Culture

What Is Pop Culture Polytheism?

This is Week 2, day 5 of my new 13 Weeks Radical Reading Experiment. I keep a daily journal of the most interesting media that crosses my path each day. See or create something I should check out? Email me at [email protected]

Last year I started experimenting with Instagram. Inspired by PJM columnist Zombie I decided to create an account to A) confuse the hell out of people, B) stir up trouble, and C) explore the truth of what people believe in the world today without the baggage of my existing politically incorrect identity clouding how they addressed me.

As with Zombie, with “Thoth and Ma’at Married” people can’t even tell if I’m a man or woman — the handle includes the names of both male and female Egyptian deities of writing (and thus serves as my stealth so-con way of promoting marriage too). They likewise can’t tell at first glance what my religion, politics, or philosophy are. I use the account to engage with people all across the spectrum of cultures and ideas to try to learn more about where their values come from and how they think. On January 10, one of the atheists that I follow posted a photo in which he asked for anyone to ask him his opinion about anything. I asked which side he supported in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Here’s the exchange that followed and the revealing admission from an atheist about where he really learned right from wrong in our pop culture-dominated world today:

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So he simultaneously admits he knows nothing but expresses his preset ideological opinion that the governments are driven by money and the militaries by primitivism.

Here’s when I drop my counterculture conservative provocation, defining the evil in the issue and then seeing how he or any of his followers choose to react to the facts:

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Did my provocation catch any fish? Yes, two revealing responses. The first a somewhat innocent, naive idealist, and the second doubting my facts.

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One thing that I’ve learned in these exchanges over the years is to try to cut to the key points you want to make. Don’t go on and on. Just give the link and state your idea. Over-writing is a sign that you’re not confident in what you’re saying.

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Here’s where I pose the question that really matters to me for my research and writing: if you’re an atheist, from where do you get your values? I then offer a number of possibilities. Usually I’ll try to throw out five or six, here just three:

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Sounds like a good punk rock song title, doesn’t it? “Let Me Stab to Be Corrected.” This is a much more cordial exchange than many that I have with more hostile secularists. But then again, with this particular meme it allowed for more of a thoughtful discussion. Perhaps I should start experimenting with using “Ask My Opinion” and “Ask Anything” type images to fish for more interesting questions…

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I’ve found that one of the easiest ways to remind atheists that there are multiple ways of reading the Bible is to start talking about Maimonides. See Douglas Rushkoff’s Nothing Sacred: The Truth About Judaism for the accessible introduction that turned me on to the Rambam not just as a Jewish theologian, but as a foundational thinker of Western civilization and one of the inspirers of the Renaissance, Enlightenment, and the founding of America.

And here’s where I got the kind of off-hand, not-even-thinking-about-it, honest admission that I look for when engaging in these kinds of exchanges:

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It’s hard for me to pinpoint with as much precision as @isaac_of_portage just which specific pop culture properties most influenced my values and understanding of good and evil. There are just so many from Star Wars to Super Mario to the Disney canon which shaped my childhood and initial adolescence much more than the irregular church attendance in mushy Methodism.

Though, as I mentioned in the exchange, seeing Schindler’s List in seventh grade — amidst the controversy of it being broadcast uncensored, commercial-free on NBC — did psychologically scar me somehow. But it’s a way that I needed to be scarred — it was one of the big beginning-to-wake-up-to-evil moments that would take a long time to process. Throughout my life in my obsessions with movies, books, comics, and video games, I understand that I’ve been influenced both for the good and the bad. Some pop culture properties derive from the foundational stories and myths of Western civilization, others are reinventions of the primitive, pre-modern death cults which one needs to understand in order to make much sense of the first five books of the Bible. (I’ve found from years of these kinds of exchanges that many secularists misinterpret the Bible to such an extent that they end up taking the side of the Egyptians and Canaanites, not realizing just what the ancient Hebrews were rebelling against — nature worship, human sacrifice and temple prostitution.)

