It has been said by Sociologist, Chris Rojek that “The collapse of organised religion, the absence of having saints or a God to look up to, for many people in western societies is being filled by celebrity culture – they are the new saints.” As something that fills our society to the core, it’s difficult to escape from the influence of celebrities and the media that has an impact on our everyday life. We all need someone to look up to but well-known individuals such as Kim Kardashian and One Direction, for example, are powerful influences in Western society that may even be increasingly replacing religion in our modern lives.
A reason why celebrities are beginning to serve as a replacement for religion is due to the fact that celebrities are able to teach us more valuable morals. Both Christianity and The Bible deal with all sorts of issues such as adultery, financial problems, love and friendship but in today’s society it feels culturally irrelevant. The Bible was created long before the Internet came into existence, and with the creation of the Internet we were presented with a new heap of problems to contend with. The problem that arises is that The Bible contains no specific teachings on the Internet; thus all we can do is apply alternative Biblical teachings to the best of our ability.
However this leaves room for misinterpretation on a grand scale. Neuroscience student, Nick Saturn commented, “some celebrities use their fame wisely and know the consequences” however he went on to admit that some celebrities are also bad influences, which is something you do not always find with religious figures of authority and influence. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are strong examples of good celebrity role models. The power couple involve themselves in numerous philanthropic activities and Jolie is an ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The couple also passionately support same-sex marriage and have adopted children from poorer backgrounds into their family. In this sense, it could be seen that celebrities are more relatable than religious figures and their examples are easier to follow than Bible teachings, which often appear outdated and difficult to apply to modern day situations. To quote Scottish theologian, William Barclay Biblical examples of morality are “idealistic; not realistic”.
Chris Rojek also said that “If we don’t believe in a God, who else is there to look up to except celebrities? Politicians are so mired in bad press, in letting the people down and every five years we get rid of them. Our business leaders have lead to the current collapse in the western banking system.
“Celebrities offer us hope for a better future and even when they are not doing that, they are showing us how not to be, how not to get involved with drugs and alcohol and wild women.”
“Celebrities give us that constant message. Maybe society needs people like that. We need people to make us feel better because if we don’t have those people, we’re reliant on nothing really.”
This is an interesting view that aligns the absence of a religious deity with a replacement celebrity power figure to guide us through life and fill it with meaning; preventing nihilism from taking hold of society. There are also parallels between religion and celebrity culture. For example, trade in autographs and paraphernalia previously owned by the rich and famous holds major value. It is comparable to that of the spiritual element of religious scriptures and items.
Although, celebrity paraphernalia is more easily accessible and often is more widely desired by the masses. With the birth of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s second child set for 25th December this year, it’s humorous fodder that will definitely set tongues wagging about whether celebrities really are becoming more popular and influential than religion in today’s society.
One thing is for sure, if celebrity culture continues in the fashion it currently is, it will be just as big as religion but unlikely to surpass it anytime soon.
Image by Todd Huffman