The Religion of Apple


People talk about being “devoted” to their iPhones and Air Macs and of being Apple “devotees.” When I finally got my husband to use a Powerbook instead of the IBM-ish Dells and Toshibas he insisted he had to use, I talked about “converting” him to Apple. Apple stores look like “temples, replete with the graven idols of 30″ Cinema Displays and iPhones perched upon pedestals like holy statuary,” Partial Objects observes. Once you’ve entered the store’s gleaming glass front, you make your way (stealing glances of the objects of everyone’s affection, gleaming new iPods, iPads, iMacs) to a counter — an altar — behind which stand those mediators between the death and life of your Apple product, the Genii.


Apple Store San Francisco

Photo of Apple store in San Francisco by Ping Ping

I am using “Genii” as the plural of “Geniuses,” those Apple employees who have the revered status of not just being sales staff but technicians who have the knowledge to fix your damaged technodevice and, in essence, bring it back from death. Genius is a Latin word meaning “presiding or tutelary deity” and, in Latin, its plural would be Genii. These days, the only place you’re likely to hear Latin (aside from my classroom) is in a religious institution.

But then, Apple has become something of a religion, hasn’t it?

I’m speaking metaphorically. But a BBC documentary called Secrets of the Superbands says that, when a team of neuroscientists took MRI scans of the brain of an Apple fanatic, they found that “Apple was actually stimulating the same parts of the brain as religious imagery does in people of faith.” As the BBC’s Alex Riley notes, the Bishop of Buckingham, who himself read his Bible on an iPad, compares Apple to a religion.

Apple devotees’ fetishism of the company that Jobs (sounds a bit like Job?) built doesn’t really differ from what people feel towards other mega-brands, Partial Objects observes. Apple is just much better at marketing its products and, I would also suggest, creating an experience around those products, including the design of its temple-esque stores and dubbing computer technicians “Genii” and dressing them in austere (in a monkish kind of way) uniforms.

Apple Store

Photo of Apple Store in London by Steve Parker


More from Partial Objects:

I suspect that what makes certain brands achieve this particular status is their ability to disguise or hide the pedestrian technical details of their products [not to mention potential human rights abuses in the factories in China where they're made] in favor of deliver a more potent and magical message: there is something you, the consumer, want to become-more popular more connected, more trendy, more cool, and these products give you the illusion of achieving that. I say it’s an illusion because the reality is that rather than bringing the consumer closer to achieving that fantasy, the product intercedes and mediates the consumers relationship to that fantasy, teasing it, but never delivering.

That’s the essence of commodity fetishism, and that’s what these megabrands deliver to their fans. That’s what religion delivers to believers as well. We constantly and repeatedly promise you heaven, but not yet, and only according to our system of rules.

And that’s why both groups are deeply devoted, emotionally invested, and impervious to rational argument.

Who hasn’t said that they “can’t live without” an iProduct or that their “life depends” on said product? I am, I confess (there’s the religious language again), someone who has her “entire life” on an iPhone, and not only contact information, crucial emails and precious photos (that I also have digital copies of in about three other places). I read the news on my phone, communicate with everyone from my parents to my son’s teacher and doctors on my phone, have the textbooks for my classes on my phone, pay bills via my phone; the list is endless. I’m not trying to be “trendy” using it but just trying to keep things together. I actually prefer to avoid the whole Apple “temple” visits, preferring to shop online.

Do Apple and other mega-brands (Facebook, for example) take the place of a religion for many of us, as far as our feelings of devotion and belief?

Let’s put the question another way: Maybe it’s not such a coincidence that Apple is called “Apple,” the name of a fruit that a certain woman is said to have plucked from the Tree of Knowledge?


Apple Store Bahnhofstrasse Zürich

Photo of Apple Store in Bahnhofstrasse Zürich by iTux


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Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson3 years ago

I don't have an Apple anything, but I am sort of lost without my facebook, my books, and my crocheting. And my craft room does look similar to a shrine to yarn... come to think of it, my home is a shrine to books. To each his own :) We all worship the things that make our lives easier or more enjoyable

Ruby W.
Ruby W.4 years ago

There are all kinds of things that people believe in fervently that are not technically religions but definitely hit all the buttons in the people's brains to substitute for them. I know a few atheists who believe so naively and fervently in science (and especially certain popular scientists) that they will act terribly offended if you question or even joke about that scientist or their ideas. My father believes fervently in a mishmash of capitalistic rhetoric, Republican jargon, and badly distorted American history. He is an engineer from an impoverished background, and knows literally nothing about history or social sciences, so he has no perspective to see through these things and instead accepts them wholly like a child in Sunday School.

Brittany Dudas
Brittany D.4 years ago

I really don't like Apple at all. This makes me like them less than I already did.

