The rise of religious and spiritual market

When any conflict emerges in a nation, multiple stakeholders gather their physical and mental armour to fight for their interests. Each stratum of the society seeks comfort in what they know. Now a person can get information from sources including but not limited to national news, individual communities and their immediate family. But what if these sources of information reflect the cultural or religious bias of certain people? Such sections of our society vulnerable to the prejudiced opinion are the first ones to fall trap to the fault lines of religious fanaticism.

In our first lesson in economics, we are taught that humans are rational. That humans are expected to choose amongst scarce resources available to them rationally and prudently. But if recent trends are to be believed, not all humans behave rationally. During conflicts, very few people are cognizant of their immediate reality. Even fewer can grasp the tangible facts of ongoing strife.

While a few people take immediate steps to know more about the situation and formulate an educated opinion, there is an immensely growing section of society which is impressionable and naive. This level of naivety inherently makes such people susceptible to some mischievous elements rooted in our society. Instances range from the exploitation of a person’s faith for someone else’s financial gain and establishing a person’s religious beliefs as grounds for a battle call.

There have been numerous cases in recent history where a community as a whole has taken rash decisions based on blind faith and dogma. There is an increasingly unstated and subtle competition implying that “my idol is better than yours,” and what was once a society that hoped to be guided by reason became a society driven by the fear of God and on the wheels of ill-advised decisions.

It has been believed that “once gods and religious figures are installed in place, they cannot be dislodged.” Such shrines attract millions of devotees each year. A report by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) showed that “average expenditure on religious trips has more than doubled,” between 2007 and 2015 so much so that “religious tourism” has become one of the biggest highlights in recent government policy.

This debate on whether religion is a money-making business has revealed surprising facts. As is evidenced by some studies, it seems that such religion and faith-related institutions do generate a socio-economic impact. A study conducted by the Religious Freedom and Business Foundation stated that “religion annually contributes almost 1.2 trillion dollars” worth of socio-economic value to the United States economy, which is more than the global revenues of the world’s top ten tech companies, including Apple, Amazon and Google.

Naturally faith is not a bad thing – but capitalizing on a community’s belief for politics and other financial gains has become an efficient money-minting scheme. People are increasingly relying on their sage’s prophecies, blissfully unaware that their priests are reaping the profits of God.