cash to support the tribe. They already had corn, fabrics and sheep that they sold to other tribes, but this was dependent on the weather and seasons. They had no control over the seasons, so they looked for something with a more consistent stream of income.

As they looked around, they noticed that some of the tribe were a superstitious bunch, feeling at the mercy of the weather and given to pleading to the gods for their good fortune.

The new product was clear – if they could SELL safety they would be on to a winner, if they could sell external salvation, they would have struck gold.

They dispatched an ox to hut number six, asking the marketing team to find out how to sell salvation in a new form of religion. The team thought it strange to try to replace something that worked, but nonetheless set to crafting a plan…

Stage One – Fear and doubt

The team came up with ways to show the tribe that they didn’t know as much about life as they thought. They played up the fragility of life and the tribe’s lack of security, both now, in the future and of course in the ‘afterlife.’

The focus group testing showed that instilling fear was actually easy because people were innately sensitive, so a big enough outer threat to their security could destabilise people. Add to that the threat of eternal damnation of their Soul in the afterlife and they had people eating out of their hands.

Stage Two – Redirect Responsibility

Everyone knew that whilst working together delivered important dividends, each individual was ultimately responsible for their own lives. Generations had shown them that there is a cause and effect relationship with life. This meant salvation would be trickier to sell if the ultimate responsibility was within.

You can’t sell something someone already owns.

They then got a consultant from hut seven to help them workshop the problem and found their answer – what they needed were experts. If they created experts, their message would be beyond critique. The experts, of course, needed to be skilled at making others feel like they did not know enough.

Interestingly enough, the concept of ‘priesthood’ tested well. Many people were surprisingly keen to hand over the responsibility for their spiritual wellbeing to the direction of others.

Stage Three – Exclusivity and Belonging 

Of course being a tribe, they knew that sticking together was important so they needed to look at how to get people to join this new group.

The subtle approach would be to invent or appropriate holidays and rituals that already existed and assign them importance in this new ‘religion.’ The less subtle but very effective way was to shun, shame and even torture anyone that didn’t want to join.

They knew that someone scared for their own survival would be easily ‘converted’ at the threat of being rejected. Some would just need more convincing than others.

Stage Four – Distribution Channels

This was trickier, as the product would only have a limited financial benefit in this tribe, so they needed to spread the ‘message’ to other tribes. The answer was to develop an emissary programme, where missionaries would be given power to convert, cajole and if need be torture others into ‘believing.’

Proud of their plan, the marketing team despatched the ox back to hut number one and awaited the response.

The executive team looked at the proposal carefully and though they were uncomfortable with the suggestions of force and even torture, they knew they had to pursue it for the benefit of the whole.

Little did they know that the tribe over the mountain had been hatching much the same plan.

For the next few centuries both tribes battled in often bloodied wars to prove whose religion was best at offering salvation.

Some in the tribes preached tolerance, encouraging co-existence of both religions; some got turned off religion altogether. Some felt there had to be more; they felt there was a connection to something within that was more innate and required less external control.

This group was rediscovering the original expression of religion, one which was based on a simple way of living that fostered an inner connection. They worked hard to explore the possibility that the religion that had been sold was very different to what they could feel religion truly was.

Of course this approach of feeling what true religion was, was an inherent threat to the existing powers. Many of this ‘new,’ but in reality, ‘old’ group suffered at the hands of both dominant religions. However they persisted, and whilst their numbers fluctuated, it was the years of bloodshed, abuse, cruelty and killing carried out in the name of ‘salvation’ that led others to ask the same questions and then also explore if there was a simpler ‘way.’

However, there would be no missionaries, and no conversion programs, it could only be a choice. All they needed to do was live The Way they had rediscovered and allow time for others to also remember that being religious was not the problem.

The problem was HOW people had been taught to be religious in life.

