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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 7. The Logic of Late Capitalism and the Stasis of Religion 121


CHAPTER 7 The Logic of Late Capitalism and the Stasis of Religion Introduction True Happiness This Way Lies And have you ever wanted something so badly That it possessed your body & your soul Through the night & through the day Unti I you finally get it! And then you realise that it wasn't what you wanted after all. And then those self-same sickly little thoughts Now go & attach themselves to something... or! And the whole goddam thing starts all over again. Well, l've been crushing the Symptom but 1 can't locate the cause. Could God really be so cruel? To give us feelings that could never be fulfilled. Baby! [...] Matt Johnson, from Dusk (1992) by The The (Sony Music Enter- tainment, UK, excerpt) These lyrics express our human condition within a society of consumption; that faced with desire in a world of choice, we never get satisfied; we always want more as there is no limit to our desires. "Could God really be so cruel?". This was already foretold by Kurt Weill in his pre-WW II "Alabama Song". In this story, a person is looking for the next whisky bar, and for the next "little dollar". No reason is given for this craving, but not fulfilling it might lead to death. When the polyglot Ute Lemper gave a concert in Sydney in 2003, she explained the meaning behind this song before performing it. The message from Weill is that the best way to fulfil our desires, is, para- 121 Religion...

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