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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 9. Conclusion 157

Extract

CHAPTER 9 Conclusion Following a long tradition of borrowing Greek myths to explain so- cial and psychological issues, Galatea is perfect to symbolise the various social and cultural processes that have been investigated in this book. Galatea was an ivory statue that was so beautifully crafted that no woman came anywhere near it. It was the perfect simulacrum of a maiden that seemed to be alive, and only prevented from moving by modesty. Aphrodite brought her to life in response to the prayers of the sculptor, Pygmalion, who had fallen in love with the counterfeit crea- tion. The love of Pygmalion could be used as a metaphor to describe all perennists and other social actors involved in hyper-real religion; they have all fallen in love with various works of popular culture. These works have become alive in the production of their subjective myths and are being used as a strong support for their techno-spirituality. Popular culture has been used to inspire new religions/spirituality — e.g. the Church of All Worlds, the Church of Satan and Jediism. Even if many people use Jediism as a form of protest against the establishment, some of them are nevertheless clearly inspired by it for a renewed religion. Jediism is the perfect epitome of a hyper-real religion. From this anal- ogy with this Greek myth, and carrying from Baudrillard's work an simulacra and simulation, it becomes more than tempting to be more ambitious and to even equate Galatea as the foundational myth of hyper- real ity....

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