A study of fiction-based religion
Whereas most of us will likely enjoy the fantasy books of J.R.R. Tolkien as a great work of fiction, a small group of people believe there is more to his stories. Worldwide, there is a largely online-based network of individuals and groups that draw the main part of their religious inspiration from Tolkien’s books, especially The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. Some groups perform rituals in order to contact the Valar, the gods of Tolkien’s universe; others believe themselves to be Elves. This phenomenon is called fiction-based religion.
For his PhD-dissertation, Markus Davidsen explored the spiritual Tolkien milieu to learn more about fiction-based religion. He examines what it is in Tolkien’s narratives that make it possible for them to work as a kind of Bible. Why is there no Harry Potter-religion? How different are fiction-based religions, such as Tolkien spirituality and Star Wars-based Jediism, really from conventional religions? And can fiction-based religions learn us something about religions of the future?
Markus Davidsen received his PhD in the Study of Religion (cum laude) from Leiden University in 2014. His dissertation on the Spiritual Tolkien Milieu was the first academic treatment of Tolkien religion. Since 2015, Davidsen is Assistant Professor of Sociology of Religion at Leiden University.
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