October 26th, 2011
06:00 AM ET
Short Takes: Are we turning Steve Jobs into a saint?
CNN asked four experts on religion and technology to weigh in on whether former Apple chief Steve Jobs is achieving a kind of secular sainthood. Here are their responses:
Steve Jobs for Sainthood? Absolutely.
Gary M. Laderman is chairman of Emory University’s religion department, director of the online magazine Religion Dispatches and author of "Sacred Matters."
The face. The face is everywhere now.
Steve Jobs the man is dead. But Steve Jobs the myth is only growing in stature and will only continue to grow as a cultural point of reference as an inspiring model for aspiring entrepreneurs, as a compelling success story with perplexing moral commitments and as an appealing icon whose life, death and products will, for many, cross over the line from profane to sacred.
In a USA Today review of Walter Isaacson’s new book, "Steve Jobs," the author rightly suggests that no Silicon Valley figure has attained the “mythical status” of Jobs and notes his “almost messianic zeal” for work.
Why the religious language to characterize his life and death? How does a mere mortal transform into a superhuman, glorified cultural hero?
Jobs has been the object of numerous memorials, and tributes - more than a million - are being posted on Apple’s “Remembering Steve” webpage, with condolences as well as testimonials about how Jobs and his products have touched and indeed transformed the lives of countless individuals.
Make no mistake about it, the veneration we are seeing in the aftermath of Jobs’ death is religious through and through - not “kinda” religious, or “pseudo” religious,” or “mistakenly” religious, but a genuine expression for many of heartfelt sacred sentiments of loss and glorification.
It is not tied to any institution like a church or to any discrete tradition like Buddhism; it is, instead, tied to a religious culture that will only grow in significance and influence in the years ahead: the cult of celebrity.
As more and more people move away from conventional religions and identify as “nones” (those who choose to claim “no religion” in polls and surveys), celebrity worship and other cultural forms of sacred commitment and meaning will assume an even greater market share of the spiritual marketplace.
In life Jobs may have been something of an enigma who maintained his privacy and generally stayed out of the public limelight. In death, Jobs now is an immortal celebrity whose life story, incredible wealth, familiar visage, and igadgets will serve as touchstones for many searching for meaningful gods and modes of transcendence.
It has been said that death is the great equalizer - rich and poor, successes and failures, the powerful and the disempowered cannot escape the one inevitable fact of human existence.
Jobs and other celebrities cannot escape this reality, but unlike you and me, they live on in the memories of fans and followers and become guiding lights in the mundane darkness of our ordinary lives.
Reassessing Jobs' elevation to sainthood
James Martin, SJ, is a Jesuit priest and author of "My Life with the Saints" and "Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter are at the Heart of the Religious Life."
Asking if we have turned Steve Jobs into a saint is different from asking if he was a saint. The first question turns on how society sees the digital-age genius. That’s a question of perception.
The second turns on how Mr. Jobs lived his life. That’s more a question of reality. The first is easy to answer; the second less so.
So onto the easy answer: Yes, we have turned Steve Jobs into a saint, in the same way that we often project qualities of holiness onto any celebrity with whom we felt affection.
The reactions to his death, which both surprised and moved me, mirrored the ways that many respond to the passing of those revered as “living saints,” like Mother Teresa.
But it wasn’t hard to see why people reacted with displays of quasi-religious affection, like leaving handwritten messages at Apple stores, offering heartfelt tributes on Twitter and posting worshipful photos on Facebook.
After all, he had several things in common with the saints. Steve Jobs was - and obituary writers seemed obliged to use the word - a visionary. (The word originally described the mystics, who were literal visionaries.)
Jobs was the object of a “cult,” in the classic Christian sense: someone who evokes great devotion and whose words and actions are anticipated, catalogued and scrutinized.
Like the saints, he was both worldly (manifestly human in his foibles) and otherworldly (particularly in his protean creativity). He gave us something we didn’t know we needed. He was mysterious.
Finally, Mr. Jobs was, as his now-famous Stanford commencement speech shows, a spiritual man in his own way.
Yet there is a key difference between the saints and Mr. Jobs that we may overlook. For all of his talents, Mr. Jobs did not seem to be - to put this as charitably as possible - the kindest man in the world, which is something of a requirement for a real saint.
Walter Isaacson’s new biography, "Steve Jobs," is chock full of incidents of its subject’s less-than-charitable behavior. And even though the saints didn’t always act lovingly, that is a rock-bottom requirement for a saint: kindness.