So when I talk about Pop Culture Polytheism, I don’t do so with complete condemnation, because it is a religion that I have practiced to one degree or another all my life and still do to a lesser, more controlled extent today. Pop culture polytheists are those who use pop culture properties as substitutes — or supplements — to religion. You can be a Christian, Jew, Buddhist, secular humanist, etc. first and a pop culture polytheist second — many people are, more should be.

When pop culture is understood as a tool for us to better understand and engage with the world then it’s useful and valuable. When it’s held up as how we should model ourselves, when the figures dancing across the screen become like the gods on Mount Olympus, then we’ve got a problem. And that’s what we have to face and confront today. Pop culture polytheism can be a wonderful thing — my wife and I bond deeply over our shared Disney and Star Trek enthusiasms — but it is only a toolbox, not a foundation upon which to build a life. So in keeping with my third New Year’s resolution…

10 Headlines from Around the Web this Week

Starting With 6 Pop Culture Polytheist Idols of the Age

1.Mediaite: The Church of ‘Yeezianity’ Is a New Religion That Worships Kanye West

This is of course something that West has inspired since posing as Jesus on the cover of Rolling Stone. He put out the magick spell of himself as the Messiah and others took him up on his offer.

2. Jessica Winter at Slate: Did Woody Allen Molest His Adopted Daughter 22 Years Ago?

In November,Vanity Fair published Maureen Orth’s revisitation of the Allen-Farrow scandal, including the first-ever media interview with Dylan. The interview was a bombshell: Dylan (who now uses a different name) did not waver from the story she told at age 7 about Allen molesting and sexually assaulting her in the attic of her mother’s home in Connecticut, on Aug. 4, 1992. On her side is her brother, media-star-in-the-making Ronan Farrow. After Allen received a lifetime-achievement award at last Sunday’s Golden Globes ceremony,Ronan tweeted, “Missed the Woody Allen tribute—did they put the part where a woman publicly confirmed he molested her at age 7 before or after Annie Hall?”

So what should an outside observer make of the Allen-Farrow debacle, two decades after the fact?

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In his June 1993 ruling, Wilk also denied Allen any visitation rights with Dylan or his older adopted child with Farrow, 15-year-old Moses. In May 1994, in a hearing considering custody or increased visitation for Allen, the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court cited a “clear consensus” among psychiatric experts involved in the case that Allen’s “interest in Dylan was abnormally intense.”

Popular culture celebrates criminality — both on screen and off. Someday a lot of people are going to be very ashamed that they gave Allen the benefit of the doubt for all these years. I suspect that some day we’ll have a better idea of the full extent of the truth. If Allen is who his accusers claim he is then eventually more victims will emerge. And too many to be denied.

But will anybody care? They still listen to Michael Jackson songs, don’t they?

3. Uproxx: If The Posters For This Year’s Oscar-Nominated Movies Were Honest

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Why does Martin Scorsese have to keep remaking the same movie about violent, sex-obsessed, macho jerks over and over again?

4. Buzzfeed: Why “12 Years A Slave” Star Lupita Nyong’o Should Be Your New Fashion Idol

But you should also know her as YOUR NEW FASHION IDOL AND A GODDESS WALKING AMONGST US.

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5. …but also oozes goddess in this sleek, formfitting little black dress.

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13. And don’t let the white man’s lighting fool you, HER SKIN IS A FLAWLESS BLANKET OF FLAWLESS.

BOW. DOWN.

So is it her fashion sense that’s being worshiped or her skin color?

5. Andrew Johnson at National ReviewABC Swoons: 50 Ways to Celebrate Michelle Obama’s Birthday

In preparation for the first lady’s 50th birthday on Saturday, ABC News hasserved up a fawning list 50 ways to celebrate the occasion.

It highlights Michelle Obama’s most memorable and glamorous moments. Below, ten examples from the list, which you can read in full here:

Dance to Beyonce

Move into a massive new house with your family and invite your mother to move in too

Make the cover of Vogue

Buy a Jason Wu dress

Hang out with your friend, Oprah

Same question.

