I'm of an opinion similar to Hildeburh. Per the intent of the term (as it was coined) "pop culture," the ancient mythologies don't fit the definition. Mythologies were not born simply among the lower uneducated masses (not a slight but as in "those not of the wealthy educated upper sectors"). They were born of man's progress towards understanding, spanning history to science, his existence and connection to the world around him. Pop cultural developments also arise primarily for entertainment purposes such as the rise of "pop"(ular) music or fashion. While fads are often short term, they can become long-term which makes them trends and eventually interwoven into staples within the given society.
But the gods and lore as "pop culture"? IMO not really. They were "popular" but as the term is often used in academia to refer to "folk" or "household", so they're of the masses in that regard but not in the same regard as evolving hairstyles or clothing. The religions many seek to reconstruction were the "popular" because they were of the people as a whole.
That said, I'm not voicing a value assessment on pop-culture polytheism, just observing it is a different thing from traditional polytheism or even neopaganism.
Last Edit: Jan 21, 2016 13:20:13 GMT -6 by callisto
I don't see how you think Pop Culture is born of the "lower uneducated masses"? My mind immediately goes to Lord of the Rings, which was developed by an university professor.
"They were born of man's progress towards understanding, spanning history to science, his existence and connection to the world around him." You just described Star Trek, though.
When we are talking about "Pop Culture" in the "Pop Culture Paganism" sense, we mean it to mean religions based around modern-day stories and media. A lot of people don't like the terminology of "Pop Culture Pagan" for reasons you described, but there currently isn't any new term to replace it (that I know of.)
The difference between PC Paganism and "Ancient" Paganism is an interesting one, though. I am of the view there are more similarities than naught, but even if PC Paganism is a whole new breed of religion I don't think that undervalues it.
"I don't see how you think Pop Culture is born of the 'lower uneducated masses'?"
That is the actual definition. Note in The Oxford Dictionary:
popular culture Culture based on the tastes of ordinary people rather than an educated elite: the assimilation of elements of popular culture into the fine arts an icon of popular culture,
Also the abbreviated variation,
pop culture: Modern popular culture transmitted via mass media and aimed particularly at younger people: 'fashion, music, and the iconography of pop culture offered the perfect medium for profit'
This does not describe ancient or even most modern religions. And when the field of pop culture is discussed, what it is commonly referred to are the areas of fashion, music, politics, language, and technology. And yes, pop culture is often criticized as somehow corrupting or dumbing down society, often exemplified in "kids these days, back in MY day…" or religions seeing the rise in popularity of something as challenging the moral and ethical fiber of society. When religions have come out of pop culture, they have at times been considered destructive and/or mind-controlling cults, such as in the case of Manson, or L. Ron Hubbard's creation of Scientology. Occasionally new religions are inspired by fiction, such as the Church of All Worlds which was partially influenced by Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land.
My mind immediately goes to Lord of the Rings, which was developed by an university professor.
It's also not intended as a serious study into the actual existence of Man but is seen as a form of entertainment for the masses. It did not originate on par with the ancient mythologies. Middle Earth and its inhabitants are not intended to be considered real or as a plausible explanation for humanity, we're not assumed to believe humanity is the Second race. Ditto for other fleshed out fictional universes, we are not the lost thirteenth colony of Kobol nor are we to assume the ancient gods are parasitic beings that enslaved humanity for thousands of years or that Klingons and Vulcans exist.
When we are talking about "Pop Culture" in the "Pop Culture Paganism" sense, we mean it to mean religions based around modern-day stories and media.
Yes, I understand that. But the modern day effort of a Jedi religion (for example) didn't coalesce in the same manner of the world's ancient religions. Spiritual awareness predates mythologies. The latter came subsequent to man already attempting to comprehend life and death (e.g., animism, pantheism, totemism, etc.). George Lucas wanted to tell stories not present a plausible answer to the why of life and man's connection to the divine.
Pop culture movies, novels, etc. like LotR, Star Trek, Star Wars etc. are not classified as religious fiction, they are not intended to be the sources of contemporary religious movements. They were created foremost because the authors needed to earn a living. Sometimes a secondary or tertiary reason might be to cause people to think about an intended socio-political topic but that's not always the case either.
