God is Dead, Crowns of Thorns, and The Jerusalem Cross: Religion in Westworld Season 2 Episode 2

Dolores resurrecting the dead, Angela wearing a Jesus-like crown of thorns, references to The Valley of Beyond, and what’s up with that mysterious cross pattern all over Arnold’s house? There are plenty of great recaps (Joanna Robinson at Vanity Fair is my favorite), podcasts (she also does a great job podcasting the show here and […]

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Revisiting Waco: Prophets, Guns, and the role of the Government in Defining Religion

The tragic events of Waco, although different in many ways to those of Jonestown (especially as it regards the role of law enforcement), also forces the scholar as well as any curious person, to ask questions about the nature of religion and human existence: why do some people decide to believe certain individuals even when their claims may seem irrational, or even dangerous? What is the difference, if any, between a cult and a religion? What is the role of government in regulating religious groups? Why are American evangelical groups so obsessed with the end of times? As Smith said, our need to understand is not the same as our approval of the practices we study, but as he warned us “if we do not persist in the quest for intelligibility, there can be no human sciences, let alone, any place for the study of religion within them.”

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Jerry Garcia, the Grateful Dead, and the Ritual Sacrifice of Celebrities

I became fascinated by the constant religious references used by many of the people interviewed in the documentary to describe and explain the Grateful Dead phenomena: attending a Dead concert was a religious experience, Jerry Garcia was a prophet, a Messiah, a shaman, the audience at the shows were organized like a mandala […]The Grateful Dead, and Jerry Garcia in particular embraced the winds of change and created a band that reflected an utopian, egalitarian, decentered, unstructured way of making music. Their music, in many ways was not only an artistic statement, but also a reflection of their own social and political views. They played as they lived. And Jerry Garcia became the unofficial priest of a small but powerful movement that began to sweep America for almost three decades.

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