6. Uproxx: 10 Better Ways Of Spending The $10,000 Jezebel Paid For Untouched Lena Dunham Photos

There are no winners here. Anna Wintour put Lena Dunham on the cover of Vogue, and Photoshopped out all the physical imperfections that make Dunham, y’know, a human being. Meanwhile, Jezebel offered $10,000 for the untouched photos, and within “two hours of offering [the money], [they] received six allegedly unaltered images.” But not without controversy: Brooklyn Magazine perhaps put it best, or at least the most succinct, with the headline, “Jezebel Offers $10,000 For Unretouched Lena Dunham Photos from Vogue; So, F*ck You Jezebel.”

The high priorities of the leading third wave feminist publication today.

Last night The Wife and I watched the first two episodes of the new season. What struck me as very awkward during the sex scenes is that with the new short haircut and her insistence on displaying her body she honestly looks more boyish than feminine. So these supposedly heterosexual scenes end up having this creepy homoerotic undertone to them. Hannah doesn’t look or behave like a mature woman; in both instances she’s a teenage boy. I knew too many Hannahs in college. She unfortunately is a voice of a generation.

That’s really the nature of the show and of many secular millennial pop culture polytheists: today’s politically correct ideology has pushed girls to aspire to be more masculine and men to be more feminine. In a bigger expression it’s what we see in Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarrett making the big decisions while hapless, wimpy Barack Obama goes out to whine that his approval ratings are tanking because people just don’t like the idea of a black president.

7. Frozen Blood for lions via, the I F–ing Love Science Page:

Allowing lions in zoos to have access to treats like this is all part of their enrichment. They are also given frozen meat and fish, just as something new to try. Zookeepers will also develop the lions’ sense of smell by introducing a variety of scents into the exhibit, such as urine of different animals, strong-smelling herbs, wood chips, and more. Large, durable toys are given to keep them occupied. This includes plastic balls and the favorite of cats of every size: cardboard boxes.Photograph by Photo Paul Jeffers / The Age

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Nature is endlessly fascinating and we should study and appreciate it but when you F***ing love it then problems emerge. Loving nature is only a bad thing when you love it more than human beings.

8. Mediaite: New American Apparel Mannequins Showing Off ‘Rawness and Realness of Sexuality’ with…

Pubic hair on female mannequins now. How soon until male mannequins start sporting Priapus-style erections?

9. Time: More Than 11 Million Young People Have Fled Facebook Since 2011

Skeptics of Facebook’s business model have long pointed to anecdotal evidence that the social network is losing its luster with teens as evidence that the firm will ultimately be unable to justify its $140 billion valuation. Indeed, even Facebook itself admitted last fall that it had lost younger users. “We did see a decrease in [teenage] daily users [during the quarter], especially younger teens,” Facebook chief financial officer David Ebersman said during a call with analysts.

New Year’s resolution #2, an attempt to escape a pernicious form of pop culture polytheism that has held me for almost a decade now:

I invite others to join me in the social media exodus. Time to start packing up your bags (storing away any media worth remembering — like those first conversations with the girl who would someday become your wife) and getting ready to leave.

10. This 12 Year Old Girl Just Died. The Letter Her Parents Discovered Afterwards Is Heart Shattering.

Dear Taylor,

How’s life? Life is pretty simple right now (10 years in your past). I know I’m late for you, but as I’m writing, this is early, so; congratulations on graduating high school! If you didn’t go back and keep trying. Get that degree! Are you (we) in college? If not, I understand. We do have pretty good reasoning, after all.

Don’t forget, it’s Allana’s 11th birthday today! Sheesh, 11 already? In my time, she just turned 1! I didn’t get to go to that party though, because I was in Cranks, Kentucky for my first mission trip. I’ve only been back for 6 days!

