Today in NC State History: Tom Wolfe howls about new religion

April 22, 2015
By Chris Saunders

historyIconTom Wolfe captured the drug-infused counterculture of the 1960s in the nonfiction work The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, which was published in 1968. Wolfe was celebrated for his style, which was predicated on his embedding himself with subjects and writing in a way that mimicked with precision how his subjects spoke and lived.

Seven years later, Wolfe was in Stewart Theatre turning his attention to popular culture on this day 40 years ago as he argued that art had replaced religion in American society.

Tom Wolfe in Stewart Theatre.

Tom Wolfe in Stewart Theatre.

“Wolfe said he should have recognized the new religion much earlier in his career, when …President Kennedy, said Wolfe, recognized the importance of culture in American society in that, along with religious leaders speaking at [his inauguration] ceremony, he had the poet Robert Frost read a piece about the American revolution,” the Technician reported.

Wolfe also pointed out that it was becoming more commonplace for wealthy Americans to leave their money and other assets in their estates, like paintings, to museums instead of churches. “[I]t’s a foot in the door to Heaven,” he said. “It sort of says it’s all right to have that money. In the forties, it was customary to give one tenth of your money to the church. This serves the same purpose.”

 

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