The business of religion

If we think of religion in business terms, Christianity, Islam and Judaism are like the big name brands in any industry with a big, loyal customer base. This idea may sound bizarre but it’s an interesting way to think about and analyze religion. Considering that most disagreements among religions are not over the core teachings but rather over the optics, we could use the Apple-Android battle as a good analogy. I think people would generally agree that both Apple and Android are good phones providing some essential services to all of us. Yet we can’t seem to hear the end of debates about the nitty-gritty features of each product and how one is superior than the other. A lot of religious rhetoric falls in this same category. It’s meaningless talk about the insignificant differences among religions rather than the core teachings that are common among all religions. Another similarity is the way in which each religion prescribes and controls the human experience. In Islam, you must pray five times a day and only during certain times to connect with God. In Christianity, you must go to Church every Sunday. Now think of the way in which your Apple phone has features that prescribe and control your user experience. Those features are always just a little bit different and presumably superior from android. It is not a coincidence that similar to the features of these products, the rituals of each religion are designed to differentiate them and inspire loyalty and stickiness from the followers. Religions also have a strong network effect where the more people I know that follow the same ritual, the stronger my belief becomes in the ritual and the more value I get out of performing it. Is this starting to sound like the experience of a die hard apple or android user? If I take this analogy further, an interesting idea comes to mind that may inspire us to approach religion in a different way and take a lot of hatred and bigotry away. We will start with recognizing that at their core, all religions are essentially the same. They all offer a great service to humanity by teaching us values and offering us a way to connect with our spiritual sides. Now what if we could also put each individual at the center of their own religious experience and let them design it based on their own beliefs and preferences. So, instead of having to choose between a Christian version or a Muslim version or a Jewish version, I form my own personal relationship with God and have the teachings of all the religions at my disposal to use as my guide. We have already seen this idea in action in the business world where users can now design and customize products and experiences in so many possible ways. Perhaps if we individualize God, we would also become less critical of each others beliefs and respect our individual differences more. Just how far of a leap would it be to approach our relationship with religion in this way?

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