Religion, Lately: The Downside of Marketing Hindu Deities, Love Jesus and Hate Religion, Hate Religion and Love Church
By Kenny Smith…An Australian brewery’s new logo, featuring the head of the god Ganesh and the body of the goddess Lakshmi, turns out to be both “less pleasing” and “more irritating” to a number of Hindu communities in India and elsewhere. While the level of annoyance has not yet reached that of 2011, when the goddess Lakshmi appeared in the ass-crack of swimsuits, there’s still time. Speaking of Asian religious cultures, Sikhs worldwide are celebrating the 544th anniversary of the birthday of the tradition’s founder, Shri Guru Nanak, and one writer argues that being a Sikh is compatible with being a Gay Sikh.
By Kenny Smith…While notions of “religion” are deployed in a rather simplistic manner, Fox News offers an otherwise thoughtful interview with a Jedi teacher and a journalist who “spent a weekend” with them. Is it a religion, a philosophy, a way of life? You decide.
In a more typical manner, Fox hosted an angry debate concerning recent atheist billboards and whether religion or non-religion are “irrational.” Elsewhere in atheisdom, free Bible apps (such as YouVersion) are used to disprove the Bible’s legitimacy: “Reading the full story with all its contradictions and violence and sexism, it should make you think, ‘Is this really what I believe in?’”
By Kenny Smith…In his recent piece in the Atlantic, “Taking a Hellish Tour of America’s Most Satanic Landmarks,” John Metcalf notes the many places across the U.S. “whose names draw on demonic, hellish, and Satan-flavored elements… Devil’s Swamp, Mount Evil, Satan Hill, Lucifer Falls, Lake Chaos… and in one case, a highway so damned the authorities had to change its name.” Thousands of such sites have, apparently, been brought together in the United States Devil Map which, Metcalf suggests, creates the impression that “the country’s pioneers picked geographic names by sacrificing goats and studying the entrails for messages from Dark Lord Lucifer.”
By Kenny Smith…This year’s Halloween’s top-ten Biblically themed costumes? Pharaoh, Naughty Nun, Priest with Enormous Erection (cleverly packaged as “Keeping Up The Faith”), and of course Zombie Nuns (said to be marked down 20%!). What do practicing witches actually think about Halloween? Some hate it. Some love it. In Mumbai, Wiccans used the holiday Samhain (also on October 31) as an occasion for casting protective spells for the benefit of women in India. And while many continue to lump Wiccans. Pagans, and Satanists together, Real Housewives of Beverley Hills’ Carlton Gebbia stakes out a religious identity not reducible to any of these exactly: “I’m Celtic, which is my ancestry. And I practice witchcraft. My grandmother was a Pagan… There’s no one defined answer.”
By Kenny Smith…As the noted scholar of American religious history, R. Laurence Moore, once wrote, “if you do not commodify your own religion” – that is, if you do not transform its teachings, practices, and material culture, into products to be bought and sold in the marketplace of culture – “don’t worry, someone will do it for you.” Examples abound, most especially when it comes to the religious goods of indigenous peoples, such as dream-catchers or the mystical self-help teachings of shaman. Such religious wares are commonly re-packaged and re-imagined in a strikingly generic form, nicely compatible with the varied preferences of shoppers in the spiritual marketplace.
Religion, Lately: Biblical Immigration, Heavy Metal Church, Cat Stevens v. Yusuf Islam, and the Religious Complexities of the Culture Wars
By Kenny Smith…Evangelicals are, apparently, quite divided on the issue of immigration reform, and read their Bibles accordingly. Some conclude that because Jesus and the Hebrew Prophets consistently speak of our obligation to care for strangers and the poor, a way to citizenship should be opened up for undocumented workers and their families in contemporary America. Others insist that because in within the Hebrew Bible God warns the ancient Israelites about the dangers of importing foreign ways (e.g., the danger of intermarriage), we need “Biblical Immigration”: walls, not ways.
