What individuals choose to believe can impact their life, shape their beliefs, and
alter their values. Religious beliefs are, for many, an extremely important belief system in
their individual day-to-day lived experiences. The ideology of religion is an important
belief system and kind of communication to consider and interpret, particularly in today’s
current turbulent historical period. According to Saranam (2005), mainstream society
currently finds religious ideas and/or ideologies can be called into question, scrutinized,
and radically changed. For example, the United States has faced constant debates that
have examined the role of religion in daily life, particularly in regard to the ethical
questions posed by embryonic stem cell research and abortion, as well as euthanasia.
Another popular avenue of discussion is the emergence of the theory of intelligent
design, which suggests certain biological mechanisms are too complex to have developed
without the involvement of a powerful force or intelligent being (Barratt, 2006). As it
would seem, the more a country industrializes and modernizes, the less influence religion
has on individuals’ lives. Some believe religion is losing its power because it is gradually
being pushed out of the public sphere and into the private sphere. As such, religion is
gradually becoming a commodity that private individuals can accept or reject at their own
discretion (Chernus, 2008).
The ideology of religion in today’s society is particularly a contemporary
movement that has sparked extreme interest within the popular culture of society (Fiske,
1994). Popular culture (i.e. pop culture) refers to the sum of ideas, perspectives, attitudes,
images and other phenomena that are heavily influenced by the mass media (Brayshaw,
2008). Pop culture is an often overlooked part of the fundamental religious “quest” and
the cultural understanding of what religion is and what religion entails. However, pop
culture has, in fact, stimulated the development of scrutinizing and questioning common
religious practices by exploding religious themed texts into society on a consistent basis.
From films and television to music and technology, pop culture has become an
important forum for reflecting, questioning and debating religious beliefs and issues. For
example, pop culture has recently exploded with controversial ideologies reflected in
books and films: particularly author Dan Brown and the novels and films such as The Da
Vinci Code and Angels and Demons. As some pop culture has become more and more
influential for some individuals, the notion of religion is cast to the forefront of
explanation and inquisition. Some individuals do not seem to need religion nearly as
much as in the past (Saranam, 2005). Accordingly, for most of the last century some
contend that religion might be on the way out. Some suggest that the more advanced a
society becomes, the more church attendance falls. Science began to disprove the
narratives of the great Abrahamic religions, and the prestige of science, and reason
started to replace the beliefs of religion and faith (Barratt, 2006). Thus, religion today
has, indeed, become an interesting facet of pop culture in which these ideologies are
questioned, scrutinized and left open for interpretation.
For example, in contemporary society, common symbols (religious or not) can
have alternate evil meanings in contrast to their traditional meaning. The markings of 666
notoriously represent Satan; this symbol is common today and has infamously
represented this figure in numerous visuals in both films and books. However, this is not
the only symbol that represents Satan or evil that has been plastered throughout society.
Additionally, signs that represent evil that are common in the everyday include: The
Pentagram (5 elements of the earth), The All Seeing Eye (US currency), Zodiac
(horoscopes), Star & Crescent (represents the moon goddess in witchcraft) and the
Petrine Cross (commonly displayed on current musician’s attire and albums).
While the previous symbols explained above are common to the everyday eye
(whether recognized or not), there are additional symbols that are common as well that
represent evil in a more subtle way. These symbols include the hour of 3:00AM (portal is
opened to the demonic world), the Grim (black dog that haunts church yards), Ouija
Board (connection with spirits), and household cats (guardians of the underworld).
Despite whether these symbols are recognized immediately or not, they are indeed
present within society. Therefore, in order to explore the recent developments in popular
culture, the following literature review will first delve into the history of religion, what
religion is, and where it is present in today’s pop culture.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
To begin, it is essential to understand why religion is a form of communication.
After understanding this, a brief look at the history of religion will be presented, and an
acknowledgment in the difficulty of defining religion will be discussed while comparing
the difference between religion and spirituality. In addition, the importance of defining
ideology will be addressed as well as the contrasting terms of Christianity and
Fundamentalism and how they both recognize and understand demonic power and the
divine evil. These issues presented are, therefore, the way to interpret and understand the
way this thesis is framed.
Religion as Communication
Religion is a form of communication and communication is at the heart of all
religions. As an essential aspect of religion, communication occurs between believers,
between religious leaders and followers, between proponents of different faiths, and even
between practitioners and the deities. The desire to communicate with, as well as convert
others, is also an aspect of some of the world's major religions. From the presence of
religion on the Internet to the effects of religious beliefs on popular advertising,
communication and the media are integral to religion and the expression of religious
belief. With the understanding that religion is a unique form of communication, it is
essential to know exactly where religion originated from.
The History of Religion
Religion has always had a historical interest (Armstrong, 1993) and can date back
to the time of Abraham in 2000 BC. In the past, religion, for many, was the focal point of
life and brought society under common assumptions about the world. However, the origin
of religion can generally be traced to the ancient Near East and classified in three basic
categories that separated religious agreements: polytheistic, pantheistic and monotheistic
Polytheism (a belief in many gods) is thought to have originated with Hinduism
around 2500 BC. Hindu beliefs were recorded in the Bhagavad-Gita, which revealed that
many gods were subject to a supreme Brahman god. Polytheism was also the religion of
many other ancient cultures, including Assyria, Babylonia, Egypt, Greece and Rome. The
ancient polytheistic belief systems viewed gods as being in control of all natural events
such as rainfall, harvests and fertility. Generally, polytheistic cultures believed in
sacrifices to appease their gods. For instance, the Canaanites sacrificed to the male god,
Baal, and his female counterpart, Ashteroth. Baal controlled the rain and the harvest,
while Ashteroth controlled fertility and reproduction. The Greeks and Romans developed
polytheism to a highly structured pantheon of gods and goddesses (Smith, 1991).
Pantheism (a belief that all is God) prevailed in numerous ancient cultures as well.
The belief that the universe itself was divine was typified in the Animism beliefs of the
African and American Indian cultures, the later Egyptian religion under the Pharaohs, and
Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism in the cultures of the Far East. Pantheistic beliefs
are also finding resurgence among various New Age movements. Generally, pantheism is
the principle that God is everything, and everything is God. Therefore, nature is also part
of God. Everything must be in harmony with nature; everything must nurture nature and
be nurtured by nature. Mankind is no different than any other animal and all must live in
harmony with them, understand them, and learn from them, focusing on the relationship
between mankind and the elements of nature (Smith, 1991).
Monotheism (a belief in one god) is the foundation of the Judeo-Christian-Muslim
line of religions, which began with a man named Abraham in about 2000 BC. From this
point in history, God revealed Himself to the world through the nation of Israel. The
Jewish Scriptures record the journey of the Israelites from slaves in Egypt to the
“promised land” in Canaan under the leadership of Moses. During a period of about 1500
years, God revealed what became the Old Testament of the Bible, relating the history of
Israel with the character and laws of God. During the period of the Roman Empire, Jesus
Christ was born in Bethlehem as the long-awaited Messiah. The ministry of Jesus ended
in about 32 AD with His crucifixion and resurrection. After Christ’s ascension into
Heaven, the Christian church grew in His name and the New Testament was written.
About 600 years later, Muhammad began preaching in Mecca. Muhammad believed he
was the ultimate prophet of God, and his teachings became the precepts of Islam as
recorded in the Qur’an (Smith, 2001).
In understanding the very basic fundamentals of the founding beliefs of religion,
it is important to realize that many religions evolved from these three basic forms of
belief. The world today is full of religion and invariably is dominant in all regions of the
world including, but is not limited to: Christianity, Judaism, Jainism, Baha’i Faith,
Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Shinto, Sikhism, and Taoism. The main
focus of this thesis will be based in Christianity. However, before understanding
Christianity, it is important to define what religion actually is.
The Difficulty in Defining Religion
Many definitions of religion exist, and most have struggled to avoid an overly
sharp definition on the one hand and meaningless generalities on the other. Some have
tried to use formalistic, doctrinal definitions, and others have tried to use experiential,
emotive, intuitive and ethical factors. Some sociologists and anthropologists see religion
as an abstract set of ideas, values, or experiences developed as part of a cultural matrix
(Armstrong, 2001). Other religious scholars have put forward a definition of religion that
avoids the reduction of the various sociological and psychological disciplines that
relegate religion to its basic factors. Religion may be defined as the presence of a belief
in the sacred or the holy. For example, as cited by Niehburh (1964), Rudolf Otto’s (1917)
The Idea of the Holy, defines the essence of religious awareness as awe, a unique blend of
fear and fascination before the divine. Similarly, Friedrich Schleiermacher in the late 18th
century defined religion as a “feeling of absolute dependence” (Niehburh, 1964).
