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« Thinking Small | Main | Petitions can be magic »

Good thoughts, good words, good deeds

How to build a religion (and then watch it fade).

[soundtrack for this post: theme from 2001... play it in your head]

The New York Times has a piece today about Zoroastrians. The religion is fading, almost certainly to extinction. After more than 3,000 years, one of the most important monotheistic religions is going to go away.

We can learn an important lesson about ideaviruses from religions, because they are in many ways the original (and longest-lasting) examples of the genre.

If you want to build a religion that spreads, here are some things to build into it:

  • Bias for evangelism
  • Sharp distinction between insiders and outsiders
  • Presumption that insiders are 'right' or 'blessed' or 'advantaged'
  • Proscription against intermarriage without conversion
  • Forbid one gender to work outside the home
  • Central hierarchy that maintains the faith and settles disputes
  • Offer significant (very) long-term benefits to believers

Very few organizations have the ability to deliver on all of these opportunities, but in the secular world, many brands do most of them. This works for Harley-Davidson (and certainly the Hells Angels). It works for the latest teenage trends. It works for some politicians. It even works for some computer operating systems and languages.

According to the Times, the Zoroastrians are fading away because they believe being good is just about enough and didn't build enough of the elements of an ideavirus into their culture. As they traveled the world, their attitude and hard work rewarded them with success and the ability to mix with other cultures. As a result, they were successful as a people but a failure as a long-term growing religion. It's a fascinating choice, isn't it?

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Good thoughts, good words, good deeds:

» On Being Good; On Being Great from bizsolutionsplus
I think most Americans raise children to be good people first and then to become successful second. As our children grow and are exposed to their environment, the message becomes confusing and muddled. Visit a school, a K - 5 elementary school is best ... [Read More]

» Its hard to own a virus from Tom Fox's Blog
Seth Godin comes up with some great stuff, reliably. I happen to think that he is frequently wrong, but bless him, he is always interesting and provocative. In one of todays offerings he discusses the decline of the Zoroastrian religion after a... [Read More]

» TIME magazine mentioned my blog. Now what? from Brazen Careerist
Yep, it's true. This week TIME magazine quotes me, tells tidbits of my life, and pretty much makes it sound like my job is blogging. So next time someone asks me that all-important question, "What do you do?" I'm thinking... [Read More]

» Building a Religion that Spreads from johnlaeger.com
Interesting blog from Seth Godin about how Zoroastrians are fading away. His opening statement is...How to build a religion (and then watch it fade).This caught my eye as he goes on to list several elements of what it takes to [Read More]

» Speaking at the UW from ClearBlog
I've been asked to speak at the University of Wisconsin... Lot's of things to consider.... [Read More]

» Why are 2.0 sites so catchy? from ClearBlog
I suppose it's just human nature, but the web is a social animal. It's full of people who make it scary, funny, informative and so on. 2.0 struck a chord with users who rather 'do something' then 'go somewhere'. Sorta... [Read More]

» Zoroastrians as an example of an ideavirus - Seth Godin from WebMetricsGuru
Seth Godin quotesa NYTimes article about Zoroastrians who Keep the Faith, and Keep Dwindling as a ideavirus that is not working because ...they believe being good is just about enough and didn't build enough of the e... [Read More]

» Zoroastrians as an example of an ideavirus - Seth Godin from WebMetricsGuru
Seth Godin quotesa NYTimes article about Zoroastrians who Keep the Faith, and Keep Dwindling as a ideavirus that is not working because ...they believe being good is just about enough and didn't build enough of the e... [Read More]

» Intellectual property and the ideavirus from Doctor Recommended
Seth Godin had an interesting post regarding religion longevity, specifically Zoroastrianism, and viral marketing. It turns out that Zoroastrians are all but extinct, as they have completely integrated with the general populace and no longer have a com... [Read More]

» Use Religious Techniques for Employment Branding from The Recruiting Animal
Seth Godinsky says brands should copy successful religious propaganda. Promote the idea that: 1. Insiders have better working lives and afterlives 2. Outsiders aren't as knowledgeable or living as well 3. Encourage evangelism [Read More]

» Quote Martialled! from MisEntropy
After reading a piece in The New York Times about the impending extinction of Zoroastrianism, Seth Godin posts about how to create ideaviruses that don't suffer the same the fate. A couple of thousand years ago, Gautama Buddha said, Everything [Read More]

» How to build a religion from existence trainer
A very interesting post by Seth Godin. A couple of comments: In my opinion, though, is application to the Zoroastrians seems to miss the mark: According to the Times, the Zoroastrians are fading away... [Read More]

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