Religion, Lately: Paganism by 2063, Living Happily Without Religion, and bin Laden Halloween Anxieties
By Kenny Smith…..What will Pagan religious traditions (such as Wicca, Druidism, and Asatru, among others) look like in fifty years, in 2063? Full-time Pagan clergy, Pagan celebrities coming out of the broom-closet, and a vast array of Pagan-centric media outlets, one writer predicts. Back here in 2013, new Pagan-themed books for children such as “What is Magic,” and “Who is a Witch?,” hit the shelves, Pagan Pride days continue to be celebrated in various cities nationwide, and Pagan communities prepare for Samhain.
By Kenny Smith…My grandparents enforced very few rules at their dinner table, but one they absolutely insisted upon was, “Never talk about religion or politics at the table.” For in their view, “the table” represented a quasi-sacred familial site reserved for eating good food, enjoying good company, and perhaps a late afternoon tea or friendly game of cards, any of which would be readily frustrated by such fractious topics. Not only was this policy a resounding success (their dinner table was almost always peaceable), but those unable or unwilling to comply were clearly marked as “too extreme” in their views.
By Kenny Smith
With the Autumn equinox behind us, Wiccan and Pagan communities look to Pagan Pride.In Pennsylvania, a distinctive approach features crystals, pre-Christian deities, and “a cauldron in which to boil children,” poking fun at popular misconceptions. Similar efforts, sans cauldrons, are ongoing in communities across the U.S.“Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” newest cast-member, Carlton Gebbia, comes out of the broom closet, discussing publicly her practice of Wicca.
Religion, Lately: Hell House Outreach, Tough Times for Russian Anti-Gay Pastafarians, Autumnal Equinox
By Kenny Smith…..As the 2013 Halloween season approaches, churches all across the U.S. are preparing “Hell Houses,” “Judgment Houses,” and Rapture Walks.” In need of a Hell House starter kit? There likewise seems to be a forthcoming film taking up basic Hell House theme: all the stuff young people like to do is demonic. While it’s hardly surprising that 77% of evangelicals are said to believe that “we are currently living in the end-times,” some 41% of American adults are also said to express this opinion.
Religion Lately: Rain-god license plate disputes, Happy Yom Kippur and Ganesh Chaturthi, & the Flying Spaghetti Monster Comes the NFL
By Kenny Smith…..An Methodist minister is suing the state of Oklahoma on the grounds that “Native American imagery on license plates forces him to become a ‘mobile billboard’ for pagan religion.” OK plates apparently depict a Native American ritual in which a deity associated with rain is invoked, which apparently OK could really use right now. Growing number of Africa American spiritual seekers, despite being raised as Southern Baptists, Pentecostals, or Jehovah’s Witness, are said to be turning to indigenous African religious cultures such as Yoruba for religious and spiritual resources.
By Kenny Smith…..With the possibility of an American military assault upon Syria, a number of conservative Syrian apocalypse Christian voices have begun to read such events not simply through a biblical lens (which was likely the case already), but through passages that seem especially relevant. Isaiah 17, for example, speaks of a Syria laid in ruins, the wrath of an angry deity, and human beings looking with awe and respect upon the divine. Some, then, see the looming military strike as presaging not only the ruin of Syria, but the Second Coming of Jesus and the biblically ordained end-times.
Religion, Lately: Hug an Atheist trailer, evangelical sea-change in the making, and a spell for keeping Syria safe from American bombs
By Kenny Smith…..While the great state of Massachusetts considers atheist challenges to the 1954 Hug an atheist dayinclusion of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, a forthcoming documentary tells sympathetically of the daily lives (some might say, “lived religion”) of American atheists. Check out the trailer forHug an Atheist as well as an interview with the film maker. In the millionth round of religion v. atheism, famed sociologist of religion, Rodney Stark, weighs in on the side of religion, though of course the reality is more complex.
A “Muslim Gospel,” Khalidi points out, even overflows the pages of the Qur’an: for nearly a thousand years (from the 8th-18th centuries CE), stories and sayings attributed to Isa continued to emerge in Islamic written and oral traditions. While this Jesus is Islamic in tone, a clear Biblical voice is evident. In one of the earliest of these, “Jesus said to his people,”…