Religious knowledge, according to religious practitioners, may be gained from
religious leaders, sacred texts (scriptures), and/or personal revelation. Some religions
view such knowledge as unlimited in scope and suitable to answer any question; others
see religious knowledge as playing a more restricted role, often as a complement to
knowledge gained through physical observation. Some religious individuals maintain that
religious knowledge obtained in this way is absolute and infallible. While almost
unlimited, this knowledge can be unreliable, since the particulars of religious knowledge
vary from religion to religion, from sect to sect, and often from individual to individual
Many early scientists held strong religious beliefs and strove to reconcile science
and religion. Isaac Newton, for example, believed that gravity caused the planets to
revolve around the sun and credited God with the design. In 1687, as cited by Eliade
(1969), Newton wrote in the General Scholium to the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia
Mathematic, “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets and comets, could only
proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being.”
Nevertheless, conflict arose among religious organizations and individuals who
propagated scientific theories which were deemed unacceptable by the religious
organizations. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, has historically reserved to
itself the right to decide which scientific theories are acceptable and which are
unacceptable (Ellerbe, 1995). For example, in the Seventeenth Century, Galileo was tried
and forced to recant the heliocentric theory (the understanding that the earth is not the
center of the universe).
Many theories exist as to why religious beliefs often seem to conflict with
scientific knowledge. In the case of Christianity, an important factor exists in that it was
among Christians that science in the modern sense was developed. Unlike other religious
groups, as early as the Seventeenth Century, the Christian churches had to deal directly
with this new way to investigate nature and seek truth. The perceived conflict between
science and Christianity may also be partially explained by a literal interpretation of the
Bible adhered to by many Christians, both currently and historically (Armstrong, 2001).
In sum, some Christians have disagreed or are still disagreeing with scientists in
areas such as the validity of astronomy, the theory of evolution, the method of the
creation of the universe and the earth, and the origins of life. On the other hand, scholars
such as Stanley Jaki (1978) have suggested that Christianity and its particular worldview
was a crucial factor for the emergence of modern science. In fact, most of today’s
historians are moving away from the view of the relationship between Christianity and
science as one of “conflict,” a perspective commonly called the conflict thesis (or the
Separating and Defining Religion and Spirituality
As suggested above, religion is difficult to define and difficult for individuals to
agree upon. Every individual has a different idea of what religion is, what it consists of,
and how it was intended to be utilized. Agreeably, religion is a human creation and as
such, can vary as widely as human imagination allows (Armstrong, 1993). Many
interpretations define religion, but not one is recognized to be the most accurate or
acceptable. In fact, most definitions do not separate the difference between what religion
entails and the additional aspect of what spirituality adds. For example, religion has been
defined as a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny
(Baillie, 1962). This definition, while arguably encompasses the basic elements of what
religion is, does not separate or imply that spirituality plays a vital part. While the terms
spirituality and religion can both refer to the search for the Absolute or God, an
increasing number of individuals have come to see the two as separate entities; religion is
just one way in which humans can experience spirituality (William, 1982).
Individuals who speak of spirituality outside of religion often define themselves
as “spiritual, but not religious” and generally believe in the existence of many different
“spiritual paths” that emphasize the importance of finding one’s own individual path to
spirituality. Thus, a key difference is that religion is a type of formal external search,
while spirituality is defined as a search within oneself. With respect to religion, this
implies that spirituality takes on the following characteristics: faith becomes more
personal, less dogmatic, more open to experimentation, and is based upon personal
experience (Eliade, 1969). From this perspective, religion and spirituality can be seen as
merely two stages, so much so that many followers of constituted religions consider
spirituality to be an intrinsic and inseparable aspect of their religious experience. The
relationship between religion and spirituality can, thus, be seen as comparable to the
relationship between container and content, between form and substance, or between
theory and practice (William, 1982).
Thus, spirituality has been defined as a belief in something greater than ourselves
and that power goes by many names: the Great Spirit, a Higher Power, God, Goddess,
Yahweh, Jesus, Allah, Vishnu, Buddha, the Tao, to name a few (Ellebre, 1995). Other
scholars and authors have offered their insight into defining religion, whether or not
spirituality has been included. Author Ellen Pagels (1995) offers this definition of
religion: “An institution to express belief in a divine power; religion has been defined as
a belief concerning the supernatural, sacred, or divine, and the practices and institutions
associated with such belief” (p. 23). In reference to the definitions given above, it would
appear that the primary problem in defining religion and spirituality exists when the
definition includes a deity or superhuman power.
Quite obviously, there are many ways that religion and spirituality have been
defined, all of which have been shaped by the historically complex arguments outlined
above. With this understanding, religion and spirituality can be combined as one to offer
a definition. Religion is:
“individual beliefs that generally seek to worship a diving power and understand
purpose, meaning, goals, and methods of spiritual things. These spiritual things
can be God, people in relation to God, salvation, after-life, purpose of life, order
of the cosmos, and so on.”
This thesis will base its understanding of the definition of religion and spirituality on this
Related to definitions of religion and spirituality are considerations of how they
are valued in society and culture. It is essential to understand what defines ideology and
how ideology plays a part in determining the necessary factors that create religion and
spirituality. There are multiple ways to define ideology. Different authors use the term in
different ways and it is not easy to be sure about its use in any one unique context.
Raymond Williams (1977) finds three main uses:
1. A system of beliefs characteristic of a particular class or group. This definition
pertains primarily to psychologists. Psychologists use “ideology” to refer to
the way attitudes are organized into a coherent pattern. Ideology is determined
by society, not by the individual’s possibly unique set of attitudes and
experiences. Marxists, for example, tend to relate ideology to social relations.
It is socially determined, not individualistic.
2. A system of illusory beliefs – false ideas or fake consciousness – which can be
contrasted with true or scientific knowledge. Ideology, in this sense of the
term, becomes illusions and false consciousness by which the meaning is
generated by any one text determined partly by the meaning from other texts
to which it appears similar. This is typically termed “intertextuality.”
3. The general process of the production of meanings and ideas. This definition
is most common and is primarily the most overarching of the three. Ideology
here is a term used to describe the social production of meanings (Williams,
These definitions are not necessarily contradictory of each other, but any one use of the
term may involve elements from the others. Nonetheless, these definitions identify
different positions. While ideology is a way of making sense of the world, the sense that
it makes always has a social and political dimension. Ideology, in this view, is a social
practice. Thus, for the intents and purposes of this thesis, the use of definition three of
ideology will be the primary assumption of ideology and ideological processes.
Generally speaking, the theory of ideology as a practice was developed by Louis
Althusser (1971), a second-generation Marxist who had been influenced by the ideas of
Saussure Freud, and Karl Marx himself. For Marx, ideology was a relatively
straightforward concept. It was the means by which the ideas of the ruling class became
accepted throughout society as natural and normal. Althusser’s theory of ideology as
practice is a development of Marx’s theory of ideology as false consciousness, but it still
emphasizes its role of maintaining the power of the majority over the minority by non-
coercive means. In sum, ideology is therefore defined as:
“individual beliefs produced by a group of people that have particular and
This definition of ideology also provides a foundation for understanding religious beliefs.
Understanding Religion’s Potential Demise
Religion has always been with us. Throughout history, it has expressed the
deepest questions human beings can ask, and it has taken a central place in the lives of
virtually all civilizations and cultures. Dating back to the dawn of human consciousness,
religion can be found at every turn. This may be true of the past and present, but today’s
implications and questions have arisen concerning the future. Some religious scholars
(Barratt, 2006; Chernus, 2008 & Saranam, 2005) have suggested that religion is on the
way out. They contend that technology and science have changed and will continue to
change the current view of the world radically; this, in turn, leads some to say that our
society has entered a new stage of human existence, without religion. For these scholars,
soon religion might very well be a thing of the past (Armstrong, 1991).
However, in today’s day and age, rumors of religion’s demise may seem
premature, and perhaps there is no grain of truth in them at all. Religion persists and is
often on the rise, even as scientific and non-religious perspectives have become
prominent. Religion is still found everywhere: on television, in film, in popular music,
and so on. Religion is discovered at the center of global issues and cultural conflict.
