Religion, Humanism and Pop Culture
Posted: 27 September 2007 06:14 PM   [ Ignore ]
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In Israel, religious people talk a lot about the shallowness of their pop culture.

I totally agree with them on that one.

But, if they really believed what they were saying, they would have supported humanistic values of free inquiry, and of artistic expression - that enrich culture.

They do not.

Please help me understand this.

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Posted: 28 September 2007 01:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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wandering - 27 September 2007 06:14 PM

In Israel, religious people talk a lot about the shallowness of their pop culture.

I totally agree with them on that one.

But, if they really believed what they were saying, they would have supported humanistic values of free inquiry, and of artistic expression - that enrich culture.

They do not.

Please help me understand this.

That is wierd! Isn’t religion in a sense, a pop culture too? So why do they not talk about the shallowness of their own religion?

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Posted: 28 September 2007 02:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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because they are not as pop(ular) as they want to be.

I recently leased a new car. They offered me less than I wanted for my trade in. I told them, “I can goto Kia and they will give me $3000 even if I have to tow it in.”

The salesman’s boss said, “But dont you think they will sneak that back in somewhere else?”

“True, they could. But whose to say you are not doing the same thing?”

“We’re being honest.”

“Uh huh.”

Religions do the same thing. “The other pop cultures are shallow, not us.”

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Posted: 28 September 2007 10:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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The culture of a society is what the society accepts and finds enjoyable.  If some complain that the pop culture is too shallow, they should check to see what their own guilty pleasures are, and what the pleasures of their children are.  Many TV programs are really trash, but if you mention them, it’s always fascinating to see how much apparently sophisticated people know about the story line and the characters, even though they wouldn’t admit to watching them.  LOL

The schools and parents have to figure out how to make more intelligent culture enjoyable and attractive to the kids.

Occam

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Posted: 29 September 2007 12:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Hmmm. As a total egghead who listens to Teaching Company lectures for fun, doesn’t watch any television except PBS, and has a thriving reputation as an eclectic, educated intellectual and professional scientist, I will also cop to a fondness for Xena Warrior Princess and the occassional Schwarzeneggar movie. Yes, I wish popular culture catered more to my “highborw” tastes, but I also think the elitism of high culture aficionados (myself included) can be carried too far. Haven’t we always complained about the taste of “the masses,” the music and dress, and morals of the young, etc. I wonder if to some extent anything that reaches some threshold of popularity is likley to be demeaned by one group or another to distinguish themselves by taste and values. The religious bemoan the poor morality of popular culture while the educate complain about it’s lack of sophistication. Both may have a point, but I think there’s some self-serving identity politics at play as well.

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Posted: 29 September 2007 09:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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mckenzievmd - 29 September 2007 12:49 AM

Hmmm. As a total egghead who listens to Teaching Company lectures for fun, doesn’t watch any television except PBS, and has a thriving reputation as an eclectic, educated intellectual and professional scientist, I will also cop to a fondness for Xena Warrior Princess and the occassional Schwarzeneggar movie. Yes, I wish popular culture catered more to my “highborw” tastes, but I also think the elitism of high culture aficionados (myself included) can be carried too far. Haven’t we always complained about the taste of “the masses,” the music and dress, and morals of the young, etc. I wonder if to some extent anything that reaches some threshold of popularity is likley to be demeaned by one group or another to distinguish themselves by taste and values. The religious bemoan the poor morality of popular culture while the educate complain about it’s lack of sophistication. Both may have a point, but I think there’s some self-serving identity politics at play as well.

Well put! I’m actually in the same boat. FWIW, I’ve been known at times to rail at the poor taste of mass culture, but it can be taken too far. Sometimes after a long day of work and intellectual exercise, it can be relaxing to vegetate to some lowbrow pop culture.

... and at any rate we should remember that “it was ever thus”. The Romans had their circuses, we have our pro wrestling ...

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Posted: 29 September 2007 10:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Let me clarify - do you think that the religious are complaining about the poor taste of mass culture, or they have something else in mind?

