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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: 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: Rain-god license plate disputes, Happy Yom Kippur and Ganesh Chaturthi, & the Flying Spaghetti Monster Comes the NFL

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.

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: 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.

Religion Lately: Mabon Celebrations, More Teavangelicals, Ugly Atheists, and the Machine Gun Preacher

Religion Lately: Mabon Celebrations, More Teavangelicals, Ugly Atheists, and the Machine Gun Preacher

By Kenny Smith and Heather Abraham…..
Wiccans and Neo-Pagans of all sorts celebrate Mabon this September 23 (or there about), a celebration of the fall harvest and the Autumn Equinox, a day in which the hours of day and night are perfectly balanced, and just one day after the birthday of both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins! Looking for a primer on Wiccan/Pagan holidays? Rob Bell, the controversial Christian minister whose book, Love Wins, published earlier this year questions some basic conservative ideas, for instance, that heaven is not a Christians-only club, strikes out on his own. Elsewhere in Christendom, one Southern Baptist leader argues that state executions are “pro-life.”

Religion Lately: The Religious Art of Dudeism, Evangelical Protestors v. Vanderbilt Fraternities, and the Rise of Big Religion

Religion Lately: The Religious Art of Dudeism, Evangelical Protestors v. Vanderbilt Fraternities, and the Rise of Big Religion

By Kenny Smith….
A Dudeist painter, inspired classical Western artistic traditions, works to capture the spiritual complexities of the Dude and his companions. Evangelical protestors confronted “drunk and immodestly dressed” Vanderbilt undergraduates, beseeching them to “put on some clothes and repent of their idolatry and fortification” as “no drunkard will enter the Kingdom of Heaven!”
Would you like to “friend” Jesus? Check out Jesus Daily, among the most frequented Facebook pages religious or otherwise. Americans may obsess about Big Government, but one scholar contemplates the emergence and implications of Big Religion, as evidenced by, say, Presidential candidate Rick Perry’s totalizing “Day of Prayer,” at which “everyone was welcome to come” and be Christian.

Gold’s Gym & Scientology in an Age of Authenticity

Gold’s Gym & Scientology in an Age of Authenticity

By Kenny Smith….
Gold’s Gym and the Church of Scientology have recently featured some very interesting commercial videos on their websites, videos that have also (to some degree) ventured out into the broader culture. This leads to a rather intriguing question: why does Gold’s Gym employ precisely the sort of language that Scientology avoids?

Scientology: Religion or Space Opera?

Scientology: Religion or Space Opera?

These body-thetans are said to have been ‘killed’ in a vast explosion instigated by the galactic tyrant Xenu many millions of years ago. In New Religions: A Guide, Andreas Grunschloss classifies Scientology as a “non apocalyptic Ufology” movement based on the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard. Religious ufology movements are religions that incorporate