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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 5. New Forms of Religious Identification Carried by Popular Culture 85


CHAPTER 5 New Forms of Religious Identification Carried by Popular Culture Introduction In the movie Wolf the middle-aged Jack Nicholson has turned into a werewolf. At the start of his curse, he was scared of his new self and hoped to eure his "malediction"/"disease". Seeking a rational explana- tion for his condition, he finds an expert — a retired scholar of the myste- rious. The ageing expert, knowing about the new strength, the new powers and the regained youth of Nicholson, asks, in a non sado- masochist voice, to be bitten by him He hopes by this to be turned into a werewolf, to regain youth and strength and to receive some animalistic and powerful abilities. Blade, originally a Marvel Comics series adapted for the larger screen, is half vampire and half human. He was born from a mother who turned vampire just before giving birth and who transmitted her newly received powers to her son. The hero has kept the power of the vampire but can nevertheless walk during the day without being affected by the sun. He is thus called a "day walker". In this movie, Blade has set the task to get rid of a vampire tribal leader, Deacon Frost, whose dream is to convince all vampires to take over the world instead of hiding in gothic places as they have been doing for centuries. Frost commands not only vampires from his clan, but also humans who have the craving to become vampires. They are discreetly...

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