What is an “Invented Religion”? Why should scholars take these religions seriously? What makes these “inventions” different from the revelations in other religions? What happens when an author does not want their story to become a religious text?
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In this interview with David, Carole M. Cusack (Associate Professor in Studies in Religion at the University of Sydney) answers these questions and more, exploring her notion of “Invented Religions” and introducing the listener to a wide variety of contemporary and unusual forms of religion. Discussion flows through a range of topics – from Discordianism and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to Scientology, Jediism and the New Atheism – and demonstrates how the works of authors such as Thomas Pynchon and Robert A. Heinlein can be transformed by others and take on a life of their own. In her own words, “This is a fiction so good it should be true…”
Carole Cusack trained as a medievalist and her doctorate was published as Conversion Among the Germanic Peoples (Cassell, 1998). Since the late 1990s she has taught in contemporary religious trends, publishing on pilgrimage and tourism, modern Pagan religions, new religious movements, the interface between religion and politics, and religion and popular culture. She is the author of The Essence of Buddhism (Lansdowne, 2001), Invented Religions: Imagination, Fiction and Faith (Ashgate, 2010), and The Sacred Tree: Ancient and Medieval Manifestations (Cambridge Scholars Publishing), 2011.
View Carole’s page on Academia.edu. Of particular relevance to the topic of this interview is her article
Science Fiction as Scripture: Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land and the Church of All Worlds in Christopher Hartney, Alex Norman, and Carole M. Cusack (eds), Creative Fantasy and the Religious Imagination, special issue of Literature & Aesthetics, Vol. 19, No. 2, SSLA, 2009, pp. 72-91. The full text is available here if you have an Academia.edu account (and if you don’t have an Academia.edu account, and are looking to increase your networking and ability to access the most up-to-date research in your area, we suggest that you get one now!).
If you have institutional access to the International Journal for the Study of New Religions, you may also find the following article of interest: Discordian Magic: Paganism, the Chaos Paradigm and the Power of Parody, International Journal for the Study of New Religions, Vol. 2, No. 1, May 2011.