"Religion in the Media Age"

—Stewart M. Hoover, University of Colorado

Evolving global discourse increasingly reflects an integration of previously separate spheres: the local, the global; the religious, the secular; the "mediated," the "authentic;" the religious, the political; etc. In the so-called new world order that has emerged since the 1990s, much is changing, not least the previously distinct realms of "religion" and "the media." These have come to interact in unprecedented and unpredicted ways. The terrorist attacks in the US in 2001 and their aftermath illustrate this. Media and religion interacted there in four distinct ways: 1) the media were the frame through which much of the US and much of the world saw the actual events unfold; 2) the media—it became clear—are also the primary conduit through which "we" learn about "them," and "they" learn about "us" on an ongoing basis; 3) media—particularly US entertainment exports—are a primary basis of emerging radical Islamist critiques of the decadence of western culture; and 4) the media once again assumed a role in the crisis and its aftermath that can only be described as "religious"—an evolving "new civil religion" of commemoration and mourning.

This all needs to be seen in a larger theoretical framework, particularly in the context of western societies. That framework is the emerging social reality of the fate of religion in the media age, that areas of practice that were once the sole province of religious doctrine and authority, are increasingly being assumed by the media.