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

381 thoughts on “Marketing Religion

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. “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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. “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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

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