When we hear people talk about the “Cult of Apple,” it’s usually tongue-in-cheek, and not a scholarly opinion on whether Apple resembles organised religion.
But the joke comes from somewhere.
Apple, with its emphasis on ceremony and its messiah-like cofounder Steve Jobs, does feel eerily close to a religion. And now Atlas Obscura has gotten a professional opinion on the subject, from cultural historian and NYU professor Erica Robles-Anderson.
Atlas Obscura asked the question: Is Apple a cult?
Robles-Anderson says that, despite appealing to the individuality of contemporary culture, Apple is, definitely, a cult. “It’s so obviously a cult,” she tells Atlas Obscura.
There is a powerful collective experience that Apple provides, and to understand it, you have to look no further than its iPhone release days.
To highlight what Apple does, Robles-Anderson looked at its competitor, Samsung, which recently opened a store near Apple’s in SoHo. On Samsung’s release day, they “had giant ropes outside, as if anticipating a giant crowd, and big bouncer-looking people in fancy suits,” she says to Atlas Obscura. “And then…crickets.”
Samsung just didn’t get it.
Apple creates its the hype around its release days not by pushing exclusivity, but inclusiveness. Our own reporter Lisa Eadicicco saw Apple store employees clapping and cheering customers outside Apple’s iconic 5th Avenue store in New York City.
But it’s not just that. Apple’s inclusiveness paired with a sense of awe is its spiritual special sauce.
Once you enter the Apple Store, Robles-Anderson says it seems you are meant to feel minuscule in the presence of a higher power.
“It creates a space that emphasises your smallness when you walk in. You look at something far away, and that makes your body feel like you’re entering somewhere sacred or holy,” Robles-Anderson told Atlas Obscura.
If the Apple Store is a new type of cathedral, the Geniuses are its priests, according to Atlas Obscura. They give you counsel, and access to special knowledge. And they are marked as separate by their clothing.
To read more about Apple as a religious enterprise, check out Robles-Anderson’s full interview at Atlas Obscura.
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