Throughout history, religion has been a major part of almost every civilization that has existed. Religious beliefs have always served as an explanation for phenomena that were otherwise inexplicable. This dependence on religion to explain the unexplainable made people very reliant on whatever religion they subscribed to. However, as time has gone on and the societies of the world has progressed, traditional religion has taken somewhat of a backseat in the lives of many people in the world.
In the present society, modern religion is often interpreted on a very individual basis, and can frequently xclude any actual deity or religion. For example, cultural icons such as Oprah Winfrey and Beyonce have evolved from being simply pop culture figures to becoming cultural leaders that have created a following similar to one that a religious figure would have. In a modern world, established religions such as Christianity and Judaism have seen a decline in the amount of people who actively practice their religion, and a rise in the amount of people who describe themselves as “spiritual” rather than “religious”.
This shift is particularly interesting and reflects how modern society perceives religion on a much more ndividual basis than it has in the past, and how our culture has made a shift towards becoming much more secular. The world that we live in is also heavily influenced by consumerism, which is partially responsible for the transition from a traditionally religious culture to a consumer culture that worships people who actually produce something for us.
Although it is frequently viewed as controversial, the rise of secularization in today’s society is undeniable and is evidenced by the fact that the world today is impacted more by the words of cultural icons such as Oprah Winfrey and Beyonce than it is affected by the teachings of actual theological figures. Perhaps the most interesting piece of literature that we have come across over the course of this semester was Oprah: The Gospel of an Icon by Kathryn Lofton.
In this text, Lofton explores the effects that Oprah Winfrey has had on culture and society, and how she has created a following that mirrors the following of an actual religious deity. Oprah has utilized her charisma and her personal opinions to create an enormous following of people that hold her in extremely high esteem, not unlike how some people would regard an mportant religious figure. Lofton states, “After watching an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, leafing through the magazine, or scanning the official Web site, one finds it imperative to do something” (Lofton 24).
Oprah Winfrey has become not only a style icon, but also a lifestyle. In the days of her talk show, any product, book, or item of clothing that was featured in a segment would immediately be sold out and become the new biggest craze. Oprah’s dedicated viewers were desperate to get their hands on anything that would allegedly make their lives better. This crazed dedication can be compared o many actual religious figures, such as Jesus Christ and his twelve disciples.
Oprah’s overarching influence on society is also very similar to the way that many religious teachings influence society, specifically Christianity. Christianity frequently teaches that one must care for themselves in order to reflect goodness outwards, which is coincidentally also one of the main methods of self improvement taught by Oprah Winfrey. All of the products, vacations spots, books, and yoga poses that she talks about are described as being completely life changing, and promise to improve your entire existence.
With this promise, Oprah’s viewers buy all of these products in order to obtain the ideal lifestyle that they constantly pine after. Oprah sells the idea of a perfect life to her disciples through small exterior changes that supposedly lead to a better life. Lofton supports this by saying, “Nothing in the world of O is every about merely framing or containing the good, however. It is also always about betterment through the frame, the improvement of the interior through exterior reformations. ” (Lofton 29).
Oprah is undeniably comparable to an actual religious deity due to the impact that er words have on her massive amount of loyal followers, not unlike the way in which a real god would impact society. While many would agree that religion is declining while individual spirituality and unique interpretations of the idea of “religion” are on the rise, there are still some that would say that modern religion is changing, but still a strong force in today’s society.
The book, After God, written by Mark C. Taylor, explores the topic of religic book, Taylor recognizes that the term “religion” has evolved over time and asks the important question of what exactly religion is in today’s world. However, he disagrees with the idea that religion is dying. Taylor supports this by saying, “By now it should be clear that it far from disappearing, the influence of religion continues to grow. ” (Taylor 4). He goes on to support his claim with information about how although religion is unarguably changing and evolving to fit a more modern world, it still remains rooted in the original place that it has always stood.
Regardless, Taylor’s statements are consistently supportive of the belief that religion will always be essentially the same, and will not be affected or killed by the presence of new cultural factors. However, in attempting to support his own argument, he recognizes that religion is not always limited to the classic ways that it has always been perceived, which allows for new interpretations, such as the idea that Oprah is a modern religious figure.
He stated, “To begin to appreciate the complex interrelation between religion and secularity, it is necessary to develop an expanded notion of religion. Religion is not limited to what occurs in churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples; rather, there is a religious dimension to all culture. (Taylor 3). This quote was particularly interesting, due to the fact that the uthor is using it to support his claim, but it fundamentally supports the contrasting idea that modern religion has evolved to be a much more diverse subject than it has ever been before, in conjunction with postmodernism.
In his and that the former perception of religion is completely a thing of the past. Taylor’s views are very easy to argue, considering the fact that his main arguments are conflicting with each other. Although he does admit that religion is changing as time goes on, he also repeatedly says that religion is not evolving into something new, and that it will always have the same effect on ociety. It is impossible for something to be constantly changing yet not change the impact that it has on other things around it.
This enforces the idea that religion is constantly changing so therefore it is evolving into something that impacts the world differently, and it is inherently different than it was a thousand years ago, a hundred years ago, or even twenty years ago. The idea of stereotypically cultural figures serving as modern religious figures is no longer out of question and has become a very real part of the world that we live in. Recently, cultural icon Beyonce Knowles released a visual lbum titled Lemonade.
This album has already made an enormous cultural impact due to the statements that it makes about women and African Americans in current society, and has also drawn attention for its strong theological undertones. The entire album is “laced with religious imagery” (Lee), and in one of the videos, Beyonce is seen diving from the top of a building with her arms stretched out, intentionally calling images of Christ into the minds of the viewer. The impact that the album has had on the world in the week since it has been released speaks volumes for the power over our society that this one woman yields.