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The Religious Theft of Sacred Culture?

The Religious Theft of Sacred Culture?

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By Kenny Smith…..
In the case of both Jediism and Dudeism, entirely new religious traditions have been created wholesale from the cloth of popular culture. In other cases, key elements are borrowed from popular culture and grafted onto pre-existing religious traditions, resulting in equally innovative and to some degree “new” versions of these traditions, which their critics typically regard as humorous or horrifying.

Cannabis: The American Sacrament

Cannabis: The American Sacrament

A number of new religious movements have come to see the ritual use of cannabis products as central the religious quest. The Church of the Universe, founded in Ontario, Canada in the late 1960’s, teaches that marijuana provides a vital “calming influence,” helps to focus and “direct [one’s] thoughts without interference from negative forces,” allows for an experience of communion with the natural world, and overall “makes life worth living.”

A Brave New Book: Kelly J. Baker’s Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930

A Brave New Book: Kelly J. Baker’s Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930

By Kenny Smith….
Dr. Kelly J. Baker is a lecturer in Religious Studies and Americanist Studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Seemingly indefatigable, she has written for numerous academic and popular publications, has two additional books and several scholarly articles currently in the works, serves an editor for the award-winning American Religious History blog, oversees panels and groups within the American Academy of Religion and American Studies Association, all the while teaching a full-load of university-level courses each semester, raising a young daughter, and encouraging aspiring graduate students at other institutions. A glance at her resume suggests a broad range of teaching and research interests: world religions in America, apocalyptic and Rapture-oriented movements, the figure of the zombie in contemporary culture, religious in/tolerance in the South Park series, and of course, the early 20th century rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan and its relationship to “mainstream” American religion and culture, precisely the focus of her new book, Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915-1930

On Trayvon Martin, Perceived Identities, and Zombie Imaginaries

On Trayvon Martin, Perceived Identities, and Zombie Imaginaries

By Kenny Smith, Religion Bulletin….
In his recent comments on the Fox News Channel’s FOX & Friends morning show, Geraldo Rivera claimed that the shooting of Florida teenager Treyvon Martin wasequally the result of (i) an “overzealous and irrational” neighborhood watchman (George Zimmerman) as well as (ii) Treyvon Martin’s ethnicity, gender, and attire. By appearing in public as a dark-skinned and hoodie-cloaked male, Rivera suggests, Treyvon unwittingly (and unwisely) presented the neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman, with a highly ambiguous object. On one hand, Treyvon was merely a boy (age 17, though in fact he appeared considerably younger) eating Skittles while walking home; on the other hand, he was a black male donning garb associated “with robberies, muggings, and confrontations,” which sensible others (read middle-class whites) seek to avoid.

Religion Lately: Jedi Training Camps and Marian Visions in Texas, Gay-ing Dead Mormons, & St. Valentine was a Pagan Too?

Religion Lately: Jedi Training Camps and Marian Visions in Texas, Gay-ing Dead Mormons, & St. Valentine was a Pagan Too?

By Kenny Smith, Emory University….
In Austin, Texas, yet another “Jedi Camp” offers training for youngsters. In San Francisco, adult Jedi demonstrate advanced light-saber fighting skills. Exactly how much Jedi-based social production does it take to constitute a “religious movement,” anyway?
Down the road in Houston, neighbors continue to bring devotional offerings to an oak tree in one man’s yard, in which they claim to see the Virgin Mary. Fortunately, said resident has no plans to take the tree down and violate their religious freedom to come onto his property.

Religion Lately: Uller Fest, Atheist Religion , & Tim Tebow, Harbinger of Doom?

Religion Lately: Uller Fest, Atheist Religion , & Tim Tebow, Harbinger of Doom?

By Kenny Smith, Emory University….
In Breckenridge, CO., the town council passed a resolution allowing public consumption of alcoholic beverages for “Uller Fest,” a day-long celebration, complete with a bonfire, dedicated to Uller, the Norse god of snow. Despite the positive effects of popular TV series such as Big Love, the Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon,” Jon Huntsman’s and Mitt Romney’s presidential bids, and a national public relations campaign, concerns have grown among Mormons about those who grow up and leave the church, as well as the inability to control information about LDS history (e.g., that Joseph Smith was a polygamist and defended this practice as divinely mandated). Mormons make up approximately 2% of the American population and nearly half feel that they are discriminated against on religious grounds, though are nonetheless optimistic about their future.

Religion Lately: Transhumanism, Rise of the “Preppers,” & Apocalypse Tomorrow, Surf Now!

Religion Lately: Transhumanism, Rise of the “Preppers,” & Apocalypse Tomorrow, Surf Now!

Kenny Smith….
Unsatisfied with an average lifespan of 70 odd years? Consider the emerging tradition of Transhumanism which seeks to convince traditional religions to open their minds (and souls) to fusion with the technological. See, for example, “The Cyborg Buddha,” which explores the possibility that the goals of Buddhism (freedom from suffering) might well by grafting organic and technological components in a new and improved humankind. Yes, they’re serious.

