Religion Lately: Islamic Jediism, “Fuck It” Spirituality, Michelle Bachmann’s 2006 End Time Vision, & A Pagan Policeman
By Kenny Smith
Australians debate the validity of religions based upon popular culture, such as Jediism and Matrixism (based upon the film, The Matrix), and the blending of new and old traditions, such as “Islamic Jediism,” as the 2011 census approaches this August.
Also in Australia, The Dali Lama appeared as a surprise judge on the TV cooking show “Masterchef.” Sadly, while quite friendly, the Tibetan spiritual leader proved somewhat of a judicial disappointment, stating: “As a Buddhist monk, it is not right to prefer this or that food.”
In Indonesian, some 4,500 couples were married in an extraordinarily interfaith fashion, with Islamic, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, and Hindu ceremonies.
American Hindus have won the legal right to sue a New Jersey restaurant that accidentally served them meat. What’s at steak: trips to sacred sites in India to remove the impurities.
An Amish teenager was arrested after leading police on a “car” chase, after officers observed him drinking beer while driving his horse-drawn buggy.
The Learning Channel is developing a weekly show about Muslim American families.
Want to be a Jedi Knight but can’t afford the cost of training? Ask fellow citizens for donations. After all, you’ll be a guardian of galactic peace and justice. The Jedi may soon have available a remote light-saber training droid similar to that used by Luke Skywalker aboard the Millennium Falcon, as students at Stanford University have developed a “Jedibot” using Kinect technology.
Star Wars lunch boxes, “with real R2D2 sounds,” will also be available for the coming school year.
Dudeists (i.e., members of Church of the Latter-Day Dude, which currently claims over 100,000 Dudeist ministers worldwide), have distilled the essence of The Big Lebowski’s teachings thusly: “The Way Of Fuck It,” a mantra said to ease the heart, mind, and spirit.
The Dudeist Bible, Abide Guide: Living Like Lebowski, is due out this August (2011) offering a wide range of spiritual guidance.
Meet mild-mannered police officer by day, Pagan priest by night, Sgt. Simon Wood. A self-identified witch, who claims to have been wrongly imprisoned, is suing federal and state governments, demanding to be given land upon which to found his own country. Texas Druids contemplate the emergence of their traditions in 18th century English Christianity.
Ricky Gervais is developing a new cable TV show (for HBO?), Afterlife, about an Atheist who dies and goes to heaven. Richard Dawkins has come under criticism from fellow Atheists, of the feminist variety, for comments seen as misogynist. A new Atheist “Infomercial” is not well done, but it’s funny.
GOP presidential candidate, Michele Bachmann, in 2006 publicly predicted that the world would soon end, that “the last days” and God’s “harvest” of humankind would soon occur, and that therefore “nothing is more important” than converting others to her religious views. In her new song, “Better Day,” country singer and devout Christian Dolly Parton responds to the doomsdays prophets such as Harold Camping (and, apparently, Bachmann), “No one knows when the end is coming,” Parton sings, so “in the meantime, let’s make things right.”
Check out the new Scientology fund-raising video. It’s not very good either, but it’s funny. It’s difficult to imagine the Church of Scientology as financially strapped, when one considers the numerous historic Hollywood properties it owns, paid for apparently with cash. The Church responded to Janet Reitman’s new book, Inside Scientology: The Story of America’s Most Secretive Religion, with a detailed critique of Reitman’s research methodology. Reitman’s book, the Church argues, ought to have been titled Outside Scientology, as it has little to do with what Scientologists actually make of Scientology.
The practice of creating “instant churches” in public schools is becoming controversial, and has also given birth to an emerging “portable church” industry. In Virginia, county commissioners denied a zoning permit to a “communist, anti-Christian” religion that is “against God,” that is, an “interfaith retreat and social justice center.” County commissioners in Maryland have rescinded a “Wiccan-proof” policy regarding opening prayers that required prayer-leaders represent “established monotheistic faiths.”
Mormon GOP candidate Mitt Romney has apparently fallen out of favor on the Fox & Friends morning show, where Mormons generally are now understood as “obviously not Christian.” GOP candidate Herman Cain now believes that prohibiting Muslim Americans from building mosques is part of his right of religious freedom (yes, I’m serious). Has the Republican Party developed into “a full-fledged religious movement,” with its own myth, rituals, and theology? An Emory University religion scholar argues that it has.
The image of Jesus appeared for a South Carolina couple on their Wal-Mart receipt. They consider it a miracle sent by God to renew their faith. Plagued by satanic manifestations? Check out the ABC Primetime Nightline special report: “Beyond Belief: Battle with the Devil.”
BTW, are you playing World of Warcraft with only a superficial grasp of its gods and goddesses? WoW aficionados hope to change that, with a “Know your lore!” campaign.