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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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Preface 11


Preface For my wife, Alphia Possamai-Inesedy who has given me the strength to spend long hours on this manuscript and who was always there when 1 was stuck in my flow of argumentation. 1 was able to finish this book thanks to a grant I received from the University of Western Sydney and to funds given by my research group, the Critical Social Sciences Research Training Concentration Group. With this money, I was able to employ two research assistants, Ashley Davis and Stephen Chavura who have provided long hours and great excitement on this project. Also, 1 would like to thank my family in Belgium, my father, Angelo, my mother, Judith, and my brother, Philippe, who provided me with a mass of popular culture material when 1 was young. In Australia, my children Natasha and Cameron were essential in keeping me up-to- date with recent material from popular culture, and were interrogated on many occasions about the Pokemon, Harry Potter and various computer games. Thanks to my friends from Melbourne, Frank Formosa, Bernard Caleo, Arnaud Gallois and Graham St John who gave me great inspira- tion in my reading of popular culture. And to my colleagues from the executive committee from the Australian Association for the Study of Religions (Kath McPhillips, Merv Bendle and Carole Cusack), and from the School of Applied Social and Human Sciences at the University of Western Sydney (Mary Hawkins, Michael Bounds, Rob O'Neil and Murray Lee) who listened patiently to my discussion about Star Wars...

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