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The Nexus of Horror, Religion & Spirituality
With an obsessive eye we examine the filigreed darkness of the most diabolically accented Horror films.
The deep answer (in three parts): Because:
1) Film is a mirror in which society views itself, it’s changing values and social mores. Films featuring Satanic themes have contributed a mighty influence on contemporary society’s views of “The Devil” and what constitutes “Evil,” from Häxan (1922) and I Married a Witch (1942) to Rosemary’s Baby (1968), The Exorcist (1973) and The Omen (1976) and the many imitations and reiterations of the premise which have followed in their prodigious wake. Much of this societal hysteria peaked with the Satanic Panic of the 1980’s and 1990’s.
And here: Satanic Panic
2) the failing of traditional Christianity – is a poorly under-researched, contemporary phenomena. We are referring not only to the rapidly dropping numbers of those who identify as Christian, but to the vicious hatred and un-Christlike values towards which religious extremism, in some who do identify as Christian, has been directed. Certainly not all Christians fall into this category, and many are searching for ways to salvage the teachings of their Savior amidst the current religious and political chaos. There are tremendous shifts occurring now in human religious culture and psychology.
This outspoken and vehement turn to the so-called “religious right” has appeared steadily alongside the release of these films. This can be seen, to a certain degree, as a violent reaction within those who believe that an “END TIMES” scenario is unfolding before their very eyes in the daily news. As they fearfully, even gleefully, anticipate the “The Rapture” – fully expecting the coming of a Savior to end the world in blood and fire – they are also simultaneously witnessing the withering away (prophesied, as many believe) of their outdated traditional belief systems which are so at odds with a progressive, more globalized, religiously tolerant, even Atheistic, modern society.
Many people established within the conservative dogma of patriarchal religions – be they Jewish, Christian Fundamentalists or Islamic Jihadists – actively demonize and spread fear and hatred of “the Other.” They “justify” their words and acts with their scriptures and arsenals of weaponry. These groups point at other groups, sometimes referring to them as “Satanic” or as being under the influence of The Devil. They view their beliefs and themselves as under attack from ideas perceived as “Evil;” ideas which many others view as basic human rights: women’s rights to determine what happens to their own bodies, the acceptance of same-sex relations, religious tolerance and acceptance and non-preferential treatment of one religion over another, the restriction of displays of religious propaganda in public schools, just to name a few. As equality and separation of Church and State is sought, these congregations feel threatened, as though they are being backed into a corner by the wiles of an Antichrist.
3) A widely held and sincere belief amongst the Abrahamic faiths in the coming of an Antichrist figure, and/or Armageddon – an “End Times” conflict, through literal interpretations of scripture – has brought on a self-fulfilling prophecy being played out in contemporary, religiously-motivated political moves involving economics, the borders of countries, active and “soft” genocide, and the migrations of ethnic and religious groups, especially in the Middle East. Viz.: the “Islamic State” and religiously motivated terrorism, the conundrum of Israel and Palestine, the claims for Jerusalem or “Who Gets to Own the Holy Land?;” indeed, “The Holy Land” interpreted as a piece of real estate (!), the very real persecution of the Yazidis, Coptic Christians and other ethnic or minority faiths. An old age is passing away and the new is yet unformed. In short, we are witnessing the evolution of human spirituality amidst the final flailing out of the death throes of the traditional patriarchal Abrahamic religions as we have known them.
The not-so-deep answer: We love the hell out of these films. Diabolical Horror has been more than an amusement for us; it has been one means towards our spiritual therapy in the interesting times that we live in.