Last Edit: Jan 21, 2016 17:40:31 GMT -6 by callisto
Post by Radha Ní Dhaimhín on Jan 21, 2016 21:40:36 GMT -6
Just a quick reminder to everyone participating in this chat that we are discussing people's religions here and it's best not to cast judgement or aspersions on the paths they choose or are called to. If the conversation continues in a disparaging vein towards Pop Culture Polytheists, I'm going to have to hand out warnings, etc.
Please be respectful of all people's paths! [After all, I distinctly remember Rick Riordan of Percy Jackson fame making disparaging remarks about the Hellenic Polytheist community. If that could cause a (justifiable) uproar among modern practitioners, then belittling Pop Culture polytheists definitely feel a reciprocal effect (and more) from those who argue that because their ways are "older," they are more legitimate.] Treat others as you would like to be treated!
I did not cast judgment or make aspersions upon any person or any body's religion. As I stated in my original post, "I'm not voicing a value assessment on pop-culture polytheism, just observing it is a different thing from traditional polytheism or even neopaganism." That's not an assertion of "older = legitimate", antiquity wasn't cited as some kind of quality factor.
If some part(s) of the information in my posts is incorrect then I genuinely welcome any input that would add insight. I don't become offended just because someone knows something other or has a different take on a topic, I see it as a chance to learn.
It was my understanding that a primary reason for having these boards is to share information so that members can exchange knowledge about their own religions as well as gain knowledge about others. If I'm incorrect about that, then I apologize and please let me know how I got that wrong. I welcome learning more. With different people of different practices and different ranges in knowledge and experience it seems, to me, that there will also be a wide range of perspectives.
Last Edit: Jan 21, 2016 22:16:52 GMT -6 by callisto
Hello callisto , I'm Deuognatos, the new PCP moderator. I figured I'd help clear up what people are bothered by in this thread since I have some knowledge on all these topics, and hopefully get this back on track. Apologies beforehand for how long this is, I wanted to address the different points thoroughly and can be wordy.
In your initial post it looks like you are saying two very different things. You start out by talking about why ancient mythology is not pop culture, a valid discussion topic. Your next line, however, is this:
Mythologies were not born simply among the lower uneducated masses (not a slight but as in "those not of the wealthy educated upper sectors"). They were born of man's progress towards understanding, spanning history to science, his existence and connection to the world around him. Pop cultural developments also arise primarily for entertainment purposes such as the rise of "pop"(ular) music or fashion. While fads are often short term, they can become long-term which makes them trends and eventually interwoven into staples within the given society.
What this statement seems to imply (though this may not be your intent! but this is how it comes across) is that only ancient religions can give 'understanding', 'history' or 'science' and can tell us anything about 'existence and connection to the world'. Then you talk about pop culture being 'for entertainment purposes', implying that the two exclude one another, and that pop culture can give no understanding of 'history', 'science', or humanity's 'existence and connection to the world.' It sounds, therefore, as if you are saying a pop culture based belief system or religion can also do none of these things.
To explain why this is causing so much trouble, I want to use the examples you pulled out: Tolkien's mythos, real-world Jedi organizations, and the Battlestar Galactica Reimagined Series. I have personal experience with all of these. A few years ago, I worked on developing a pop culture religion based around the Valar by close examination of Tolkien's lore "recon-style", and have spent the past year, roughly, as a sometimes-passive sometimes-active member of a few Jedi groups on the web. BSG was an important show in helping me navigate the life of a modern polytheist and bridge my personal gap between science and faith. I just want to point out a few ways your examples don't match what you're saying about them and hope that will help shed light on the conversation.
Tolkien was a devout Catholic, and viewed his worldbuilding as an act of subcreation which, he hoped, would help him to participate in the Creation of God. Would Tolkien be horrified to learn that people worship his creations in the style of paganism, rather than using it as a gateway to Catholicism? Perhaps. But it is important to note that he did intend his subcreation to talk about God, to say something about the human condition, and to evoke feelings of mythology and a kind of awe at storytelling and Creation in his readers. He talks about this in several personal essays and in letters to his editor, and it was clearly an important part of his writing. One that stands out in my memory is when he talks about The Silmarillion as a series of "Falls", in the Biblical sense, and goes on to suggest to the recipient of his letter that his story evokes the eschatological Fall of Man repeated in his stories. So, it cannot be true that Tolkien's writing has nothing in common with ancient mythology, or didn't mean to evoke religious feeling in his readers--it's just that we may not be doing so in exactly the way he hoped. Getting into that deeper is a whole other topic, though, so I'll go on to the Jedi.
