Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Future of the Religion Business Part2

Pre-modern, modern and postmodern societies existing concurrently in dynamic interaction have created a global situation of cultural tension and conflict. This has resulted in clashes between modernists and anti-modernists and has become a major global change agent. All the major religions are pre-modern in origin but not all have adapted to modernity to the same extent and none have done so completely. This is concurrent with the rise of the non-Western World (Asia, Africa, Latin America) as a dominant global religious force. The unevenness of accommodating to modern life constitutes part of the religious/cultural tension within and between faith traditions. This requires constructing future visions that can unite a pluralistic civilization around common goals.

Futurist Business Opportunities in Religion

As the largest business sector in the world, religion presents tremendous business opportunities to the postmodern entrepreneur. For example, marketing services that analyze religions and religious attitudes in a rapidly changing world, according to psychologist Abraham Maslow?s Hierarchy of Values (physiological needs, security, love & belonging, respect & self respect, self-actualization & self-transcendence). Maslow did not sanction the radical dichotomy between science and religion and felt that ?religious? (small 'r') peak experiences were an ultimate expression of one?s essential humanity. Such a service would be for marketing purposes and how to direct advertising. This would be a service provided at the highest end of the information-knowledge scale.

Another opportunity would be to do 'SWOT/PEST Evaluations' (both on the basis of Maslow's hierarchy and in terms of geo-political impact). What are the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of a particular religious tradition at a given time and what is the political, economic, social and technical environment influencing it. Businesses could use this to develop special services designed to answer the needs of well educated but observant Muslim women living in western societies ? or in Islamic countries. Religious Feminism is an economic opportunity driven by a particular political and social environment. The status of women in every religious tradition will be in constant flux during this century. SWOT/PEST can be applied to other needs besides feminism, for example where to establish a branch, how to market a product etc.

Social media and Internet entrepreneurs could set up Cyber Chapels and Chat rooms enabling Orthodox Jews or Evangelical Protestants to keep in touch with their religious obligations when on a business trip to India or China. How does a lone Hindu doctor in a small town in Oklahoma keep in touch with his or her tradition? Religions are communal, yet globalization often deprives the follower of a particular tradition from feeling part of his faith community. One might envisage Google or Yahoo either running or hosting such a service. Part of this service could be commoditized, part personalized with different cost grades.

Interactive online theological discussions (chat rooms) would enable people to come online with their spiritual dilemmas and concerns. Faith based matchmaking is another opportunity (find your 'soul mate' literally ? perhaps the people you are closest to spiritually live thousands of miles away). This could be a spin-off service of the Cyber Chapel/Chat rooms. Information and views expressed would be part of this service?s ?eternal library? and with a special search engine a customer could bring up previous observations on the same issue that was troubling him or her. This service answers the needs of globalization and individualism.

Personalized study kits (from the Internet) about religions, comparative religion and individual spiritual needs could evolve into a substantial market. Given the proper algorithm and questionnaire this could be both individualized and commoditized. It could be marketed as a self-realization service. Write in your concerns and interests and get your own syncretic religious package: Our Applied Theologics Service.

One might envision a firm that would produce ?Future Visions? (The Future Vision Service) for emerging multi-cultural religiously pluralistic countries: for example a Nigeria 2030 vision. Only a future vision can provide the meta-ideological and meta-cultural framework in which the citizens of such a culturally diverse country (250 tribes as well as the Christian-Moslem divide) can work together.

Another market might be to produce time and project specific cultural profiles for business people. Since religious traditions have internal and external drivers in ever-increasing intensity and interaction, this service cannot be provided by academia, which by its nature is incapable of working in a real-time environment. (It is said that universities have three speeds: slow, slower and slowest.)

