In the Bay Area, at least, a new institution has come along to replace the Church: the startup.
Humans are categorizing creatures. This is one of the reasons language is so important and interesting. We like to label things, it makes it easier for us to make sense of the world, even when they don't quite work. It's well worth asking, when we have labeled ourselves (or been labeled), how much we work to fit within what our understanding of that label is.
We're used to having many kinds of labels. We're a writer, or an engineer, and so on. Sometimes these labels focus on one element of our lives, and sometimes they encompass more. The notions of having a religious affiliation are huge within that definition. Am I a Catholic or Protestant? Christian or Muslim? Some combination, either or, and so on. The difference is that while the focused labels are geared towards a function, such as our occupation, the more general labels are geared towards our essence.
It's no secret that a certain brand of secularism has spread through Europe and parts of the United States. Many people who say they have no religious affiliation, are atheist, or simply do not care. The challenge with such a stance is that it leaves a gap of essence where the religious label used to be. Most people who I have met who are atheist simply reject the notion of a god without much more thought, which is their prerogative; however, this leaves them without an essence label, and to that end, without a sense of purpose.
In comes the startup. How many people at startups do we know, or, should I say, we used to know? In the same way someone who gets security clearance suddenly disappears into a void, many folks, especially younger folks, enjoy a void around their company. We see this in the 12-14 hour days they work, but also in the ping pong matches, the happy hours, the team movie nights and dinners out, and so on. Beyond that, there's a sort of pride within. One person calls this a shared vision, another calls it the follower of a cult.
Truth be told, it's not just startups. It's most jobs in the US. It's absolutely brilliant when we follow it to the natural conclusion. When someone crafts their essence to fit what the company tells them, and sinks all their free time into furthering the aims and goals of that company, and everyone around them joins in this endeavor, it becomes an echo chamber devoid of criticism.
It's also worth noting that when someone is in such a chamber, when your entire essence, physical and emotional, is tied into annual reviews, company outings, and the ability to proudly say "I work for ___", criticism and cold hard truth have consequences. Even more so when the person in question never had a chance, growing up with dreams of success, being guided along the American dream, and now lives it. It's a reaffirmation of all the lies they were told, where a traditional shattering coming-of-age is sidestepped and a figurative idol [in a turtleneck] assumes messiah. It's also a poorly thought out short game which may have a happy financial ending, but if you give cattle stock options, they are still cattle.