Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Religion Marketing

It all started with a handbook created in each major religion. Though there were many other handbooks that propagated the idea of peace and salvation, these ones really topped the chart, just because they were the first to be published. First-mover advantage, huh.

Anyway, as the mankind progressed (or regressed), they began to fall in love with their religion (which is quite normal). Further, every religion felt the need to outgrow other religion (which was again, nothing different from the rest). How can just one ideology of “peace” be conveyed in different ways by different religions, was the paramount challenge. That’s where the creative thinkers, the mavericks, the eccentrics bathed in the spotlight. Someone somewhere created a concept of “riots”. The person challenged the very nature of peace. How can peace exist without a little unrest? They are like two sides of the same coin, aren’t they? There can be only one possible outcome. There can only be one religion. That was the entire hypothesis on which the cynic operated. So, what did that person do? He filled people’s minds with doubts. A human brain is only fragile when it comes to external forces. Internally, it can take blows and explosions similar to a nuclear blast (hypothetically, and metaphorically). Pain, rage, anger, wrath, darkness, were all inbuilt in humans from their birth. The cynic just triggered those negative energies by striking the right (rather terribly wrong) chords to create a perfect imbalance. NOW WE’RE IN THE GAME! It was all about the numbers. Who has the most followers? It was a sort of Ancient Era Social Media War, backed by highly political agendas.

The war took many ugly turns through the passing time - Holocausts, Plagues, Assassinations, Famines, The Great Depressions, and so on. Darkness challenged every religion in every possible way. Not many religious leaders could solve the problem. They just created an invisible conduit to channel their outrage through spreading infectious doctrines of their mindless philosophies. People in every generation, in every era, knew that peace could be attained. But, none of them succeeded because “religion” always overpowered “spirituality”. Religion always disguised itself as a “spiritual way” to attain Nirvana. The religious leaders failed to relay this ideology throughout generations. Religion became more of a weapon instead of a shield. Something that I believe “Gods created” now seemed like something like just another product/service in the market available for sale. In some places, religion is directly marketed where they accept cash/cards as payment. And in some, it is sold through surrogate advertising. Some religions make you dive into Holy Water, some make you sacrifice non-vegetarian food, wear a thread and grow a ponytail. Some religion makes you kill animals in the name of God and to an extent, indulge in conscience-free polygamy, even without seeing the woman’s face. And if someone wants you to join a cult, they’d even want you to sell your soul and sign the bond with your blood. The payment methods vary, but everyone wants you to buy their version of “peace”. Many kingdoms have fallen. Many governments have been toppled. Many human and non-human lives have been lost. Just for the sake of making their religion the bestseller in the world. This is the extremist’s angle. Looking on the harmless side of this business, here’s another perspective –

There are religions that have created innumerable foundations in the name of God. They are laundering millions and billions, just to evade tax. There are fake religious leaders who have become a laughing stock with their ridiculous actions. Some arrested for rape, some sitting in their ivory towers and shooting Fatwas at anyone and anything who/which doesn’t please them. Some simply declare their religion as the best in the world and nonchalantly sit on a golden throne. They even dare to preach the world about poverty, while they collect heaps of cash as a donation from billions. These ironical states of affairs are all sadly funny (yet another oxymoron). Sure, there must be a comic version of every religion. Or else, how could one read such serious books which aren’t fun at all? All this brings me to one vital question: Is marketing of religion necessary at all?

YES! Because not every religion was created with the same intention and not every human being is the same (except for your seven doppelgangers throughout the world). Religion can give humans a reason to wake up in the morning every day. It can make humans feel grateful for existing. It can fill them with an equal amount of rage. It can invoke every emotion – the one they have while they watch a movie. But then, religion should just be a way to live life. It shouldn’t empower them with energy that can destroy another human being’s belief systems. What religions are doing today is, they are manufacturing goons who act more like “Loan Recovery Agents” rather than “Torchbearers of Wisdom”. Imposing a religious belief on another human being has become a fashion and people have accepted it as their inevitable fate. Though everyone has the right to choose who or what they wish to follow, some of them find it impossible to go against the religion they were born into. On the flipside, some sacrifice their entire lavish lifestyle to become one with God. It is entirely their choice to become what they want. Nobody would stop them. But again, nobody would want to lessen the number of followers in their religion. There is a number game going on – who reproduces the most number of children in their family (read religion)? Is anyone still playing this? What’s the ultimate prize? Is there a coupon system? Is there an exchange?

Yeah! Speaking of exchange, the exchange (conversion) rate in religions is increasing drastically these days. Take a wild guess, why? RIGHT! Caste-based advantages offered by the government. Nobody today feels proud to be born in General Category because all the perks would have been swallowed away by the OBCs and SC/STs. If you ask, what’s the catch for buying the particular religion here’s a carrot. That’s how you get easy money and easy conversion ratio. Just play your caste “Trump” card and you’re walking away with wads of cash. “Do I have to pray every day? Do I have to circumcise myself? Do I have to remove the Holy Thread that’s on my body? Do I have to become spiritual?” NO! Just change your name and religion in the Application Form and BOOM! No! Don’t take it literally or we will get stereotyped as terrorists. But, we don’t kill people based on their religion, right? We don’t discriminate. We are spiritual beings who have reached self-actualization. Is spirituality free? Or do we have to pay a premium to have it? Nowadays, spirituality too has become highly commercialized. There are temples created by religious foundations that look like a replica of a multinational supermarket. There are illiterate, yet “religious” humans hiding in deserts and mountains learning how to operate guns, rocket launchers and heat-seekers, more than learning simple acts of kindness. There are people sitting in the highest corporate chair, and marketing their idea of “Religion” through a media that’s corrupted with insolence. There are organizations that run purely on religious fuel. Faith-based marketing is estimated to be a trillion dollar industry in itself. Religious Tomorrowlands, Miracle Performances, Religious Resort Living, Mega Pilgrimages, etc. All seem to be worthless without religion (and money, of course).

There are people still trying to figure out their career path and surrendering themselves to God, just because they are too weak to do anything on their own. Rather, there are people seeking help from God because the world isn’t as kind as they imagined it to be. True! The world is not imaginary. It is real. And reality sucks! And what’s real? Religion = God? Or, Spirituality = God? Or, Everything = God? Or, Nothing = God? Though “Religion” is a fast-selling product in the market, it is also the most used, misused, abused product in the market with a variety of brands. Though the products have all the brand identity, brand image, brand recall value, and even globally acclaimed brand ambassadors, they lack one common element – conviction. If the book had instructions on the usage, many lives would have been saved. Rather, it should have had just one simple instruction – “Don’t be a douchebag to anyone.

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