In the News: Candles, Kombucha, Crocodiles, and more!

A round-up of the week’s religion news. Continue Reading →

Celebrity Relics

From “On the Religious Roots of Celebrity Worship” at (Philadephia Inquirer/Daily News):

“There’s a kind of cultural fascination with special people who are marked out for greatness but who die young and often in tragic or violent circumstances,” says Geary, author of Furta Sacra: Thefts of Relics in the Central Middle Ages (Princeton University Press, 2008).

Just look at celebrity funerals, says Laderman, who traces today’s cult of the famous back to Rudolph Valentino’s 1926 funeral. The crowds, Laderman says, were in a collective hysteria one usually associates with religious states.

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The Meaning of Relics

If the Pope says it’s real… Pope Benedict XVI has declared the Shroud of Turin authentic. Writes Chris Armstrong at Grateful to the Dead:

This also seems a bold move by a pope–to declare something authentic that it is well within the realm of science to later declare a fraud (though so far no conclusive proof has been given).

I pulled out my copy of Rag and Bone: A Journey Among the World’s Holy Dead by Peter Manseau, co-founder with Jeff Sharlet of our sister site, Killing the Buddha, to find this quote:

Even if an object is not genuinely what believers profess it to be — such as Chaucer’s feather of the angel Gabriel — it becomes the locus of belief for centuries. And it is in this belief that faith is made. For the faithful, to pray to a relic displayed in its reliquary — even to a blackened and shriveled tongue — is like shining sunlight through a magnifying glass. A relic concentrates the beliefs surrounding it until they can be seen: it is faith so intense it has, at times, set the world on fire.

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