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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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Note 13


Note Some of the chapters of this book have their origins in some articles published previously. These are: Possamai, A. (2002) "Secrecy and Consumer Culture: An Explora- tion of Esotericism in Contemporary Western Society Using the Work of Simmel and Baudrillard" Australian Religion Studies Review 15 (1): 44-56. Possamai, A. (2002) "Cultural Consumption of History and Popular Culture in Alternative Spiritualities" Journal of Consumer Culture (2) 2: 197-218. Possamai, A. (2003) "Alternative Spiritualities and the Logic of Late Capitalism" Culture and Religion 4 (1): 31-45. Possamai, A. (2003) "Alternative Spiritualities, New Religious Movements and Jediism in Australia" Australian Religion Studies Review 16 (2): 69-86. Possamai, A. (forthcoming) "Superheroes and the Development of Latent Abilities: A Hyper-Real Re-enchantment?" in K. McPhillips and L. Hume (eds.) Popular Spiritualities: The Politics of Contemporary Enchantment, Ashgate, UK. 13

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