Q: Why do so many celebrities bandwagon onto Hollywood's religion du jour?

Jessica Hartz, Annandale

A: We want celebrities to burn very hot, and yet we also frequently judge them insufficiently humble and not very self-reflective; sometimes we even accuse them of a blanket immorality that comes standard, we assume, with living in or near Hollywood. We want them to evince a deep commitment to something they believe in; yet we make the looney-tunes, twirly-finger-near-the-head motion when they actually profess a religious belief, join a spiritual movement or Heaven forfend, direct a violent biopic depicting the execution of their personal savior.

It's no wonder Hollywood is a godless culture: You're damned if you do (pray, talk about God, show up at church with paparazzi) and damned if you don't appear to have any beliefs at all. (Nobody minds if a rock star remembers to thank God at the Grammy Awards, so long as his next album isn't chock-full o' gospel.)

So along comes something new and seemingly non-pious, offering the calm respite of a meditative life without all the harsh dictums of the Ten Commandments, etc. You get to light candles and sit very still and not take any phone calls. Maybe Gwyneth is doing it, too. And Demi, Ashton and others. The bonus part is how intriguing this seems, however briefly, to the media. Then a trend starts, then it's all overexposed. (See: Madonna, aka Esther, and Kabbalah.)

Celebrities enjoy such a personal sense of power, it's almost scary for them to think there's something out there more powerful than themselves. Seeking a new way to talk to him (or Him, with a capital "H," or Her) is very Hollywood, where everything comes down to connections.

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