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Religion and Its Monsters [Paperback]

Timothy K. Beal
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 7, 2001 0415925886 978-0415925884
Religion's great and powerful mystery fascinates us, but it also terrifies. So too the monsters that haunt the stories of the Judeo-Christian mythos and earlier traditions: Leviathan, Behemoth, dragons, and other beasts. In this unusual and provocative book, Timothy K. Beal writes about the monsters that lurk in our religious texts, and about how monsters and religion are deeply entwined. Horror and faith are inextricable. Ans as monsters are part of religious texts and traditions, so religion lurks in the modern horror genre, from its birth in Dante's Inferno to the contemporary spookiness of H.P. Lovecraft and the Hellraiser films. Religion and Its Monsters is essential reading for students of religion and popular culture, as well as any readers with an interest in horror.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This brilliant, twisted, imaginative book explores religion's dark side, from the predictable monsters of sacred texts (Leviathan, Behemoth, Tiamat and Rama's monkeys) to more startling choices from popular culture: one section applies religion's laws of ritual purity and danger to the novel Dracula, for example. Beal sees religion everywhere; Frankenstein, he asserts, is "a profoundly theological horror" about creator-figures playing God, while contemporary teen Goths inhabit "a counterculture infused with a mix of monstrosity and pre-modern Christian religious iconography and architecture." When Beal concludes the book by explaining that "our monsters are ourselves," it comes not as a cultural indictment from a self-satisfied pundit but an astute observation by a witty and wise fellow traveler. (Nov. 15)n

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.Starred

From Library Journal

According to Beal (biblical literature, Case Western Reserve Univ.; The Book of Hiding), "monsters bring on a limit experience that is akin in many respects to religious experience, an experience of being on the edge of certainty." Here he dissects the interface of popular culture and religion, which meet in the personification of evil, that is, monsters. Characters like Tiamat, Leviathan, Dracula, and Oz's Winged Monkeys, as well as horror writers like Lovejoy, Stephen King, and Bram Stoker all fit into Beal's two-pronged approach: religion as horror and horror as religion. He finds that the combination of the Gothic and the theological reveals deep insecurities in our faith in ourselves "the unplumbed abyss of unknowing" inside us. Thus, he argues, these frightening specters of chaos and disorientation within order and security are psychic markers of our endangered sense of self and stability. An informal, chatty style makes this more accessible than academic, although it is well researched. Recommended for religion and popular culture collections. Sandra Collins, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary Lib.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (November 7, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415925886
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415925884
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #893,179 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Timothy Beal is Florence Harkness Professor of Religion at Case Western Reserve University. He writes about the Bible and the fascinating and complicated ways it figures in culture. He has twelve books and has published recent essays in The New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and The Washington Post, and has been featured on radio shows including NPR's All Things Considered and The Bob Edwards Show. He also has a blog at, which includes a series he does called BibliFact, which "fact-checks" political Bible talkers on the campaign trail.

Tim was born in Hood River, Oregon, and grew up just outside Anchorage, Alaska. He is married to Clover Reuter Beal, who is a Presbyterian minister (he calls her a "Presbyterian shaman," which totally makes sense to anyone who knows her). They have two kids, Sophie and Seth, and live in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Photographer Copyright Credit Name: Sophie Rebekah Beal, 2005.

Customer Reviews

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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece in Religious Literature November 30, 2001
By Mike
The moment I started to read this intriguing modern religious masterpiece, I could not put it aside. Religion and Its Monsters is a book where one reading can easily lose track of time, because the words flow so perfectly with much thought and genius behind them. Professor Beal seems to have gone through and mastered every possible source, both modern and ancient, on the topics concerning monsters and how they are intertwined with religion. I especially enjoyed the sections concerning Leviathan, Tiamat, and vampires, and how all these creatures have their place in our very own Judeo-Christian Bible. I already know this is a book I will read through several times and I highly recommend it.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook? February 8, 2005
Why are we afraid of blood drinkers? What makes the drinking of blood any more horrific than the eating of flesh (steak), or the wearing of skin (leather)? It was a question that I had never asked before, but just accepted in such creatures as vampires and chupacabra. Little did I know that there is an actual Biblical prohibition to drinking blood (Deuteronomy 12:23), as the soul is said to live in the blood, and to drink it is to swallow the soul and take that which belongs to God alone. After all, "The blood is the life, Mr. Renfield."

Such revelations can be found in abundance in "Religion and Its Monsters." Author Timothy K. Beal has plundered the Bible of its hidden monsters, and laid bare the secrets and contradictions of Leviathan, Behemoth and the lesser-known but more important Yam. Although most of the mythology is Christian, he has referenced the Bagavadgita and Krishna, as well as other older religions that influenced Christianity, such as the mythology of the Near East. As well as some insights into the nature of monsters and treated in these religions, he has shown the influence of these primitive monsters on modern life.

He has drawn a fishhook through the mouth of the Babylonian chaos god/monster Tiamat, run a conclusive link through the Biblical Leviathan, up to Lovecraft's Cthulhu and into the enormous hides of cinematic Eco-monsters like Godzilla and his contemporaries. He has shown the changeover in the bible, were God was set against the ancient chaos gods of older religions such as Yam and Baal, until the Revelation of John brought a new player onto the field, that of the great dragon Satan.

An absolute must-read for anyone interested in religion and/or modern horror. Without knowing the biblical links, such as the blood-drinking prohibition, one cannot fully appreciate monsters such as Dracula and Cthulhu. The roots of horror run deep and olde.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Can a serious theological book possibly go wrong after opening with remarks concerning The Bride of Frankenstein? Not this book!
This book is a serious, publically accessible study of chaos monsters and religion or, if you prefer, the edges of ordered reality and religion. From the religious perspective it takes you through the Near Eastern chaos monsters thru Job, the Psalms and Revelations. It has fascinating observations concerning the monsters of the Hebrew Scriptures as both frightening as God's playthings.
Culturally, the book looks at Orientalism, monster flicks, horror fiction and Goth music - as embracing or staving off the chaos monsters.
One often wishes that Beal would distribute the attention he gives to detail differently -- Job and Dracula get the most detailed attention. But one must admit that it is only because ones own interests are differently distributed. However, the topics that are less detailed have well chosen seminal ideas for the reader to think for themselves! This encouragement for independent thought around his subject is the result of the author's humility despite the breadth of knowledge he displays.
If you have any interest in the dark side of society, this book is well worth your time.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gothic Monsters August 7, 2007
I purchased this book as a supplemental text for a class on Gothic literature. This book narrowly focuses on monsters found in religious literature, particuarly the Judeo-Christrian tradition; however, Hindu texts are also mentioned. These contrasted with various texts dealing with monsters. Nineteenth and twentieth century literature is used. Overall, the book is relatively short and narrowly focused.
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