However, it is important to ask why religion continues to thrive. There are many reasons,
but one thing is certain: religious traditions are adaptable in important ways. For many,
contemporary religion even has room for skepticism, science, and the secular, which
allows it to keep going strong in this rapidly changing world (Brayshaw, 2008).
Religion is a major force in human experience. It has shaped the world’s history,
literature, art, culture, politics, ethics, and economics. Across the globe some negative
religious agendas have fueled conflict and encouraged acts of terrorism and ethnic
cleansing, dislocating populations and destroying economies. Religion has consequently
proven to be one of the greatest threats to world peace and prosperity. Religion, today,
has in fact become the source of many conflicts, arguments, discrepancies, and
conspiracy theories; it has been blamed, questioned, scrutinized and radically
interrogated. However, despite the negative implications that religion has attracted, it is
important to understand the large impact that religion inspires. Debates, disputes,
discussions, and arguments have erupted in the name of religion. And it is for these
inspiring concepts that religion has predominantly erupted into pop culture today
Religious Ideologies: Christianity and Fundamentalism
After understanding the negative and positive implications that religion has on
today’s society and how ideology comes into play, it is important to now examine two
religious ideologies in order to examine the divine evil portrayed in pop culture artifacts.
The history of Christianity dates back to Jewish ancestry and is central to the
300+ prophecies in the Old Testament which revealed the upcoming of a Jewish Messiah
who would be the Savior of humanity. Approximately 2000 years ago, this prophecy was
fulfilled by the birth of Jesus from the Virgin Mary in the town of Bethlehem in the land
of Israel. The New Testament book of Luke (1: 26-38) and Matthew (1: 18-25) explains
the virgin birth of Jesus. The birth of Jesus Christ also claimed a revolution and the
revival of the teachings of Judaism. In the beginning, Christianity was considered as a
sect of Judaism. As Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the
Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5: 17).
However, the teachings of Jesus established the foundation of Christianity (Johnson,
As the message of Jesus started to spread among His people, He was betrayed by
one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, for 30 pieces of silver. He was held responsible for
treason and blasphemy. He was viciously beaten and crucified at Golgotha before
suffering on the cross for 6 hours. The following Sunday, when Mary Magdalene went to
His tomb, she was astonished to see that the tomb was empty. The book of Matthew
explains the resurrection of Jesus.
“The angel said to the women, do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking
for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come
and see the place where He lay” (Matthew 28: 5-7).
In spite of the ban on Christianity in Rome during the Second Century, it kept on
growing. In the Third Century, the Emperor Constantine stopped the harassment and
encouraged the growth of Christianity. The differences between the Greek East and Latin
West churches began to grow with time on the issues of use of icons, nature of the Holy
Spirit and day of Easter celebration (Hastings, 1999). As time progressed, Christianity
divided into three major branches. The Roman Catholic branch of Christianity is the
successor of the church established in Rome soon after Christ’s death. It traces its
spiritual history to the early disciples of Jesus. The Pope, or spiritual leader, traces his
office’s lineage back to St. Peter, the first Pope, one of Jesus’ disciples (Johnson, 1976).
During the Fourth Century, the Roman Catholic Church split and the Eastern
Orthodox branch was formed. The split was primarily a political one due to the division
of the Roman Empire into western and eastern components. The two churches became
officially separate in 1054 CE (Hastings, 1999). Orthodox churches are largely national,
each associated with a particular country (Johnson, 1976).
The Protestant branch split from Roman Catholicism during the Reformation, a
Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century series of church reforms in doctrine and practice. This
movement challenged the authority of the Pope, and became popular in Scandinavia,
England, and the Netherlands. Protestantism eventually divided into many denominations
which arose in response to disputes over doctrine, theology, or religious practice. Some
of the large denominations today are Lutherans, Methodists and Baptists (Chadwick,
1995).With the understanding and history of Christianity in mind, it is reasonable to
argue that extreme sects have erupted in the name of this particular religion. The
following explanation is a break-away from Christianity that will be the central focus and
provide explanation for this thesis.
Words have a life and energy of their own that will usually defy the exacting
demands of scholars. The term Fundamentalism has long since escaped from the
Protestant closet in which it began its semantic career around the turn of the 20th century
(Marsden, 1980). According to Ruthven (2004), “Fundamentalism may be described as a
religious way of being that manifests itself in a strategy by which believers attempt to
preserve their distinctive identities or groups in the face of modernity and secularization”
(p. 5). Put in a simpler way, Fundamentalism is a term popularly used to describe strict
adherence to Christian Doctrines based on a literal interpretation of the Bible.
Therefore, Fundamentalism is a relatively new brand of Protestantism started in
America that has attracted a tremendous following, including many fallen away
Catholics. The history of Fundamentalism may be viewed as having three main phases.
The first lasted a generation, from the 1890’s to the Scopes Trial of 1925. In this period,
Fundamentalism emerged as a reaction to liberalizing trends in American Protestantism;
it broke off, but never completely, from Evangelicalism. In its second phase, it passed
from public view, but never actually disappeared or even lost influence. Finally,
Fundamentalism came to the nation’s attention again around 1970, and it has enjoyed
considerable growth ever since. Catholics constitute a disproportionate share of the new
recruits (Marsden, 1980). The Catholic Church in America includes about a quarter of the
country’s inhabitants, so one might expect about a quarter of new Fundamentalists to
have been Catholics at one time; but in many Fundamentalist congregations, anywhere
from one-third to one-half of the members once belonged to the Catholic Church. This
varies around the country, depending on how large the native Catholic population is
While the origin of the term “Fundamentalism” has a fairly simple history, the
movement itself has a more confused origin. There was no individual founder, nor was
there a single event that precipitated its advent. Of course, Fundamentalist writers insist
that Fundamentalism is nothing but a continuation of Christian Orthodoxy (Carpenter,
1997). According to this theory, Fundamentalism flourished for three centuries after
Christ, went underground for twelve hundred years, surfaced again with the Reformation
and was alternately prominent or diminished in its influence and visibility. In short,
according to its partisans, Fundamentalism always has been “the Christian remnant, the
faithful who remain after the rest of Christianity has fallen into apostasy” (Tibi, 1998, p.
Religious Fundamentalism, as it is broadly understood, has been a major source of
conflict since the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, when the Berlin Wall came down and the
Soviet Union collapsed, bringing the Cold War to an end (Carpenter, 1997). The death-
toll from modern religious conflicts, or conflicts involving religion, is formidable. Not all
these conflicts, however, can be laid at the door of religious Fundamentalism. Local
factors including ethnicity and nationalism come into the picture. But religion, as a
source of motivation and identity, seems to have replaced the old ideologies of Marxism,
National Socialism, and anti-colonialism as the principal challenge to a world order based
on the hegemonic power of the liberal capitalist West (Marsden, 2006). Academics are
still debating the appropriateness of using the term Fundamentalism in contexts outside
its original Protestant setting. Fundamentalism, according to its critics, is “just a dirty 14-
letter word used by abusive liberals and Enlightenment rationalists against any group,
religious or otherwise, that dares to challenge the absolutism of the post-Enlightenment
outlook” (Ruthven, 2004, p. 5).
Until almost 100 years ago, Fundamentalism as society knew it was not a separate
movement within Protestantism, and the word itself was virtually unknown. Individuals
who today would be identified as Fundamentalists were formerly Baptists, Presbyterians,
or members of some other specific sect. But in the last decade of the Nineteenth Century,
issues came to the forefront that made them start to withdraw from mainline
Protestantism. The issues were: the Social Gospel, a liberalizing and secularizing trend
within Protestantism that tried to weaken the Christian message, making it a merely
social and political agenda, the embrace of Darwinism, which seemed to call into
question the reliability of Scripture and the higher criticism of the Bible that originated in
Germany. To meet the challenge presented by these developments, early Fundamentalist
leaders united around several basic principles, but it was not until the publication of a
series of volumes called The Fundamentals that the movement received its name
The basic elements of Fundamentalism were formulated almost exactly a century
ago at the Presbyterian theological seminary in Princeton, New Jersey, by B. B. Warfield
and Charles Hodge. What they produced became known as Princeton Theology, and it
appealed to conservative Protestants who were concerned with the liberalizing trends of
the Social Gospel movement, which was gaining steam at about the same time. In 1909,
the Milton brothers and Lyman Stewart were responsible for underwriting a series of
twelve volumes entitled The Fundamentals. There were 64 contributors, including
scholars such as James Orr, W. J. Eerdman, H. C. G. Moule, James M. Gray, and B. B.
