TED talks are sermons, and the “ideas worth spreading” held therein are the gospel. Going to Long Beach (which costs $7500) is an exclusive trip to Mecca; TEDActive is the first tier of secondhand appreciation akin to viewing a religious relic in a glass case. And those videos, cherished by intellectuals and sometimes catchy enough to go viral in the general populace, are the updated version of The 700 Club, Pat Robertson’s hugely-influential television broadcast that is a cornerstone of televangelism.
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After [Mitra’s] acceptance speech TED curator Chris Anderson turned the auditoriums in Long Beach and La Quinta into a synergistic Baptist revival-style celebration of support. Pledge cards were distributed immediately to everyone in the rooms at both locations — they bear more than a passing resemblance to the envelopes and plates passed around right after the sermons in my old Presbyterian church. Audience members from large and small companies got up to pledge monetary and administrative support, and the mood was electric. Chris Anderson was the fiery yet graceful pastor, his fervor directed not at Jesus but at Mitra’s minimalistic school. This was the new type of religion I’ve often envisioned: the exuberant dedication of emotional and physical resources to a proven force of good, not to an irrational faith-based deity. This was a church without a god. Well maybe Bono is its god but that is a story for a different day.