The Straight Edge movement, a subset of punk rock that stresses abstinence from drugs, alcohol and casual sex, may appear decidedly secular with an antagonistic view towards organized religion, but religious symbols and, on a lesser level, ideas “have remained rife within the subculture,” writes Francis Stewart in the journal Implicit Religion (Volume 15, Number 3).
The spiritual interest in the Straight Edge subculture can be seen in the songs and album covers of such bands as Throwdown, Good Clean Fun, and Stretch Arm Band, as well as in graffiti and tattoos. When interviewing 83 Straight Edge punks in the U.S. and UK, Stewart found numerous arguments and discussions about religion and spirituality. He notes that religion has become more pronounced since the 1990s with the influx of Christianity and Hare Krishna bands and ideology into Straight Edge circles, with some adherents mixing and matching different teachings.
Only two of the respondents from Stewart’s interviews identified as atheist, and five belonged to a traditional religion. Almost 30 percent of participants were involved in explicit religious practices, often including Dharma Punx, Krishnacore (variants of Buddhism and Hare Krishna), while a similar group of Straight Edgers embrace Taqwacore, which blends Islam with a punk rock sensibility. Krishnacore, founded by Straight Edge band leader Ray Cappo, was appealing because of its ascetic demands (especially for those accepting vegetarianism and veganism)—which became so popular that many worried that Hare Krishna was proselytizing Straight Edgers.
While Krishnacore’s appeal has waned in recent years, Dharma Punx, founded in the early 2000s by Noah Levine, has gained a following and tends to mix various strands of Buddhism with aspects of Hinduism, Sufism, paganism and liberal Christianity. Dharma Punx groups exist in a number of states, running meditation sessions and retreats. Others see Straight Edge itself as an implicit religion or spiritual path that might include going to concerts and the devotion of fans to their favorite bands, and the commitment to a selfdenying lifestyle (once they “break edge” and leave the lifestyle, they are never accepted back).
(Implicit Religion, http://www.equinoxpub.com)