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Religion, Lately: Kamala Khan, Biker Churches, and Discussing Religion on Facebook

Marvel Comics has announced that it’s newest heroine will be a young Pakistani-American Muslim girl named Kamala Khan. There is both excitement and worry over the fact that Khan is Muslim- while the debut of the superheroine is a step in the right direction to fight Islamaphobia, many fear that Khan’s story may perpetuate certain harmful stereotypes, as discussed in this article from The Huffington Post. Religion has always played a role in many popular comics, but lately there has been a rise in comics that are coming out of religious publishing groups, including HarperCollins Christian Publishing and Zondervan.

Religion, Lately: The Downside of Marketing Hindu Deities, Love Jesus and Hate Religion, Hate Religion and Love Church

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.

Religion, Lately: Interview with a Jedi, Biblical Neuroscience, Mormon Women Bare.com

Religion, Lately: Interview with a Jedi, Biblical Neuroscience, Mormon Women Bare.com

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?’”

Religion, Lately: Biblical Immigration, Heavy Metal Church, Cat Stevens v. Yusuf Islam, and the Religious Complexities of the Culture Wars

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

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.

Religion, Lately: Hell House Outreach, Tough Times for Russian Anti-Gay Pastafarians, Autumnal Equinox

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: Hug an Atheist trailer, evangelical sea-change in the making, and a spell for keeping Syria safe from American bombs

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.

Religion Lately: Dress Codes, Betting on the Next Pope, Demon Sweaters, and Palestinian-Only Bus Lines

Religion Lately: Dress Codes, Betting on the Next Pope, Demon Sweaters, and Palestinian-Only Bus Lines

By Heather Abraham…..A heads up to all thrift store shoppers—you may need to find a dry cleaner who can remove demons from slightly used clothing. According to Pat Robertson, there is a slight chance that a great find at a thrift store may be home to demonic entities. I wonder? If demons can attach themselves to clothing trough human touch, do we have to worry about demons at the manufacturing level? If so, demon removal may be a great business venture.

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.