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Posted: 29 September 2007 10:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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wandering - 29 September 2007 10:10 AM

Let me clarify - do you think that the religious are complaining about the poor taste of mass culture, or they have something else in mind?

Well, in the case of Israel, I don’t know the specifics. But I think quite generally people who complain about mass culture have in mind something that would be better for the masses to pay attention to. Religious folks may prefer that people watch religious propaganda of one kind or another, although that’s not necessarily so. It would depend on the person and the argument.

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Posted: 29 September 2007 10:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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So, how is it in America?

What is it that they are complaining about, and what bothers them?

Are they bothered about the shallowness of pop-culture?

[ Edited: 29 September 2007 10:29 AM by wandering ]
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Posted: 29 September 2007 10:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Interesting thread.  I like morgantj’s point about the relation between religion and pop culture.  They certainly do share many characteristics.

I also agree with both Doug and mckenzievmd who illustrate two possible extremes.
Much of pop culture is quite dumbed down, and I think that this is largely due to the way in which it caters so directly to consensus mass appeal.  In our sort of economy, that’s where the money is.  Such an approach could not possibly encourage the masses to think critically or to enrich themselves through the exploration of novel or more learned material.  I am inclined to believe that it would not only cater to the lowest common denominator, but over time would would encourage intellectual degeneration.  Of course, there is a danger in assuming that anything that is popular is bad and there are many wonderful things in both life and in media that don’t require much deep or critical thought.  There could arise some pretty nasty problems if we were to either attempt to governmentally control the voice of the media mainstream or allow the mainstream to monopolize the whole of the media platform.

I think that these points do also ring true with religion, particularly regarding the manner in which religion unites individuals in tribes and establishes ingroups and outgroups.  It would not help anyone to attempt to ban or forbid religious activity or persecute religious individuals.  However, it is vital that alternative viewpoints have a platform and that religious ideas be engaged critically.  And, without fear of reprisal outside of the intellectual sphere.

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Posted: 29 September 2007 10:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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wandering - 29 September 2007 10:21 AM

So, how is it in America?

What is it that they are complaining about, and what bothers them?

Are they bothered about the shallowness of pop-culture?

I think that at least a few of us who have posted in this thread are Americans, so we represent a part of what America thinks.  Pop culture on the other hand is defined, at least in theory, by the fact that it is popular.  So it is also quite embraced by many Americans, as I’m sure it is in Israel if it is truly “popular.”

Israel and the United States are both nations of individuals and I think you will find a wide divergence of opinion on the topic in both places.

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Posted: 29 September 2007 11:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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wandering - 29 September 2007 10:21 AM

So, how is it in America?

What is it that they are complaining about, and what bothers them?

Are they bothered about the shallowness of pop-culture?

By “they” do you mean the religious conservatives?

I think they complain mostly about non-religious or non-sanctioned lifestyles being depicted in a positive light on regular programming. (Gays, single mothers, etc.) They also object to sex and to what they view as liberal politics.

I rarely see religious conservatives complain about rampant violence, although frankly that appears to me to be more problematic for young kids than sex. But at any rate I would never be in favor of broad censorship. European TV may be just as lowbrow as US, but at least they are a bit more comfortable with the human body.

Of course, I am sure that many religious conservatives also object to lowbrow TV quite generally, and on that we can all be in some measure of agreement.

FWIW, I watch no broadcast TV. I stick to PBS and cable documentaries, as well as nature shows by David Attenborough, Teaching Company videos and the like. But that’s purely out of my own interests. To each his or her own.

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Posted: 29 September 2007 06:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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What????  Doug and Brennen, you mean you don’t watch wrestling and those gawd-awful reality shows?  LOL

Occam

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Posted: 29 September 2007 11:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Occam - 29 September 2007 06:51 PM

What????  Doug and Brennen, you mean you don’t watch wrestling and those gawd-awful reality shows?  LOL

No ...

downer

What am I missing, pray tell?

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Posted: 30 September 2007 12:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Don’t feel so bad.  I don’t watch them either.

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“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 30 September 2007 07:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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[quote=doug]What am I missing, pray tell?

I don’t know.  I’d have to watch them to know what to tell you. LOL

Occam

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