Religion and Pop Culture Coexist in RIT Professor’s Book

Richard Santana co-authors book about American religion and mass culture

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Richard Santana, associate professor and chair of Rochester Institute of Technology’s department of English, is exploring how religion and morality are expressed in popular culture and the impact this has on the development of religious themes in American life.

Santana’s newest work in this area is Religion and Popular Culture: Rescripting the Sacred, co-authored with New York University professor Gregory Erickson.

The work discusses the United States’ role as a creator and exporter of popular culture and how that has affected religion in this country. The authors examine themes present in popular music, literature and television/film and compare these to messages present in modern religions. The use of MTV-style videos and rock music by various religious organizations to recruit young people is one example.

“The book is unique because it doesn’t just look at how religion influences culture or vice versa, it examines the ways in which popular mass culture creates religious expression often when it is least expected,” explains Santana. “We examine music as different as Madonna, John Coltrane and Iron Maiden to raise issues about interpretation, cultural value and religious identity.”

Religion and Popular Culture: Rescripting the Sacred, published by McFarland, is Santana’s second book, following Language and the Decline of Magic in 2006 (Edwin Mellen Press).