Dead Men Do Tell Tales: The Apotheosis of Celebrities in 20th Century America
New York Times
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AbstractEcological-evolutionary theory (EET) argues, and anecdotal evidence suggests, that with the advancement of industrial technology, there is a decline in the scope and influence of theistic ideologies and a corresponding increase in that of secular ideologies, especially hedonism (Nolan and Lenski 2009: Chapter 11). Using a measure we develop, we explore the quantitative dimensions of this cultural shift by examining a sample of more than a century of obituaries published in the New York Times. As suspected, we find a substantial decline in the proportion of obituaries of religious figures and an increase in those of individuals associated with entertainment and sports. We conclude with a discussion of the theoretical import and implications of this trend, and compare it with trends in employment in religious and entertainment and sports occupations over this period.