By Joel Levin

Further Reading:
Life is religion. What does that mean?
Religion & Religious Re-Defined
Religion is a living connection

419 thoughts on “Marketing Religion

  1. We can be so easily led from what we know to be true by fear and retribution, it is insidious. Once we let go of our innate knowing, we are in the hands of the dictators and those that seek to control the masses.

  2. Marketing is in everything and religion is no exception. I loved the humility of this blog but to be honest, this is the reality of religion. True religion will not impose and the few who feel and are connected to this are often judged and made to feel the odd ones.

    ’HOW people had been taught to be religious in life’ is a very good question and worth for everyone to ponder on.

  3. This piece of writing is ingenius. A fun and playful overview of the absurdity of how we have used reinterpretation of religion to deny our natural and innate expression of the exact qualities which religious institutions then step forward and promise to help us with.

  4. I’ve sat in Church, and listened to the message from the pulpit and been fascinated/horrified to hear a sales pitch weaved into the weekly sermon. Your blog Joel does a great job of on the one hand exploring the ridiculous state of organised religion and equally our relationship to it. Of course, we could choose differently!

  5. Whenever I come back to read this blog I feel so silly and somewhat ashamed that I have fallen for the manipulation because when it is spelt out as you have done here, it seems so obviously a manipulation.

  6. Safety sells ! That´s for sure. We all have bought into it in one way or another as we do not just like to survive but sustain what we have gained – mainly identify or identification, i.e. a certain version of individuality. This comes in numerous guises but in essence is always the same, we are attached to the individual taste it gives us and that is precious to us.

  7. The religious way I know to be true was not the version I was taught or shown as I grew up and even today. But then so much of this world is not confirming of the truth we know from within. It’s no surprise that our world is out of sync, doesn’t make sense or is completely upside down if we are living multiple lies.

  8. For a long time religion has been bastardised, it is crazy how something so simple, divine and true has been corrupted and lost i’st way. As Joel so beautifully presented, religion is not the problem, so it is up to us to reclaim the true meaning of religion and live this as very ‘normal’.

  9. A deeply profound truth, being religious is not the problem, it’s how we’ve been taught to be religious that is. Yes, for sure, and to come back within and connect to ourselves is the path of true religion.

  10. In surrendering to being who we naturally and innately are, true religion is naturally lived. No set of rules or doctrines are needed as the intelligence of our Soul is what guides us to be at one with the divine order of the universe and God.

    1. We only ever need a reminder to reconnect to that most innate internal guide if we have veered away from living and expressing our true essence. How can there be any prescribed rules, dogma and claims from institutions that they are the go-between when we are talking about a relationship with our own Soul.

  11. For hundreds of years it has been obvious that the mainstream religions are not bringing us closer as a humanity, in fact they are dividing us more and more.

  12. I love the humour in this blog because it allows us to be able to laugh at exactly what we have bought into.

  13. The true evil is always in the reinterpretation of religion and never in true religion itself.

  14. Religion has been sold as a commodity for a long time now yet religion is not something to be bought and sold as it is simply us in relationship to life, each other, ourselves and God.

  15. Such an accurate deconstruction of how we have twisted life Joel, away from the simplicity of living our light. Stepping away from the science of the universe can only result in separation and great harm.

    1. And it is useful to remember that it was us who also created the institutions that endorse and ingrain such a twisted relationship with life. It is time to stop giving our power away and settling for a fraction of the glorious expression of our true essence.

  16. We have a source, we have a moment of wonder, then we have a moment of fear about not being able to maintain that wonder, keep it, control it, so we change that wonder to something we can control through inciting a fear that we will lose it. Mmmm poor logic but a pattern that we seem to repeat over and over again.

  17. We clearly fear being on our own both physically and emotionally so much more than we are willing to admit. There are some teenagers who push harder than others and are often called trouble makers, but I am starting to see just how smart those who question ‘norms’ are, not to be obstreperous, but to question till it becomes something they feel at ease with.

  18. True religion has no coercion, no violence, no separation, it has choice to connect to the divine within us and reflect that lovinging-ness and living-ness out to others, so that they have the freedom to choose that way of livingness or not.

