Atheism And Groupon: A Tale Of Transference

by evanmcmurry

Every once in a while, the interwebs lines up a couple of unrelated stories such that they seem to make meaning together. It’s easy to overread into these random juxtapositions. And fun! Let’s do it.

Yesterday came news that the world, including the U.S., is becoming less religious, or (more likely) more openly owning up to its decreased religiosity. The ranks of atheism swelled 700% in the U.S. since 2005, and the number of people who self-identify as religious* went down 13 percentage points, all of which should come as a mild surprise to anybody who just sat through Rick Santorum’s unlikely primary success. I’m not inherently anti-religious, and I find outspoken atheists obnoxious, but the statistical rise of skepticism is still something to celebrate

A couple of columns over is a eulogy for Groupon. The company went from the potentially fastest-growing company in the history of the planet to watching its newly-released stock plummet, following news that its business model had vastly exceeded its limits and was contracting at a stunning rate. Alas, this info came too late for all the people who bought big on its IPO last week, and who now find themselves watching the value of their stock slip like sand through their fingers.

Sound familiar? Only six months later, Facebook’s public venture would undergo through the same collapse but at an accelerated rate, to the point that multiple lawsuits are in the works. And I hope these companies do get sued for everything they’re worth, which, in Groupon’s case, is starting to look like a pittance.

But nobody’s holding a gun to the heads of investors and forcing them to overpay for tech business stock. Around the time of Facebook’s IPO disaster, some made the case that the historic sale was the result of cross-fingered optimism on the part of the financial community, as they prayed that FB was the financial event that would initiate a recovery out of our recession. This would be easier to buy if the economic collapse itself hadn’t been caused by compulsive overvaluing, overleveraging, overpaying, over-everything. At this point, we seem less incautiously hopeful than pathologically, almost categorically unable to learn from our mistakes, even from cataclysms that occurred before our very eyes. No matter how many times we get burned by an overvalued commodity, we keep believing in the next one that comes along. It’s almost enough to make one wonder if the credulity seeping from religion is simply finding a new outlet.

If I were the lyricist for a punk/metal band, here’s where I’d growl something like, “MONEY IS YOUR NEW GOD!” (This works, too.) Instead, I’ll say that there’s probably not a substantial overlap between those who have stopped believing in God and those who have overbought on poor investments in the past seven years (though some crosstabs sure would be interesting). It was just two articles that happened to appear on the same day.