Warfield, as well as Episcopalian bishops, Presbyterian ministers, Methodist evangelists,
and even an Egyptologist (Marsden, 1980). The preface to the volumes explained their
“In 1909 God moved two Christian laymen to set aside a large sum of money for
issuing twelve volumes that would set forth the Fundamentals of the Christian
faith, and which were to be sent free of charge to ministers of the gospel,
missionaries, Sunday school superintendents and others engaged in aggressive
Christian work throughout the English speaking world.”
Three million copies of the series were distributed. The Fundamental Doctrines identified
in the series can be reduced to five: (1) the inspiration and what the writers call
infallibility of Scripture, (2) the deity of Christ (including His virgin birth), (3) the
substitutionary atonement of His death, (4) His literal resurrection from the dead, and (5)
His literal return at the Second Coming (Marsden, 1980; Marsden, 1991).
Fundamentalists’ attitude toward the Bible is the keystone of their faith. Their
understanding of inspiration and inerrancy comes from B. B. Warfield’s notion of
plenary-verbal inspiration, meaning that the original autographs (manuscripts) of the
Bible are all inspired and the inspiration extends not just to the message God wished to
convey, but to the very words chosen by the sacred writers (Carpenter, 1997; Tibi, 1998).
Although the doctrine of the inspiration of the Bible is most commonly cited as the
essential cornerstone of the Fundamentalist beliefs, the logically prior doctrine is the
deity of Christ. For the Catholic, His deity is accepted either on the word of the
authoritative and infallible Church or because a dispassionate examination of the Bible
and early Christian history shows that He must have been just what He claimed to be—
God. Most Catholics, as a practical matter, accept his divinity based upon the former
method. In either case, there is a certain reasoning involved in the Catholic’s embrace of
this teaching. For many Fundamentalists, the assurance of Christ’s divinity comes not
through reason, or even through faith in the Catholic meaning of the word, but through an
inner, personal experience (Ruthven, 2004).
As an appendage to the Doctrine of the deity of Christ, and considered equally
important in The Fundamentals, is the Virgin Birth—although some Fundamentalists list
this separately, resulting in six basic doctrines rather than five. One might expect the
reality of Heaven and Hell or the existence of the Trinity to be next, but the Virgin Birth
is considered an essential Doctrine since it protects belief in Christ’s deity. One should
keep in mind, though, that when Fundamentalists speak of Christ’s birth from a virgin, it
is meant that Mary was a virgin only until his birth. The common understanding is that
Mary later had other children, citing the scriptural passages that refer to Christ’s
“brethren.” In reaction to the Social Gospel advocates, who said Christ gave nothing
more than a good moral example, the early Fundamentalists insisted on their third
Doctrine, namely, that He died a substitutionary death. He not only took on our sins, He
received the penalty that would have been ours. He was punished in our stead (Marsden,
2006). As far as Christ’s resurrection, Fundamentalists do not differ from Orthodox
Catholics. They believe that Christ rose physically from the dead, not just spiritually. His
resurrection was not a collective hallucination of His followers, or something invented by
pious writers of later years. It really happened, and to deny it is to deny Scripture’s
reliability (Marsden, 1991).
The most disputed topic, among Fundamentalists themselves, concerns the fifth
belief listed in The Fundamentals, the Second Coming. There is unanimous agreement
that Christ will physically return to Earth, but the exact date has been disputed. Some say
it should have been before the millennium, a thousand-year golden age with Christ
physically reigning on earth. Others say it will be after the millennium. Others say that
the millennium is Christ’s heavenly reign and that there will be no golden age on earth
before the last judgment. Some Fundamentalists also believe in the rapture, the bodily
taking into Heaven of true believers before the tribulation or time of trouble that precedes
the millennium. Others find no scriptural basis for such a belief (Ruthven, 2004).
Such are the five main Doctrines discussed in the books that gave
Fundamentalism its name, but they are not necessarily the beliefs that most distinguish
Fundamentalism today (Marsden, 2006). For instance, it is rarely heard about the Virgin
Birth, although there is no question that Fundamentalists still believe this doctrine.
Rather, to the general public, and to most Fundamentalists themselves, today
Fundamentalism has a different focus. The most spectacular Fundamentalist atrocity of
all was the suicide hijacking on September 11th, 2001 of three airliners by Islamist
militants belonging to the Al-Qaeda network, whose supposed head is the Saudi dissident
Osama bin Laden. Nearly 3,000 people were killed when the planes crashed into the
World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon near Washington. The atrocity was a
classic example of the propaganda of the deed: the image of imploding towers, symbols
of Western capitalism, was etched into public consciousness as an icon of Islamist terror
or resistance to American hegemony (Marsden, 1991).
Additionally, there have been dozens of other atrocities blamed on
Fundamentalists which have caught the headlines. Most of them have been attributed to
Muslim terrorists whose hostility to the West and to the United States in particular, is
widely presumed to be the outcome of their Fundamentalist views. Though far from
being exclusive to Islam – Jewish, Sikh and Hindu extremists have been responsible for
assassinating three prime ministers – the world of Islam seems particularly prone to
religiously inspired violence at this time (Ruthven, 2004).
Foremost among the conflicts attributable to Fundamentalist intransigence is the
Arab-Israel dispute, still the world’s most dangerous threat. For the rationally minded
individual, whatever their religious background, the Middle East impasse illustrates the
pitfalls into which Fundamentalist politics is driving the world. Monotheists (who include
most Jews, Christians, and Muslims) may worship the same single transcendental deity,
whether known by the name of Jehovah, the Trinity, or Allah, but when it comes to
understanding His will, or intentions, His self-proclaimed followers invariably adopt
opposing standpoints. As Ruthven (2004) argues, “for the secular non-believer, or for the
liberal believer who takes a sophisticated view of religious discourse, the God of
Fundamentalism must be mischievous, if not downright evil, a demonic power that
delights in setting humans at each other’s throats” (p. 5). It is within this particular
viewpoint that this thesis takes.
Understanding the Divine Evil
As implied by Ruthven (2004), a demonic power is potentially at play in the
realm of Fundamentalism. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the implications
associated with Satan, Lucifer and the Devil in regards to Christianity and its place in pop
culture. According to Christianity, God created all things, but not necessary did He create
evil. The Apostle John states “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all” (1 John: 1,
5). When God finished His creation, He appreciated that “all that He had made was very
good” (Genesis: 1, 31). However, it is clear that evil exists in today’s world and in some
cases in awful measures.
According to some Christian views, the origin of evil is to be found in the world
of angels. God created them as personal and immaterial beings endowed with free will.
They were created the same way as the material universe and thus have a nature different
from God’s. These beings have minds (Acts 12: 7-10; 1 Peter: 1, 12), feelings (Luke: 15,
10), and wills (Jude 6) and are not limited by a physical body. Their number was very
large and there was a hierarchy among them (Hebrews: 12, 22). Evil appeared in the
world of angels when Lucifer, one of God’s cherubs (winged beings), rebelled against
this order. In the book of the prophet Ezekiel the metaphorical description of this incident
is as such:
“You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness
was found in you. Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence,
and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled
you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. Your heart became proud
on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your
splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings”
(Ezekiel 28: 15-17).
This angel, who became Satan (“adversary”) out of Lucifer (“angel of light”), was
expelled from Heaven together with all the others who joined him in his act of rebellion.
The cause of his fall was pride, the desire to be independent from God, to refuse
submission and inferiority to God. Lucifer wanted to be by himself more than his created
status could permit him (Pagels, 1995).
According to Christianity, evil entered our world as a result of Satan’s fall, so it
has an arsenal character. Jesus Christ spoke directly to Satan at the moment of his
temptation (Matthew 4: 1-11). He cast out demons (Mark 1: 21-28), and the apostles did
also (Acts 5: 16), so they were not addressing illusions. The Apostle Peter warned his
fellow Christians that Satan is a real and dangerous presence: “Be self-controlled and
alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to
devour” (1 Peter: 5, 8). Likewise, the Apostle Paul emphasizes that “Satan himself is
masquerading as an angel of light” in order to deceive humans (2 Corinthians: 11, 14).