  19. We are religious as we are sons of God. We are eternal and this we can not deny, even we are temporary on this planet earth.

  20. The ‘energetic marketing crew’ has done a great job of selling that there is a problem with being religious. Most people cringe at the word and rightly so through their experiences with religion. This makes it even more important for those who live religion through their practical connection with their soul, to show that living a religious life is nothing like what we have been sold.

  21. Through learning and researching about the past, I get the sense that absolutely, human beings have always known that there is a multi-dimentionality to life. And much of what has been left behind often shows the ways that this deep knowing has been taken advantage of, at times manipulated and often bastardised. But nothing strays us from the truth that there is a greater sphere we all live within.

    1. Yes, there is a deep knowing that we live within a greater sphere and it is what causes the unease we so often feel. It is so wrong to make people feel they don’t have a choice and they are not free to choose. Coercion and bullying just tells me there is a need to justify your religion rather than respecting the free will of all.

  22. When we attempt to control, to instill fear, we create chaos and we destroy the harmony that is natural to us. It’s about what we allow, and whether we are willing to be responsible, for if there is any inkling of wanting to hand that over to others we will be fooled … it’s for each of us to see that.

  23. The blog in a light hearted way absolutely exposes the evil of manipulation and how that can occur when we hand over responsibility.

  24. Amazing expose, ‘selling safety’ over our personal responsibility we wait for someone else with ‘more’ authority to ensure it happens. This is the way of organised religion, it is disempowering in it foundation.

  25. I am amazed when I read the way you have expressed about the false religion with its separation, disempowerment, fear and then offers of salvation, how I could have bought into its lies. I now know true religion lives within everyone of us and it is this connection to our divine essence that offers this to us.

    1. I am with you – how could we have bought into the lies! But we did, and sadly they read us well because fear sells, fear of not belonging, fear of getting it wrong, fear for our safety, fear for acceptance, the list goes on and so does the manipulation.

  26. “The problem was HOW people had been taught to be religious in life.” Exactly, mostly we are bullied into a religion before we have a chance to feel out the truth for ourselves. Maybe what you suggest Joel is a detour away from all the religious wars still raging.

  27. Historically power and religion have gone hand in hand and there has always been a constant striving for overall power, however when we truly feel God in our heart, we understand that it comes from within, and we can adjust our lives to live with that connection that gives us a wealth of wisdom and love.

  28. A snapshot on how religion has changed over time. We often don’t think that it has or we assume that its always been as it is. Having said that we all know that religion is something that we hold very dear and deep within, no matter what our beliefs or our analytical mind says.

  29. “The executive team over in hut number one felt the responsibility for the survival of the tribe and were wanting to earn some extra cash to support the tribe”. There are two fatal errors of human behaviour in this sentence. Feeling responsible for others is a sure path to taking on too much or behaving with do-gooding or righteousness. The other is making choices based on security, in this case financial. You cannot be connected to your soul when you are fearful for your own or your tribes security.

  30. A perfect scenario for how the word ‘religion’ has been misappropriated to firstly instil doubtt and fear and then sell something that is already innate and always will be.

  31. As humans most of us buy into the fact that we need more, bigger and better things and it is not surprising when we are taken away from the fact that we already have everything and we are everything. When we are taken away we need all the stuff and complications to distract us from what we actually miss and that is ourselves.

    1. Yes, I would say the ache we feel about what we miss has us constantly trying to fill the void, avoid the tension and distract… a lot of activity to avoid the stillness or being complete in ourselves.

    2. I would agree Kevin, most of us buy into the fact that we need more, bigger and better things… is this because we haven’t connected to our gargantuan essence, the part of us that is universal and we are trying to backfill, in a false way, what we inherently are by getting bigger, better things outside of us?

  32. This feels very confirming – we have and are still making many detours, but we are to come back to what is innate to us. Our future has already been lived. We are only re-turning.

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