The catechism’s out of the bag: Apple is a religion

Now with expert confirmation!

Macalope

You tried to deny it, Apple fans, but you’re about to get schooled, because now a professor says Apple is a religion. Yes, your arms are too short to box with these contentions that you think Steve Jobs is God.

“We asked a cultural historian: Are Apple Stores the new temples” (tip o’ the antlers to Krinn DNZ)

Where else can a man ask for forgiveness and be anointed with a bro’s gold iPhone?

In more ancient times, when communal experiences were mediated by religion, crowds used to gather outside temples on feast days.

Apple = Religion Person: “Which is exactly the same as lining up to buy a product.”

Us: “Uh, but then isn’t lining up for a baseball game or an amusement park ride or, really, anything the same? Because…”

Apple = Religion Person: “EXACTLY THE SAME! LA-LA-LA-LA-LA!”

Nowadays, we have Apple Release Day—the Feast of St. Jobs…

[slow, sarcastic golf clap until the heat death of the universe]

But is the Apple store really like a sacred space?

NO. If it is then any store that tries to have a signature experience is; like Tiffany and the late, lamented FAO Schwarz. People lined up for hours in front of FAO Schwartz and exercised “rituals” like trying to dance out "Heart and Soul" on the piano mat and no one tried to claim FAO Schwarz was a cult. Apple defies the people who said opening retail stores was folly and makes a generally nice experience and, oop, it’s gotta be a religion because otherwise we don’t understand how it works.

“We forget that cathedrals were basically high end technology,” [New York University professor Erica Robles-Anderson] says.

One wonders if she looked around nervously after saying that to see if the people she defended her dissertation in front of were around.

Even using an iPhone to tune out the human beings around you requires being part of a larger group.

Worst. TED talk. Ever.

All of these links are tenuous at best. You could probably make better arguments about the supposed religious implications of any number of other social gatherings, like sporting events, political rallies, concerts, and Mexican wrestling.

And Apple, more than any other technology company, has been able to access both these experiences, the individual and the collective. “They feel iconic, like an emblem of the personal,” says Robles-Anderson. “And yet it's a cult. Right? It's so obviously a cult.”

Of course it’s a cult! Why else are we being tithed monthly? Surely it’s not because we signed on to a two-year loan for an iPhone. Now who’s being naive?

Also, the Apple Car? Less of a car and more of a Popemobile. True rumor.

Well, if you’re not convinced yet, just wait until the author and Robles-Anderson visit an Apple Store, which is just like a ziggurat, church, cathedral, Incan sacrificial pyramid and, uh, maybe something from Stargate, all wrapped into one.

To enter that sacred space, first we have to walk up a few stone steps.

The only reason to have stairs is convey that something is religious. This much any reasonable person would agree with. It certainly isn’t for changing elevation. Pff.

“They have this beautiful, excessive use of clear surfaces,” Robles-Anderson says. “You’re always seeing others and being seen by others. And the ways that any employee can serve you feels personal, but it’s going on all around you, in a cacophony of like-mindedness.”

Well, the cacophany is not always one of like-mindedness.

The second floor has a different purpose than the first. This is the place where Apple’s equivalent of priests—the Geniuses—impart knowledge.

Wait, is this a parody? Is the Macalope being pranked here? It’s starting to seem that way.

“There's more and more evidence that we've never stopped worrying about cosmological questions or communities,” says Robles-Anderson. … “Are your files really on your personal device or are they in the cloud in the sky?”

The Macalope has never literally printed an article just so he could light it on fire and watch it burn. He’s tempted in this case but then Robles-Anderson would probably just say, “Ah, burning of the heretics. Very religious.”

There are two ways you can look at this. The first is to admit what you’ve known in your heart all along: That Apple is a religion. The other is to say that when academics find something they can’t explain — a company that makes nice products and experiences that provide value and that people like to use — they fall back on trite analogies. The Macalope will leave it up to his readers as to which is right.

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