As evidenced above, it is clear as to where the origin of Satan and evil in the
world first surfaced; however, it is not clear as to the difference between who these
villains are. As such, the Devil is referenced throughout biblical history quite often but is
characterized by many different names including, but not limited to, Adversary, Angel of
the Bottomless Pit, Beast, Beelzebub, Father of Lies, King of Tyre, Liar, Power of
Darkness, Ruler of Demons, Serpent of Old, and the Wicked One. This demonic creature
is known by many names but three are the most common in today’s popular culture:
Lucifer, Satan and the Devil.
As referenced above, Lucifer was created by God as His perfect angel. He was
called Lucifer while he lived in the realm of Heaven, but after he sinned and persistently
refused to repent he was thrown out of Heaven. When Lucifer was cast out of Heaven, he
lost his name and thus became known as Satan. Satan is also referenced as the Devil after
his departure from Heaven. According to today’s popular culture, Satan is now a sinful,
fallen angel. He lived on earth for 6,000 years, but has lived in the spirit world most of
the time and has not been visible to people on earth. As prophecy states, the devil will
leave the spirit world and will appear on earth in a visible form. Then he will be called
The Beast. The Beast is the name that the Bible gives to Satan when he comes to earth
visibly and claims to be God. Satan will appear on earth as a glorious, visible being and
will require the whole world to worship him as their god.
As such, when popular culture is exposed to the notion of the divine evil, certain
themes come into play that are both unique and specific to references of the Devil, Satan
and Lucifer. Many of those themes include, but are not limited to: possession, paranormal
activity, symbolic references, psychic abilities, mind games, and so on. Accordingly,
spirit possession is paranormal, supernatural, psychological and/or superstitious spirits,
demons (demonic possession), animas, or other disincarnate entities taking control of a
human body, resulting in noticeable changes in health and behavior. The concept of
spiritual possession exists in Christianity and is heavily influenced within pop culture.
Similarly, the notion of paranormal activity comes into play as well involving
ghosts/demons. This entity has been defined as the disembodied spirit or soul of a
deceased person. The paranormal is often described as immaterial and partly transparent,
and is known to haunt particular locations or people. However, with these ghostly themes
in mind, it is still important to understand the very basic components associated with both
religion and Christianity.
In sum, it is essential to know and understand the history of religion, the difficulty
in defining religion, the difference between religion and spirituality, the definition of
ideology, and how Christianity and Fundamentalism play a part in the essential
understanding of what the divine evil entails in popular culture. These key issues will
inform the data and findings of the thesis.
Given this review of religious ideologies and the personification of the divine
evil, it is important to come back to popular culture and understand why evil is a rooted
theme present today in many popular culture contexts. Therefore, the purpose of this
research is to identify the major themes present today in association with the divine evil.
In examining pop culture (particularly film) one can understand where religious
ideologies clash today with the divine evil themes. Understanding what themes are
present in popular films lead to an understanding of why these themes are coveted by
producers of popular culture and by consumers of popular culture. Ultimately, the
acknowledgement of an ideological shift may be at work within this particular realm of
In order to begin this study the basic assumptions of religious ideology, in
particular Fundamentalism must be understood. Understanding Fundamentalism as a
current ideology, drawn from Christianity today, helps inform why, in fact, divine evil
themes are present in popular culture. Films today are heavily based upon events that
have happened in the past (whether religious or not), are influenced by what could
happen in the future, and of course are anchored in things that are occurring at this very
moment. In referencing the use of Fundamentalism, according to Ruthven (2004), this
must be reiterated: “the God of Fundamentalism must be mischievous, if not downright
evil, a demonic power that delights in setting humans at each other’s throats.” Here, in
fact, lays the foundation for this thesis. By understanding that religious references (in
particular demonic references) are present within today’s society (films), research can
identify what themes are present and then in the future, understand why they are coveted
in popular culture today.
Overall, this thesis will identify themes that will define the divine evil in popular
culture. Items that will be analyzed will be broken down into two components because it
is both important and essential to understand the basic assumptions first, before delving
deeper into the divine evil components. The first grouping of themes will consist of
religious beliefs and the foundation of religion. These segments of themes are centralized
in religious belief in everyday life and are once more important to identify before looking
deeper into the divine evil themes. This first portion of themes will consist of identifying:
(1) symbols of religion/faith in daily life and activity, (2) the use of religion and
spirituality as separate entities, (3) the use of historical components of religion
(Christianity), (4) the use of Fundamentalist ideologies, and (5) the use of any of the five
Fundamental Doctrines. These five components are essential to understanding the themes
associated with the divine evil. Without the basis of understanding in religion, the
following could not be presented and understood as important.
Thus, the remaining units of analysis will focus specifically on the representation
of evil and the personifications associated with it. The following will be identified in
association with the divine evil (Devil, Satan and Lucifer): (6) the personification or
possession of the divine evil, (7) paranormal activity associated with the divine evil, (8)
the use and/or references to the divine evil, (9) the symbols associated with the divine
evil and, (10) the psychic abilities and/or mind games played by or exposed by the divine
evil. By identifying these 10 characteristic themes associated with contemporary film,
this thesis will then provide a basis of understanding into why pop culture has exploded
with interest for the divine evil.
An essential epistemological assumption of religion is that meaning is
symbolically constructed and expressed in texts within society. As such, this thesis will
analyze and investigate the practical implications expressed in texts referring to and
referencing divine evil in multiple ways. Qualitative research methods are employed in
this thesis. The findings produced from qualitative research are not derived from means
of statistical procedures or any other means of quantification. Instead, qualitative research
is a “nonmathematical analytic procedure that results in findings derived from data
gathered by a variety of means” (Strauss & Corbin, 1990, p. 18). Qualitative data are both
attractive and essential to scholarly research. These kinds of data offer rich descriptions
and explanations of processes occurring in cultural texts. Additionally, qualitative data
help the researcher go beyond initial preconceptions and frameworks and enable research
to be interpretive and culturally relevant (Glaser & Strauss, 1967).
The qualitative method employed in this thesis is a textual analysis. A textual
analysis is a process of interpreting the cultural meanings which manifest themselves in
and through the texts of our culture. The assumption of textual analysis is that by
interpreting and unitizing (categorizing) data, identification and insight can be gained into
the layers of meaning of each source (Littlejohn, 1989: Lincoln & Guba, 1985). This
method begins with the assumption that any text embodies rich layers of meaning that
can be revealed by in-depth content analysis. The qualitative researcher samples and
codes data inductively, that is, without relying upon a priori theoretical categorization. In
using this method, it is possible to identify and gain insights into the texts’ layers of
meaning. Interpretive textual analyses may include: semiotics, rhetorical analysis,
ideological analysis, and psychoanalytic approaches, among many others. These types of
analyses seek to get beneath the surface (denotative) meanings and examine more
implicit (connotative) social meanings. These textual analysis approaches often view
culture as a narrative or story-telling process in which particular “texts” or “cultural
artifacts” (i.e., a song, television program or popular movie) consciously or
unconsciously link themselves to larger stories at play in the society (Fairclough, 2003).
The initial step in conducting a textual analysis is the inductive coding of
potential data. The researcher enters this step with a sense for what comprises “data” but
without previous assumptions regarding the categorization or definitions of the data
(Fairclough, 2003). Instead, the collected data are “unitized,” with the empirical data
dictating categories rather than being grouped by pre-established limitations. Words,
passages, subject areas, even entire articles may be chosen and grouped together
according to their content, shared characteristics or topic areas (Lincoln & Guba, 1985).
Ultimately, the data are “unitized,” or gradually organized into units based on the shared
criteria composed in the respective subject area. These content categories are flexible and
can be shaped and changed by new findings, rather than conforming to previously
identified categories (Littlejohn, 1989). As data are grouped into new categories, the
researcher identifies rules that govern inclusion or exclusion of data from that particular
category. The rules may change several times before a final version is accepted, but all
data must be included or excluded based on the final version of the rules (Lincoln &
Guba, 1985). After all data are coded, unitized, and classified according to the
inductively-built rules, the researcher develops a theoretical explanation of the text.
