First Person: Pop Culture God

My Media-Based Religion

I'm a watered-down Italian girl, raised as a non-practicing Catholic. Our spaghetti sauce was from the jar and our church attendance was sporadic, and mostly on Easter. Religion wasn't talked about often in my home, and it certainly wasn't questioned. There was God and Jesus and that's all you needed to know. I remember around the age of 12, asking my father for a more in-depth explanation of why we were "Catholic". He responded to me the way you might respond to a toddler asking why we can't eat ice cream for dinner: a half sympathetic and half annoyed, "because." End of story.

After I grew out of floral lace-covered Easter dresses with giant hats, religion was non-existent in my family. My access to religion came in the form of television and movies. It's no wonder I consider Oprah to be more of a spiritual leader than a television personality. My religion took on an eclectic and media-based identity. Spirituality became something that was pursued constantly through reading, watching, and google-ing. Religious truth became something that was constantly transforming and evolving with the times, as opposed to something that existed before I was even born. It was something I had to seek out and dig up, and it could be found anywhere if I looked hard enough.

The people that had the most spiritual influence on me ranged from talk show hosts, like Oprah Winfrey, to famous psychics, like Sylvia Browne. I even found inspiration in the stories of famous individuals, like Jim Carrey, who rose from poverty to success through the simple power of his own beliefs. Rhonda Byrne's documentary The Secret opened my eyes to the power of our thoughts and how much we manifest in our lives simply with our attitudes about things. Even movies like Forrest Gump were sources of insight. I was only nine years old when that movie came out, but Tom Hank's speech in the end about destiny versus free-will was a spiritual awakening for me.

The media delivering up religion like Chinese takeout may not sound inspiring, but for me it is. Pop culture makes religion a buffet where I can taste a little of everything. Every religion has a main dish, as well as a bunch of sides and fillers and weird exotic things that you have to be raised on to enjoy. My own personal religion is a dish that suits my own personal taste, that I discovered and added my own flavor to, and that I can dish up time and time again for the ones I love.