Having grown up without religion and actually being the third non-religious generation in my family to do so, religion has always seemed like something fascinating to me. I couldn't understand the way people seemed to take their faith seriously and the way they choose to organize their lives around it. It in fact seemed so exotic to me that I decided to devote a study to it. To be honest, I now know much more about it, but I still don't understand it. That's okay though, my fascination has never subsided, in fact it has only grown, especially the more I ran into the mix of religion and popular culture. I suppose this struck me even more because here was a system of meaning that I indeed was familiar with that I saw being put to use by a group of people I didn't understand one bit. It was like looking at a very strange mirror.
After having obtained a Bachelors degree last year I now decided to take up a Masters program in religious studies in my native Amsterdam, during which I hope to further study this topic. I started this blog before I made that decision but now I will sort of use it to just build up sort of an empirical database that I can draw on during my study, given that I will be looking into this subject in particular a lot. Also I might use the blog more to keep sort of an academic diary, adding for instance more book reviews of literature that will prove to be relevant to both my study and this blog. This means that at least for a year starting from August 2011 I will try to keep this blog well updated and also give it a bit more of an academic focus.
My name, by the way, is Lucas, a very Christian name indeed, adding ever more irony to this whole effort.
This is a blog about the religious kitsch I stumble upon. It would not be all too pretentious and basically I’d just put everything up there that I’d find, but as a basic criterion I would ask myself the question: “does it make me laugh?” The reason is that religious symbols easily seem to generate sour amusement. When people put up pictures of the Phelps family holding up signs that read “God hates fags” for example, writing with an almost religious zeal about how you might as well laugh at something so preposterous, things tend to get political (and, given the not unfamiliar “I as a liberal minded person...” additions that sometimes follow in such comments, even a bit tribal) and that is a road I’ll try very much not to go down because it can lead to dark forests.
If not people threatening to kill homosexuals, suppress women and enslave races all in the name of God, then what in the name of that very same God does make me laugh you might ask. Basically I’d say romantic notions. Religion is a very slippery term to say the least. I won’t go into the spaghetti discussion on “what is religion?” but for the sake of this blog, I’d say religion is anything that tends to simplify reality to something that can be easily grasped. Note that this is a very broad category, ranging from 9/11 conspiracy theories to the Mormon metaphysical system and from Marxist utopias to Creationist myths. From these religions then I am inclined to choose the genuine and spontaneous expressions. This is the type of imagery that makes me happy in the same way that spotting a mullet in the wild, a romantic kiss with swelling violin music from a fourties black and white movie or a brainsplatterfest in a horror movie tend to make me happy. Creative use of religious symbols by those that do not believe in their worth can also be fun but I appreciate these things in a different way. Besides, such use tends to get political, which is, like I said, something I try to avoid in this blog.
In short this blog is about appreciation of religious sentiment of the Bob Ross kind. May you enjoy it and please, if you have a golden tip (like who is reponsible for all those great Jehovah's Witnesses illustrations) or anything else you'd like to share, feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you and God bless.