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Zissou's avatar

American culture is becoming more secular -- so why is there so much religious imagery in our entertainment lately?

Asked by Zissou (2962points) October 4th, 2016

In surveys, the number of Americans who classify themselves as practicing Christians or Jews is on the wane. So why is the use of Judaeo-Christian tropes in American mass entertainment on the rise? Lucifer, Sleepy Hollow, The Exorcist etc.

“These intellects may not believe in God, but they fear us just the same.” —Erykah Badu

“tropes” is probably not the right word, but I think my point is clear enough.

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14 Answers

cookieman's avatar

I’m not sure, but I will say that while I am an agnostic, I have always been fascinated with religious art and architecture. I love churches. It may simply be a fascination on the part of the storytellers. Plus, there’s so much history and emotion tied to religion, it makes for good story grist.

Seek's avatar

It’s the flailing death-gasp of fundamentalism.

I wouldn’t say that remakes of religious-themed horror/thriller stories is necessarily the result of this. I notice it more when I watch older movies, and how blatantly secular they are.

In fact, just last night (I couldn’t sleep) I was watching a 1957 film called An Affair to Remember, and the guy passively mentions not having darkened the door of a chapel since he was an altar boy. It wasn’t a major part of the story, just banter between himself and his grandmother. So the guy isn’t big on church. NBD.

If that film came out this year, that conversation would either not exist, or it would be a major aspect of the character. The whole rest of the movie would be crying back to why he doesn’t go to church, whether he’s going to marry his new sweetheart in a church or refuse to. Everyone would have an opinion on that point.

Once upon a time the extent to which one practiced a religion was simply their own choice and none of anyone’s damn business.

kritiper's avatar

Think about it. So many different plots, genres and what-have-yous have been produced over the years since television originated, what’s left??

Seek's avatar

So much.

Think of how many books have been written since the invention of the printing press.

Human creativity knows no bounds.

Cruiser's avatar

Lucifer, Sleepy Hollow, The Exorcist etc….these examples you give are quite old movies that maybe their religious themes were more relevant when they were made…yet today would not posses the religious impact they had back then.

Zissou's avatar

^No, I’m talking about the current TV shows that go by those titles. I did like the Easter eggs they put in the pilot for The Exorcist—the references to the 70s movie that they snuck in. (I guess closing with “Tubular Bells” wasn’t very sneaky, but the other one I caught was more subtle. Maybe there were more that I missed.)

JLeslie's avatar

I think because the more obviously secular we are, the more some religious people feel under attack and afraid. We might be more and more secular in terms of percentages of the population, but we are also more and more out there and vocal. I think this makes the sides more and more clannish, rather than just living together in society in harmony.

Even if atheists do nothing, just constantly boasting about the statistics is scary to some people who feel God watches over the US, and if we fail to please Him He might no longer be pleased with us. We are a special nation, because we are a God loving/fearing nation. That’s what some people believe.

Cruiser's avatar

@Zissou That said then it is a failure on the producers to recognize just how the layers that once defined the religious elements of these classics have long ago dissolved away to no longer be relevant today as they once were. IMHO further exemplifies how lacking and desperate today’s producers, writers and directors are for original screenplays. Regurgitating classics while ignoring the obvious changes in perception of sacred cows todays’ millenials have or are oblivious to is more an indictment of the laziness and lack of creativity of today’s producers and filmmakers.

Zissou's avatar

For those who haven’t seen these shows, none are actually endorsing traditional religious views—quite the opposite. I’ve only seen one episode of each, but they seem to me to be just using the religious material as an easy way to add some sort of extra emotional impact. The Exorcist seems to take the material semi-seriously, although it takes some shots at institutionalized religion. The other two seem to be more or less tongue-in-cheek in their use of religious material. So the kind of thing I’m talking about here is different from something like God is Not Dead that is explicitly affirming religion and trying to appeal to a conservative Christian audience.

@Cruiser well… yes and no. You may be right about what the producers et al. are lacking, but rather than ignoring contemporary changes in attitude, I fear they may be pandering to them. If you haven’t seen these shows, maybe watch an episode and see what you think. None are remakes in the strictest sense of the term, though the Exorcist comes closest to being a remake.

rojo's avatar

I have got to watch the original “Exorcist” again., It has been too long. Might rent it and watch it with my daughter and granddaughter.

ucme's avatar

Religion: Great for wars & horror movie plots…forever & ever & ever & ever…

SecondHandStoke's avatar

Why would I want every film to be based on a true story?

LostInParadise's avatar

I wonder to what extent the religious films are feeding off of the public interest in superhero and fantasy movies and television programs, a kind of escape into the supernatural.

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