As suggested by Littlejohn (1989), interpretivists prefer the qualitative approach
of textual analysis (as opposed to the quantitative approach of content analysis) because it
enables the exploration of the rich layers of meaning embodied in textual discourse
without significantly altering data collection through the use of a previously imposed
theory. Inductive theory developments allow for an understanding of textual meaning
within its own context; thus, the subjective bias of the researcher is acknowledged and
utilized by accepting the researcher as an interpretive instrument in the overall research
design (Fairclough, 2003).
To solidify the textual analysis research design, the appropriate texts must be
identified. However, before understanding what texts are appropriate for this research
study, it must first be understood that films will be analyzed for this particular thesis. But
why are films a good choice to study popular culture? Films provide entertainment, an
opportunity for intellectual reflection, and a means to understand the depths of the human
heart. Films are cultural artifacts created by specific cultures, which reflect those cultures,
and, in turn, affect them. Film is considered to be an important art form, a source of
popular entertainment and a powerful method for educating viewers. The visual elements
of the cinema give motion pictures a universal power of communication (Nelmes, 1996).
Thus, film is a large part of today’s pop culture and will be a good avenue to pursue in
this research study.
Before selecting films to analyze though, it must be noted that certain films will
only be selected based on the criticism the film received and its contemporary standing.
Film criticism is the typical analysis and evaluation of films, individually and
collectively. In general, this can be divided into journalistic criticism that appears
regularly in newspapers and other popular, mass-media outlets and academic criticism by
film scholars that is informed by film theory and published in journals (Corrigan, 1998).
Film critics working for newspapers, magazines, broadcast media, and online
publications, mainly review new releases. Normally they only see any given film once
and have only a day or two to formulate opinions. Despite this, critics have an important
impact on films, especially those of certain genres. The popularity of mass marketed
action, horror, and comedy films tend not to be greatly affected by a critic’s overall
judgment of a film. The plot summary and description of a film that make up the majority
of any film review can have an important impact on whether people decide to see a film.
For prestige films with a limited release, such as independent dramas, the influence of
reviews is extremely important. Poor reviews will often doom a film to obscurity and
financial loss (Corrigan, 1998).
Some claim that journalist film critics should only be known as film reviewers,
and that true film critics are those who take an academic approach to films. This work is
more often known as film theory or film studies. These film critics try to come to
understand why film works, how it works, what it means, and what effects it has on
people. Rather than write for mass-market publications, their articles are published in
scholarly journals that tend to be affiliated with university presses, or sometimes in up-
market magazines (Corrigan, 1998).
Given that the journalistic film critic system can be associated with pop culture,
findings from film criticism will be utilized as the mechanism for selecting the texts to
examine in this thesis.
In reference to the divine evil themes presented above, supernatural films were
selected to be analyzed. Supernatural films have themes including gods or goddesses,
ghosts, apparitions, spirits, miracles, and other similar ideas or depictions of
extraordinary phenomena. They are typically combined with other genres, including
comedy, sci-fi, fantasy or horror. Interestingly however, until recently, supernatural films
were usually presented in a comical, whimsical, or a romantic fashion, and were not
designed to frighten the audience. There are also many hybrids that have combinations of
fear, fantasy, horror, romance and comedy (Nelmes, 1996): all of which warrant future
study, but will not be analyzed for this particular thesis.
As indicated earlier, the supernatural film genre is one of current interest and is an
easy avenue of demonstrating how evil is created in pop culture. Taking into
consideration all the aforementioned methods of selection, the following films have been
selected for study based on their contemporary nature (mid-to-late 2000s). The following
represent films that reflect the supernatural theme associated with religious undertones.
1. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) - This film depicts the trial of
Emily’s parish priest, who performed her exorcism, and who was accused by
the state of negligent homicide. The film shows flashbacks of the events
leading up to Emily Rose’s exorcism, and ultimately, her death.
2. The Amityville Horror (2005) – This film depicts the Lutz family who move
into a house in Amityville, New York. Thirteen months before the Lutz’s
moved in, Ronald DeFeo, Jr. had shot and killed six members of his family at
the house. The family experiences 28 days of horror and possession.
3. The Omen (2006) - The premise of the film comes from the end all times
prophecies of Christianity. The film depicts the childhood of Damien
Thorn (said to have been born on June 6 of that particular year at 6:00AM),
who was switched at birth in Rome. Damien's family is unaware that he is
actually the offspring of Satan and destined to become the antichrist.
4. Paranormal Activity (2007) - The film centers on a young couple, Katie and
Micah, who are haunted by a supernatural presence in their home. The movie
is presented using “found footage” from the camera set up by the couple to
capture what is haunting them.
5. A Haunting in Connecticut (2009) - The story centers on Matthew Campbell,
who is being treated for a rare form of lymphoma. His family rents a house,
which they learn was previously a funeral home. The family begins
experiencing violent and supernatural events that the parents initially blame
on stress and hallucinations from Matt's treatment.
These films are a representation of both religion and the supernatural and were
therefore selected because of their ability to exemplify religion as a form of
communication. In addition, these films symbolize a contemporary standpoint, as
they represent the later half of the 2000’s decade. Additionally, as evidenced by
popular culture, these films experienced financial success at the box office and
therefore represent a commercial success that was influential to contemporary
DATA AND ANALYSIS
As an essential aspect of religion, communication occurs between believers,
between religious leaders and followers, between proponents of different faiths, and even
between practitioners and the deities. Communication and media are integral to religion
and the expression of religious belief. Quite obviously, religion is a unique form of
communication and rests on the notion of intelligent design, popular culture, and
symbols. Therefore, the following is an analysis of the contemporary films analyzed.
As stated earlier, there was much to be analyzed and discovered within the chosen
films. The films viewed included contemporary horror/supernatural films: The Exorcism
of Emily Rose (2005), The Amityville Horror (2005), The Omen (2006), Paranormal
Activity (2007), and The Haunting in Connecticut (2009). As indicated above, specific
points and themes were drawn from the chosen films. These items were separated into
two categories in order to understand the effects in their entirety. The first category was
composed of the foundations of religion and acted to understand the basic historical
concepts pulled from the film and how they were associated with the divine evil. These
themes included: symbols of religion/faith in daily life and activity, the use of religion
and spirituality as separate entities, the use of historical components of religion and/or
Christianity, the use of Fundamentalist ideologies, and the use of any of the five
On a broader scale, these themes function as ideological constructs and as
religious ideological positions relative to Christianity, but mostly Fundamentalism.
Primarily, these themes continue to represent the identification of new ideological shifts
or resistant ideologies to contemporary popular culture. Upon further identification of the
religious based themes, however, the remaining analysis defines the divine evil. The
following themes included: the personification or possession of the divine evil,
paranormal activity associated with the divine evil, uses and/or references to the divine
evil, symbols associated with the divine evil, and psychic abilities and/or mind games
played by or exposed by the divine evil. With these themes in mind, this thesis attempted
to sum up the concept known as the divine evil. In beginning the data and analysis of the
suggested themes, the foundations of religion were analyzed.
Symbols of Religion/Faith in Daily Life and Activity
To begin, the use of religion and faith in the lives of the characters represented in
the films was vast. For example, The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) contained elements
of religion throughout the entire film and evidently played a monumental part in the Rose
family. On the flip side, Paranormal Activity (2007) contained little to no use of religion
whatsoever. As suggested above, religion plays a large part in many individual lives,
despite the arguments that religion is on its way out (Barratt, 2006; Chernus, 2008;
Saranam, 2005). To begin, this thesis will first identify some of the many symbols or
concepts that indicate the use of religion in everyday activity within the films viewed.
These are brief examples of some of the most common religious symbols in film,
representing and demonstrating the inherent powerful religious ideology contained in
symbols and rituals.
The use of the rosary is found as a consistent symbol throughout the films.
The rosary is a symbol of a popular and traditional Roman Catholic devotion. The item
itself denotes both a set of prayer beads and the devotional prayer itself, which combines
vocal or silent prayer and meditation. The prayers consist of repeated sequences of the
Lord’s Prayer followed by ten prayers of the Hail of Mary and a single praying of Glory
Be to the Father. Each of these sequences is known as a decade and the sum of the prayer
is known as the minor doxology. Thus, the rosary provides a physical method of keeping
track of the number of Hail Marys said. In its use, the fingers are moved along the beads
as the prayers are recited. The physical use of the rosary results in not having to keep
track of the count mentally. Therefore, the mind is more able to meditate and focus on the
prayers themselves (Servants, 1990).
Rosaries are found specifically within the film The Haunting in Connecticut
(2009). As the plot identifies, rosaries are used to seek comfort in God in times of need.
