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Religion and Popular Culture

A Hyper-Real Testament


Adam Possamai

Popular culture can no longer be exclusively seen as a source of escapism. It can amuse, entertain, instruct, and relax people, but what if it provides inspiration for religion?
The Church of All Worlds, the Church of Satan and Jediism from the Star Wars series are but three examples of new religious groups that have been greatly inspired by popular culture to (re)create a religious message. These are hyper-real religions, that is a simulacrum of a religion partly created out of popular culture which provides inspiration for believers/consumers. These postmodern expressions of religion are likely to be consumed and individualised, and thus have more relevance to the self than to a community and/or congregation. On the other hand, religious fundamentalist groups tend, at times, to resist this synergy between popular culture and religion, and at other times, re-appropriate popular culture to promote their own religion. Examples of this re-appropriation are Christian super-hero comics and role playing games, Bible-based PC games, and ‘White Metal’ music.
To explore these new phenomena, this book views itself as the ‘hyper-real testament’ of these new religious phenomena by addressing the theories, among many others, of Baudrillard, Jameson and Lipovetsky, and by exploring the use of fictions such as those from Harry Potter, The Matrix, Star Trek, Buffy and The Lord of the Rings.


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Contents 7


Contents Preface 11 Note 13 Introduction 15 Religion and Art 16 Art and Popular Culture 18 Popular Culture and Religion 20 For a Weberian Approach 21 Contents 23 Note an Methodology 26 CHAPTER 1. Religion and Spirituality: From Modernity to Postmodernity 27 lntroduction 27 Modernity and Postmodernity 29 Keeping Secularisation at Bay 31 The Secularist Break or the Tertium Quid 33 Religion and Spirituality 35 Conclusion 39 CHAPTER 2. Consumer Religions 41 lntroduction 41 Consumption 42 Religion and Consumption 45 Hyper-Consumer Rel igions 49 Cultural Appropriation of Indigenous Culture 52 Cultural Consumption of History 55 CHAPTER 3. Subjective Myths 57 Introduction 57 Consumption of Popular Culture 57 Cultural Consumption, Lipovetsky, and the Postmodern Individual 64 Subjective Myths and Meta-Consumption 67 7 CHAPTER 4. Hyper-Real Religion 71 Introduction 71 The Jedi Religion 72 Baudrillard and Hyper-Reality 77 Hyper-Real Religion in the Risk Society 79 CHAPTER 5. New Forms of Religious Identification Carried by Popular Culture 85 Introduction 85 A World of Multiple Possibilities 87 The Human Potential Ethic and Alternative Spiritualities 88 Superheroes in Comics 90 Baby Boomers and Generation X 92 The Human Potential Ethic and Superheroes in Affinity: Three Arguments 94 The Human Potential Ethic and Superheroes: Two Comments 97 The Human Potential Ethic and Jediism 98 Oprah and Spiritual Empowerment 101 A Hyper-Real Re-Enchantment 103 CHAPTER 6. Esoteric Knowledge(s) and Popular Culture 105 Introduction 105 Esotericism 107 Simmel and Secrecy 111 Seeking a Hyper-Real "Secret Knowledge" 116 CHAPTER 7. The Logic of Late Capitalism and the Stasis...

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