Speaking of, how’s your relationship with GOD? Have you prayed, worshipped, read the bible, or gone to serve the lord recently? If not, get up and do so NOW! I don’t care what point in our life we’re in right now, do it! He was mocked, beaten, tortured, and crucified for you! A sinless man, who never did you or any other person any wrong!

I’m going to keep linking to and promoting a variety of religious perspectives at PJ Lifestyle. In doing so, I’m not trying to convert anyone to my religion or anyone else’s, because honestly I don’t know which religion is best. I anticipate changing my religious practices another few dozen times over the coming decades. (Changing religious practices doesn’t necessarily mean changing one’s values or beliefs, by the way…)

In my wanderings amidst the maze of pop culture polytheist idols I haven’t yet found the single correct theology. And I don’t anticipate coming across it anytime soon. It’s the journey of getting there that seems to matter more…

PJ Media Story Round Up from Friday

Lead PJM Stories

Rodrigo Sermeno: New Year, New Strikes on Big Banks

Bill Straub: Critic of Healthcare.gov Security Now Says All Is A-OK

Roger L. Simon: The Oscars Have No ‘Lone Survivor’

Ron Radosh: John Judis’ Despicable Attack on the Jewish State

Bryan Preston: Sensenbrenner (R-WI) Partners with Far-Left, Soros-Funded Groups to Restore VRA Bill

Bryan Preston: Weinstein UNCHAINED — The Top 7 Most Violent, Gun-Toting Harvey Weinstein Films

Ed Driscoll: Interview: Hugh Hewitt on The Happiest Life

PJTV’s Afterburner with Bill Whittle: ‘Mailing It In’ (Video)

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New at PJ Lifestyle

Walter Hudson: Kanye West’s Ingenious Solution to Racism

Chris Queen: Abigail Disney Doubles Down On Disinformation About Her Great Uncle Walt

John Boot: 5 Reasons Tom Clancy Might Be Smiling at the New Jack Ryan Reboot

Bethany Mandel: The Gosselin Twins Get Some Payback

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New at PJ Tatler

Did TIME Magazine Just Curse Hillary for 2016?

Just What Constitutes ‘Humane’ Execution?

From the PJ Tatler’s Editor Bryan Preston in Texas

Obama to Announce Sham NSA Reform Today

VIDEO: Obama Admin Doesn’t Even Know How Many Obamacare Enrollees Have Paid Up

Magic Johnson Touts Government Healthcare to Help Him Out of Health Problems that Magic’s Johnson Got Him Into

Regarding the Malevolence of Obama’s Economic Policies

Weinstein UNCHAINED — The Top 7 Most Violent, Gun-Toting Harvey Weinstein Films

Sensenbrenner (R-WI) Partners with Far-Left, Soros-Funded Groups to Restore VRA Bill

From PJM’s Washington D.C. Editor Bridget Johnson

Senators Want to Make Bipartisan State of the Union Dates the Norm

Government-Waste Watchdog Coburn Stepping Down at End of the Year

From PJM’s Breaking News Columnists

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From PJM’s Colordado Editor, Vodkapundit Stephen Green,

Trash Can Mac

I’ll Have the Usual, Whatever It Is

Brit Wit Snits White House Twit

Keep on Truckin’

Your ♡bamaCare!!! Fail of the Day

The Return of Kido Butai?

The Florida Bellwether Is Lovely This Time of Year

News You Can Use

All the Cool Kids Are Buying It (And It Isn’t Weed)

Required Reading

iPhone’s Monster Debut on China Mobile

Buddy, Can You Spare a Big Fat Check?

JCP to Shed 2,000 Employees and 33 Stores

Your Daily Dose of Schadenfreude

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From PJM’s San Jose editor Ed Driscoll

Hollywood, Then and Now

‘Dolly Birds of the Hindu Kush’

Barack to the Future! ABC Goes Full Monarchist

Well, Now We Know Who Framed Dr. Richard Kimble

Blue on Blue: Liberal Senators Attack the New York Times

Holy Home Video, Batman!

Benghazi: The Video Didn’t Do It