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Religion and Commerce

Ever under the influence of classical economics, contemporary observers in the West tend to think of religion and commerce as two domains that are—or at least should be—tightly sealed off from each other. However, the longer human record shows the persistent influence of religion on commercial practices, while commerce has always “tainted” the space of the sacred. Today, as throughout human history, the touchpoints between religion and economics are frequent. And, given the geopolitical turmoil between the Christian and Muslim world, we are perhaps becoming a bit more aware of the way religious beliefs influence commercial practices and funnel economic choices.

So, I am pleased to be able to offer this issue’s theme, Religion and Commerce. The first article, “Service Provider Use of Christian Religious Messages in Yellow Pages Advertising” by Diane Halstead, Paula Haynes, and Valerie Taylor, documents the motivations behind small business owners’ use of Christian symbolism in their yellow pages advertising. I believe readers will find it illuminating to compare the findings from this article with those of second piece “Bargaining with God: Religion, Advertising, and Commercia Success in Keyna” by Catherine Dolan and Mary Johnstone-Louis, which investigates the thinking behind the religious names given small businesses by their owners in Kenya. The differences between the two cultures on the role of religion in the conduct of commerce are striking and provocative.

In many world studies of religious attitudes, such as those conducted by the Pew organization, the United Kingdom ranks near the bottom among nations on religiosity. Yet, in spite of the secularism so typical of this society, Pauline Maclaran and I have found a treasure trove of spiritual imagery in the New Age “Mecca” that Glastonbury has become. I hope that readers will enjoy this photoessay, which features the names, product offerings, and events that typify this small English town’s spiritual economy.

Finally, I am grateful to have a short essay on Islamic branding from Paul Temporal, one of the leading brand consultants in Asia. Paul has worked in marketing in Malaysia, a Muslim majority country, for many years and has some very large corporate and government clients. His thoughts on the emergence of the Islamic brand will surprise many and may stimulate some readers to consider research in this emerging arena.

Linda M. Scott

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