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Religion as commodity


I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, so I’m glad that I’ve started writing it now – even though I’m not sure if it’ll be published sooner rather than later. It was a trip to the grocery store that bore the seeds of this post. In particular, a meander through the organic and health foods aisle that popped up this gem of a cereal:


I’ll be honest – I was very amused (hence, why I got out my phone and snapped this pic). And yet, a part of me felt that perhaps it was going a bit too far. Clearly, this cereal was targeting a very specific market. I found it curious, because by displaying this blatantly religious tone on their packaging, they were alienating a large percentage of the market. Surely, atheists, agnostics and other “free-thinkers” were just as likely to want to eat healthy as the “People of the Book”. With so many of these whole-grain, organic cereals on the market, you’d think a business wouldn’t want to alienate consumers. Perhaps, that isn’t the point though. Maybe the company has some corporate policy to provide products to a specific demographic, regardless of the effect on the bottom line (a refreshing change, indeed).

But, I digress from the point of my post…

Question: If the sacred becomes commodified, does it then fall into the realm of the profane? Religion has surely become big business and it appears that the commodification of religion is being widely accepted and even propagated. Take, for example, a line of t-shirts that combines edgy humour with religious themes.

I’ve seen these shirts worn by both extremely religious and anti-religious folks alike. So, what message is that sending? Are these items meant to attack the sacred or are they intended to revere it? Perhaps it has more to do with the idea that pretty well anything can be turned into a product for mass consumption. I’m sure some of you would agree that mass production isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Another thought – is it considered idolatrous to consume these products (strictly speaking to the religious)? Surely there will be those religious adherents that find products such as these blasphemous; however, there is another segment of religious adherents that would likely deem these products as harmless – perhaps even an homage to their faiths.

For now, I’m left thinking that the great prophets of “the Book” probably would have regarded any attempt to commodify the sacred as counter to the values of their faiths. It seems to me that once the sacred enters the realm of the profane, then it becomes regarded as ordinary. Maybe – just maybe – the commodification of religion is a reflection of our society, suggesting that the sacred may be just another average, ordinary part of our humdrum lives.

M. xo

Categories: Religion Tags: , , ,
  1. May 17th, 2011 at 10:35 | #1

    Holy Smokes! We were eating “Ezekiel bread” in the Yukon Territory back in the mid seventies. It was more of a challenge – the idea was that, with the addition of a vitamin C source, you could survive on this and only this. It wasn’t something that “happy people” would do and you did lose a bit of weight but you survived.

    The commodification of religion is the way it’s going to be for a while. Suck it up brother. Evidence here in the UK is that in spite of waning participation in mainline churches and the particular growth of evangelical/charismatic churches amongst either afro-caribbean immigrants or wealthy City (London, that is) bankers there is a tremendous interest in religion and spirituality which people can integrate into their lives as useful slices.

    Is it adequate? Of course not. Is it the reality that anybody interested in mission and outreach needs to bring that fact on board and use it as a starting point. Clearly! All the moaning in the world about how shallow and commercial our society is and nobody is interested in “being” the Christian community and coming to church *plus* 50p will get you a bag of potato chips.

  2. Doug Smith
    May 14th, 2011 at 12:31 | #2

    Ha Ha! Ezekiel bread. Let’s read how the Bible says to make it:

    Ezekiel 4:12

    “And thou shalt eat it as barley cakes, and thou shalt bake it with dung that cometh out of man, in their sight. And the LORD said, Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their defiled bread among the Gentiles, whither I will drive them.” (Ezekiel 4:12-13)


    Alright, alright. That’s a little out of context. But eeewwwh!

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