Looking for a New Religion? Apple Gives Dose of the Divine

Apple could play the same role as religion in a person's life, researchers say.

ByABC News
August 1, 2010, 4:27 PM

Aug. 2, 2010— -- Next time you're in need of a spiritual pick-me-up, maybe you should forego the traditional houses of worship and seek out the technophile's temple instead: the Apple Store.

According to two academics at Texas A & M University, Apple products aren't just consumer-friendly, sexy gadgets, but instruments of the divine.

"[Apple] could offer a religious-like experience. It could basically perform the same role in people's lives that being part of a religious community could, at one time," said Heidi Campbell, a communications professor who co-wrote an academic paper exploring the religious myths and metaphors surrounding the tech giant and its larger-than-life founder and CEO, Steve Jobs.

In "How the iPhone Became Divine," which was published in a new media journal earlier this summer, Campbell and her colleague Antonio La Pastina look at Apple customers as religious devotees.

"It's basically a study of religion and technology and how religious language and images got associated with the iPhone," said Campbell.

In 2007, right after Jobs took the stage in his customary vestments (a black turtleneck and jeans) to announce the launch of the iPhone, tech bloggers started spinning stories about the coming of the "Jesus Phone" or "God Phone."

Campbell said the report looks at how those terms became common parlance for the fan community, technology bloggers and even mainstream media.

The phrase first surfaced in 2006, she said, when Gizmodo blogger Brian Lam wrote a post responding to the Pope Benedict XVI's Christmas warning to worship God and not technology.

"Hopefully, our shepherd, Steve Jobs, will unveil Apple-Cellphone-Thingy, the true Jesus Phone -- or jPhone -- in two weeks, at the Macworld Keynote. It shall lift the hunger and disease you speak of from the land, as it will cure the rabid state of mind infecting Mac fanboys like yours truly," Lam quipped.

It wasn't long before cartoons and stories perpetuating the divine metaphor flooded the Web.