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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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CHAPTER 3. Subjective Myths 57


CHAPTER 3 Subjective Myths Introduction Judy Horacek is an Australian cartoonist who publishes in the Aus- tralian Magazine and numerous other places. She has as a theme of predilection postmodernism, poststructuralism, feminism, career advice and how to deal with sticky yellow bits of paper. In one cartoon, we are exposed to a satire of postmodernism. Adam and Eve are told by God to "Go forth & be postmodern" and are expelled from Paradigm. In this play on words — that is, being expelled from Paradigm/Paradise and having to be postmodern/multiple we could imagine that paradise is one clear paradigm whereas outside of "paradigm", in the mortal world, living conditions are quite harsh as there are so many multiple narratives — in Lyotard's sense of the word. As Adam and Eve are on earth to multiply, being postmodern is to create as many narratives as possible, as if each human being should have his or her own paradigm, or have, as it will be argued in this chapter in regards to religious consumers, his or her own subjective myth; that is, myths that have relevance to the self. This chapter explores the cultural consumption of some forms of popular culture as found in various spiritual groups and on the Internet. As discovered in Chapter 2, the term cultural consumption is to be understood as a process by which meanings are transformed within the seif. By exploring the works of the French social philosopher, Lipovet- sky, this chapter argues that popular culture is freely available...

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