ThoughtStorms Wiki

Context : OnMoney, OnReligion

(ReadWith) ReligionAgainstMoney

TV here in Brasilia features several religious channels from competing catholics and evangelical protestants. The latter are almost always selling something or asking for money. Last time I looked they were giving away little oil-lamps and encouraging the viewers to keep the flame of faith alive by buying continuous oil refils from them.

Anyway, I started wondering if this wasn't more than mere hucksterism. Or rather, a nasty PositiveFeedback between the spiritual and the financial based on the "get what you pay-for" view of SettingPrices. ie. higher prices are signals that the product is more valuable. So sometimes you can sell more by increasing the price.

And maybe persuading people to fork out a considerable part of their wealth - and remember, we're talking about people living in near favela conditions, with low literacy levels, who are the main recruiting demographic for the evangelicals; the rich middle classes are more likely to remain catholic - actually hepls re-enforce their belief. It's about avoiding CognitiveDissonance. If this wasn't really true, I wouldn't be paying so much for it, would I?

As my wiki seems hosed at the moment, I'd thought I'd scrawl something here while it's timely:

Not many people realize that BillyGraham probably would never have achieve his wide reach without the support of WilliamRandophHearst and HenryLuce (BigMedia), based on their desire to counter what they saw as a growth in US support for liberalism/communism. Some references:

  • I first read about it "in":BenBagdikian]'s [[BenBagdikian's] MediaMonopoly


A response in-progress to this item in JohnRobb's weblog :

I suspect churches are picking up most of the displaced loyalty and social capital that isn't being invested elsewhere. (eg. in unions or constructive political movements.)

In the US is looks like churches have a convenient and stable symbiosis with capitalism. They don't challenge capital's legitimacy. And capital pretty much destroys all rival forms of social organization but allows churches dominion over social capital.

This is different from the UK, where the main church was too allied with anti-capitalist aristocrats, and so ended up side-lined.

In islamic countries, churches (ie mosques) have become centres of political resistance against capital. It would be fascinating to see what would happen if some kind of "liberation theology" or radical anti-capitalist strain of christianity broke out in the US : one that was able to preach resistence to capitalism while retaining legitimacy as a christian church and articulator of social capital.

Another interesting thing to watch will be the new tools for managing social capital on the internet.

Right now, the net is articulating a lot of social capital. People are motivated to work for reasons of solidarity with, or desire for attention from, their online tribe rather than for money.

Capital hasn't yet cracked that.

Periodically, it invests billions to make money on the net (ie. to enclose internet activity and resell it in the market) only to discover that this activity resists commercialization. Then capital withdraws in disappointment.

This is called a "bubble". It happened in 2000 when capital thought that it could make money simply by reselling the naive attention of "viewers" of internet content.

Now we've discovered that the internet is about active production and participation rather than consumption, so capital is trying to find a way to enclose and resell that activity. Hence "web 2.0" and "bubble 2.0"

Now, one of two interesting things will happen. Either

a) capital still won't succeed. (For all the hype, I don't see how, for example, MySpace will ever be commercialized. It's completely within the social / attention economy.) And there'll be another crash.

Or, perhaps more interestingly,

b) capital will succeed in creating mechanisms that succesfully convert the articulation of social capital via social software into money.

In which case let's go back and look at those churches. In fact, churches have a good symbiosis with capital because they are also "transducers" between money and social capital. Churches are start-ups and succesful pastors get rich. There's plenty of money routed by churches, and good business to be done working with them.

However, if capital discovers a way to transduce the social activity on the net into money, then social software is now in competition with churches. If, in fact, it's a more succesful way of doing this, then we'd see social software start to succesfully "attack" churches.

How might this happen? For example, (now wealthy) social networking sites which want to offer services to "adult friend-finders", "polyfuckery" and "BDSM" tribes manage to revitalize the government's enthusiasm for "freedom of speech".

Quora Answer : Why do people believe in God and how can they say he/she exists?

Jul 31, 2012

God spends more on advertising than the alternative brand.

Seriously, step back and look at this like an economist for a minute. I guarantee that anywhere in the world you go and you find large scale belief in the Christian God you will find concerted evangelical activity. Furthermore, where belief in God is increasing, you'll find investment : in new churches, in buying up radio stations, cable and satellite TV channels etc. (I'm open to be proved wrong on this if you can find some figures showing belief is inversely correlated with evangelical investment.)

Christian ministry has a profitable business model : you make back from it more than you put in. Certainly it's more profitable than atheism. (I know Dawkins and a couple of big name atheists do make money, but it requires a lot of work and talent, and the majority of atheists, working quietly in school science departments, universities and on Quora earn more or less nothing from their atheist activity.) Furthermore, in recent decades, technologies such as satellite TV have allowed ministry to scale beautifully, reaching far larger congregations for a relatively small increase in employees.

We live in a capitalist consumer society. Where the market structures our activities (both production and consumption) and where advertising and marketing are demonstrated techniques for increasing consumption of particular products and brands. It should be no surprise whatsoever that a profitable business model that keys into the dynamics of technology and benefits from a positive feedback loop between self-promotion, congregation size and income is going to spread.

BTW : I'm saying nothing here about whether God exists or not. Christians can verify this by looking at two comparisons : Scientology, which Christians would regard as utterly bogus, also invests in evangelism and is both growing in popularity and wealth. Whereas Judaism, which many Christians would regard as misguided but at least dealing with the right deity, invests little in evangelism and is hardly growing at all.

So, if the CAUSE of congregation growth was God's intervention, you wouldn't expect scientology to be growing. (God presumably having no reason to push anyone in that direction.) Similarly if the cause was just some spiritual dissatisfaction or longing in modern society, we might expect Judaism to be growing too. Or Catholicism. Etc.

In fact, the only model which really fits the pattern of congregation-growth in, say, the US, is the economic one : the amount of investment in advertising that the different religions put in. And that's exactly what you'd expect given our understanding of how advertising and marketing work.

See also :