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Religion and Popular Culture

A Hyper-Real Testament

Series:

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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CHAPTER 1. Religion and Spirituality: From Modernity to Postmodernity 27

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CHAPTER 1 Religion and Spirituality: From Modernity to Postmodernity Introduction Preacher is a graphic novel that pushes the boundaries of the imagi- nation beyond heaven. The main character, Reverend Jesse Custer, is possessed by the entity Genesis — a child born of a union between an angel and a demon — and is on a quest to find God and the reason He has abandoned his post in heaven. Because of this symbiosis with this divine creature, Custer is able to speak with the voice of God and all he says has to be executed, even if this goes against one's will. On this quest, Tulip O'Hare, who was born with a gun on her hands, and Cassidy, a hard-drinking Irish vampire nearly a hundred years old, follow him On their back is Grail, a centuries-old organisation controlling all world leaders. Grail has existed since the very beginning of our Christian era and has kept the bloodline of Jesus Christ intact. lt is hiding the descen- dant of the Lord until the last one of the bloodline can be revealed on the day of the Apocalypse. By letting Jesus' children breed inside the same bloodline the world dominating organisation believes that the divine essence has never been tainted and the divine abilities of the son of God have remained within the descendant of Jesus. Starr, the order's most respected agent, is a far-right idealist who believes that democracy is for ancient Greeks and is a useless political ideal. He believes in Grail...

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