So here’s a third question: Is it accurate to speak of Steve Jobs as a saint? Probably not.
There are many other worthy, albeit lesser known, people who have not only accomplished great things but also have done them without, as a New York Times column said of Mr. Jobs, “incorrigible bullying, belittling and lying.”
People who were both creative and kind. Successful and charitable. Hard-working and forgiving.
Perhaps Mr. Jobs is, as all those editorial cartoons have depicted, in heaven showing St. Peter how to use an iPad. I hope so.
But a saint? To answer that question let’s begin not with how successful a person was, or even how much they changed the world, but how much they loved. Even if you spend more time with iPods than icons, “saint” isn’t a word to be thrown around lightly.
How Jobs' sainthood was derailed
Steve Jobs was quickly on his way to becoming canonized when a strange thing happened. Walter Isaacson's authorized biography hit bookstands.
Following his death earlier this month, the outpouring of grief for Jobs was huge and unprecedented. All over the world, people felt a keen sense of loss. Not since Michael Jackson has there been such an outpouring of public grief. And it's never before been lavished on the CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation.
But Jobs was no mere business leader. He was a cultural figure of the highest order. He was an artist whose medium was business and technology.
He crafted superb products that had great impact on our lives, His products, or copies of his products, have become near universal in the West. We all have computers, iPods and iPhones. They are indispensable - at work and play. They are well crafted. Before the iPhone, people hated their cell phones.
The story of Jobs' life also touched many people. He was an adoptee, a college dropout who enjoyed great success but also battled near-devastating setbacks and failures. He became an inspiration to lots of different people, from aspiring entrepreneurs to transplant patients.
He's a good candidate for a saint. There was something otherworldly about him. He clearly wasn't like the rest of us.
His severe aestheticism, his stern, intimidating self-assurance, his complexity: He was a Buddhist anti-materialist who made the world's most desirable products. A leftist multibillionaire who loved Bob Dylan but off-shored production to China. An elitist loner whose stated ambition was to democratize complex technology and make it easy enough for any bozo to use.
He was cut short in his prime. He was just getting started really. For most of his career, Jobs was regarded with skepticism or disdain. The business press regarded him as a mercurial madman who was good at marketing and got lucky with the iPod.
But when the iPhone took off, and Apple became the most valuable company in the world, he was suddenly lionized as the world's greatest CEO.
There was always the problem of his horrible reputation as a manager, of course. Everyone knew about the legendary tantrums, the outburst, insults and humiliations. That often got swept under the rug. It was just Steve being Steve.
Quirks, oddities, the price paid to put a dent in the universe. No one seemed to mention his lack of philanthropy, or the Chinese sweatshops that made his products.
And Isaacson's biography shows that Jobs' mean streak is much worse than we ever suspected. On page after page, the book details just how mean he could be. It's actually exhausting and more than a little bit depressing reading about the incessant torrent of outbursts and humiliations heaped upon his hapless colleagues - even the ones he liked.
The initial reaction is one of muted shock - people aren't liking what they're reading. Headlines like "Jobs the Jerk" aren't helping the canonization process.
But it's early days. The book has been out only a few days. Jobs' life and career were marked by bouncing back. Perhaps his reputation will outlive his own biography after all.
Steve Jobs was a saint. At least partly.
Gerardo Marti is L. Richardson King Association Professor of Sociology at Davidson College and author of "Worship across the Racial Divide" and "Hollywood Faith."
The passing of Steve Jobs provoked an outpouring of appreciation for a man who, frankly, most people did not really know.
Admiring his company, his design, and the devices he promoted, mass sympathy gave way to an idealization of the person behind the products. The recent accumulation of reams of Post-it Notes on retail Apple Store windows is one of many testaments to his status as a fetishized icon.
Should we be idolizing this assuredly genius entrepreneur?
Let's be honest. Steve Jobs was no saint, that much is clear. Every day we know more about his character, most recently through the startling revelations in the best-selling biography published by Walter Isaacson.
Jobs could be callous and cold. He rejected paternity of his first daughter. He refused many co-workers the riches of company stock options. He thought of himself as smarter than just about anyone else he
If "saintliness" is measured by the virtues of extraordinary kindness, generosity or humility, Jobs fails the test.
However, "saintliness" in religious practice is less measured by a person's moral perfection than his or her ability to serve as a mediator between the ordinary and the transcendent.
