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Religion & the Movies

March 16, 2023

In addition to the Beatles being bigger than Jesus Christ, we might argue that movies have been bigger than religion. Movies played in “cathedrals” to popular culture, and the silver screen created icons that defined eras for people all around the world. Furthermore, from the origins of the medium to Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, the movies have used religious stories, figures, and tropes to attract audiences. But we also know that as much as the idea of religion has grown elastic and contested, movies that depict religion and faith have reflected this complexity. Our panelists expand upon the history of religion in the movies to include other visual mediums and provide a critical comparative perspective on faith and films.


Kristian Petersen, Old Dominion University

Kristian Petersen is an Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. He is the editor of Muslims in the Movies: A Global Anthology (2021), New Approaches to Islam in Film (2021), and the Bloomsbury Handbook of Muslims and Popular Culture (2023). He is currently working on a monograph entitled The Cinematic Lives of Muslims.

Jeanette Reedy Solano, California State University, Fullerton

Jeanette Reedy Solano is a professor, mother, filmmaker, and author of the recently-published book Religion and Film: The Basics (Routledge)She first discovered the power of using film to understand spirituality sitting in the den of her professor’s study in Hyde Park watching Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev in 1990 and has loved studying religion and film ever since!  She has served as a film critic for The Journal of Religion and Film at Sundance and other Film Festivals.  She is delighted to be reunited with her colleagues from the American Academy of Religion’s Religion, Film, and Visual Culture Group to discuss film and religion today.

Rachel Wagner, Ithaca College

Dr. Rachel Wagner is Professor of Religious Studies and Coordinator of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Ithaca College. She has published extensively on religion and media on topics including virtual reality, film, apps, role play, media rituals, and guns as a mode of mediation. She has written two single-author books: Godwired: Religion, Ritual and Virtual Reality (Routledge, 2012), and Cowboy Apocalypse: Religion, Media, Guns (forthcoming, NYU Press, 2024).



Raymond Haberski, Jr., Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Raymond Haberski, Jr. is Professor of History and Director of American Studies at IUPUI. He also directs the Institute for American Thought and is part of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture. Dr. Haberski is trained in twentieth century U.S. history with a focus on intellectual history. As editor, along with Philip Goff and Rhys Williams, his forthcoming book is titled Civil Religion Today: Religion and the American Nation in the 21st Century (2021).



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