Cultural due diligence service for global companies might find a ready market. For example, biotechnological companies must be particularly sensitive to religious doctrines. If you are engaged in stem cell research you might not want to locate a facility in a community dominated by Catholics and Evangelical Protestants ? who believe that the fertilized egg is already a human being. A Jewish or Muslim environment might be more amenable. Majority Orthodox Jewish opinion holds that the embryo only becomes human 40 days after conception; in Islam a fetus becomes fully human between 40 and 120 days after conception, depending on the religious authority. Both traditions favor actual life over potential life; thus in Judaism it is an obligation to abort the fetus if it endangers the life of the mother and Islam permits stem cell research from aborted fetuses as long as the abortion was before the 40th or 120th day of pregnancy. Both traditions say that anything that is not specifically forbidden and can save a life is obligatory ? thus stem cell research is not only permitted, it is obligatory. Iran, Turkey, Egypt and Malaysia are all conducting stem cell research, as is, of course, Israel. In cultures molded by Eastern spirituality (Hinduism, Buddhism etc.) this is not even a debate.

Syncretic African and Chinese Christianity might have special needs that the established Churches are not willing to sanction or serve. In another 10 years, all of China will be online and in another 20 years all of Africa. Communities with unique needs can have e-books modeled especially for them. Religious information could be stored in a virtual library ? to be matched to the expressed concerns and interests and needs of the community. This would be a semi-commoditized service.

Information service about the practices (or changed practices) of the adherents' various religions could become a must for business people. For example how many non-Jews would know that an Orthodox Jew would appreciate being offered tea or coffee in a glass rather than a porcelain cup? All faith traditions have their peculiar practices. For example Islam has a lunar calendar without a leap year. This means that Ramadan (the month of fasting during daylight hours) moves from autumn to spring over the years. You would not get optimal results from a business trip to a Muslim country during the holiday period. On Ramadan you could call your Muslim colleagues and wish them "an easy fast?! These niceties are deeply appreciated when performed by someone not of one's culture.

The globalized paradox is that as globalization makes all of us more cosmopolitan, it also forces us to be more informed about and tolerant of an ever growing range of religious, cultural and spiritual trends ? this does not only offer political and spiritual benefits but also economic opportunities. ?

Future Impacts of/on Religion

A sophisticated mind must be able to embrace ambiguity and paradox.? For despite the ever growing secularization of global public space, it is almost certain that the religious imagination will continue to impact on society, culture and science ? for better or for worse. Religion will continue to be an inspiration for human creativity, sometimes even as a reaction to the evil religious fanaticism can do. For example, the ideology of tolerance was an essential aspect of the European Enlightenment. It was a reaction to the slaughter of the Wars of Religion, wherein Catholic and Protestant believers in the 'Prince of Peace and Love' butchered one another without restraint and decimated the population of parts of Europe almost to the same degree as the Black Plague. Queen Elizabeth's hesitation about creating a window into men's souls was a similar reaction to the costly stupidity of religious dispute; and consequently the source of England's eventual economic supremacy.

On the other hand, monotheism was essential for the development of science, constitutionalism and democracy. Monotheism was a kind of proto-Occam's Razor, which loosely interpreted means 'all things being equal, the most efficient explanation is the simplest'. Monotheism replaced the complexity of the hierarchies of pagan religions with one simple explanation for the 'is-ness' of existence and the purpose of human existence.? William of Ockham (subsequently Occam) was an English Franciscan friar engaged in dispute with various theological theories about the proofs of God. For him, the only truly necessary entity was God; everything else was superfluous.? In other words the motivation behind the foundational principle of modern science was theological. Science's endless search for simplicity, elegance and all inclusiveness (e.g. the theory of everything) is a derivative of the monotheistic, religious imagination. Nicolaus Copernicus found the Aristotelian/Ptolemaic cosmology too complicated and thus an insult to God.? If God was God then he would have been capable of making a simpler universe. His motivation, like Ockham's, was religious and the Copernican Revolution marked the beginning of the Scientific Revolution and from that the Enlightenment and from that the American and French Revolutions.

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The Catholic Church democratized sanctity. Given that one God ruled the universe and created man in his own image, every human soul was sacred. This was an unprecedented assumption in the story of human civilization; neither the Greeks, nor the Chinese, nor the Hindus, nor any other culture had ever even considered such a maxim. Ironically, the initial effects of this enlightened insight were horrific: imperial conquest and forced conversion; the torture chambers of the Inquisition. These were a necessary duty to 'save men's' souls' and avoid the agony of everlasting suffering in hell by making people suffer for a short period on this earth.

