Seven Questions for Nathan Rabin

In our new interview series, we ask cultural theorists about what inspires them and how their latest work challenges our understanding of the sacred in American cultural life. For our inaugural segment, we chatted with The Dissolve’s Nathan Rabin about his latest book, You Don’t Know Me but You Don’t Like Me: Phish, Insane Clown Posse, and My Misadventures With Two of Music’s Most Maligned Tribes. 1. What sparked the idea for writing this book? It was inspired by my now wife’s teenage and college years following Phish and other jam bands across the country. It was a side of […]

Secularity and Secularism, Islam and Muslims: A Conversation between Daniel Martin Varisco and Hasan Azad

Hasan Azad:  Do Muslims belong in the West? This is a question that is being asked with increasing force in Euro-America. Central to the way in which this discourse is being constructed are discussions about secularism. I’m interested in exploring notions of secularity and secularism and how such ideas—as they are articulated within a Euro-American context—are imagined in opposition to Islam and to Muslims. In other words, I wonder to what extent Islam and Muslims are politicized within Euro-American discourse as a means of expressing notions of secularism and secularity. Daniel Martin Varisco:  The term “secular” has been expanded beyond […]

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

By Dan Mathewson Ask any wrestling aficionado about the greatest wrestlers from the last quarter century and one name you will consistently hear is “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels, the wrestler discussed at the very end of part one of my series on the intersection of religion and professional wrestling. With the charisma of The Rock, the wrestling skill set of Bret “The Hitman” Hart, the masochistic daring of Jeff Hardy, the microphone skills of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and the eye-candy good looks of Chris Jericho, Michaels was the proverbial total package, possessing in abundance every trait of the superlative […]

If You See Shirdi Sai Baba’s Face on This Wall, Don’t Worry . . . It’s Normal

Jonathan Loar I.  The miracle in Mississauga Last month, the face of Shirdi Sai Baba (d. 1918)—a holy man who lived about 150 years ago in the small village of Shirdi in what is today the state of Maharashtra in western India—appeared on the wall of Sai Dham Canada in Mississauga, Ontario.  According to the temple’s website, the miracle was discovered on April 12 as Sai Baba devotees were celebrating Ram Navami, one of the nineteenth-century saint’s favorite festivals. Since then, temple caretaker Vishal Khanna has posted videos on a YouTube channel to document the continued presence of the image, […]

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 […]

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 […]

Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Heart: Learning About the New Age from After School Cartoons

  By Beth Singler “Captain Planet, he’s our hero, Gonna take pollution down to zero, He’s our powers magnified, And he’s fighting on the planet’s side.” Travel back with me now through the mists of time to when dinosaurs roamed the earth and a much younger version of me returned each day from school to settle down on the couch with a choccy biscuit and that afternoon’s cartoons. On very special days these lyrics—written by no less a musical luminary than Phil Collins himself—would blast out of my television to let me know that I was in for thirty minutes […]

Why I Still Love Disney, or, Imagineering Religion

  By S. Brent Plate This is the sign that hangs over the entrance to Disneyland, less than an hour from where I grew up in Southern California. I realize some people save up for years to drive the kids in the family truckster to Orlando or Anaheim to see such a place, but I got to go there all the time. Friends and friends of friends always seemed to have passes and we’d go to explore, as well as create a little mischief, even if for just a few hours in an evening. Today, I could draw a quite […]

Introducing Sacred Matters

Sacred Matters is a web magazine of public scholarship that undercuts conventional understandings of religion and reimagines the boundaries between religion and culture. It is designed with the “nones” in mind, the fastest growing segment of the American religious landscape over the last ten years. These are individuals who prefer not to claim a specific, singular religious identity on surveys, who are unaffiliated, and who are mostly young Americans. But while they claim no religious affiliation, they are still not completely removed from the sacred. Sacred Matters features articles and commentaries that bring the sacred beings and things of society […]