Unknown-1Unknown-2 Is Facebook a new religion?

Is Facebook a new religion? Now that question might seem a little blasphemous to the many practitioners of the many organized religions available today. If you haven’t gone running to your local place of worship to cleanse yourself from reading the first sentence, allow me to explain. I was raised as Roman Catholic during the tumultuous 1970s. As a young Catholic I survived the nefarious influences of bellbottoms, platform shoes and KC and the Sunshine band. I went to a Catholic school and my parents did their best to keep me from a life of damnation. They did a very good job, for as of today I am still exorcism free. After a couple of craft beers the other night my mind started to wander. This ritual usually leads me to questioning the reasons why Bewitched replaced the Darren character with another actor with the exact same first name Dick? But this evening I was in a more serene place, as there was a full moon. I easily transgressed from deep situation comedy thoughts to more profound philosophical thoughts. Craft beers are very powerful elixirs. As my crafty mind wandered from the inevitable destruction of the tyrannosaurus rex to community mailboxes conspiracy, I found myself in a mood of religious contemplation. Is Facebook a new religion seemed the obvious next thought?

Now clearly my lack of full religious knowledge presents a very limited view of this theory, however my legendary ignorance does give me a unique non-scholarly appreciation of the topic. Let’s examine some of the important comparators to what Facebook is vs. the only religion I have ever known, the Roman Catholic Church. Here are nine random, yet important tenets of most religions.

  1. You need followers.
  2. You need a leader.
  3. You need advocates.
  4. You need a sense of confirmation you are in a good crowd.
  5. There must be rules for membership.
  6. You must actively participate.
  7. A sense of sacrifice must be demonstrated on a regular basis.
  8. You must demonstrate historical significance.
  9. You must show a sense of guilt when you do not comply.

Lets now explore how Facebook is doing compared to the only religion that ever accepted me as a member.

  1. You need followers.

Well this is a pretty easy one to set up my position. Currently Facebook has 1.23 billion users, not bad for a company without a church. The Roman Catholic Church currently has 1.2 billion followers, so it seems there is great parody in the membership statistic, though bi-focalled statisticians might argue these two entities are trending in different directions.

  1. You need a leader.

Well both examples certainly comply with number 2, though Mark Zuckerberg never looks as good in a hat as the pontiff.

  1. You need advocates.

Well because of its rich history of crusading, and missionary work in the third world, the Roman Catholic Church is way ahead of Facebook on this one. Now one could argue that though the Catholics were remarkably successful in their conversion strategy over time.  The “Like” button on Facebook does indicate substantial advocacy for whatever is likeable in the moment. Research shows the “like” button has been hit 3.4 trillion times. Unconditional like is important. In fairness I have hit that Like button, even if I didn’t like something, because I did not want to offend, but we will get to the guilt issue on number 9.

  1. You need a sense of confirmation that you are in a good crowd.

Well back to the Like button on Facebook. Don’t you get such a euphoric feeling when somebody likes your cat pictures?   Of course you do, that is the only reason you post them. This simple click reinforces all the good you are doing for the world. Now many Facebookers, after deep, painful reflection, do hit the unlike button. This also happened during the reformation in 1517 when Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg as he tried to show his unlike for the current teachings. Rumour has it he only did that because he didn’t have a cute cat picture to post on the church.

  1. There must be rules for membership.

Well Facebook, The Catholic Church has you beaten pretty badly, on this one. With birth rite into the religion being the most important membership criteria. With my over three minutes of research into this article, it appears Facebook’s number one criteria for membership is that you must own, or at least have access to a cell phone or computer. Tragically this limits most areas of the world without an Apple store in the vicinity. Both Facebook and the Roman Catholic Church do have measures to rescind participation, though excommunication certainly does sound a tad more severe than unfriend!

  1. You must actively participate.

Well until Sunday shopping was legalized, the Catholic Church had a very solid hold on the participation piece.. Facebook does seem to have a pretty strong participation rate, though I have noticed since the introduction of Instagram, some of my friends only go on Facebook 421 times a day.

  1. A sense of sacrifice must be demonstrated on a regular basis.

This is a tricky one. The sense of pain, and loss is the well documented with those missionaries who went to primitive lands to convert natives to the new truth. The disease and death experienced by these benevolent people often elevated them to martyr status. However if you ask any employer today, they would suggest that all corporations are sacrificing multiple hours of work time daily, as each employee checks their status for approval from sharing the Donald Trump article they have posted to their intellectual friends.

  1. You must demonstrate historical significance.

Each of my examples is laden with fascinating history. Facebook shares opened at $38.00 a share and currently sits at $94.00. For inexplicable reasons the Catholic church has refused to offer an IPO and does not participate in the stock market. Because of this inequity to compare value and significance, I will default to a more standard comparator… the movies. Both have fine cinematic offerings, so lets compare The Social Network vs. Ben Hur.  Both movies received multiple Oscar nominations and wins, however I always find the real strength of a movie is its supporting cast. Justin Timberlake vs. Stephen Boyd. Sorry Ben Hur, this one isn’t even close, and no Mr. Boyd didn’t even have a trace of boy band history.

  1. You must show a sense of guilt when you do not comply.

Clearly I have saved the best comparator for last. Now I am told many religions use guilt to gain compliance to its tenets, and I am feeling guilty just typing this. Now a Catholic can go to confession on a regular basis to share the many errors they have made.  This a very open way to demonstrate their guilt. Facebook has a much more subtle way of making you fell guilty. Every hour you receive beautiful prose or poetry demanding that you must share if you love your mother, if you love your father, if you love your kids if you love your grandchildren and of course if you love your spouse. Lets call this one a tie.

Is Facebook a new religion? I must say I find your question offensive, as the craft beer slowly dissipates from my body. I will leave that for others to determine.  I should have titled this “The Unanswered Question!” as that sense of mystery has universal appeal in the spiritual world. I end this treatise with a quote from one of the great minds of our, or frankly any generation… George Michael.

“I gotta have Faith.”

Cue the Blong https://soundcloud.com/dennisford-1/i-just-dont-understand

2 thoughts on “Is Facebook a New Religion?

  1. These thoughts are kind of scary as you truly make really good points. Your Donald Trump reference is hysterical and where did you come up with Stephen Boyd the George Clooney of the 60’s who to this day remains my go to guy in picturing any god looking novel hero. Sorry Justin you are no Stephen. This was a great piece Dennis. Funny yet insightful. I also loved the song especially the beat and background. Love

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