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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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Postscript 161

Extract

Postscript At the time of proofreading the manuscript, 1 received an e-mail from the acting secretary of Matrixism letting me know of this newly emergent religion. lt is based on the motion picture trilogy The Matrix and is claimed to have a history that goes back nearly one hundred years. Through an exchange of e-mails, 1 was told that Matrixism started at the end of July 2004, and since then, over three hundred people have joined this religion. Aside from people getting together, Matrixism takes place on the Internet. Surfing their website at http://www.geocities.com/matrixism2069, we can discover a link with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psy- chedelic Studies and Matrixism's influence from Huxley's Doors of Perception. There are also parallels with the Baha'i Faith to validate the religious aspect of the trilogy. This clearly relates to the possible expansion of hyper-real religion in our society. 161

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