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Religion Lately: Meet the Gods by Wearing Levis, The Church of Harry Potter, and Galileo Proved Wrong!

Religion Lately: Meet the Gods by Wearing Levis, The Church of Harry Potter, and Galileo Proved Wrong!

By Kenny Smith…..
Looking for a complex symbol to decode, demystify, and historicize? The new and improved Statue of Liberty should keep you busy for some time. The emergence of explicitly religious traditions from popular Hollywood images continues apace, this time with the Church of Harry Potter, where “we believe in the words of wisdom from all characters in the books of Harry Potter.” Speaking of Hollywood-generated images, a new book by Elaine A. Heath, The Gospel According to Twilight: Women, Sex and God offers a thoughtful critique of the gendered theological and social messages offered in the Twilight series: interesting theology, but unfortunate gender blueprints, she seems to say.

Hollywood Images as Religious Resources

Hollywood Images as Religious Resources

By Kenny Smith, Religion Bulletin….
Towards the end of her fine essay in Mark C. Taylor’s Critical Terms for Religious Studies, Margaret R. Miles distinguishes between icons used in some Christian traditions (e.g., Eastern Orthodox) and the images of contemporary film. The latter, she argues, “function iconically” only when “viewers augment the image[s]… imagin[ing] how it would feel to be in the protagonist’s situation… the smells, the tastes, the touch the film character experiences… Moreover, Christians who use icons gaze at the same image again and again; most people see a film only once, though some people see a few films again and again.”

Religion Lately: The Church of the Cylon God and St. Gaius Baltar, Extinction of Religion, No “Go Topless Day” for Toronto

Religion Lately: The Church of the Cylon God and St. Gaius Baltar, Extinction of Religion, No “Go Topless Day” for Toronto

By Kenny Smith….
While they presently remain at the level of fandom and “just for fun,” elements from the Sci-Fi Channel’s Battlestar Galactica series have been re-crafted and re-presented in religious terms. See, for instance, the Church of the Cylon God Facebook page, or the Church St. Gaius Baltar. “Pray at the Pump” founder warns President Obama, create jobs or face more earthquakes, a claim which God then quickly refuted. Others have suggested that the divine reprimand said to be implied in recent earthquakes and historic hurricanes was in fact aimed at Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor, in whose district a major quake’s epicenter was located, perhaps in response to the steep cuts Cantor proposed to the U.S. Geological Service. So, is God an angry geologist?

Religion Lately: Pagan Seminary, Is The Religion of Battlestar Galactica About To Go Actual? The Rise of Christian Atheism in Europe and Teavangelicals in America

Religion Lately: Pagan Seminary, Is The Religion of Battlestar Galactica About To Go Actual? The Rise of Christian Atheism in Europe and Teavangelicals in America

By Kenny Smith….
Looking for a different sort of theological education and ministerial training, one that includes both God and Goddess? Check out Cherry Hill Seminary, which recently added noted Wiccan author Viviane Crowley to its faculty. This past Sunday members of the International Raelian Religion participated in a “Go-Topless Day” in Dolores Park, San Francisco. The demonstration was initiated by GoTopless.org as part of a broader national campaign aimed at bringing equal topless rights to women.

Religion Lately: A Star Wars Mecca, Remembering Slackmaster Bob & Anonymous as Religion?

Religion Lately: A Star Wars Mecca, Remembering Slackmaster Bob & Anonymous as Religion?

By Kenny Smith….
San Francisco’s Yoda statue draws pilgrims from around the globe. Are we all Jediists at heart?
According to the Prison Literature Project, inmates most frequently request books on Buddhism, Wicca, and Islam. Practitioners of minority religions continue to face many different forms of discrimination throughout American culture.

One writer recalls the Church of the Subgenius’ Prophet Bob and the balmy days of the 1980s.

Religion Lately: Raelian Women Go Topless, WTC-Cross, An Atheist Hymn, & NASCAR-Christianity

Religion Lately: Raelian Women Go Topless, WTC-Cross, An Atheist Hymn, & NASCAR-Christianity

By Kenny Smith….
The International Raelian Religion (based on the teachings of Rael, formerly Claude Verhilon, who claimed to have been personally contacted by extraterrestrials in the early 1970s), is planning a “Go Topless Day” for female devotees on August 21 on the Venice Beach Boardwalk. Is Harry Potter really about Christian alchemy rather than witchcraft and sorcery? Some Wiccans and Neo-Pagans are re-thinking the role of esoteric (i.e., secret) knowledge in their traditions. A new book argues that Pagan myths and philosophies have something to offer mainstream Americans. As the days begin to grow shorter, Wiccans and Pagans of all sorts celebrated Lughnasadh at the end of July. In England, accusations of Wiccan child-abuse (common fare in the cult scares of the 1980s) have emerged. In the U.S., Wicca may well be the third-largest religious tradition in the U.S. by 2012, that is, next year.

Religion Lately: Islamic Jediism, “Fuck It” Spirituality, Michelle Bachmann’s 2006 End Time Vision, & A Pagan Policeman

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.”

