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Religion Through Popular Culture: Overview

What Is Religion?

In simplest terms, religion is a set of beliefs, often revolving around a superhuman presence, that relates humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, traditions, and symbols that are meant to explain the origin of life and give it meaning.

What Is Popular Culture?

There are almost as many definitions of popular culture as there are people. An all-purpose beginning definition is that popular culture, or mass culture, is a set of widely accepted values, conventions, or social practices within the characteristic features of everyday life. Pop culture includes arts, events, trends, and people that grab mainstream societal attention at a specific place or time.

For a more thorough discussion of popular culture consult some of the many popular culture materials in the Library collection, such as:

Danesi, Marcel. Popular Culture: Introductory Perspectives. HM621 D36 2008.

Geist, Christopher D., and Jack Nachbar. The Popular Culture Reader. 3rd. ed. E169.1 P5983 1983.

Opposing Viewpoints: Popular Culture. HM621 P654 2011.

Pendergast, Tom, and Sara Pendergast, eds. St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. 3 vols. Ref E1691.1 S764 2000.

Popular Culture and Religion

This library guide is intended to help identify publications that use popular culture--movies, television, sports, etc.--to discuss religious issues. The publications are organized by general topic; use the tabs along the top of this page to pick your favorites.

This is a work in progress, so check back for new listings.

A Religion & Popular Culture Mini-Reference Shelf

Forbes, Bruce David, and Jeffrey H. Mahan, eds. Religion and Popular Culture in America. 2005. BL2525 R4613 2005. The earlier 2000 edition is available electronically.

Stausberg, Michael, and Steven Engler. The Routledge Handbook of Research Methods in the Study of Religion. BL41 R686 2014. See especially the chapter on Material Culture.

Omidvar, Iraj, and Anne R. Richards, eds. Muslims and American Popular Culture. 2014.

Woods, Robert H., Jr., ed. Evangelical Christians and Popular Culture: Pop Goes the Gospel. 3 vols. 2013. Covers media, art, music and literature; commercialism; and people, places, and events.

Some Databases that Cover Relgions and Popular Culture Topics

Listed here are some databases that cover journals which publish articles on popular culture and religion. Search for broader topics like Popular Culture or Television, or specific subjects like Breaking Bad or Harry Potter. For suggestions on databases that cover religion as well as many other subjects, see the Religion Library Guide or consult a librarian.

Subject Guide

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Suzanne Wise
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Belk Library and Information Commons
Appalachian State University
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Curator of the Stock Car Racing Collection; Bibliographer for the departments of Communication, Computer Science, and Sustainable Technology and the Built Environment

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