From flagellants to Botox: some splendid new additions to the “secular religions” catalog

Last month, the Tablet Magazine published an article by Pascal Bruckner called “The Flagellants of the Western World.” Or, as the summary says: “Like God, colonialism is invisible and omnipresent, responsible for everything that happens on Earth.” An ironic gesture once again, rather than a systematic comparison of secular (political) and religious ideas or practices, but it remains interesting how often these parallelisms come up in today’s journalism. A quicklist of other “religious” terms in the article: catechism, repentance, apostolic, messianic, Eden, myth, inquisitor, self-flagellates, (messianic) vocation, angelic, sacrosanct, extreme unction. And this is not even a long one.

File:Nuremberg chronicles - Flagellants (CCXVr).jpg
Illustrations from the Nuremberg Chronicle, by Hartmann Schedel (1440-1514) Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The other example is (even) less serious. It is from a review of the Hungarian reality show “Feleségek luxiskivitelben” (The Real Housewives of Hungary). As the title goes: “Botox is my religion.” Now this may just be a random phrase (people from my generation all remember that even a certain brand of whiskey can be called a new religion), but the article goes on. “The group of luxury wives divided like the Red Sea” (before Moses and the Jews, that is); into “Botox believers and Botox deniers”, which is “a serious debate, not of the lousy homoousion / homoiousion type.” All this is a joke once again, of course, or – who knows? Interestingly, there are some references to a deeper analogy as well: “Today there is also some spirititual essence in beauty trends, since, as it turned out, those who passed through the Intervention (or Interventions, for this is not like baptism that is enough to take once) belong to an entirely different sect.” The religion-like features of the beauty industry or certain fitness movements have been described by more serious literature as well.