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16 October 2015

Religious Socialization, Heavy Metal, and Apostasy: Some Work toward a Submission for Southerns

There is a relatively common pop thesis about heavy metal music that claims fans of the genre were disproportionately raised in the Catholic Church. Indeed, several of the founding fathers of heavy metal, including Ozzy Osbourne (Black Sabbath), Ronnie James Dio (Dio), and Tom Araya (Slayer), were purportedly born to at least nominally Catholic parents.

Using GSS data, I plan to answer the following questions:
  1. What, if any, relationship might there be between the religious tradition in which one was raised (using relig16, denom16, oth16, and race [i.e. reltrad]) and one's likelihood of being a fan of heavy metal (using hvymetal)?
  2. What, if any, relationship might there be between one's current religious tradition (using relig, denom, other, and race [i.e. reltrad]) and one's likelihood of being a fan of heavy metal music?
  3. What, if any, relationship might there be between having changed one's religious tradition and one's likelihood of being a fan of heavy metal music?
I have some preliminary hypotheses:
  1. Those raised Catholic, and to a lesser extent perhaps Evangelical, will be more likely to be fans as adults.
  2. One's current religious tradition will be insignificant in predicting whether one is a fan.
  3. Those who changed their religion, particularly from Catholicism and Evangelicalism, to nonaffiliate will be more likely to be fans.
Here is a bit in the way of theoretical explanation:

  1. Previous research has investigated the use of religious imagery (both positive and negative) in heavy metal music. That religious imagery likely shows up there because heavy metal musicians are drawing on their own religious socializations, presumably negative. The use of this imagery is consumed, adopted, and celebrated by fans of the genre for similar reasons. In simpler terms, kids who grow up in religiously dogmatic and rigid households will be more likely to exorcise these memories through a kind of musical psychodrama in heavy metal musics.
  2. In my previous research on Christian identities among aggressive music fans and practitioners, I found that being a fan of Christian metal bands is not correlated with any individual measures of religion. Even though one's religious socialization may have an effect on being a fan, that connection is likely a wash for adults overall.
  3. If number 1 is correct, it seems likely that those who struggled with problematic religious upbringings would be most likely to be apostates and would, thus, be more likely to seek out a relevant music for catharsis.

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