Hell Is Coming Here: Cthulhu Cosmology in Hellboy

  David McConeghy In the four issues of the Dark Horse Comics mini-series Hellboy: Seed of Destruction (1994), readers meet the titular demon Hellboy, who arrived in the world thanks to a Nazi “Doomsday” ritual led by Russian occult figure Grigori Rasputin. If this sounds familiar, you may have caught the popular 2004 movie adaptation directed by Guillermo Del Toro. Or you may recall the small but persistent interest connecting Hitler and occultism. As fodder for Hollywood blockbusters such as Indiana Jones, Hitler’s desire for religious objects such as the Ark of the Covenant has become an expression of the devotional elements of […]

Meditations on Death, Presence, and Practice

By Sienna Craig According to Tibetan tradition, when we die we enter into the bardo, a liminal realm between death and rebirth. For the forty-nine days after our body returns to the elements from whence it arose—earth, air, water, fire, and space—our consciousness migrates from this lifetime toward another reincarnation. Those who have not died—family, friends, religious attendants—help the dead through this in-between space. For seven weeks, ritual moments mark time, lending shape, sound, even color to grief. People light butter lamps, offer spoken prayers, and focus the heart-mind on the one who has passed. This period is a time […]

The Limits of Science and the Dangers of Scientism: An Interview with Curtis White

“Revolutionary tools will reveal how thought and emotion arise,” proclaims a recent cover of Scientific American, trumpeting the current Century of the Brain. Wrong, says Curtis White in his recent book The Science Delusion—a clear and sharp response to Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. What is true? In my interview here with White, we explore this question, the limits of science and the dangers of scientism. Researchers in the biotechnology company Amgen recently revealed that they were unable to replicate the results of 90 percent of the most-cited studies in cancer research.  What are the implications of such revelations (which are not that rare)?  What do they mean for science, society, […]

Jesus Christ Movie Star: A Brief History of Religion and Cinema

By S. Brent Plate In the beginning was the Jesus film . . . The birth of cinema dates from the Lumière brother’s first public screening for a paying audience in a Paris café in December 1895. The following decade saw at least a half-dozen filmed versions of the life and passion of Jesus Christ and a handful of Moses films. Some of these were even made by the inventors of cinema themselves, Thomas Edison and Louis Lumière. Soon after the birth of film, the “father” of Indian film, D. G. Phalke, was inspired by a film of the life […]

Religion is Dead; Long Live . . . the Sacred

Gary Laderman I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s the end of Religion as we know it.  And I do feel fine.  Bring on the “nones,” the SBNRs (Spiritual But Not Religious for those of you not up to speed), the so-called atheists, freethinkers, humanists, secularists, and the anything goes Unitarians.  Religion as we thought we knew it, is dead, or at least gasping its final breaths. Without going into a long, drawn out historical elaboration of the etymology of “Religion” (though I highly recommend the reader pursue in the relevant literature), I would like to point out that the […]

Religion, Nationalism, and “Ancestral Homelands”

By Shalom Goldman In June of 2001, George W. Bush famously claimed that he had looked into the eyes of Vladimir Putin and “found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy, and we had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul.” This month, after Putin’s speech on the Russian claim to Crimea and his subsequent annexation of the peninsula, Bush’s comment about Putin (dubbed by the late Christopher Hitchens as “one of the stupidest things a president has ever said”) was recalled by many news commentators. For not only had Bush said in 2001 […]

Sacred Spinebusters, Transcendent Toe Holds, Part One: The Confluence of Religion and Professional Wrestling

By Dan Mathewson Professional wrestling: oh, how I love it! I love its glitz, its glamor, its over-the-top, in-your-face bluster. I love that it presents itself as a hyper-masculine testosterone-fest, and yet its wrestlers prance around in bedazzling costumes, wear more makeup than Tammy Faye, and play-act in melodramas too outlandish for even the daytime Soaps. Above all, I love the skill, artistry, and even beauty of its violent faux-fighting. Now, I understand that a declaration of love for professional wrestling is probably not something many would expect from a college professor with a PhD in Religion. It’s sort of like […]

Noah: An Unrighteous Man

  By Jacob L. Wright The editors of Sacred Matters appreciated my comments on the film Noah in the video above, and they asked me to set it in context for their readers. What is included in this clip is just a short section of a much longer interview. I don’t offer a review of the film itself, whether it’s better than “the book.” My aim is rather to challenge the vocal criticism of the film by the religious right. I claim that it’s perfectly legitimate for the film’s creators to embellish the biblical story and to take it in […]

An Interview with Shaun Casey, Part Two: Religious Studies and the State Department: Professor Casey’s Scholarly Influences

When Secretary of State John Kerry launched the new Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives (OFBCI), he extolled the importance and urgency of religious studies:  “In fact if I went back to college today I think I would probably major in comparative religion because that’s how integrated it is in everything we are working on, and deciding, and thinking about in life today.” The virtue and political utility of religious studies aside, some academics voiced critique and caution about how such an office might be haunted by political agendas, subjected to idealistic visions of liberal democracy, and premised on a particular concept of […]

An Interview with Shaun Casey, Part Three: Inter-Faith Dialogue and Interdisciplinarity

When Secretary of State John Kerry launched the new Office of Faith-Based Community Initiatives (OFBCI), he extolled the importance and urgency of religious studies:  “In fact if I went back to college today I think I would probably major in comparative religion because that’s how integrated it is in everything we are working on, and deciding, and thinking about in life today.” The virtue and political utility of religious studies aside, some academics voiced critique and caution about how such an office might be haunted by political agendas, subjected to idealistic visions of liberal democracy, and premised on a particular concept of […]