For example, the mother in this particular film prays, utilizing her rosary when she learns
her son’s experimental cancer treatment is failing. She also keeps her rosary close to her
by hanging it on her rear-view mirror in the car.
The crucifix is found consistently throughout the films as well. A crucifix is a
three-dimensional cross with a representation of Jesus’ body, also known as the “corpus.”
The crucifix is a primary symbol of Christianity but is especially important in the
Catholic Church. However, it is also utilized in Eastern Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran
churches. The crucifix represents Jesus’ sacrifice: His death by crucifixion, which
Christians believe brought about the redemption of mankind. Prayer in front of a crucifix
is often part of devotion for Christians, especially those worshipping in a church, and
private devotion in a chapel (Niehburh, 1964).
Interestingly enough, the use of the crucifix in the films analyzed is not typical.
More often than not, the crucifix (or cross) is evoked for protective purposes. For
example, in the film The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), Father Moore is awakened in
the middle of the night to a strange burning smell (later to be determined that this is the
first sign to imminent evil). He immediately grabs his crucifix and holds it out in front of
him as a form of protection and in fact clutches it to his chest when he literally sees the
apparition of death. Similarly, in The Haunting in Connecticut (2009), when the reverend
was asked to come over to the Campbell’s home and cleanse the house, he used a
magnetic cross to identify and protect himself from where the evil lurked inside the
Furthermore, in the film The Omen (2006), a crucifix was hung above the
maternity ward where Kate gave birth in efforts to keep evil out. Evidently, when the
antichrist (Damien) was born, he was not able to enter the ward. Further along in the film
as well, when Damien was asked to attend church, he reluctantly refused and harmed his
mother in the process of seeing both the crucifix and the church. Lastly, the use of the
crucifix is somewhat contradicted in the film, Paranormal Activity (2007). After Katie
has become possessed by the demon, Micah loses his faith in God and in turn throws a
cross into the fire and watches it burn. Here, the use of the cross is not for protection, but
is used for psychological vengeance. In an effort to “get back” at the demon possessing
Katie, Micah chooses to abandon any hope of religion and disposes of the cross.
Ultimately, the use of the crucifix varies a great deal throughout the films and means
sometime different to each character portrayed.
The Lord’s Prayer
The Lord’s Prayer is also utilized and referenced several times throughout the
entirety of these films. The Lord's Prayer, also known as the Our Father or Pater noster,
is perhaps the best-known prayer in Christianity (Ehrman, 2000). This prayer is identified
by numerous languages and forms of Christianity and is historically used to unite
Christians around the globe. For example, on Easter Sunday, it is estimated that 2 billion
Catholic, Protestant, Lutheran, and Eastern Orthodox Christians, read, recite, or sing the
short prayer in hundreds of languages. Although many theological differences and
various modes and manners of worship divide Christians, there has historically been a
sense of solidarity that Christians around the globe pray together and that these specific
words always unite them (Kang, 2007).
The Lord’s Prayer is also extremely common within the films analyzed and is
typically used as protection, forgiveness or savior. For example, in The Omen (2006),
when Robert realizes that his son is indeed the antichrist, he quickly takes him to the
church where he intends to kill the child utilizing a special set of knifes he obtained from
a monk in an ancient land. These particular knives were hidden and kept under protection
by monks because of their destiny and power to kill the antichrist. Before he is able to
look his son in the eye though, he begins to recite the prayer as an act of forgiveness.
Similarly, in The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), Father Moore recites this common
prayer before he begins the first attempt at an exorcism. As the demon is awakened inside
Emily, the prayer is cut short, but was nonetheless intended for protection.
Lastly, in the film The Haunting in Connecticut (2009), a similar prayer was
utilized as an act of redemption. While the house was burning down and her son had
fainted, Sara comes in to rescue Matt. After pulling him to safety, she begins to recite
The Lord is my Shepherd psalm. This psalm has also occupied an important place in the
spiritual life of a Christian and is typically one of the Psalms included in the order of
preparation for the reception of Holy Communion (to be addressed later). Additionally,
for Christians, the image of God as a shepherd evokes connections not only with David
but with Jesus, described as “the Good Shepherd” in the Gospel of John (Macmillan,
1988). In this context, Sara was praying for the survival of her son.
Use of Religion and Spirituality as Separate Entities
As evidenced above in the review of literature, individuals who speak of
spirituality outside of religion often define themselves as “spiritual, but not religious” and
generally believe in the existence of many different “spiritual paths” that emphasize the
importance of finding one’s own individual path to spirituality. Thus, a key difference is
that religion is a type of formal external search, while spirituality is defined as a search
within oneself. With respect to religion, this implies that spirituality takes on the
following characteristics: faith becomes more personal, less dogmatic, more open to
experimentation, and is based upon personal experience (Eliade, 1969).
As such, this particular theme was not evidenced in every film but was heavily
displayed in The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005). Interestingly enough, most of this film
was set in a courtroom and was symbolically a sample of spiritual belief versus religious
belief. The defense lawyer, Erin, identified herself as a spiritual person when meeting
with Father Moore for the first time. As the film continued, Father Moore convinced Erin
that dark forces surrounded the trial and that she was in danger for as long as she
represented him. Her response was that she couldn’t be in danger if she didn’t believe.
However, as the trial continued, Erin began to experience evil entities and unexplained
events. Her once spiritual thoughts began to turn into religious beliefs, specifically that
evil entities do exist in the world (resonating with religious beliefs). Her turning point in
her belief system changed when she found a gold locket in the middle of a deserted street
with her initials of ECB engraved on them. This, she took, as a sign from God that she
was on the right path.
As explained above, religion and spirituality can be seen as merely two stages, so
much so that many followers of constituted religions consider spirituality to be an
intrinsic and inseparable aspect of their religious experience. The relationship between
religion and spirituality can, thus, be seen as comparable to the relationship between
container and content, between form and substance, or between theory and practice
(William, 1982). Thus, Erin began her journey as one of a spiritual nature and then went
to the second stage of religious belief when she found the locket and actively sought out
religious information in order to help Father Moore, and to invariably, help herself
regarding the dark forces surrounding her and the trial.
Uses of Historical Components of Religion
When identifying the use of religion in every day life examples, it is important to
go back and understand the very founding components of what religion is and where it
came from. Many similarities are drawn from the films that resonate with stories from
both the Old and New Testament. The first historical component begins with the plague
of flies in Egypt.
Plague of Flies
The Ten Plagues of Egypt, also referred to as Ten Plagues or the Biblical Plagues,
are the ten calamities imposed upon Egypt by Yahweh as recounted in the Book of
Exodus, to convince the Pharaoh to let the Israelite slaves go. As scripture recites it, the
Pharaoh did not permit the release of his slaves until after the tenth plague. The fourth
plague of Egypt, however, was flies, capable of harming both people and livestock. The
Pharaoh asked Moses to remove this plague and promised to allow the Israelites freedom.
However, after the plague was gone, the Pharaoh refused to keep his promise (Becher,
2005). This story and belief represents a resisting ideology and resonates with
Fundamentalism, in understanding this as a literal interpretation of the Bible.
As such, this plague was revisited in film The Amityville Horror (2005). After
Kathy understands that the house they moved into was burdened with evil, she asked the
local priest to come and cleanse the house of the evil that dwells. She allowed the priest
into the sun room and left him to begin his process. However, when the priest throws his
Holy Water on the floor, the water sizzles and bubbles and burns into the floorboards.
Upon seeing this, the priest immediately seizes his crucifix and begins to walk about the
room reciting various prayers. When he reached the air vent, however, he heard a buzzing
noise. The vent burst off of the wall and a plague of flies erupted around the priest. He
screamed and swatted at the flies. Kathy then came running to his aid, but could see
nothing of the flies the priest explained. The illusion of flies (or the plague of flies) was
only visible to the priest. He then ran, screaming from the house, and does not return.
