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).

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. 

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.

Funereal Choices

Gary Laderman  “What do you want done with your body when you die?” This is a question I never fail to get from undergraduates in my college Death and Dying course. I’ve taught the class at Emory for roughly twenty years, and after a semester spent exploring attitudes toward death and mortuary practices over time and around the globe, students are most curious about this: the ultimate questions—not in theory, but in real life. My real life.

Seven Questions for Suzanne Glover Lindsay

What sparked the idea for writing this book? Like many researchers, I smelled a story in the gaps and disparities within even the newest work on a great topic: nineteenth-century French sculpture. Some of its most famous examples were funerary monuments that were hailed as artistic masterpieces or as key players in France’s political history without any significant reference to their intended purpose as parts of tombs.

Seven Questions for Angela Tarango

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 this segment, we chatted with Angela Tarango about her latest book, Choosing the Jesus Way: American Indian Pentecostals and the Fight for the Indigenous Principle. 1. What sparked the idea for writing this book? Why write it now? In the last decade or so, scholars of religion have been paying a lot of attention to Pentecostalism, especially global Pentecostalism. When I discovered that there was a long and fascinating history of Pentecostalism among Native Americans, […]

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 […]

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 […]