Religion Lately: Extraterrestrial Christs and Jedi Blues, Salem Witches Counter Tebow-Magic, Domestic-Violence Video Games

Religion Lately: Extraterrestrial Christs and Jedi Blues, Salem Witches Counter Tebow-Magic, Domestic-Violence Video Games

By Kenny Smith, Emory University….
For Christ-figures blended with the extraterrestrial, technological, and trans-human, check out the following link. Star Visitor theology, anyone? A journalist ponders the odds of extraterrestrial encounters, arguing that UFO-based religions require as much faith as any other…..A day in the life of a lazy Jedi….. Rev. Ed Young’s “24-hour live streaming online bed-in,” in which he and his wife discussed healthy Christian marriage and sex, ended in a minor eye injury. With Young’s recent “sexperiment,” Marc Driscol’s new book about Christian sex, and a thriving Christian sex toy industry, some believe that Evangelicals have become overly preoccupied with the topic.

Religion Lately: Rise of the New Evangelicals, Star Seed Possibilities, Perfect End-Times Beverage, & The Roof-Top Sex-Preacher

Religion Lately: Rise of the New Evangelicals, Star Seed Possibilities, Perfect End-Times Beverage, & The Roof-Top Sex-Preacher

By Kenny Smith, Emory University….
Imagine Evangelical Christians who reject militarism, consumerism, and cultural triumphalism, in favor of social justice, environmentalism, and religious reconciliation with other faiths. They might represent the coming norm. If so, will these new Evangelicals distance themselves from religion? The future may be a ways off yet, as recent studies of American ministers note one major area of disagreement prevails: not creationism, nor the belief in the literal truth of the Bible, but whether or not the earth is 6,000 years old.

Religion Lately: The Religion of File Sharing, Sex Toys for All the Abrahamic Faiths, the Rise of the So-What’s?

Religion Lately: The Religion of File Sharing, Sex Toys for All the Abrahamic Faiths, the Rise of the So-What’s?

By Kenny Smith, Emory University….
Do you think that information is holy, and that the practice of sharing it is tantamount to an act religious worship? If so, the new religion of Kopimism, whose holy symbols are those that suggest a desire to copy or be copied (e.g., “CTRL+C”), may be just what you’re looking for. According to the good news of Kopimism, all file-sharing should be made legal and copyright laws abolished, as both inhibit the free expression of religion.

It’s not just Evangelical Christians who are enjoying religiously approved sex toys at websites such as “holy hooking up,” but also Orthodox Jews and Muslims in search of Kosher and Halal “marital aids.

Religion Lately: Atheists v. Pagans, Jesus Toasters, & “Sin-Free” Egyptian Vacays

Religion Lately: Atheists v. Pagans, Jesus Toasters, & “Sin-Free” Egyptian Vacays

By Kenny Smith, Emory University….
Atheist bloggers turned out in force for a record-setting $180,000 in donations for Doctors Without Borders, to which some Christians replied “thank God!” While fighting Christianity, Atheists wonder whether they should be fighting Wiccans and Neo-Pagans as well. They are, after all, religious. In Santa Monica, CA., where a lottery determined who would have access to “vandal-proof, cage-like areas surrounded by chain-link fencing” in which to place their public holiday displays, Atheists won 18 of 21 such spaces, with just two going to a coalition of churches, and one to a Jewish group.

Religion Lately: Disappointingly Tame Atheist Billboards, Christmas and Politics, Atheists In Church, and the Gingrinch Who Stole Christmas

Religion Lately: Disappointingly Tame Atheist Billboards, Christmas and Politics, Atheists In Church, and the Gingrinch Who Stole Christmas

By Kenny Smith, Emory University….
Whereas last year’s atheist billboard at the Lincoln Tunnel, NJ was said to be overly direct (it told you that Christian stories were myths), this year’s is said to be so tame (they ask you whether they seem like myths to you), that Catholic leaders are not responding with a counter billboard of their own. Don’t worry, a new and much more offensive billboard is in the works! One Christmas display that did provoke controversy was a crucified Santa skeleton. Atheists serving in the US military are starting to ask for, and may soon demand, atheist and humanist chaplains for their foxholes!

Religion Lately: Early Nativity Wars, Jedi and Sith Marry & Which Religion Is The Most Fun?

Religion Lately: Early Nativity Wars, Jedi and Sith Marry & Which Religion Is The Most Fun?

By Kenny Smith, Emory University….
As we approach the end of the year holidays, Public Display Wars are already begun, with one Virginia county offering public space to the first ten groups/persons to apply. An interesting solution. The result? As one frustrated blogger writes, “Christmas displays gone mad”: a traditional nativity scene, a sign calling Christian figures “myths” another advertising for the American Atheist League, a cryptic holiday display of the “Tree of Knowledge,” a letter dictated Jesus himself submitted by a local resident, a crucified Santa Claus, and two signs from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Religion Lately: HolySmoke.com, Jedi Rise in Hungary, The “Real Hogwarts” & Judgment Day Approaches (again)

Religion Lately: HolySmoke.com, Jedi Rise in Hungary, The “Real Hogwarts” & Judgment Day Approaches (again)

By Kenny Smith….
Holy Smoke.com, a company owned and operated by “good Christians, with good moral values… offers to load the cremains [cremated remains] of customers into shotgun shells, rifle cartridges and bullets,” from which they may then be fired by fellow hunters and gun-enthusiasts. “I will rest in peace,” one company spokesperson said, “knowing that the last thing that turkey will see is me screaming at him at about 900 feet per second.” Discounts are available for the military, police and firemen. Yes, they’re serious. Some conservative Christian fear a rise in vampire and werewolf-related crime in light of films such as Twighlight.