Emerging Religions | The Sociology of Religion

This response to assignment four is a good response because because it correctly identifies the “authentic core” of religion, which is partly the search for answers. Note how the identification of this common course leads directly to a form of “unification.” Differences between three widely different “emerging religions” (neopaganism, new evangelicals, and metal heads) are erased as the unity of purpose (which is to find acceptable answers) comes shining through.

by Kassidy Olsen

The authentic core is the foundation, central idea, or original purpose for which something was created, founded, or developed. One can discover the authentic core by removing all the fluff and extra trivial aspects that were added on over time. For example, the authentic core or original purpose of Christmas was to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Over the years, the true meaning of Christmas has been buried by Santa Claus, coloured lights, and gift exchanges. At times Christ is completely removed from the holiday, which is evident in the commonly used term ‘Xmas.’

Similarly to the example above, the authentic core of religion often becomes skewed in today’s society. Dr. Mike states that the purpose of religion is to answer the big questions. This is true, however, I would argue even the authentic core and purpose of religion was not solely to answer the big questions. I believe religion was never created, but has always existed with the existence of God. Of course individual institutions have been established and founded on the basis of religion, however, I believe that the central purpose and authentic core of religion goes beyond answering the big questions. It also is about creating and understanding our relationship with the divine. Thus, the big answers are a part of the authentic core of religion, however I do not believe they represent it in entirety.

In many cases the authentic core of religion has been buried by opportunistic corruption, worldly pleasures, and hypocrisy. This shift in priority has resulted in emergent religions such as Neopagans, New Evangelicals, and even heavy metal head bangers. Dr. Mike argues that all of these groups, though different in beliefs, can be classified into the same category because “[they] all reflect the spiritual longing of a collective attempt to answer the big questions in an often critical (if typically impotent) response to status quo hypocrisies and abuses.”

Neopaganism is a relatively new religion, thus it provides a unique study of emergent religion. It stemmed from both ancient Pagans and the new revival. Neopaganism and Wicca are very similar in beliefs and practices. Large group rituals are not emphasized in Neopaganism as they are in traditional religions. In fact, Neopaganists claim that their religion is a rejection of traditional religions and acts as an ally to the women’s movement, is environmentally aware, and most importantly is a religion that stresses relativism. Members are allowed to choose which gods they worship and their preferred form of worship. Individuals are often drawn to Neopaganism because it offers a less male-centric religion and a strong bond with nature. Therefore, Neopaganism fits Dr. Mike’s qualifications for an emergent religion.

New Evangelicalism was the result of orthodox evangelical Protestants who believed the church had separated from fundamentalist Christianity. New Evangelicals believed that the Gospel needed to be reasserted due to the fact that the modernist and liberal parties in the Protestant church had strayed from their heritage as Evangelicals in order to accommodate the views and values of the world. New Evangelicals trusted the teachings in the Bible to be true. Their purpose was to engage the modern world and liberal Christians while maintaining their beliefs. Not becoming worldly, as did the modern and liberal Christians, but at the same time not alienating themselves from the world as the Fundamentalists. The New Evangelicals had a yearning for divine truth to the answers of the big questions, and thus decided to reorganize their religion to find them. In doing so they went against modern beliefs and values and thus can be considered similar to the Neopagans.

Finally, heavy metal head bangers can be classified in the same group of emerging religions along with both Neopagans and New Evangelicals. Heavy metal groups make it known that they are explicitly against and unaffiliated with traditional religions, namely Christianity. However, they can be considered a religious group because of their religious imagery and symbolism that are evident in song lyrics, visual graphics and logos, as well as sonically. Heavy metal concerts are religious rituals and in a way how head bangers worship. Heavy metal is very prevalent in youth culture and is a way for youth to rebel or oppose the traditional religious systems and beliefs of previous generations.

I cannot personally identify with Neopaganism, New Evangelicalism, or heavy metal rockers. However, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I can understand feeling traditional religion has deviated from the authentic core. A young boy, named Joseph Smith, restored the Church of Jesus Christ to the earth in the 1800s. After attending many different churches he was confused and did not know which to join. He believed each religion had components of truth, but each church also had its share of hypocrisy and deviation from Bible principals. I believe that the Lord directed Joseph Smith to help him reestablish the church of Christ in these latter-days. Therefore, there are similarities between my belief system and the Neopaganists, New Evangelicalists, and heavy metal rockers, because each institution was organized to refocus religion to the authentic core – whatever the founders believed the authentic core of religion ought to be.

Thus, I agree with Dr. Mike’s statement that Neopagans, New Evangelicals and heavy metal head bangers can all be grouped together because they all suggest the need for spirituality and answers to the big questions, through separating from traditional established religion due to hypocrisy and straying from the authentic core. However, Dr. Mike’s statement is very broad and could encompass extremely widespread beliefs. It is similar, but not as extreme, to saying the Mormon prophet, the Pope, and Mohammad can be grouped together because they all breathe. It is true, however it is much too unspecific to prove that these three men have a lot in common. The Neopagans practice and worship how and who they please without many firm rules or laws. Conversely, the New Evangelivals wanted to return to the strict teachings in the Bible because they felt the values and views of society had altered them to be too lenient. Finally, heavy metal head bangers reject and oppose all traditional religion. Thus, Neopagans, New Evangelicals and heavy metal head bangers can be consider similar in their purpose for organization and separation, but I would not go as far to say that they have a lot in common.


LaRiviere, M. (2008, January 1). Thoughts of Amherst. Retrieved December 9, 2014, from http://www3.amherst.edu/~thoughts/lariviere.htm

Magout, M. (2013, October 9). Heavy Metal as Religion and Secularization as Ideology. Retrieved December 9, 2014, from http://www.religiousstudiesproject.com/2013/10/09/heavy-metal-as-religion-and-secularization-as-ideology-by-mohammad-magout/

Neo-evangelicalism. (n.d.). Retrieved December 9, 2014, from http://www.theopedia.com/Neo_evangelicalism