Television and Religion: Analysis of Postman's Persuasive Techniques

Neil Postman, in his thought-provoking work "Amusing Ourselves to Death," delves into the profound transformation that television has wrought upon our culture and society. Chapter 8, titled "Shuffle Off to Bethlehem," stands out as a persuasive exploration of ethos, pathos, and logos. Postman skillfully employs these rhetorical devices to guide the reader, particularly those engaged with televised religion, toward the realization that this form of religious engagement cannot replace the traditional, communal experience of religion.

The Guilt-Inducing Power of Televised Religion

Throughout the chapter, Postman masterfully invokes a sense of guilt in the reader, exposing the inadequacies of televised religion.

He contends that the act of watching television lacks the profound significance inherent in attending a physical place of worship. Unlike the communal experience of a church, where mysticism and spiritual transcendence are fostered, the viewer, when engrossed in televised religion, focuses on the preacher rather than God. Postman emphasizes that true transcendence necessitates a consecrated space filled with symbols, observed behaviors, and a sense of community, elements unattainable within the confines of one's home.

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Moreover, Postman accentuates the inherently secular nature of the medium used for televised religion. The very tool designed for broadcasting mundane content and advertisements should not be expected to aptly convey the profound spirituality embedded in religious experiences. He underscores the viewer's ability to change channels at will, highlighting constant interruptions by secular commercials. Postman cautions against the television's primary aim, stating, "The television screen wants you to remember that its imagery is always available for your amusement and pleasure" (Postman 120), perpetually steering the message towards entertainment rather than spiritual fulfillment.

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Establishing Credibility and Trust

Postman's credibility is central to his argument, and he meticulously builds it by immersing himself in 42 hours of televised religion. This deliberate engagement demonstrates his commitment to understanding the subject matter, fostering a connection with the reader. By stepping into the shoes of his audience, predominantly the viewers of televised religion, Postman establishes a sense of trust and relatability. He further solidifies his credibility by disclosing his affiliation as a member of the Commission on Theology, Education, and the Electronic Media of the National Council of Churches of Christ (Postman 124). This disclosure reinforces the author's expertise and fosters trust between him and the reader.

The Persuasive Power of Facts

A pivotal aspect of Postman's argument lies in his adept use of facts. By presenting facts and subsequently guiding the reader to internalize them, he skillfully shapes their perception. For instance, he asserts, "It is naïve to suppose that something that has been expressed in one form can be expressed in another without significantly changing its meaning, texture, or value" (117). Postman asserts that altering the medium of religious expression fundamentally changes its reception, a claim he reinforces with, "If the delivery is not the same … the message is not the same. … If the message is experienced is altogether different from what it was in Jesus’ time, we may assume that the social and psychological meaning is different." This strategic use of facts, coupled with connecting to the audience through Christian figures, enhances the persuasiveness of Postman's argument.

Ethos, Pathos, and Logos: Crafting an Effective Argument

Postman adeptly employs ethos, pathos, and logos to construct a compelling argument against televised religion, targeting both viewers of such content and the broader religious community. The infusion of guilt and credibility creates a persuasive blend, compelling the audience to consider the shortcomings of televised religious experiences. Postman recognizes the gravity of Christianity as a demanding and serious religion, asserting that televised religion risks diluting its essence for the sake of entertainment. He cautions against a future where television shows become the content of religion, urging America to address this issue promptly to prevent the further degradation of religious depth and significance (124).


In conclusion, Neil Postman's exploration of televised religion in "Amusing Ourselves to Death" provides a compelling critique of its impact on our cultural and religious landscape. Through a strategic use of ethos, pathos, and logos, Postman successfully navigates the complexities of his argument, fostering guilt, establishing credibility, and presenting facts to sway the reader's perspective. The looming threat of television replacing the authentic religious experience underscores the urgency of addressing this issue to preserve the essence and depth of religious practices in America.

Updated: Jan 10, 2024
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Television and Religion: Analysis of Postman's Persuasive Techniques. (2016, Aug 16). Retrieved from

Television and Religion: Analysis of Postman's Persuasive Techniques essay
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