This Week in Religion: Matisyahu’s Transformation, the Church of Batman, and Trumpism.

Some six months after the Orthodox-reggae-hip-hop star Matisyahu shaved his beard, he recently “posted [online] a picture of himself not wearing a kippah, and then another one that showed him sitting next to another musician who was smoking a joint.” For an interesting take on what this means to some younger religious Jews, see HuffPost’s thoughtful essay.

The newest new religious movement derived explicitly from the goods of popular entertainment is no longer Jediism, Matrixism, Cullenism, or the Church of St. Gaius Baltar, but rather Batmanism, whose followers “must vow to fight corruption and defend the truth… follow the hero’s teachings as laid out in scriptures [DC Comics, and] look forward to a blissful afterlife in Wayne Manor.”

Apparently, June is “Pagan Values Month.” Enjoy, but be good.

You’d better sit down for this: conservative opposition to birth control (such as the morning after pill) may be grounded in factual misunderstandings as to how birth control actually works.

Wondering when the world will “cross the atheist threshold”? According to HuffPost’s tidy logic: If “[t]he most obvious approach to estimating when the world will switch over to being majority atheist is based on economic growth, [then] the entire world population would cross the atheist threshold by about 2038 ([with an] average of 2035 for disbelief and 2041 for religiosity).” Speaking of Atheism, would this “tradition” be better served by denominational categories, such as “Observant Atheists, Classic Atheists, and Science as Religion Atheists”?

To test your the strength of your romantic commitments against the claims of religious orthodoxy, take this survey. And to learn about the world’s religions, just watch the Daily Show.

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has officially censored Sister Margaret A. Farley’s (one of the first Catholics to teach at Yale Divinity School) book, Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics, insisting that it “contradicts Catholic doctrine on key issues such as gay marriage, homosexuality, divorce, [and] masturbation.” Oh my. Of course, as the NYT points out, religion has a rather spotty record when it comes to books, and religious bans quickly turn into publishing booms.

If young people (lots of them) joined their local churches, one American pastor warns,  things would “get less comfortable for the current members,” since to “welcome young adults these days churches need to welcome the atheist, the single mom, the tattooed, the unemployed, and yes (of course!) even the same-sex couple.”

At the the Cannes Film Festival, audiences were shown an exclusive 4-minute preview of The Master, due out on October, which is said to parallel rather closely the life of R. Ron Hubbard and the early history of Scientology.

Do “peak-oil” doomsday scenarios qualify as implicit religion? What about GOP preoccupations with deficits not created by Republican Presidents? Is “Trumpism, the religion of money,” the religion that Americans can relate to?

At an Arizona yoga retreat, a recent death and a (frankly) bizarre set of circumstances leaves the NYT wondering asking, “[w]as it a genuine spiritual enclave?”

In Wisconsin, although conservative evangelicals turned out in support of Scott Walker, Protestant and Catholic clergy did speak out against Walker’s “union-busting.”

In North Dakota, voters are soon to decide “whether to add an amendment to the state’s constitution that supporters say will guarantee religious freedom,” such that “Government may not burden a person’s or religious organization’s religious liberty.” Critics contend that the measure is far too broad, authorizing all sorts of otherwise illegal behaviors (e.g., child abuse, workplace discrimination) on grounds of “free expression.”

In New Zealand, “cult” experts take a close look at the controversial preacher, Brian Tamaki, who spoke publicly “about how God had told him to build [a] city and why his followers had to lose their ‘parochialism’ towards their home areas, even if it meant leaving behind loved ones,” in order to follow him.

In Denmark, access to full church weddings for same-sex couples is now the law.

In what used to be the nation of Tibet, where at least 38 self-immolations have taken place since 2009, Chinese officials have banned foreign travelers from visiting until at least September.

Finally, various studies suggests that…

– “religious practices that strongly control female sexuality are more successful at promoting certainty about paternity

Atheism is up, theism down, all over the place

And in what promises to be the source of many new studies of immigration and religion, U.C. Riverside’s Institute for the Study of Immigrant Religions was recently launched.

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