Joss Whedon and Religion

Essays on an Angry Atheist’s Explorations of the Sacred


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About the Book

This is a collection of new essays on the religious themes in, and the implications of, the works of Joss Whedon, creator of such shows as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly, and more recently writer and director of the box-office hit Marvel’s The Avengers. The book addresses such topics as ethics, racism, feminism, politics, witchcraft, spiritual transformation, identity, community, heroism, apocalypse, and other theologically significant themes of Whedon’s creative enterprises. The disciplinary approaches vary as well; history, theology, philosophy of religion, phenom­enology, cultural studies, and religious studies are all employed. The various essay authors differ in that some are clearly believers in God, some are clearly not, and others leave that matter aside.

About the Author(s)

Anthony R. Mills received his Ph.D. in theology and culture and lives in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. He contributes to and blogs at

John W. Morehead is an independent scholar who specializes in new religious movements, the intersection of religion and popular culture, and interreligious conflict. He lives in Syracuse, Utah.

J. Ryan Parker received a Ph.D. in religion and the arts from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, and a Master of Divinity from Wake Forest University. He works in film marketing and publicity, is the founder and executive director of the Mississippi Film Society and the creator of Pop Theology, He lives in Jackson, Mississippi.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Anthony R. Mills, John W. Morehead and J. Ryan Parker

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 240
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2013
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7290-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1253-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Foreword—K. Dale Koontz 1
Preface—Anthony R. Mills 5
Introduction—Anthony R. Mills 7

Varieties of Conversion: Spiritual Transformation in the Buffyverse—Jeremy R. Ricketts 11
The Harrowing of Hell: “Anne” and the Greek Paschal Tradition in Conversation—Hope K. Bartel and Timothy E. G. Bartel 28
Mary and Buffy Walk into a Bar: The Virgin Deity and Buffy the Vampire Slayer—Valerie Mayhew 39
“Oh … My … Goddess”: Witchcraft, Magick and Thealogy in Buffy the Vampire Slayer—Jason Lawton Winslade 51
Apocalypse Now and Again: The Apocalyptic Paradigm and the Meaning of Life and (Un)Death in Buffy the Vampire Slayer—Roslyn Weaver 67
Who’s Afraid of the Big Black Wolf? Racial Identity and the Irrationality of Religious Belief in Firefly and Serenity—Desirée de Jesus 83
“You’re welcome on my boat, God ain’t”: Ethical Foundations in the Whedonverse—Dean A. Kowalski 102
Actives, Affectivity and the Soul: Interpreting Dollhouse through the Phenomenology of Michel Henry—J. Leavitt Pearl 123
Just to Love and Be Loved in Return: Identity and Love in the Dollhouse—Julie Clawson 140
“There’s no place I can be”: Whedon, Augustine and the Earthly City—Susanne E. Foster and James B. South 152
To Assemble or to Shrug? Power, Responsibility and Sacrifice in Marvel’s The Avengers—Russell W. Dalton 165
National Treasures: Joss Whedon’s Assembling of Exceptional Avengers—John C. McDowell 183
As It Ever Was … So Shall It Never Be: Penal Substitutionary Atonement Theory and Violence in The Cabin in the Woods—J. Ryan Parker 196
“I’m sorry I … ended the world”: Eschatology, Nihilism and Hope in The Cabin in the Woods—W. Scott Poole 213

About the Contributors 227
Index 231

Book Reviews & Awards

  • Finalist, Whedon Studies Association’s Mr. Pointy Award
  • “This volume compiles essays from various authors with various religious backgrounds on religious themes in the work Joss Whedon, a self-described ‘angry athesist’”—Reference & Research Book News