I’ll Have a Neck Pillow with a Side of Scientology, Please?


Hmmmm….what to order?

These two menu cards were on my dresser in my hotel room this week. How nice. Menus. I love menus! They mean I get to choose. But these were like no menus I’d ever seen.

First of all, let’s look at the Pillow Menu.  I was all over that one. Finally, a hotel that understands my need to gather most of the pillows in the room and build a fake “husband” on the other side of my bed so I subconsciously feel a familiar presence and sleep well. With the menu, I could just get one pillow that would do the job. A body pillow! Order it up!

But what to go with it? Let’s see. What goes well with a body pillow? A Bhagavad Gita or a Tao Te Ching or …….wait… hold the phone! This Spiritual Menu was flawed. I’m sorry, but the whole idea of a Spiritual Menu was already a strange concept to me, but after I read it, I was utterly confused. (The curse of the editor strikes again.)

The menu says: Time to Reflect? Let us bring up a copy of your book of faith. So, I started to reflect. If you are going to go to the trouble of making such a menu, shouldn’t you provide choices based statistically on people’s religious preferences? If that was the aim, then there were definitely some missing and lopsided choices on this menu. I decided to analyze how well they did.

Here’s what the world looks like based on size of major religious groups.


Size of Major Religious Groups, Pew Research Center, 2010

So, how did the Spiritual Menu stack up to world stats?

  • 31% of the people had two menu choices: King James Bible or New American Bible. I prefer the New International Version myself, which was not available, but two choices isn’t bad.  Check.
  • 23% of the people had their book of choice, the Koran. Check.
  • 16% of the people didn’t have anything on the menu because they don’t really have a “holy book.” This piece of the pie includes atheists, agnostics, or people that don’t identify with any particular religion. Maybe, just maybe, that is who this menu was actually meant for…not sure of the hotel management’s motives. Sort of Check.
  • 15% of the people were offered the Bhagavad Gita. The Hindus actually have several holy texts including the Vedas, the Upanisads, the Smrutis, Ramayana, Mahabharata (which includes the Bhagavad Gita) and the Puranas. Would they be satisfied with just the Gita? Probably not. Very Partial Check.
  • 7% would be quite disappointed with the menu item called the Eight Noble Truths (Buddhism). Though a tenant of the religion, a book on the truths isn’t really their”holy book.” It certainly isn’t the forty volumes of Buddha’s teachings, known as the Sutras. I believe the Buddhists would be a bit offended. After all, if you have to tell a Buddhist in parenthesis that the Eight Noble Truths belong to them, then we’ve got a problem already. Not Check.
  • 6% of the people are out of luck. I imagine this would be a pretty hard library to obtain. This piece of the pie, folk religions, includes faiths that are usually associated with a particular group of people, ethnicity, or tribe. So you’d have to hunt down copies of everything from the Mayan Popol Vuh to the African Hwlɛngãn. Not Check.
  • 1% of people in “other religions” had three choices on this menu: What is Scientology, which I’m pretty sure is a pamphlet, not a holy book; Tao Ti Ching , a book for Taoists; and the Book of Mormon. But this 1% also includes Baha’i faith,  Jainism, Shintoism, Sikhism, Tenrikyo, Wicca, Zoroastrianism, and many others. A Very, Very Partial Check.
  • 0.2% (which is usually a percentage that surprises a lot of people) got theirTorah. I like to play a game with this pie chart and make people guess which religions go with which pie slice. I have yet to find someone who gets this slice even close to right. People usually pick Judaism as one of the larger slices. But regardless of the tiny percentage, they have a book on the menu. Check.

I still don’t know what to think of this menu. I’m not sure if the Gideons would be flattered or horrified. As for me, I couldn’t decide which I wanted to order because at this point I kind of wanted to read them all. But I didn’t have that kind of time for contemplation. My brain already hurt and all I had done so far was reflect on the menu.

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