Here are three poisonous vestiges of Christian implementation* that people who are no longer in the faith still often exhibit:
The protestant reward ethic. There was nothing wrong with the protestant work ethic initially, especially when one had a guaranteed way to be a gainful member of society. When there was a farm there were avenues to be productive by default. In industrialization where there were jobs as well. But as time went on implied reward for hard work became part of this ethic. Eventually the rewards were seen as more important than the work. A person who is working a tough retail job will be looked down upon in church while a person who got an easy better paying job through connections won’t be (little wonder working class people have been leaving the church). If you can’t find a job you’ll be treated very bad in the church, particularly if you’re male.
Intolerance. The intolerance and pettiness of Christian implementation is alive and well in those that have left the faith. Now these people are just directing their intolerance different places. Take the flak the moderators of the anti porn subreddit are getting. Or how shallow and vapid our celebrity culture is and how gleeful we all are to pounce on anyone who offers an opinion that differs from our subculture’s dominant narrative. The punk live-and-let-live ethos was never a part of Christian implementation (at least in America where people were Christian by default) and unsurprisingly is not part of post-Christian culture either.
Loaded metanarratives. Most stories are not neutral spaces, particularly the important stories in our lives. They are are loaded. There is a right side and a wrong side to them and you’d better expend all your effort making sure you get and stay on the right side of them. The most obvious of these is the Christian story which presents you with the right side (heaven) and the wrong side (hell), and a choice. What happened in the late 1800’s is evangelists had sons who went into advertising. Now the stories involved always being the bridesmaid and never the bride, just for not using the advertised mouthwash. Because of the massive amount of money to be made, the best of art and science got poured into advertising and it became so good that rebellion became commodified. Consumer culture may be even more pernicious than religion because by design it doesn’t allow doubt, but does so by making you think you’re thinking for yourself. The shame and rejection once characterized by hell is mediated through peers channeled from the mass media.
* I say Christian implementation because people defending the faith seem to think that Christianity was pure and got corrupted and thus the corrupted element (including Christians’ behavior) doesn’t count for anything when ascertaining the value of the faith
One of the things that fascinated him: I described to him that there’s not much difference between a Pepsi and a Coke, but we were outsold 9 to 1. Our job was to convince people that Pepsi was a big enough decision that they ought to pay attention to it, and eventually switch. We decided that we had to treat Pepsi like a necktie. In that era people cared what necktie they wore. The necktie said: “Here’s how I want you to see me.” So we have to make Pepsi like a nice necktie. When you are holding a Pepsi in your hand, its says, “Here’s how I want you to see me.”
We did some research and we discovered that when people were going to serve soft drinks to a friend in their home, if they had Coca Cola in the fridge, they would go out to the kitchen, open the fridge, take out the Coke bottle, bring it out, put it on the table and pour a glass in front of their guests.
If it was a Pepsi, they would go out in to the kitchen, take it out of the fridge, open it, and pour it in a glass in the kitchen, and only bring the glass out. The point was people were embarrassed to have someone know that they were serving Pepsi. Maybe they would think it was Coke because Coke had a better perception. It was a better necktie. Steve was fascinated by that.
Advertisers relish at the thought of their work washing over mentally ill minds. This is because mental illness is fertile ground for their messages to take root.
Depression: Studies have shown that people who value material things highly are more depressed than those who don’t. What we don’t know is if the depression is fueling the consumerism or vice versa. What is clear that people who have poor self-image (which advertising itself tends to exacerbate) are more likely to try to compensate for it by consuming things. Advertisers are in a win-win situation today because most people crave relationships and need them to not be depressed but most places you have to buy things that the advertisers are advertising to fit in and be accepted.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: A mind with OCD is like a washing machine that turns the same things over, over and over again. A mind like this is fertile ground for advertiser’s messages. In a normal mind an advertiser’s message will come in, be analyzed a little, and brought up when necessary (for example a fabric softener ad will be recalled when one is in the laundry aisle of the supermarket). In a mind with OCD the advertiser’s messages get stuck in the tumble cycle. For example the new Gilette shaver that supposedly “glides” and has “less tug and pull” gets stuck in my mind because shaving wiry hair is a pain in the ass. I think the campaign is full of crap but that doesn’t stop it from entering my mind. The key here is things proven to be patently false (like most advertiser’s claims) will cycle in people with OCD’s minds. This is good news for advertisers.
Anorexia/Body Image: When was the last time you saw a fat person or an individual with a disability on a TV commercial (besides diet or wheelchair ads)? You don’t see these people because they don’t fit the ideal. We are a very looks-based culture–you live or die by what you look like. Prescient people internalize this and some starve themselves. It’s a disorder but it’s also a real rational response to cultural forces albeit a sad one. Advertisers love this demographic because they are particularly absorbent of the consumeristic culture around them and have poor self image, both things that make for an easy target market.
Anxiety: If you can create fear and offer some product or service that supposedly “cures” said fear you are in business. If someone is already anxiety-prone they are more susceptible to these pitches. Think how advertisers sell home security systems and even how the government sells war. In both cases it’s about some “they” that is going to attack us and destroy our way of life. Another example is how people afraid of impending economic collapse will buy more gold so you advertise gold places where anxiety-prone people are (Glen Beck, religious programming, etc..).
Many people who are mentally ill put a premium on how something makes them feel. It’s more about the sizzle than the steak. Interacting with a comfortable brand can be therapeutic. For example Tylenol may work better than the same medication with an off-brand label because there is something comforting about interacting with a strong brand.