Religion Lately: Jedi Saints, Oprah as Anti-Christ Enabler, a Scientology Musical? & Hindu-Pagan Dialogue

Religion Lately: Jedi Saints, Oprah as Anti-Christ Enabler, a Scientology Musical? & Hindu-Pagan Dialogue

By Kenny Smith…..
Recent Star Wars artwork may well resonate with new religious movements that understand and live Star Wars mythology as spiritual truth. Thank you St.Vader? In a recent CNN interview, Bill Maher explains his own philosophy of “Apatheism,” which blends religious apathy and atheism: “I don’t know what happens when you die and I don’t care.” In another instance of blending, the idea of UFOs as extraterrestrial spacecraft seems to have been explicitly combined with the new religious movement known as ECKANKAR (“The Light and Sound of God”). After vandalism to a local church implicated The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (or FSM, whose members are often known as Pastafarians), local FSM members raised $2,600 to repair the damage.

Religion Lately: Occult Symbols in Pop Culture, Pre-2012 End Time Refugees & Technopagan Heresy

Religion Lately: Occult Symbols in Pop Culture, Pre-2012 End Time Refugees & Technopagan Heresy

By Kenny Smith…..
Is the “mark of the beast” lurking in the Walt Disney logo, Illuminati symbols in Adidas’ footwear, occult signs in McDonald’s Chicken Selects? Check out the most popular corporate logos and their ties to the occult. To remove such occult influences, one news caster recommended an exorcism on the Republican party.

Religion Lately: Create Your Own Religion, “Swastika Rehabilitation Day,” and “Real Housewives of the Bible”

Religion Lately: Create Your Own Religion, “Swastika Rehabilitation Day,” and “Real Housewives of the Bible”

By Kenny Smith…..
Want to see how it all adds up? Try the religion of Universal Calculationism. Want to bliss out with the Children of Bob, perfect yourself in the United Church of Awesome, relish in the religions of Mine or Money, or simply create your own tradition wholesale? Check out the results of Huffington Post’s “Create Your Own Religion” contest. The International Raelian Movement, a worldwide UFO-based religious organization founded in the 1970s and that claimed to have successfully cloned a human being in 20002 celebrated “Swastika Rehabilitation Day” on Sunday, June 26.

Religion, Lately: The Summer Solstice, Wildfire Meditation, and Cannabis Crackdowns

Religion, Lately: The Summer Solstice, Wildfire Meditation, and Cannabis Crackdowns

By Kenny Smith….
Despite heavy rain, 18,000 Neo-Pagans and New Agers gathered at Stonehenge, England, to welcome to Summer Solstice. With blazing wildfires just four miles away, Buddhist meditators in Arizona continue their three-year silent retreat, seeking inner as well as outer peace. In Seattle, “Christian Fightclub” minister Marc Driscoll and Mars Hill Church congregants greet Westboro Baptist protestors with love, handshakes, and a verbal smack-down: “This False Prophet and His Blind Lemmings Welcome You to Our Whore House for God’s Grace and Free Donuts.” Progressive “Emergent Church” Christians gather in North Carolina for “old time religion” summer revival. Want to smell like the Pope, with subtle hints of frankincense, bergamot, and citrus? Try the new pontifically-inspired fragrance, Benedictus.

Midsummer Day: A Once and Future Holy-Day?

Midsummer Day: A Once and Future Holy-Day?

That our modern-day holidays have been shaped by economic forces can prove a rather unsettling notion. We might find ourselves wondering not only about the new holidays we gained, but those we may have lost, in the commodification process. At the same time, it is worth acknowledging that cultural institutions are, like Heraclitus’ river, always in flux, always changing, and subject to any number of forces, economic, political, theological, astronomical, and even meteorological.

The Good News of Star Visitors, Part II

The Good News of Star Visitors, Part II

By Kenny Smith…..
The similarities linking Camping and Boylan are likewise intriguing. Both offer dramatic, magical worldviews envisioning a new and improved human condition, whether in heaven (far from the screams of the damned) or upon a renewed earth and a galactic civilization. As such, both instantiate a stream of millennial thinking with a long history in American culture and by no means limited to institutional religion. Americans have been eager to export their styles of government, economics, science, technology, language, philosophy, medicine, entertainment, and social customs of all kinds, as well as religion, in an effort to lead the world into a new and better age. More personally, both Camping and Boylan are highly educated and experienced professionals, and their skill sets have helped to constitute their worldviews. Camping, a Berkeley-trained civil engineer, has spent decades studying the Bible and crunching the biblical numbers to arrive at his various predictions.

The Nonpocalypse as Postmodern Ritual

The Nonpocalypse as Postmodern Ritual

By Kenny Smith ….
An enormous investment of cultural energies was on display this past weekend, most clearly evident in the nation-wide soul-saving efforts of “Camping-ites,” that is, devotees of the Family Radio preacher, Harold Camping, who predicted that this past Saturday, May 21, would see the return of Jesus of Nazareth and the Rapture of all true Christians. The Advent and Rapture, Camping further insisted, would be presaged by a series of terrible earthquakes unlike anything humanity had ever witnessed. They would sweep, tsunami-like, across the globe, starting in the distant South Pacific island of Kiritmati (also known as Christmas Island) at 6:00pm Kiritmati time, reaching each earthly time-zone as local clocks tolled 6pm.