Lynn Neal in her classroom
Assistant Professor of Religion Lynn Neal’s first-year seminar considered the everyday applications of religious theory.

Connecting popular culture and contemporary religious life

Assistant Professor of Religion Lynn Neal and her first-year seminar students spent a semester exploring the relationship between religion and popular culture in contemporary American life.

“Our challenge was to take a “fun” topic seriously,” says Neal. “The class examined surprising manifestations of religious life made possible through popular culture. From Simpson spirituality to Christian romance novels to the myth-making of professional wrestling, students investigated three dominant patterns: religion in popular culture, popular culture in religion and popular culture as religion.

As part of the seminar, students formed three groups and made final presentations incorporating what they had learned throughout the semester. One presentation discussed Facebook as a religion, another discussed religion on South Park, and the third addressed Oprah as a religion.

Listen: Facebook as a Religion audio » 14 min.

Listen: Oprah as a Religion audio » 14 min.

Watch: Video clips from the Surprising Spirituality seminar » 4 min.

Photo by Ken Bennett
Web editor Kim McGrath


1. Surprising Spirituality
2. Romance for the Religious
3. Romancing God
4. First-Year Seminar

Listen to Lynn Neal discuss how she came up with the idea for her first-year seminar and what she hopes students take away from the course. (16 min.)

Listen to Mark Pinsky, religion writer for the Orlando Sentinel and author of “The Gospel According to the Simpsons” discuss religion and popular culture. (19 min.)

Department of Religion