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What do temples and a shopping malls have in common? Much more than we may think. Here is a thought provoking observation by religious studies professor Dr. Ira Zepp:


Some of us are interested in religious studies because we are interested in people. People do religious things; they symbolize and ritualize their lives and desire to be in a community. What piqued my interest in shopping malls initially was their concrete expressions of all three of these religious impulses. Quadrilateral architecture, calendrical rituals, replications of natural settings, and attempts to be people, places, and objects of pilgrimage, all illustrate homo religiosus. The shopping mall as a ceremonial center, the shopping mall as “more than” a marketplace, is one way contemporary people are meeting their needs for renewal and reconnection, essential ingredients of religious and human life.


When most of us hear the word “worship” we automatically think of ancient rituals, temples, churches or mosques. In reality, the notion of worship goes far deeper than just its outward expression. Professor Zepp shows us here that worship is something that goes to the fabric of the human heart. Worship is fundamentally about meeting the deeper needs of the human heart. As far as we can see throughout history, we see humanity doing much more than surviving. We see humanity hoping, seeking and believing in something.


Just look around at the culture around you. Billboards, radio and TV ads, clubs, societies and educational institutions all contain elements of the worshiping human heart within their structures. Everywhere you look, you will find people seeking the fulfillment of their deeper needs of meaning, belonging and hope. Anywhere you turn you see people trying to find themselves in the things they do. Worship is woven into the subconscious habits and drives of our everyday routines. No matter what we do we are always seeking some sort of fulfillment or fullness.


As we learn to see this, the two simple questions that we ask ourselves and those around us are, “What do I worship?” and “Why?”. As we learn to consciously look at our subconscious habits and tendencies we start to get a more realistic grip on our humanity and think more clearly on the reasons that stand behind it.


Ira Zepp, The New Religious Image of Urban America: The Shopping Mall as Ceremonial Center (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 1997), 150. as quoted in


Smith, James K. A. (2016-03-22). You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit (Kindle Locations 714-716). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.