The Church of Appletology

So there I stood, in the middle of the Gardens Mall, transfixed by the sight in front of me. On my left, a seemingly endless line of bohemian-looking individuals stretching away from the doorway to the Apple Store. On my right, the much quieter entry way to the New Religion Jeans Company. Apple on one side. New Religion on the other. And then, the epiphany: Apple is a lot like the Church of Scientology!

Now before you click away at least hear me out. I'll start with origins. Scientology is the creation of one man, L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer who once famously stated that "if you want to get rich, start a religion". The modern day Apple is also essentially the creation of one man, Steve Jobs, who once famously stated "Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me". Clearly, both were keen financial minds -- kindred spirits, if you will, sort of opposite sides of the same coin.

Next, let's look at corporate culture. Scientology has the Sea Org, which employs thousands of low-level practitioners as a kind of slave army doing the grunt work of maintaining Hubbard's vast empire. Similarly, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company has its Apple Store employees who, according to recent media accounts, serve a similar function within the company's overall hierarchy. Both groups are overworked, underpaid and populated mostly by true believers in their respective causes.

And what about those believers? Scientology followers are encouraged to shut themselves off from all outside influences, including terminating associations with anyone or anything that might cause them to question their faith. Likewise, Apple users are encouraged to immerse themselves fully within the company's ecosystem of products and services, and their first reaction to a problem is usually to blame the one piece of non-Apple hardware or software that was present at the time. In both cases, any attempt to proselytize the organizations' respective followers -- through confrontational exposes or witty television commercials -- only serves to reinforce their suspicions of the outside world and drive them deeper into the fold.

Of course, both entities are jealous of their intellectual property. Any attempt to reprint or otherwise misappropriate Scientology materials is met with an avalanche of lawsuits filed by attorneys who will stop at nothing to destroy the church's enemies. Similarly, Apple is notorious for treating even the slightest hint of mimicry as a personal assault on its revered founder and will stop at nothing to crush the offending product or service. Both have discovered the power of litigation to thwart independent thought and encourage compliance/conformity. Offend them at your peril!

Blasphemy, you say? I'm just twisting words and phrases to identify parallels that do not in fact exist? Perhaps. But you must admit that the similarities are a bit eerie. There's a reason why so many of us rational, right-minded people look upon Apple as a kind of cult. I'm just taking it one step further by establishing the type of cult that Apple reminds us of. And in my case, I see "fruit" and I think "fruitcake."

If you don't like my interpretation, then sue me. But be prepared to wait in line behind the Church of Scientology, Apple, various Mac-centric sites/publications and a host of true believers who will no doubt take my words as a personal attack on their core values.

Hmmm...suddenly, I'm rather glad I live on a remote island in the Indian Ocean.

Catch Randall C. Kennedy's analysis of tech trends every Tuesday and Friday here at BetaNews.

Editor's Note: As a reminder to readers, free-lance stories reflect the views of the authors and not necessarily that of BetaNews.

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