In lived religious experience, a saint is not always admired as a righteous person to be imitated. But a saint is always trusted as a negotiator, a bridge-builder, an esoteric "middleman," who removes obstacles, facilitates progress and promotes blessing.
Fundamentally, a saint is an intermediary who makes the intangible accessible and more readily available.
Jobs had a single-minded vision for the varied media he designed, making complicated technology supremely accessible. He promoted his own genius while striving to bring out the genius of others.
In doing so, Jobs accomplished what few are able to do: connect with everyday lives, enrich people's aesthetics with evidence of beauty and offer tools for exercising personal gifts and talent.
Steve Jobs is certainly not a god-some otherworldly being who wrangles with intangible spirits in a largely unseen realm for justice or glory.
Instead, we see Jobs as an imperfect mortal who crafted software that stimulated our imagination alongside machines that motivated a seamlessness between ideas and objects, making the elusive tangible, decreasing the distance between ourselves and our ideals.
Jobs is being canonized to a secular sainthood as a flawed, charismatic visionary who transformed wires and plastic into sophisticated, supremely handy tools fitted alternatively to the demands and the dreams
Yes, he altered the trajectories of whole industries, but for the ordinary worshipper, Jobs alleviated our frustrations while allowing us to go beyond them in cultivating words, objects and whole environments that give us fulfillment while productively transforming the world.
The opinions expressed in these commentaries are solely those of the authors.
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.
Steve Jobs is overrated. Sure he was smart, but he was more of a clever marketer than a genius inventor.
enjoy your DELL and your lame hateraid material! must be nice being ignornant.
enjoy your DELL and your lame hate raid material! must be nice being ignornant.
Cody, if you are going to call someone ignorant it helps not posting your response twice and still getting your grammar and spelling wrong.
Actually, Steve Jobs was... UNDERRATED!!!
Here's a story to reveal something of Jobs's character. I was at an early Computer Game Developers Conference (before they dropped the "Computer") and Nolan Bushnell, a founder of Atari was the guest speaker at the closing dinner. Both Jobs and Steve Wozniak worked for him. Bushnell told a couple of stories about them, including one about Jobs lying to and stealing from his lifelong buddy Woz. Bushnell presented Jobs with a challenge of creating some game cartridge (it's been about 20 years, so the details here are very poorly remembered) and said he'd give Jobs and Woz $100 for every chipset they came in under 50 in the cartridge. Jobs went to Woz (who was the technical genius of the two of them and would do most of the work) and told him Bushnell would give them $50 for every chipset under 50. Woz created the game, using well under 50 chipsets. For each one he used less than 50, Jobs pocketed $50 and then split the other $50 with Woz, as that's what he'd told Woz they'd get. So he took home 75% of the bonus money the two of them were supposed to split evenly. According to Bushnell, Woz didn't find out for years and he broke down and cried when he finally learned of it. While this is only hearsay, Bushnell told this story in front of 200-300 tech people and I believed him. It told me all I needed to know about Jobs.
That story is farily well-known now. It was for the videgame "Breakout." Woz did all the work, Jobs pocketed most of the money and took all the credit. Pretty typical Jobs.
nope. this story is old. read more about it. actually its not at all like that. just do some research. Jobs isnt even as shrewed as you think he was here. sure he was in other things.... but not this. READ/DIG/RESEARCH. instead of just talking out of your a ss.
Well Cody, What I heard it was $100 per chip time 50 chips for $5000 of which he told Woz the amount was $700 and he gave him $350. The whole point is that Jobs cheated him which is true and the only one talking out of his Jobs worshiping a.s.s. is you.
Cody: Does the spellchecker on your Mac not work?
He was a good CEO and a good salesman. As far as being a good human being I don't believe he was a good one. Sanctify someone who disputed paternity of his first-born, fostered a cult of personaltiy, outsourced production to low wage nations with limited human rights protections, and ended charitable giving by Apple? No, certainly he doesn't deserve to be called a saint. People should really look into the man's background before proclaiming him the next Jesus.
Genius, maybe. Visionary, definitely. Saint, absolutely not. I believe somewhere it's written that to be a Saint, you aren't allowed to be a Jerk. And a Jerk Steve Jobs was.
Mother Theresa is well on the road of the weird Catholic process of becoming a saint. However, if she had been male, "jerk" would have been a pretty good characterization of her, considering that she was a promoter of suffering and opposed rights and advancement of women.
