Market-driven religion

In the fight for the world’s population, the CEOs (heads/pontiffs) of major religions need to listen to the market in order to win the greatest number of customers (practitioners/believers/converts). It appears that the Catholic Church understands the business quite well –

In the 5th century, St. Augustine declared that all unbaptized babies went to hell upon death. By the Middle Ages, the idea was softened to suggest a less severe fate, limbo.

In his Divine Comedy, Dante characterized limbo as the first circle of hell and populated it with the great thinkers of ancient Greece and Rome, as well as leading Islamic philosophers.

The document published Friday said the question of limbo had become a “matter of pastoral urgency” because of the growing number of babies who do not receive the baptismal rite. Especially in Africa and other parts of the world where Catholicism is growing but has competition from other faiths such as Islam, high infant mortality rates mean many families live with a church teaching them that their babies could not go to heaven.

Father Thomas Weinandy, executive director for doctrine at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the document “addresses the issue from a whole new perspective Ò€” if we are now hoping these children get to heaven, there is no longer any point in worrying about limbo.”

With this step, Catholicism has removed the disadvantage they were facing. I can’t wait to see how the competitors respond as they try to regain an advantage πŸ™‚

Hat tip: Boing Boing

  • Rational Human

    This is actually a massive shake up in this “corporation”

    Previously, every customer had to be a “member” (baptized)or they wouldn’t be waited upon by “Jesus@TM”. Now, if they can be waited upon by “Him” without officially joining, isn’t everyone a member?

    The Catholic Church has just declared that everyone’s going to heaven (as long as they’re not sinners [and is that net of good deeds?])- you don’t have to be a Catholic anymore at all!! Why would anyone get their kids baptized anymore? Does the “going to heaven” offer wear off by the age of 12?

    Now, if they could just get their corporate officers to stop abusing little children and if their senior managers would stop covering it up…

  • Cowardly Lioness

    Oh the other way I think the Catholic religion has hit upon to stay relevant is by piggybacking on the modern deification of science. The evolution debate so cleverly discussed here in this week’s Economist titled “In the Beginning” is a cool example! This controversial stance with respect to the dominant logic of evolution began in America and is now spreading through the world.

    In my opinion creationism is one way of grabbing the centre stage and feel the ecclesiastical thinking still has a valid role to play in the intellectual realm. Look at the irrational persistence of arguments like irreducible complexity in favour of intelligent design – I smell ersatz science in all these convergence, natural philosophy, intelligent design arguments and to be perfectly frank some god’s honest attention grubbing πŸ™‚

    A book that highlights these null hypotheses comprehensively though somewhat abrasively is Richard Dawkins’ ‘God Delusion’ that you might enjoy reading.

    My favourite quote from the Economist article is the closing since urging science to work on the glamour of its recruiting practices!

    Father Coyne, the devoted star-gazer, is one of the relatively few boffins who have managed to expound with equal passion both their scientific views and their religious beliefs. He writes with breathless excitement about Ò€œthe dance of the fertile universe, a ballet with three ballerinas: chance, necessity and fertility.Ò€ Whether they are atheists or theists, other supporters of Darwin’s ideas on natural selection will have to inspire as well as inform if they are to compete with their growing army of foes.

    http://www.economist.com/world/displaystory.cfm?story_id=9036706

    How quaint is this Coyne guy! It’s such a pity that Stephen Jay Gould is no longer with us to take him on – scientists need some charm – Matt Ridley is one hopeful light!

  • The pontiff’s and the swamis have also picked up other marketing fundas. Here is one that I have personally experienced.

    – All customers are not the same. Segment the market. High end ones who pay more are given ‘better’ blessing. I once had a pujari tell me he has two pujas. One for $100 and the other for $200.The difference is that more powerful mantras are used in the second. I opted for neither.

  • Shripriya

    @ Rational Human – One interpretation is that everyone is going to heaven since they removed the baptism requirement, but *my guess* is that the church will tell you that to go to heaven you have to believe in Jesus Christ. Which, since it is their religion, is perfectly fair. If you do not believe in JC, your SOL – unless your own religion covers you for that one! πŸ™‚

    @ Cowardly Lioness – Agreed – creationism is going to be an excellent pulpit. A very polarizing one – which could be great for marketing. And yeah, if the other side wants to win this battle, they better get their own marketing gurus. It’s a free market – hire the best if you don’t have it within your ranks!

    @ Prakash – While the Church’s recent decision makes Christianity more appealing, the Hindu Pujari’s (priest’s) actions makes Hinduism more unappealing. So while he may be using more advanced segmentation methods, maybe you should tell him that he’s in a war for people and he should make his product as appealing as possible. After all, you have lots of other options!! πŸ™‚

  • libertarian

    While the Catholic religion may adapt to the demands of the market (a bishop in the Vatican Bank remarked that the Bank was not run on Hail Mary’s) its theology moves at a glacially slow pace. The idea that unbaptized infants who die don’t necessarily go to hell (oops Hell) is still mind-bogglingly silly. The Catholic Church is well aware of its markets – the US “contributes a lot” (Irish-descent in Mass., Hispanics, Filipinos), Europe “contributes”, India is ummm … still “missionary” :-). Its interesting though, that the people in Catholic countries are poor compared their peers in Protestant countries (Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, much of South America).

    Hinduism is most laissez faire. Has no “Hotel California clause” like Islam has πŸ™‚ … (You can check-out any time you like, But you can never leave). No active proselytizing means it won’t grow though.

  • Shripriya

    Libertarian – The economic statistics are interesting. Maybe the Church should go into some for of loan granting to improve the lot of their customers?

    Yes, Hinduism won’t grow – I’m not sure I particularly care though… I would much rather that it eradicate it’s new-found right wing (about 16 years old now) than grow – they are giving it a very bad name.

    “Hotel California clause” – ROFL

  • You know how well the market goes? In Germany everyone who is a christian has to pay a percent of their income to the church by law…