“Business is religion, and religion is business,” said Maltbie Babcock. “The man who does not make a business of his religion has a religious life of no force, and the man who does not make a religion of his business has a business life of no character.”
While few people today would completely agree with the 19th-century Presbyterian preacher, business and religion are indeed closely tied together. This connection, though, remains largely unexamined by major media outlets. It’s refreshing to find, then, a new publication that has already done an impressive job of showing how to adequately cover the intersection of religion and business.
Quartz, a “digitally native news outlet” owned by the publisher of The Atlantic, bills itself as a site for “business people in the new global economy.” Recently, they ran an article explaining why Chrysler’s .Ram domain “might just offend a billion people.”
At the most recent meeting of the GAC in Durban last week, India again made clear (pdf) its discomfort with the idea of a .ram domain name. To many outside India, this is baffling. Why does India care about a line of pick-up trucks named for a male sheep?
The objection arises from an unfortunate homonym: Ram, pronounced with a long “a,” is also the name of one of Hinduism’s chief gods. “What if someone registers a domain name such as http://www.sex.ram? It could create a lot of communal tension in the country,” a government official told the Business Standard newspaper. India has argued that under the nation’s laws, trademarks can be denied if they stand to hurt religious sentiments.
The argument might sound disingenuous, but Indians often lose their collective sense of humor when it comes to matters of religion. Moreover, Ram is also a politically sensitive issue. In 1992, Hindu extremists destroyed a 16th-century mosque claiming that it was the birthplace of Lord Ram. The act led to weeks of Hindu-Muslim violence across India, resulting in the deaths of hundreds.
In three brief paragraphs, Leo Mirani puts the religious, business, and political implications in a helpful context for those of us unfamiliar with Eastern religious concerns.
Another Quartz feature, published on the same day as the .Ram article, explains how “Buddhist monks are buying into Thailand’s new religion: consumerism.”