One of many references: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/fighting_words/2003/10/mommie_dearest.html
from which I quote "She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction. And she was a friend to the worst of the rich, taking misappropriated money from the atrocious Duvalier family in Haiti (whose rule she praised in return)..."
So, it seems to not hurt to be a jerk, if you want to become a saint. Jobs would not be ruled out, were he a jerk. I think that he was just a mixed bag of good and bad, like most people, with some remarkable flair mixed in.
My wife says that,
since I started using "Steve Jobs" as my meditation word in yoga class,
I have been thicker and longer-lasting.
The media, CNN in particular, is making Steve Jobs out to be more than a saint. Not one day passes without at least three storys devoted to all things Apple or Steve Jobs. Very very few of these stories are ever negative. As CEO of Apple, Jobs drove his company for pure profitability just as CEOs of other major corporations do. But while other companies are often castigated for being driven by greed and for creating thousands of jobs only for the cheap Chinese labor market, Jobs and Apple are daily lauded even though they do the same.
I agree. Worst of all, people demonized Bill Gates in the 90s for all kinds of monopolistic and "controlling" actions. Apple and Jobs have excelled at that. From locking down their expensive devices to control how/when people use them to copyright/DRM controls that go above and beyond what is reasonable.
If Bill Gates was called a demon for doing 1/10 of what Apple did. then what is Steve Jobs? During his life a lot of people close to him called him an ill-mannered individual who was prone to outbursts and had anger management issues... and now he's a saint.. Way to go Apple fanboys.
And at least Gates has given very generously to chraity in recent years. Jobs made it a point to never give a dime to charity. He even ended Apple's philanthropy matching program as one of his first acts when he came back to the company in the 90's.
I'm glad somebody has finally said it. The fact is that Bill Gates is far and away the single biggest charitable giver in the history of the planet. What is it, something like 60 Billion dollars? Some of it going to a new cure for malaria because big pharma won't pay for it?
I said this before it even came up. People are waiting for his first miracle before they canonize him. Ridiculous.
Their thinking about making the last Pope a Saint and he certainly was not. Not even Mother Theresa believed, if there really was a God. He was a genius not even close to a Saint. There are no Saints in this world and we should realize that we aren't the only ones in this world. I just hope the others aren't as screwed up as this one has become. Remember it's not a perfect world and their are no perfect people. If you believe fine and if you don't that's fine too, just keep it to yourself.
Yes, enough already. He was a smart guy and it's a shame he died, but geesh let it go. How is his death any more tragic than any other human?
Totally agree, Beth – he was no more important than any other human. He excelled in technology but others excel in other areas and live and die without any ballyhoo. This world is always looking for a hero. We are all heroes to someone, he is no more important than anyone else.
But he is not a saint.
I wish he had lived longer.
Totally agree. You nailed it.
WE aren't making him one. YOU are. Thank you very little for more non-news.
We sure are milking the Steve Jobs saga. Must not be much going on in the world today. Steve did some very good things for a company that defied logic in an industry that nearly swallowed them. Why can't that be good enough?
hippypoet and truthprevails, you're arguing with a robot.
Is there already a Patron Saint of Electronics?
Smart guy..however with all the jobs he outsource.... not much respect for him
Yes, the media is making Steve Jobs a saint. Those of us in the computer industry(and, quite honestly, the public at large) are sad that he's gone but have pretty much gotten over it.
Saint? No, they are making him bigger than Jesus.
patron saint of laziness and finger tips.
Wonderful genius yes, saint no.
Agreed. Historically, most saints became saints for "spreading chrisstianity" which usually meant killing non-believers or securing large sums of money for the church. Jobs never stooped so low as to comparable to saints.
Thank you for the clarification Colin....although putting a new spin on the word would be a good change.
Genius marketer? yes.
Genius inventor? No.
Media has been giving him credit for inventions and designs by Apple employees. Some of who have since left the company
Colin, so sad that your are obsessed with focusing on what HUMANS did with Jesus' truth.
I'll pray for you to be released from that compulsion.
Which saints killed unbelievers?
Steve Jobs was a good part of the reason that we have been able to have the resources to realize we are not alone in our disbelief in this world. His time in the one life he was guaranteed of was well spent...Saint Hood in Respect of his Secular stance is well deserved. He is proof of what can be accomplished in this world without the need for intervention of a super natural deity.
Yet when other CEO's do the same they are protested by occupiers as purveyors of corporate greed......by 20 something hipsters with iPads and iPhones.
