Los Angeles has always been a land of escape and utopia, attracting rootless dreamers eager to believe in something. LA has never been considered a particularly pious city, but cults have taken root and flourished here. Some say the line between cult and religion is a matter of opinion. After all, Christian Science, Latter Day Saints, Jehovah's Witnesses, Four Square Gospel and even the Catholic Church were all considered cults at one time or another.
A curious agnostic, I spent a year delving into religion, exploring LA’s myriad faiths: Pentecostals in Pasadena, Hindus in Upland and Zoroastrians in Westminster. I explored Kabbalah in Mission Viejo, Vedantism in Hollywood, and befriended the Igbo Catholics of South Central. With my camera (my primary means of understanding what makes people tick) this amateur sociologist approached Episcopals in Van Nuys and Orthodox Jews in West Hollywood, ministers in Claremont, Muslims in Ontario and an Apostolic church band in Lincoln Heights that warned of the beast.
I had lots of questions: Why do Jews wear yarmulkes? Why do Muslim women cover themselves? How do Buddhists address the inevitability of death? Has Christ changed over time? What is a soul? What does the afterlife look like? Why do people believe? What does it feel like to be a believer? I felt a little like Mickey Sachs in Hannah and Her Sisters while exploring the possibility of God.