The Course of Reason

Religion’s Insidious Marketing

October 6, 2011

When discussing the absurdity of organized religion, it’s important to recognize that while the tenets themselves may be silly, the mechanisms utilized to instill brand loyalty are so skillfully designed that Madison Avenue can only look on in jealousy.

It starts with some form of affirmation of ownership at birth - be it baptism or circumcision - and continues to cement its hold with layer upon layer of ritual until a near-impervious shell forms to protect the fully matured believer from reason and evidence. As the children in this video are shown repeating unnecessary steps to receive their candy reward, children steeped in a religious upbringing are taught that muttering to an invisible man in the sky is part of the being a good person. And instead of a clear box, religion presents them with smoke and mirrors to obscure the truth.

If the vast majority of religious parents weren’t themselves the byproducts of this incredibly effective years-long marketing ploy, it would be baffling to me that they would want to steep their child in one religion over another any more than they would demand allegiance to Pepsi over Coke. Most religions make the same promises - moral correctness, eternal salvation, a welcoming community - and it is only through vicious rumors about the quality and efficacy of competing products that brand loyalty is maintained. 

Here in Illinois, the grip of this millennia-old campaign remains strong even in the realm of public schools. Just this week, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a case against our mandatory moment of silence, initially passed as the “Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act” until the state legislature renamed it. Through its elected agents, organized religion attempts to normalize its rituals in every sphere of public life and protect those believers still in development from anything that might sway them from the path that claimed them from birth. No wonder Campus Crusade for Christ representative Josh McDowell recently warned that, “The Internet has given atheists, agnostics, skeptics, the people who like to destroy everything that you and I believe, the almost equal access to your kids as your youth pastor and you have”. For the first time, a diffused network of information exists, like a sort of spiritual Better Business Bureau to disseminate complaints and counterclaims against the product of organized religion. As the saying goes, the Internet is where religion goes to die.

I am not familiar with any research which studies child development as it relates to a religious upbringing, but the strong positive correlation between the faith of parent and child suggests just how hard it is to shake this early developmental programming. It is not socially acceptable to teach your child any number of wrongheaded, antiquated notions, but through organized religion’s slick consumer management it has gotten a free pass. With the widespread proliferation of Internet availability, could it be that the world’s most successful marketing campaign is finally faltering?

This post originally appeared on Illini Secular Student Alliance blog and is an expansion of an entry posted on Skeptic Money.

Find us on Facebooklearn more about Center for Inquiry On Campus, or see what resources are available to students. 



About the Author: CFI On Campus

CFI On Campus's photo

Center for Inquiry On Campus promotes and defends reason, science, and freedom of inquiry in education. We are committed to the enhancement of freethought, skepticism, secularism, humanism, philosophical naturalism, rationalism, and atheism on college and high school campuses throughout North America and around the world.


#1 God (Guest) on Thursday October 06, 2011 at 8:45pm

Religion is the cancer of society.

#2 remove rip of reports (Guest) on Thursday November 17, 2011 at 12:06am

If you manage a brand that is the category leader then the overall objective of your marketing strategy should be to defend the leadership position, in particular against the competitor that is close behind, the challenger.




Guests may not post URLs. Registration is free and easy.

Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Enter the word that goes in the blank: CFI is short for "Center ___ Inquiry"

Creative Commons License

The Course of Reason is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

CFI blog entries can be copied or distributed freely, provided:

  • Credit is given to the Center for Inquiry and the individual blogger
  • Either the entire entry is reproduced or an excerpt that is considered fair use
  • The copying/distribution is for noncommercial purposes