For a better understanding what it means to be a ‘Saint’ and why the believers are called saints in the Word of God, we invite you to read the article ‘Sainthood by the Pope’ listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca
Also, to give people a better understanding of the issues that divide this world we have recently added the article ‘CNN Belief Blog ~ Sign of the Times’ to our listing of articles.
All of the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how this whole world has been deceived as confirmed by the Word of God in Revelation 12:9. The Bible is true in all things and is the discerner of every thought and the intent of the heart (Hebrews 5:12).
Stop the brainwashing!! There is no proof outside of the bible for the god you think exists. Science has managed to trump the bible in numerous ways and yet you delusional people still believe it is okay to throw this garbage around our world and harm society. Read the bible in its entirety and then say you still believe...it is full of horror and murder and oppression. It does not match with what we know today and thus it belongs in the history/fiction section of any library/book store. We know that the bible preaches to harm disobedient children and women but yet society has laws that state otherwise. We knwo that the earth is billions of years old but yet the bible preaches that it is only 6000 years old. We know that evolution has been proven but yet magically this god creature made one man and one woman and then made them sin. Why people still believe in this garbage is beyond me. As an Atheist, I live a much better, more fulfilling life because I no longer fear what this god creature will do to me, nor do I care. Most Atheists were believers until we read the bible and realized how it sounds worse than the original Grimms Fairy Tales.
You obviously speak of things of which you have no knowledge. Please read the articles 'Creation' and 'Who is God and who is Satan' on our website. We do not preach religion. It is a deception as this whole world is deceived as confirmed in The Bible in Revelation 12:9 and 2 Cor. 11:13-15. You are correct 'The Truth will Prevail' and the future will confirm we spoke the truth, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive (John 14:17).
believing in something doesn't make it so...existence helps, proof of said existence is even better because clearly your god was around town in the OT but now in todays world he is nowhere to be found so i say maybe he died.,..and if so, there would be some evidence of existence. But since there is none any intelligent person can deduce from simple scienctific method that because there is no evidence of existence there is infact evidence of lack of existence. You only hope you are proven correct in time. I would love to see your face if there is an afterlife but its more like that of Valhalla and you suck at hand to hand combat...that would be funny! On the other side – say there is a heaven and god, i don't much like the cold anyway...and besides the whole of the 20th century will be with me, and 21st as well...we are a load of sinners!
Sorry the Rapture didn't happen... again.
hippypoet and truthprevails, you're arguing with a robot. he'll quote his storybook until his keyboard breaks.
To Truthprevails – I have a question – I see species disappearing, never to be seen again but I don't see anything evolving. I still see animals and humans giving birth as it was stated in the Bible that you disbelieve. Also, you should read Romans 1:20. If the world is billions of years old, then methinks that would certainly be enough time for the mastedons and other prehistoric animals to evolve and re-appear – can't find any roaming today. I have visible proof of God's word but I don't see any to support your theory. I guess you are of the mind also, that God has no right to punish disobedience – yeah, that theory is very prevalent today – do what you want with no consequences. You comment is rather a moot point.
@lynda, cnn.com put out an article about a new species of dolphin a couple of weeks ago...check it out Oh and the planet is 4.2 billion years old, the universe is 14.5 or 14.8 billion years old... this can be proven. The dino have evolved, have you ever seen a bird? did you know there are such things as fossils? yup, they exist!
YOU SAID "I have visible proof of God's word" where is this proof... i want to know god word!
TruthPrevails, you obviously have a hidden reason why you are on this blog bashing Jesus. For if this weren't true, you know I've written these sites to check on the 3 earth ages of heaven and earth and the katabole which is written in scriptures 1000s of years ago. I have to conclude, either you cared less (my bet is on this reasoning) or you read these sites, checked the bible for said scriptures and still threw said explanations to the way side so you can continue your tirade against Jesus and the Christians that follow His truth.
Again, check said scriptures to see if Jesus' truth proves your rants to be wrong, wrong, did I mention wrong?
Explains the 3 earth and heaven ages ...
Explains when God destroyed the first earth age and how we know live in the 2nd earth age which is over 6,000 years old (never to say the world is only 6,000 old like you accuse the Bible to state).
Since, Christians are always proving His truth to you and you arrogantly deny that we know what is written in the Bible, maybe someday you'll tell us truthfully what you get out of bashing Jesus' truth and hiding behind science to do so.
Avdberg is back to his old blog spamming with his own site link again and the same old text copied. Maybe we should all Report Abuse on him.