I find myself really liking the episodes that touch on Ferengi religion. This particular episode happens to expose us to anxieties related to Ferengi eschatology.
The bit about Celestial Auctioneers presiding over the bidding for new lives was particularly interesting to me. Who knew Ferengi believed in reincarnation? It called immediately to my mind the choice of lives at the end of Plato's Republic.
"Hear the words of Lady Lachesis, daughter of Necessity. You souls condemned to impermanence, the cycle of birth followed by death is beginning again for you. No deity will be assigned to you: you will pick your own deities. The order of gaining tokens decides the order of choosing lives, which will be irrevocably yours. Goodness makes its own rules: each of you will be good to the extent that you value it. Responsibility lies with the chooser, not with God."
Next, the intermediary placed on the ground in front of them the sample lives, of which there were far more than there were souls in the crowd; every single kind of human and animal life was included among the samples.
The difference, of course, is that Ferengi are expected to bid on their choice of life. One wonders what they are bidding with. Plenty of religions allow for the bringing of material goods into the afterlife, but it usually involves interring the dead with those goods, which doesn't sounds very Ferengi. Maybe capital accrued in life is converted into a spiritual equivalent upon death?
This mixing of business and religion seems odd, maybe even scandalous, to our modern sensibilities, but there are plenty of suggestive historical examples in our planet's own history. Take the monks of Mount Athos, who turned their monasteries into corporations:
During the 14th and 15th centuries, Athos began a partial transition from communism to capitalism. In nine monasteries, including all the most powerful, Docheiariou, Iviron, Hilandar, Lavra, Pantocrator, Philotheou, Stavronikita, Vatopedi, and Xeropotamou, the former coenobitic system of communal property gave way to the idiorrhythmic system of individual property rights, which ended any pretence of equality. In coenobitic monasteries, revenues from the monastic estates went into the common purse, but idiorrhythmic monasteries were financed as Joint Stock Companies, and revenues were distributed in proportion to the number of "Monk's shares" an individual held. Assets were auctioned annually among the elite capital-investing monks, who could bid for management of the metochias, and make a return on their invested capital. These monks also owned property in their own right (though they were supposed to leave it to the monastery on decease).
Moreover, Athos was, and still is, a "no women allowed" zone, further solidifying the comparison to the Ferengi:
A special condition of the Athos regime is a ban on the admission of women (the principle of avaton), which is extended even to animals. Basically, this prohibition is connected with the covenant of the Virgin and the maintenance of the exclusively monastic way of life of the peninsula, where all the monasteries are for men: “According to the covenant of the Mother of God, no woman other than Her can set foot on the land of Athos”. Officially, the tradition to prevent women from entering the territory of Mount Athos was established in 1045 by the decree of the Byzantine emperor Constantine IX Monomakh.
The ban on women’s presence on Mount Athos has existed even after the fall of Constantinople. Turkish sultans affirmed the right of the Athonites to live in accordance with their ancient principles. In the modern era, the special status of Athos was secured by a decree of the Greek President of 1953. Thereunder, a woman who deliberately violated the ancient tradition and got into Athos can be imprisoned for a term of two to twelve months.
I love the history of religion.