Protestantism democratized belief; every human being must have an unmediated relationship with God. Thus one had to read the Bible on one's own. This led eventually to almost universal literacy in the Protestant countries as well as to an endless proliferation of denominations. Belief eventually became a totally private affair which had to be protected by the State; thus the birth of constitutionalism guaranteeing the freedom of conscience.

During the English Peasants Revolt in 1381 a Lollard priest named John Ball preached a sermon in which he asked: "When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?" In other words if we are all children of Adam and Eve (e.g. brothers and sisters) why are some more privileged than others, and if we are all equal in God's eyes why shouldn't all be equal in the eyes of human law.? This marked the beginning of the democratization of English constitutionalism which began with the Magna Carta in 1215 and reached its apotheosis in the American Declaration of Independence: "we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal". The indirect effects of the religious imagination can be even more significant than the direct effects.

The American experience has influenced religion even more than religion has influenced America. The lay Catholic revolt against the Church in Boston regarding pederast priests will be seen in future history to be a point of reference in the eventual democratization of the governance of the Church. Can one really doubt that eventually there will be female priests and perhaps gay priests and nuns; that de Chardin will replace Aquinas as the philosophical foundation of Catholicism; that the Jews will reclaim Spinoza and revoke his excommunication? The long term trend will be towards natural theology; supernatural theology will be discarded.? So why religion at all(?); because while science is necessary it is not sufficient.

Any religion that has an obligatory belief system that contradicts the findings of science cannot survive over time. But science cannot deal with questions like: What is the point of our individual lives? Who or what cares? Why are we here? What is here?? Why does existence exist? Why is there anything at all? Why are we alive?? What is life? What is the meaning and purpose of our life? Does life itself have any meaning? Why does this planet have life on it and does the Cosmos even care? WHAT THE HELL DOES IT ALL MEAN?

The discoveries and explanations of science cannot stop human beings from asking metaphysical questions even while rejecting legacy metaphysical systems; and the condescending attitude of scientists towards those who do ask such questions will not stop people from asking them. Now religion cannot answer these questions either, but religion treats those who do with respect; not only recognizing the questions as legitimate but perhaps as being even more fundamental than the questions that science deals with.
It is because of this that the Religion business still has a very bright future.

Technical-Jesus! As if God is the final destination of the attention economy? I wrote something about this in 2001: Soon, a wise culture will use technology to apply the full power of love and so enter a state of hyper evolution. They will enjoy continually diminishing hardship, and eternal spiritual growth. God?s will in this matter is revealing itself in today?s quickening changes imposed by the forces that guide our society: science, technology, spirituality, and even economics. (Assume ?You? is essentially a mind sustained by a flow of information?With our robust communication systems we have grown connected to each other, and to the vast amount of information we have collected over the ages. We are free to pick which of this we pay attention to. Once data is ?mined? and worked into information it can be sold. But no one can maintain a monopoly on information. Information will be free. It dissipates like the second law of thermodynamics. So now we have a situation where there is a vast amount of information available but a limited supply of attention. Businesses are essentially competing for our attention. Webster defines attention as ?the giving of one?s mind to something?. Giving your mind to something is no small thing. Attached to your mind is your spirit and your resources. When we concentrate on something, social capital is endowed upon it. This makes your attention precious. It is better than money. What you pay attention to is yours to decide. What do you get for paying attention? You receive an experience. Ultimately, the value and worth of the experience is measured in potential for your growth.)?

Very interesting articles Tsvi! I will read both articles more carefully and comment tomorrow.

Thanks, Tsvi. I enjoyed it!

I have a hard time believing that the Catholic church?s governance will be democratized. Sure, it will continue to retreat into irrelevance, but I expect the church to capitalize on its niche status, a throwback for hierarchically-minded, authoritarian-leaning bigots to find refuge in in an increasingly bewildering and unfamiliar world. Democratizing would squander this competitive advantage in the marketplace of ideas, and with the billions in questionably-acquired booty, the church won?t be pushed into a position of desperation for lack of cash anytime soon.


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