Phal states that “shopping malls are cathedrals of commerce in a religion of the market.” This is an eloquent way of describing modern day American culture. Although people may not view it in this way, the more one analyzes the way that consumerism plays out, the more sense Pahl’s statement makes. One of the ways that the Merriam Webster Dictionary defines religion is “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith”. To break this definition down even further, ardor is defined as “an often restless or transitory warmth of feeling”. When people take part in consumerism by shopping at places like the mall, they are seeking out that warm “fuzzy” feeling that many obtain through religious practices such as attending church or praying. There have been psychological studies on the neurological effects that take place in terms of prayer but what about the immediate gratification that the brain experiences when a person makes a purchase?
After performing much research on U.S. religious customs. On 4/20/13 I embarked on a pilgrimage to one of the local sacred sites called Westfield mall. While in the mall I observed several rituals. The first was called parking. Some people seemed to feel that it was important to drive around the parking lot looking for just the right spot.
Others parked in the first spot available.
The most devoted pilgrims seemed to forgo the parking ritual for an even more arduous ritual called riding the bus. For one to ride the bus the person must first wait at a designated location until the vehicle which is called a bus arrives. They then provide money for the honor of riding the bus to the mall. They then ride all the way to the mall. Once the people had entered the mall they then participated in one of two rituals. One ritual was called shopping and the other was called hanging out. In the case of shopping people would wander around the mall. Entering stores and looking at products. Sometimes when they find products they like they provide something called money in exchange for the product. The other ritual called hanging out seems to involve going to the mall to meet people you know. This may or may not involve actual purchasing of products. Once people have completed their rituals they return to their transportation and return home.
The mall is a popular destination for the young and old. Teenagers sometimes video blog their experience at the mall. In the following “vlogs” for example, the teenage girl mentions the word “heaven” in each video, implying that she was in a blissful state much like those who are experience bliss while worshiping at a church or temple. It is also notable that the architecture of the malls facilitates an experience that can be disorienting to the shopper. Malls are built in a way that encourages the shopper to wonder and seek out items for consumption. Some research suggests the brain’s chemical response to all of the outside stimulus can seduce a person to buy things that they don’t need, even if they can’t afford them. This is how many Americans are in financial debt.
Shopping at malls seems to be ritualistic for many people and there are many parallels between traditional religious sites of worship and shopping malls. In religion, one often has one or more sacred places they go to worship one or more gods or deities. At a mall, there is no worshipping in a spiritual sense but material objects are marketed to consumers in ways that make them alluring and enticing. This leads to a type of materialistic worship by the shoppers who are willing to “sacrifice” what is usually hard earned money (a form of commerce) in exchange for the material objects. There are also parallels between the architectural and symbolic aspects of sacred sites and shopping malls. There is a sense of grandeur when entering a mall as the shopper is met with high ceilings, bright colors, symbols and displays which can be said of many traditional places of worship throughout the world.
“Seattle Washington Mall Part 1.” YouTube. YouTube, 07 Aug. 2011. Web. 10 May 2013.
“Seattle Washington Mall Part 2.” YouTube. YouTube, 07 Aug. 2011. Web. 10 May 2013.
Shopping can be exhausting and drain all of your energy by spending money you don’t have or buying stuff you don’t need. So the very smart people of the shopping malls also have the religious experience of food courts. The food court contains many different places to eat for cheap. You don’t even have to leave the mall when you get hungry or you get tired. These so called restaurants are food from around the world. You can have Chinese at Panda Express or have Philly Steak at Charley’s. You can even have dessert as well. Ice cream at Baskin Robins or coffee at Starbucks. There is also chairs and tables for you to sit and eat or just to take a break from shopping. Even if you just want a snack and just continue shopping you can as well. Pretzels and other easy to eat foods will keep you on the go.
Food is very important to religious worships. The mall isn’t religious at all even though shoppers are at mall for presents for religious holidays, and food is a very big part of that. So, it make sense that food is also a part of that. Food is very important for a lot of people, and the food court tends to offer a lot of options to make sure every person’s religious food needs are meet. So if you are celebrating a holiday that you give up certain foods you can still eat something at the food court.