When it comes to selling, the seven deadlies are a ‘hell’ of a lot sexier than goodness.

November 11, 2009

images-2

“Why is goodness so gosh-darned boring?”

In my novel, The Happy Soul Industry God decides to hire an advertising agency to market Heaven. Frustrated by how few converts organized religion is bringing in, She (that’s right, She) reasons a modern advertising agency might capture the imaginations of young people better than current theological tropes. If the bible (and similar texts) serves as advertising copy for goodness then, God observes correctly, few are bothering to read it, let alone be motivated. Nobody reads body copy anyway, right?

One of the things that prompted me to write the book was the poignancy of God’s dilemma: that no one is paying much attention to goodness. A big question then is how come goodness is so darn boring?

It’s easy to fault ancient rhetoric. After all what’s more archaic than scripture? By definition it’s old. In the age of instant gratification and Twitter how can old-fashioned goodness possibly compete? It can’t and never could.

The Devil has always been a better showman than God. Even now, popular culture is rife with evil characters, from Twilight’s sexy vampires to legions of vapid, self-serving reality stars wallowing in their own depravity. Even the good guys need a dark side in order for us to identify with them. House is a doctor but he’s self-centered to the extreme and a drug addict! Indeed, the Seven Deadly Sins are pretty much standard fare these days. Lord knows we play fast and loose with them in Advertising. “We make you want what you don’t need,” reads the header to my blog. That’s envy, gluttony, lust, greed, pride and sloth. We’re only missing Wrath!

But why are God and Heaven uninteresting to us? How come they can’t compete with evil’s myriad titillations? Why does goodness come off the bus sleeping?

Already my kids dislike church. They were bored from day one. Is this the best way to ignite their tiny, vulnerable flames of spirituality -via hot air? Must religion be dull, uninviting and, er, preachy?

I suppose snake handlers bring excitement to their message. Certain Baptist groups rattle the rafters with hymns of joy. I love that Bono sings about God versus getting laid. But by and large mainstream religion is duller than a bag of hammers. When it is exciting it is usually violent. Sister Mary is going to thrash you! You’re gonna burn in Hell! Yikes. My children’s illustrated copy of the Old Testament manages to be both dull and terrifying. So much is wrong with this picture…

The average person is neither beast nor saint. If on balance, we are neutral then it stands to reason we can be motivated in either direction. So why has evil always been seductive and goodness not?

Follow me on Twitter

3 Responses to “When it comes to selling, the seven deadlies are a ‘hell’ of a lot sexier than goodness.”

  1. CynDales said

    I think you may be going to the wrong church (for you and your family. There are a lot of paths up the mountain and you have to find the one that’s right for you.

  2. Based on your post, I don’t think the issue is with “good”ness so much as it is with “God”ness. First off, presenting goodness as a concept somehow tied into God is a flawed premise – and that is why you are asking the question about goodness being boring because you are really asking why promoting God is boring.

    There are lots of examples of ‘goodness’ being promoted that aren’t boring. Much of the green movement, the various anti-abuse campaigns like stopping domestic violence, the milk does a body good
    or hooray for boobies ads, the PETA posters and public displays, etc. Whether they are good ads or even on the correct side of good versus evil is not the point here. The point is that they are examples of non-boring campaigns to promote certain ‘good’ behaviors. They are fun, exciting, sexy or even shocking – but not boring.

    The main difference between these “cause” groups and the message they promtoe vs. the God/religious groups I belive boils down to a simple truth. What they believe in is based on reality – one that updates itself as new information is learned. They aren’t peddling a mythology that doesn’t evolve.

    Even if you don’t believe in global warming, the person who does points to tangible scientific studies, cause and effect observations, etc. The PETA people have photos and video of suffering animals. Even something that is mostly religious based like “The Right-To-Lifers” have photos of babies in the womb that look very human even though they are only weeks old.

    Also, these groups change the message over time or re-package it. Take the anti-smokng campaign for example. I remember from my childhood the ironic “Smoking is Glamorous” ads that showed that smokng was ugly and uncool. They didn’t appeal to my common sense that smoking was unhealthy or might give me cancer, they appealed to my ego instead to communicate that I would be ugly if I smoked. Since then, I have seen many different tactics used.

    In comparison, the God/religous message doesn’t really change and inherantly suffers because at some point it only has folklore, heresay, and an invisible creator to support it. These limitations make it difficult to promote.

  3. SRP said

    Well said, Wisdumb.
    Particularly like this insight:
    “The main difference between these “cause” groups and the message they promtoe vs. the God/religious groups I belive boils down to a simple truth. What they believe in is based on reality – one that updates itself as new information is learned. They aren’t peddling a mythology that doesn’t evolve.”
    True dat!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: