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May 10, 2008

Richard Florida

Google Speak

« Rent Crisis | Main | University Relocation »

The video from my talk at the Silicon Valley Googleplex - which was recently broadcast on CSPAN's Book TV  - is now online, here.


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Dr. John R. Loch

On Saturday, May 10th, I watched your presentation at Google on C-Span and found your comments most interesting and enlightening. As one involved in the church as a Commissioned Lay Pastor, I kept thinking about the possible applications of elements of your research to issues related to faith and religion. Have you uncoverd any relationship factors between cities and faith/religion? The recent Pew study on faith changers stimulated this thought.

Zoe B

Dr. Loch - I have been thinking extensively about this issue, as I have seen my religious community decay over my own lifetime. I haven't seen or heard the topic of religion discussed in this blog, Florida's books, or at the National Conference for the Creative Economy. Nor does anyone in my religious community (even at a national level) seem to be acquainted with the concept of the creative economy, much less discuss how it may affect the viability of traditional congregations or the nature of religious faith in a creative economy. Robert Putnam has written a little about religion (see Bowling Alone; also Better Together), but there is MUCH more to be said.

As in all other parts of their lives, I think creative people (those who want ANY religious affiliation) want to choose the religious community that best fits their individual self. America remains one of the few places in the history of the world where people consistently have had the right to choose (and even to create) their own religion. People around the world still commonly slaughter each other over personal choice of religion. Today we of the creative class take it utterly for granted.

As far as I can tell, much of the creative class is secular. Creatives who come from a religious community or tradition often value their cultural roots, but don't want to invest so much time, money, or identity in their religion as did previous generations. We like having roots, but want other people to do the gardening. As a consequence, I see a number of trends. Large congregations (so far) continue to prosper (or avoid financial ruin) due to clustering and economies of scale. Many small congregations either merge to share resources; or they die out, perhaps to be replaced with informal gatherings. The informal groups can do well much of the time, particularly when they act as a surrogate extended family. However, they can't support all the roles of a full-service congregation. When these folks need a service that their informal group can't provide, they approach a congregation and try to acquire the service on an as-needed basis. This new 'economy of traditional religion' does not seem to me to be viable over the long term.

I believe that members of the creative-class who feel themselves to be secular still have spiritual needs. The human psyche that evolved over millennia has not fundamentally changed in the space of a few decades. But Western-style traditional religion no longer has the monopoly on communal spiritual expression. I think that the current popular support for ecological causes has a strong component of spirituality, including a commitment to curtail one's own freedom in order to live according to a set of rules. The new 'commandments' include 'Thou shalt recycle'. Similarly, animal rights activists place huge importance upon the soul, they just insist that animals also have souls. Thus, they believe it is immoral to harm animals for the sake of human benefit. i have heard it suggested that tattooing is a spiritual practice, because adherents feel exalted or purified through the voluntary experience of significant physical pain.

It remains to be seen whether traditional organized religions can adapt to the creative economy, or will fail and die out. Both possibilities might occur at once if religious expressionn adapts so much that we no longer recognize it.

So, what have YOU been thinking about?

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