The Morphing of Religious Practices

by Mike Penn

Spirituality and religion will become more self-defined. There will be a morphing of religious practices and denominations. In essence, people will mix and pour their own religious cocktails.
Faith Popcorn [pen name], BrainReserve

In an open, borderless digital society where competing ideas, philosophies, and spirituality intermingle freely, the inevitable is about to take place—the interbreeding of religions. Only this time, it will be a little different than what has taken place in the past.

Faith Popcorn, founder of the trend research firm BrainReserve, offers us some insight, "What's different about this spiritual awakening is that there's very little agreement on who or what God is, what constitutes worship, and what this outpouring means . . . The need to anchor has found expression in all of the world's religions, whether they celebrate the Old and New Testament God, Buddha, Allah, Brahma, unnamed higher powers, or self–discovery." {1}

According to Popcorn, people are seeking a spiritual connection where they can define themselves. They do not want to be told how to live or what to worship. They demand choices. People shop not just for a particular brand of product (such as a denomination) but to "join a brand" and make it a source of identity. In essence, they want to join a religion that can adjust itself to fit the individual—personalized spirituality to satisfy one's own individual taste. {2}

To satisfy this longing for self–identity, the Net will soon explode with a smorgasbord of hybrid spiritual entities and multifaith religions that promise a wide assortment of love, brotherhood, charity, and justice.

In the New Economy, the customer rules. What he wants . . . he gets. Empowered with infinite knowledge and self–centric desires, he demands choices and total control. That's why we see e–businesses scrambling to build relationships with customers and deploying customer–initiated, customer–controlled exchanges. Offerings are seamlessly and inseparably bundled to meet the needs of a customer.

The new hybrid religions emerging will emulate the same models as used in e–businesses—utilizing a sort of reverse marketing approach to create a religion designed to fit the customer rather than having the customer cater to a specific theology. In other words, the customer will have a hand in co–developing his own personalized spirituality (see also Digital Cartels Emerging and Shrink–Wrap Your Own Spirituality).

Three things will be evident—the religion will operate like an e–village, theology will be home–brewed, and "spirit guides" will replace an almighty true God.

Spiritual e–Villages—The new hybrid religions will operate more like an e-marketplace of services rather than a place of worship. Third-party metamediaries will develop electronic hubs—morphing the best practices and offerings from multiple faiths, psychology, and science into activity clusters packaged around people's lifestyles.

Home-brewed Theology—In a digital age of "choice on demand," a new type of religion will be marketed to the people. It will not focus on the omnipotent, omniscient, unchanging God that biblical Christians have worshipped for centuries. Rather, the new, self–customized religion will be a home–brewed version to fit the impatient, Information Age culture. It will be personalized to fit what people want a god to be . . . one that complements their self–identity. It will be tolerant, accommodating, and self–reassuring, preaching a more social type of gospel—brotherhood, good works, peace, justice, charity, and good will.

Spirit Guides—The new hybrid religions will focus on stroking people's egos, playing on emotions, feelings, and sensibilities. Instead of having God be the authority over people's lives, virtual "spirit guides" will be created to make people feel good about themselves—using a holistic spiritual approach that promotes relying on people's own personal experiences as the guiding force of their lives. In essence, everyone will have their own personal spiritual "partner" or spiritual "buddy" who nurtures and empowers them to behave as they see fit—to be their own godhead.


Today's Information Age citizens have become spoiled rotten. They are so used to having companies cater to their personal needs that they have become narrowly focused on one thing—me, myself, and I.

Soon, people will expect the same services from religions—personalized religious services based on "what works for me." The new hybrid spiritual entities will minimize religion—taking what was once sacred and reducing it to the level of a mere commodity (spiritual products of thoughts and wisdom) that can be repackaged and "shrink–wrapped" at will. The focus will be on revenue streams instead of saved souls. Control instead of reverence. Greed and exploitation instead of sacrifice and piety.

A more fundamental issue is at stake: the deconstruction of religion as we know it. In today's spiritually bankrupt societies where "there is little agreement on who or what God is or what constitutes worship," people revert to concocting home–brewed religions. C.S. Lewis nailed it on the head: "When people cease to believe in God, they believe in themselves." Instead of discovering who the true almighty God really is, such Net entrepreneurs spend all of their energies tearing down traditional religions in favor of inventing something new. After all, that is the Net way of doing things.

But even more disturbing, the world is reengineering itself to fit technology. One of the Net's greatest powers lies in its ability to blur the old distinctions between businesses, markets, industries, geographies—and even religions. Boundaries are broken down. Theology is banished. Reverence to a higher authority is missing. Morality is lacking. By morphing spiritual practices, religions now find themselves as strange bedfellows and in competition with unfamiliar players. Technology is dictating how we remake the world.

As Christians, one thing is clear. We do not have the right to tinker with God's Word. Technology may give us the ability to act like gods, but we certainly don't have the infinite wisdom or knowledge to be a god. That's wishful thinking. Technology should never be a substitute for God nor should technology be elevated to the level of being an idol. We must always acknowledge our dependence and need for the one true God. Spiritual matters require spiritual answers with spiritual weapons, not technical ones.

See also: Stand Tall for the Good Fight. Be ready. Be prepared. Be equipped.

Mike Penn serves in the knowledge management area of EDS, a global information technology service provider. As an avocation, he also created and serves as Webmaster for Stand Tall.


{1}Faith Popcorn's Spiritual Cocktails, Terry Mattingly's "On Religion" Column (, May 17, 2000