George Lucas's final screenplay for Star Wars was based heavily on Campbell's monomyth, which in turn draws heavily from world mythology and seeks to present an 'Ur-Myth' which Campbell believed was the purest and oldest form of mythology and religion in human experience. Lucas used this very intentionally, and the original Star Wars therefore presents a rather perfect form of this monomyth. There are several camps of thought in the real-world Jedi movements going on right now, but the big one, Temple of the Jedi Order, has based its entire training program around not only Campbell's monomyth, but around examining world religions, world philosophy, and bringing them together in a syncretic whole. They have a lot in common with the UU Church in their training program's concept and in their humanitarian statement of faith. Members of the TotJO see Jediism as a syncretic religion, and see Star Wars as being just one expression of the monomyth, which if Campbell is right makes their beliefs in fact very ancient. Jediism started on RP chatrooms, but look how it's grown! Such grassroots tenacity reflects easily how an ancient religion would have grown from a few isolated believers to a large following, and even has its own foundational figures. A new faith, drawing on ancient stories, motifs, and patterns. There are problems inherent here (mostly related to cultural appropriation) but without being aware of those influences how can they ever be addressed?
Even the BSG Reimagined Series is trying to at least make you think about these ideas. I don't know if you have ever read The Philosophy of Battlestar Galactica, but aside from a pretty terrible chapter on polytheism (the writer of that chapter seems unaware that even ancient polytheistic beliefs are still around and assumes you, the reader, are a monotheist), it actually talks pretty deeply about how the show tries to tackle universal themes about humanity, the soul, the universe, etc. And besides, (SPOILERS AHEAD) within the show's lore, we aren't the 13th Colony of Kobol, we're the descendants of the Fleet, with the tongue-in-cheek implication that history eternally repeats itself. While you might think it's ridiculous, there are plenty of people on Earth who believe in ancient aliens or humans coming from another world. (END SPOILERS) The BSG reboot is intentionally referencing these real-world belief systems, and also contains lots of references to real-world philosophies like reincarnation, gods as ancestors, water-crossing in afterlife beliefs, etc. which are very old concepts. BSG solidified my belief in an afterlife and allowed me to contextualize modern polytheism in a modern society. They may not be the Hellenic deities they share names with, but names aside, who is to say the Lords of Kobol do not exist? They gave me hope in a very dark time, there's no reason they could not give that hope to other people as well.
I also want to add that many concepts of modern neopaganism come from the writings of Robert Graves in The White Goddess, "a book-length essay on the nature of poetic myth-making" from 1948--which can unambiguously be called a work of fiction! Inspired, poetic fiction, yes, but one which has led to lots of ideas in neopaganism and which makes it impossible to draw a hard line between neopaganism and pop culture paganism.
I guess the summary of this is that pop culture does not exist in a void. There isn't an immovable wall between ancient myth and modern storytelling. In many ways they share common roots. Whether something belongs to a common people or to an audience of elite patrons doesn't decide whether or not that story has merit. It's the distinction you seem to be making between elite/ancient/good and common/modern/inferior that makes it sound that you're calling pop culture religions less worthy or less meaningful than their ancient counterparts.
All this said, this subforum is for comparison discussion, and there are plenty of things to compare/contrast about new religious movements, pop culture religious movements, reconstructionist movements, and ancient religions. Just be careful that while you are discussing, you do so with all the facts at your disposal, and try to not discredit the ability of those religions to say meaningful and powerful things about human nature, the universe as a whole, or the faith of any individual person for whom those beliefs hold intense worth. I also request that we don't try to debate the definition of "pop culture" here, since this is a board for comparison of belief systems, not for semantic debate. Let's try to steer the topic towards compare and contrast instead. If I might suggest a topic to continue: What about day-to-day practice of pop culture religions vs reconstructed ones?
Last Edit: Jan 23, 2016 3:01:30 GMT -6 by Deuognatos