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Demons of the Modern World Hardcover – November 1, 2001


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 323 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (November 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573929352
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573929356
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,050,758 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1994, after a $750,000, four-year study, federal government researchers announced there was no evidence that ritual abuse or organized satanic cults ever existed in U.S. day-care centers. Comparing contemporary cult fears with 17th-century witch-hunts and the McCarthy era, McGrath, a doctoral candidate in political philosophy at Oxford University, contends that "the illusion of a world of demons lurking behind our day to day reality is built right into the structure of modern western culture." This concept of a "demonic illusion" is the book's central thesis. McGrath views satanism scares as akin to a mass hallucination, since psychological theories supporting such cults "were in fact no more than unfounded urban legends, spread about by therapists and social workers." He opens by juxtaposing the 1692 witchcraft accusations aimed at once-respected Rebecca Nurse, a 71-year-old grandmother, with the false 1984 claims of organized satanic rituals at California's McMartin Preschool, a case with no credible evidence and no convictions after a 28-month trial. Mapping boundaries between fantasy and reality, McGrath looks at modern-day witch-hunts generated through unreliable child witnesses, rumor mills, urban legends and pseudo-science, noting numerous linkages with popular culture from Three Faces of Eve (1957) and Sybil (1973) to Michelle Remembers (1980), Psycho and The Shining. Dangers of false memories are detailed, alien abduction is dismissed, and the 1991-94 collapse of Multiple Personality Disorder and recovered memory therapy are picked over. Oddly, McGrath has chosen to ignore the massive misinformation circulating daily on the Internet, but this is a terrifically contextualized debunking that is sure to generate debate among the faithful.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

McGrath, a doctoral candidate in political philosophy at Oxford University, argues that modern culture differentiates between the physical world of mechanical laws and the symbolic universe of our thoughts and beliefs. In other words, modern people in the West make a distinction between the exterior observable universe and the internal psychological universe. This differentiation does not come naturally but must be taught in childhood. Because we remember our rich childhood fantasy life, we unconsciously suspect that dark, supernatural forces may break down this differentiation. Stress can cause these modern boundaries to slip, causing us to see "demons." In this context, McGrath compares earlier fears of witchcraft with other, more recent fears. He has written probably the first thorough review of modern demonology as represented by the 1980s hysteria over Satanism and alleged ritual abuse of children in day care centers and its 1990s replacement by tales of alien abduction. The author shows that organized satanic-ritual child abuse and alien abduction are unsupported by the evidence but that our fantasy life may permit these imagined practices to appear real when seemingly supported by "scientific" theories of child truthfulness and practices of "recovering" memories through hypnosis. The text needs better proofreading, but the content is superb. Recommended for all libraries. William P. Collins,
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Stefan Isaksson on November 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It's not a very difficult thing to imagine what the response to a book such as Demons of the Modern World will be like. If you're a skeptic demanding scientific answers to everything in this world - then you'll probably love it, but if you're more of a spiritual nature with the attitude that there are things in this world (and beyond) that science cannot reach - then you'll hate it from the very first page to the last. Or at least the sections demystifying the mysterious. And those sections come in abundance, so things don't look very good for the spiritual reader.

Not to wonder, though, since Malcolm McGrath, a political philosopher at Oxford University, is 100% focused on the fact that there is NOTHING that can be called paranormal, magical, or occult. EVERYTHING can be explained using the tools of science, and magic and religion and more are nothing but delusions that were only acceptable before the Western world and its science was able to reject everything related to the paranormal.

Still, people refuse to stop believing. And why is that? McGrath offers an interesting theory. In short, he explains how people, who all have gone through a childhood, all experience a period in their lives when demons, ghosts, and other supernatural beings and phenomena are very real. This period is later replaced, with he aid of education and experience, with a notion that whatever bogeymen one believed in as a child simply do not exist in the real world. But, and on this he focuses throughout the book, since one HAS believed in the supernatural, the memories remain, and since the memories remain, sometimes - for instance during stress or demanding situations - one cannot help but to unconsciously suspect, and fear, that the demons from one's childhood perhaps are not illusions at all.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Walt on November 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Demons of the Mordern World should be required reading for all religous people. Having a graduate degree in theology I have seen more lifes ruined and redirected to the therapist's chair then I would like to remember. Belief is a strange thing and can be hindered by popular thought, suspicions, and control. The book kindly reminds us that belief is personal and is scientific in nature. Sadly it can be a bit of a fairy tale as well. It is this fairy tale that is carried between generation to generation, family to family, church to church, religion to religion that causes problems and generates a perceived truth that is not truthful.

Religion if there is such a thing, God if he does exist, must be based on known laws that apply to the supernatural as well as the phyiscal universe in which we live. This book is one of the most brillant books I have read on a theological subject without the label of religion or theology. It is truely a must read for anyone who wishes to express their religous fairy tales, or should I say beliefs.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on March 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover
There have been plenty of titles on witchcraft and spirituality but relatively few on modern demonology: Demons Of The Modern World examines the spiritual and psychological ramifications of demonology, considering interplays between belief systems and psychology and considering the history and culture of beliefs in supernatural forces. Chapters focus on Western civilization as they reveal the roots of Satanism and its practices.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Stefan Isaksson on November 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It's not a very difficult thing to imagine what the response to a book such as Demons of the Modern World will be like. If you're a skeptic demanding scientific answers to everything in this world - then you'll probably love it, but if you're more of a spiritual nature with the attitude that there are things in this world (and beyond) that science cannot reach - then you'll hate it from the very first page to the last. Or at least the sections demystifying the mysterious. And those sections come in abundance, so things don't look very good for the spiritual reader.

Not to wonder, though, since Malcolm McGrath, a political philosopher at Oxford University, is 100% focused on the fact that there is NOTHING that can be called paranormal, magical, or occult. EVERYTHING can be explained using the tools of science, and magic and religion and more are nothing but delusions that were only acceptable before the Western world and its science was able to reject everything related to the paranormal.

Still, people refuse to stop believing. And why is that? McGrath offers an interesting theory. In short, he explains how people, who all have gone through a childhood, all experience a period in their lives when demons, ghosts, and other supernatural beings and phenomena are very real. This period is later replaced, with he aid of education and experience, with a notion that whatever bogeymen one believed in as a child simply do not exist in the real world. But, and on this he focuses throughout the book, since one HAS believed in the supernatural, the memories remain, and since the memories remain, sometimes - for instance during stress or demanding situations - one cannot help but to unconsciously suspect, and fear, that the demons from one's childhood perhaps are not illusions at all.
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