Thursday, April 28, 2011

Satanism Today: An Encyclopedia Of Religion, Folklore and Popular Culture

"The author or editor of numerous reference works on popular and fringe religions (e.g., The Encyclopedia of Cults, Sects, and New Religions) as well as UFOs, Theosophy, dreams, and witchcraft, Lewis (religious studies, Univ. of Wisconsin, Stevens Point) has written the first thoroughgoing study of contemporary Satanism. He treats a sensational topic without being sensationalistic, offering undergraduates and lay readers scholarly and reasonably objective assessments. Some 300 articles cover beings, symbols, religious beliefs, and popular media portrayals of Satan and hell, each with cross references and a short bibliography. Particularly interesting entries cover "backward masking," the supposed insertion of words recorded backwards on vinyl analog discs; Chick Publications, a publisher of frightening Christian tracts graphically depicting hell and damnation; and Dungeons & Dragons, the role-playing game that many parents thought led to Satanic behavior. (An article on runes, however, appears peripheral.) Lewis also discusses many films relating to Satanism but, strangely, not recent, popular demon-related television programs like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A chronology traces the cultic background to modern Satanism, and appendixes of sample documents include the 1992 FBI study of "satanic ritual abuse" that stemmed accusations of such abuse. In fact, the articles on the ritual-abuse phenomenon and its ultimate debunking are worth the price of the book. Michael Newton's Raising Hell: An Encyclopedia of Devil Worship and Satanic Crime (o.p.) covers similar territory but is not as au courant and is heavier on the blood and gore."

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