Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly seems intent on achieving a singular status as “America’s Grumpy Old Man Next Door.”  His latest intervention is his commentary on the Recent Pew Data on American religious identity.  He makes two questionable assumptions: First, that these data mean that “religion” is actually declining. Second, that some “thing” is responsible.  For O’Reilly, the culprit is Hip-Hop and other popular culture.

Two things to keep in mind. First, while I’d argue that media are in fact at the center of these changes, their role is more complex than critics such as O’Reilly assume.  Second, while things are changing in the world of religion, it may not be accurate to describe these changes as religious decline.  In fact, any serious assessment of these changes sees that the media in various forms in fact encourage these trends. But, they do so not by contesting religion but by enabling new forms and new expressions of religion.

But, it would be unlikely that Bill O’Reilly or others of his persuasion would bother to look into matters in enough detail to see this, or that they would be able to recognize what is actually going on.  One of the main reasons is that critiques such as this rely on received, essentialized, “orthodoxic” versions of religion.

…And on istrumentalized versions of “media” and “popular culture.”

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