The Sacred and the Secular in the Vatican Museum

Louis A. Ruprecht Jr. There is more than one way to look at religion, and more than one place in which to find sacred energies alive and well today. These are neither surprising nor controversial contentions for readers of Sacred Matters. The central idea here is that the traditional notion of modern “secularization” does not capture the realities of the ever-shifting religious landscape in the contemporary United States (and in much of the modern world, for that matter).

There Be Monsters: A Warning

Kelly J. Baker I decided to begin a project on zombie apocalypses, in part because of The Walking Dead’s popularity but also because of burgeoning amount of zombie media, the books, films, products, television shows, memes, and apps that center on zombies. My decision also hinged on the uncritical embrace of zombies by fans, critics, friends, relatives, and my students.

Graceland Graffiti: Elvis Fans as Place-Makers and Memory Agents

Derek H. Alderman, Hannah Gunderman and Donna G’Segner Alderman

In describing Elvis Presley in Wilson and Ferris’ 1989 Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, Stephen Tucker wrote: “Presley is probably the most famous Southerner of the 20th century.” Elvis occupies third place on John Sheldon Reed’s list of the twenty most influential Southerners of the past century, eclipsed by only Martin Luther King, Jr. and William Faulkner.

The Top Five Reasons to Study Religion

Gary Laderman It’s not easy being chair of a religion department. August is an especially cruel month as we close out one academic year and start up a new one, and begin again to struggle with an increasingly vital challenge: recruiting and keeping more majors.  I’ve been teaching at Emory University for over 20 years, and every August I begin to obsess about a question. . . that’s at the center of my intellectual passion and personal livelihood: how do you convince people to study religion? 

“Islam” is Not a Person

Hussein Rashid There is an idea of “Islam,” as a signifier of something foreign and threatening, that continues to plague American discussion of the religion. It is part of the shooting in Chattanooga, and it part of the debate around the Iran nuclear deal. This view of Islam has been part of how America has defined itself since the founding of the country.

Friends of the Devil?: Deadheads, Religion and Spirituality

Scott Muir In a recent Sacred Matters post, Gary Laderman suggested that the recent widespread celebration of the Grateful Dead represents both a plentiful harvest of the seeds sown in the countercultural upheaval of the 1960s and a harbinger of the future of religious life in a country increasingly disaffiliated from major religious traditions. Earlier this month, I surveyed 147 Deadheads. 

What Pixar’s “Inside Out” Teaches Us About Suffering

Jonathan Orbell When my wife suggested we go out and see Pixar’s newly released Inside Out, I agreed, albeit reluctantly. “I’ll be asleep within 20 minutes,” I thought. Suffice it to say, I’m not really a “kids movie” kind of guy; more of an “old soul.” I was in for one hell of a surprise. Inside Out consists of two parallel storylines. The first, occurring in the “real” world, tells the story of Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), an 11-year-old Minnesotan girl whose family moves out to San Francisco.

Institutional Racism: Anywhere, U.S.A.

Luís León The horrific events in Charleston recently have prompted a robust and much needed conversation on race and the privileges and disadvantages that adhere to it. While conceding that racism continues through individual animus, the political right advances the mythology that institutional racism has ceased, ignoring social inequities such as economic disparity, educational opportunity, incarceration rates, and even life expectancy.

The Future of Religion Is…. The Dead

Gary Laderman

I have seen the future of religion… and it looks a lot like a Grateful Dead concert. With all of the hype and hullabaloo surrounding the Dead’s 50th anniversary and recent concerts, it is easy to discern some features of America’s new spiritual landscape in the testimonials and commentaries pervading the media coverage of this historic moment.