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Religion in the Modern World?

November 29, 2012

Whovianism and Jediism and Something-Witty-About-Superheroes-as-Almighty-Beings, oh my!

It is common knowledge that there are hundreds if not thousands of cult followings of famous fictional characters featured in cinematic and domestic presentations, but could a select few of these followers be founders of awesomely spectacular religions? From Doctor Who to Firefly to Lord of the Rings to comic book heroes, the fan base of the science fiction and fantasy world has increased tenfold in the last ten years with the uprising of the All-Good, All-Knowing, All-Powerful (and honestly, kick-ass) supreme being character. This increase in interest across the globe has led more and more fans into an otherworldly abyss of philosophical awareness and imagination, as well as having allowed some fans to set up camp inside the abyss with just an internet connection, a computer, and a never-ending supply of lembas bread.

Let’s take a look first at the most popular, if not most satisfying, religion of the modern world: Jediism. From Tattooine to Alderaan to Naboo, it is well known of the mysterious and all-encompassing power that connects all beings and the galaxy together with which only a select few can wield: the Force. Using the power of the Force, the select few of the religious group known as the Jedi bring harmony and peace to the realm of the Star Wars fantasy, and justice to those who intervene (cough, cough – the government) when necessary. But just how awesome is this select group of religious good-doers? Pretty freaking awesome if they have an entire following of the ideals behind being a Jedi that they try and put to good use.

Jediism is no joke: it really is a real thing. It even has a Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jediism

These followers (Jediists? Jedis? Star Wars fanatics?) “acknowledge the influence of Star Wars on their religion,” but they actually do have a pretty good philosophy, as determined in their “Jedi Code,” which I imagine as more of a hymn where men and women wielding plastic lightsabers and hooded cloaks huddle around a giant table – like the older folks of Sandford when holding their Death Meetings in Hot Fuzz – and sing in different octaves by themselves in the middle of nowhere. Below is the sacred guide:

There is no emotion, there is peace.

There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.

There is no passion, there is serenity.

There is no chaos, there is harmony.

There is no death, there is the Force.

Oh, Jediists, you sure do know how to lead a righteous life.

Next comes a not as popular fandom, but very much my personal favorite religious group (I happen to consider myself a member), the Whovians. With the philosophy of a supreme being caring after all of the species of the universe, the only one of His kind, living outside of time and throughout all of space comes the universe’s coolest alien – the Doctor. His kindness and his greatness is recognized throughout the entire universe by allies and enemies alike, at least up until *SPOILER ALERT* the 11th Doctor fakes his own death with the help of his beloved River Song in Season 6, causing the entirety of the universe to think him dead and allow him to escape the watchful eyes of the Silence as well as every other watchful eye in space. This hiding maneuver is similar to the resurrection of Christ, as the Doctor “comes back from the dead” in order to save everyone and everything he is willing to save even if it means getting killed in the process. But what makes the Doctor separate from Jesus is that the Doctor isn’t perfect and makes mistakes of his own. He latches on to his companions and brings them on great adventures that sometime end in death, broken hearts, or forgotten memories.

I have not seen any of Doctor Who from before the Ninth Doctor, which is right where the Doctor comes back as the only survivor of his race from the great battle known as the Time War, but he was still the superhero companion in a blue box whisking people away on adventures through time and space according to completely reliable internet sources. Although he has not been the only one of his kind – such as Christ – forever, he has been the last of his kind for the majority of Whovians in the modern world, as the majority of his following is a broader, younger audience across the globe who have, too, only seen Doctor Who since the Ninth Doctor was introduced.

As the Doctor is obviously not perfect, but almost human in how he makes mistakes and has feelings parallel to humanity, he learns from his mistakes and always tries to do his best in any given situation. He is seen as a teacher and a philosopher as well as a companion of greater good, compromising him as a similar supreme being in Buddhism. As seen in a Youtube video by pbsideachannel, religion is a form of cosmology, which is the perfect teaching tool provided by the Doctor to not only his companions, but to his viewers as well.

And so comes the religion revolving around Whovianism. A mass amount of followers who are taught to open their minds and take in the universe around them, taking a different view on life and existence, method and reason, and who display a great liking and love for the supreme being who guides them all into the past, present, and future known as the Doctor. I know from my experience that Doctor Who has opened my eyes several times to so many possibilities about the meaning of my own existence and how I should react to life and chances and uncertain situations, as well as learning the true meaning of companionship and loss and betrayal. I honestly don’t think anything has struck me as much as Doctor Who has emotionally, mentally, or psychologically, and that is why my being a Whovian is so important.

Continuing onward, the final religion I would like to talk about is the religion revolving around superheroes! These All-Powerful characters have a variety of similarities to the human race regardless of being human or not, as well as a one-up on the human race just because they are not completely human, but just a little bit better (except Batman – he is just more awesome). But think about it, the situation is similar to that of both Jediism and Whovianism with the idea that in these made-up fantasy worlds there exists one supreme race or being that continues to save the day constantly without asking for anything in return and has an air of justice, greatness, loyalty, and kindness.

From Superman to Spiderman to Iron Man (why are they all men??) several followers dedicate their time and money to uplifting these characters into the realm of gods by putting them so far above the human race with their powers and relationships and overcoming goodness. There is no philosophy that I can think of that would come with the idea of having superheroes as religious icons, except like in the film Kick-Ass where young people decide to become superheroes themselves and act like their still an equal when they are actually better than everyone else. But I suppose the philosophy of being a superhero is putting others before yourself and trying to save the major things in life, although you can’t save everything (or everyone).

The idea of the superhero being a religious icon does not directly relate to any specific religion in the world, but to the idea of having someone to look up to and believe in who has a greater understanding of the universe and what is right and what is wrong. We could call this everyday behavior depending on the person, but I think that followers of superhero comics and movies and books and blogs understand that their love for these characters comes from a desire to understand a bigger picture and a better life with these figures in mind.

The argument between reality and fantasy is extremely present with all of these topics of religious iconography, but the ideas that pull from both are what create these modern religions, especially for the younger generations trying to step back from such a structured realm of religion and forward to a more open mind about reality and life in general.

The philosophies behind each sci-fi or fantasy being allow people to view the universe in a more creative and compelling way, in my opinion, even if it does mean that followers dress up in convincing costumes and role play their favorite characters in order to show their affiliation with said religions. Why not? People can express their love and understanding in any way they want, and rather than putting money in a bowl or praying before bed, these fictionally religious followers cosplay and bake foods with nerdy names and watch these movies and television shows religiously as their form of expression.

There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s kind of awesome and makes organized religion a lot less boring.

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