Shirley Marsh
Shirley Marsh4 years ago

I love Apple too, right from the moment I sat in front of one of the earliest models and was able to work on it immediately without having to refer to a 'how to' manual! So user friendly! Wish I could say the same for the latest models. For instance; I wanted to use one of my paintings as a screen saver. Followed all the steps as directed; nothing happened. Finally took it to an Apple store. The technician sat with me and fiddled with it for about half an hour, with as little success as I had experienced. Suddenly, there it was - my painting as a screen saver! I asked how he had done it so I would know how to change it from time to time; he didn't have a clue - it had happened by accident! So what chance have I got? All it needed was one more step to be added to the sequence; after 'preview', hit 'install', or something like that. But no, after preview - nothing! Come on Apple; let's get back to KISS - after all that's what whipped Microsoft's butt in the first place! PS: Still love Apple.

Ellen Mccabe
ellen m.4 years ago

Wow..i don't even have a computer, well, I do have my dads old IMAC, better never used it becaise its dial-up and I don't have a landline..but my dad loved their product and constantly reminded me " It's not a pc, it's a MAC!
More of a cult than a religion as I see it.

Susan Diane
Susan Diane4 years ago

I'm into the Goddess myself as far as religion goes but also like some of the buddhist writings so can't say my Mac is my religion. I do find the MacBook I bought in 2007 to be next to my dog as a loyal and trustworthy companion. So its been good for for the past 4 years and expect it to be good for many more. I get free automatic regular upgrades and have found it's intuitiveness makes working on it fairly easy especially as I lack the aptitude and patience for machinery and technology.
Very leery of the cellphone technology and decided that I don't want everyone to be able to get a hold of me all the time anyway so am the only one of my friends and colleagues who is a hold out on this appendage that seems to sprout out of everyone else's hands.
I'm actually brand loyal when it comes to cars also- Toyota and Honda are the ones I buy and had one honda civic hatchback for 20 years- hard to believe but I live in BC and they don't use a lot of salt. I got 2K for it towards my Toyota when I finally bought anther car.
Hellman's mayonnaise is another of my preferred brands. Might as well buy what you like and what works well for you.

Dave M.
Dave M.4 years ago

A bit of a stretch, Christina. Interesting comparison to religion but pretty dated. There's been a joke on the internet for years that compares MS users to Catholics and Mac users to Protestants. One nice addition is the one about the MRI research on Mac users' brains, but do you think Mac aficionados are any different than anyone else who is committed to a choice?

Apple fans are no different that Micro$oft fans or Crackberry fans or Porsche fans or Ferrari fans, or Nikon fans or Canon fans, etc., etc. They all defend their preferred choice of computer or smart phone or sports car because of what they value! I've been a "fan" (I personally don't like the term but since that's what you want to apply to those of us who BELIEVE Apple's products serve us better than and with more productivity than those running Windows) since 1990 and have put up with sh*t from MS "fans" who just couldn't tolerate that there was another operating system (that most of them didn't understand!) that did SOME things better than their revered operating system did, including run nearly glitch-free. I can make this comparison because I have consulted for Mac users, both personal and professional, since 1996, AND have used both Windows and Mac OSes the whole time!
Frankly, this "mine-is-better-than-yours" behavior is pretty immature and reflects much of the same intolerance and ignorance as those spouting anti-Islamic, or anti-Jewish, or anti-Christian rhetoric...
I don't really care what tool you w

Sharon Fenderson
Sharon Fenderson4 years ago

Who knew that APPLE was marketing to the religious aspect of our subconcious?!! I guess that is the way most companies work, though. I have heard everything from aromas, music, designs, etc. all factor in on how well a product sells. Hmmm...I guess my attracton to APPLE was the sleekness of the product(s) and not so much like holding a Bible- LOL! I wish technology was simpler than having to take [spiritual] errr...workshops to better understand our gadgets, that's for sure! Nevertheless, who knew APPLE'S intentions (wow...that even sounds spiritual) and hope the workers in China are NOT mistreated all in the name of APPLE. And with that...I say AMEN!

Callie J.
Callie Johnson4 years ago

You've hit on the exact reason why I have never once purchased an Apple product. I got tired of hearing the praises for the wonders of the Church of Mac a long time ago. As far as PCs are concerned, give me Windows any day; Apple PCs can't do the things I need my PC to do. (This has to do with the clutzy Apple key commands, versus the more user-friendly PC alt-menu key commands, which made using a PC like driving a Ferrari while using an Apple PC was like driving at 45 mpg in a 65 mph zone.) Sadly the latest version of the PC Office programs have made these commands more difficult to use.

Aoife L.
Aoife L.4 years ago

very interesting! thanks