Religions as Market Commodities

If religions were market commodities, how would they work actually work? In a spirit of satire, I wrote some scenarios about this. My intention is not to disavow any religion, but to suggest a way of viewing religions as “production systems” in which thoughts or beliefs are likened to “consumer products.” Of course, there are limitations to this metaphor and I do not deny that religion has other dimensions as well. Still, with a love of jest I share these lines –

I. JUDAISM

Several thousand years ago
your forefathers made an agreement
to buy the True Product.
You must honour that tradition –
consumer loyalty is a duty
for you and kin.

It is your obligation to purchase the Holy Product,
and boycott all rival goods.

You must follow the Consumer Guidelines to the letter.
If you deviate, one thing is clear:
you will become ḥērem and learn the meaning of fear.

II. CHRISTIANITY

Product faith is paramount.
You must believe this Product
is the only valid one existing
and that the Product Manufacturer
is not only flawless,
but also munificent, benign, omniscient,
& all-forgiving.

Due to design parameters,
things are bound to go wrong.

However, if you sincerely ask the Manufacturer
for forgiveness, and remember
His Authorized Sales Representative
all mistakes shall be redeemed:
in the Scriptures you have a written guarantee.

III. ISLAM

Once you have purchased this Product,
it is with you for life.

This Product is perfect in every way,
and criticism of it is a sin
that causes discord and strife.

Anyone disloyal to our Product merits death –
Our Product Alone is Great!

Imitations should be eradicated:
the Grand Manufacturer Alone Knows the Way.

IV. BUDDHISM

There is no product.
There is no consumer.
There is only the illusion of a "market”
and transactions taking place:
ignorance has veiled our perception –
we are asleep in so many ways!

Get out of this world
Renounce all pretence!

What is being bought and sold,
is a product of insatiable desire
clouding judgment &
insuring that suffering takes hold.

Cut desire at its root:
Be at peace today.

Consume less and less
until achieving Eternal Rest:
this is the only way
out of the marketplace.

V. HINDUISM

This product has been around 155 trillion years
and during this degraded age,
inferior manifestations are bound to appear.

However, it is all karma –
if your deal seems unsatisifactory,
take it in stride.

Do you think the Manufacturer makes mistakes?
Isn’t the Ultimate Supplier Always Right?

Chant the Name of the Market Creator
and recognise each event
as an invitation to merge with That.

You are not the consumer:
merely an illusion
being consumed.
Your Real Self
Is Beyons All Market Demands.

VI. ATHEISM

As both products and manufacturers
we create multiple stories about the transactions perceived.

All stories are forms of localised merchandise
fashioned to fulfil specific needs.

Each story is an incomplete fiction
and the commoditization of belief is something
that most humans seek.

It seems we are natural-born story-makers
who fabricate reality, and in the process,
start becoming what we see.
Nadia: (yawning) This idea of a religious economy has been espoused many times before. Haven’t you read the works of Bankston, Bruce, or Bainbridge? Actually, there are many more . . .
Kasim: (lightly laughing) Those names don’t ring any bells. But, hey – what about Finke, Iannaccone, or Stark? Aren’t their insights amazing and sharp?
Nadia: (shaking her head) I’m not familiar with those blokes, but to me Johnson’s distinction between “church” and “sect” is spot on.
Kasim: Does it? (raising his eyebrows while coughing) How so?
Nadia: Well, it seems religious institutions have limited lifespans. So many faiths claim to be eternal. Where are the gods of the Canaanites, Minoans, or the followers of Mithras or Aten now?
Kasim: Fair enough. And in another few hundred thousand years, I wonder where will our current gods will stand. . . .