This biblical representation is a key example of popular culture that resonates
with biblical story. Here, in fact, lays the foundation for this thesis. By understanding that
religious references (in particular biblical references) are present within today’s society
(films), it can be identified what themes are present and why they are coveted by popular
The Eucharist, also called Holy Communion or The Lord’s Supper, is a Christian
sacrament or ordinance, generally considered to be a commemoration of the Last Supper,
the final meal that Jesus Christ shared with his disciples before his arrest and eventual
crucifixion. The consecration of bread and a cup within the rite recalls the moment at the
Last Supper when Jesus gave his disciples bread, saying, “This is my body,” and wine,
saying, “This is my blood.” In his First Epistle to the Corinthians, Paul the Apostle gives
the earliest recorded description of Jesus’ Last Supper: “The Lord Jesus on the night
when He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said,
‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also
the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often
as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (Chemnitz, 1979).
The Holy Communion is a common practice for Christians, but was only
referenced in The Omen (2006). When the priest meets with Robert, Damien’s father, he
warns him that his wife is in danger. While Robert does not know whose child he is
raising, the priest certainly implies that the child is evil. He admits that the child Damien
was born from a jackal and is the antichrist in the flesh. He then explicitly states that
Robert must go and “drink the blood of Christ to repent his sins.” Ironically, Robert
ignores his request and refuses the Holy Communion. Once more, this film connects to a
religious practice established by Jesus in the New Testament, but now is portrayed in a
contemporary film: ideological shift.
Nail Placement in Crucifixion
Crucifixion is an ancient method of painful execution in which the condemned
person is tied or nailed to a large wooden cross (of various shapes) and left to hang until
dead. In popular depictions of the crucifixion of Jesus (possibly because in translations
of John 20: 25 the wounds are described as being “in his hands”), Jesus is shown with
nails in his hands. The nail placement in the process of crucifixion was strategic; they
were driven in at an angle, entering in the palm at the base of the thumb, and exiting in
the wrist, passing through the carpal tunnel. Thus, this strategic nail placement left
wounds on Jesus Christ’s hands (Crossan, 1997).
As evidenced in the film The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), when Emily
chooses to remain and die in suffering of the demonic possession, she receives an injury
on her palms, depicting an exact replica of the wounds suffered by Jesus Christ. As Jesus
died for Christian’s sins, Emily is making the same choice and bearing the burden of the
demonic possession for similar reasons. Once more, symbolism is at play here too; pop
culture in films present a new version of an old religious practice portraying ideology and
beliefs repeated across millenniums.
Birth of the Antichrist (Book of Revelation)
The Book of the Revelation of John, usually referred to simply as Revelation or
the Book of Revelation, is the last book of the New Testament. Revelation is a cryptic
document which has been interpreted in many ways. Most of the interpretations fall into
one or more of the following categories: the Historicist, which sees in Revelation a broad
view of history; the Preterist, in which Revelation mostly refers to the events of the
apostolic era (first century); the Futurist, which believes that Revelation describes future
events; and the Idealist, or Symbolic, which holds that Revelation is purely symbolic, an
allegory of the spiritual path and the ongoing struggle between good and evil. These
approaches are by no means mutually exclusive, and can be (and usually are) used in
combination with each other (Beale, 1999).
Revelation includes a description of a catastrophic sequence of events that some
people believe are occurring or will occur in the future. These include earthquakes (such
as the Indonesia earthquake and tidal wave in December, 2004 or the recent earthquake in
Haiti, 2010), wars, diseases (such as AIDS, Bird Flu and H1N1), economic chaos (the
current economic recession), weather changes (global warming and Hurricane Katrina in
2007), and the rise to power of an evil dictator, called the antichrist. He is identified by
the number 666. Also in Revelation there are the four horsemen of the Apocalypse: the
antichrist, the conqueror, who rides on a white horse; war, on a red horse; economic
depression, on a black horse; and death rides a pale horse. The Four Horsemen of the
Apocalypse are said to ride as the antichrist rises to power. There is also a description in
Revelation 8 of what appears to be an asteroid or comet hitting earth, destroying much of
life on earth. Some believe this is Halley’s Comet, which is only visible to earth once
every 75 years (Beale, 1999; Ford, 1975).
As such, the entirely of the film The Omen (2006) is based solely on this episode.
In fact, the film opens in St. Peter’s Basilica where an astronomer witnesses a comet
(potentially Halley’s Comet) heading toward earth. He then tells the Pope of this event.
The next scene is the birth of Damien. Later on in the film, it is verified that Damien does
bare the mark of 666 on the back of his head, below his hairline. The film is invariably
about the rise of the antichrist. As such, the film does not have the classic “Hollywood
ending;” in fact, the film ends with both Mr. and Mrs. Thorn dead, and Damien rising to
power. Thus, this is another fantastic example of the historical components of religion
being utilized in contemporary film and pop culture.
Roman Ritual of Exorcism
Exorcism is the practice and belief of evicting demons or other spiritual
entities from a person or place which they are believed to have possessed. The practice is
quite ancient and part of the belief system of many cultures. In Christian practice, the
person performing the exorcism, known as an exorcist, is often a member of the church,
or an individual thought to be graced with special powers or skills. The exorcist may
use prayers, and religious material, such as set formulas, gestures, symbols, icons,
amulets, and so on. The exorcist often invokes God, Jesus and/or several different angels
and archangels to intervene with the exorcism. Exorcism is primarily associated with
the Catholic Church, although non-Catholic Christians also claim to perform exorcisms.
In general, possessed persons are not regarded as evil themselves, nor wholly responsible
for their actions. Therefore, practitioners regard exorcism as more of a cure than a
punishment (Cuneo, 2001 & Ferber, 2004).
The Roman Catholic exorcism is a ritual, but not a sacrament. Its efficacy
depends on two elements: authorization from valid Church authorities and the faith of the
exorcist. Catholic exorcism is still one of the most rigid and organized of all existing
exorcism rituals. Solemn exorcisms, according to the Canon law of the church, can be
exercised only by an ordained priest (or higher prelate), with the express permission of
the local bishop, and only after a careful medical examination to exclude the possibility
of mental illness. The Catholic Encyclopedia (1908) enjoined: “Superstition ought not to
be confounded with religion, however much their history may be interwoven, nor magic,
however white it may be, with a legitimate religious rite.” Things listed in the Roman
ritual as being indicators of possible demonic possession include: speaking foreign or
ancient languages of which the possessed has no prior knowledge, supernatural abilities
and strength, knowledge of hidden or remote things which the possessed has no way of
knowing, an aversion to anything holy, profuse blasphemy, and/or sacrilege (Ferber,
The Catholic Church revised the Rite of Exorcism in January 1999, though the
traditional Rite of Exorcism in Latin is allowed as an option. The act of exorcism is
considered to be an incredibly dangerous spiritual task. The ritual assumes that possessed
persons retain their free will, though the demon may hold control over their physical
body, and involves prayers, blessings, and invocations. Other formulas may have been
used in the past, such as the Benedictine Vade retro satana. In the modern era, Catholic
bishops rarely authorize exorcisms, approaching would-be cases with the presumption
that mental or physical illness is more likely (Cuneo, 2001).
Once more, the entirety of the film The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) was based
solely on this ancient belief. In fact, the film followed the guidelines of an exorcism
perfectly. One of the first points the films makes is that Emily was beyond medical care
and that the Rose family placed the wellbeing of their daughter in Father Moore’s hands.
After insuring that Emily was indeed possessed, Father Moore sought approval from the
local bishop to perform the exorcism. With Emily’s consent and the consent of her
family, Father Moore attempted the exorcism. As evidenced, Emily began to speak in
numerous, ancient languages including both Latin and Aramaic. Her bodily functions
were inhuman, such as jumping through a window from the second floor and throwing
things far beyond the ability of a human.
As this previous example exemplifies, Emily suffered through a human exorcism.
However, when examining what an exorcism truly is, it could be argued that an exorcism
could take place because of the haunting of a physical location. For example in both The
Amityville Horror (2005) and The Haunting in Connecticut (2009), both families asked a
priest to come and cleanse the house of its evil. In this form, the priest was acting to free
the house from the evil that dwelled within. Therefore, it is not only possible to free evil
that is trapped within a human form, but also to release evil from a physical location in an
Use of Fundamentalist Ideologies and the Five Fundamental Doctrines
Before beginning this segment, it must be noted that the follow section will
combine both themes presented above: the use of Fundamental Ideologies and then the
description of the use of the five Fundamental Doctrines. In combing these themes, it
presents a greater understanding of historical religious components. As evidenced in the
review of literature, Fundamentalism is founded upon 5 doctrines including: (1) the
inspiration and what the writers call infallibility of Scripture, (2) the deity of Christ
(including His virgin birth), (3) the substitutionary atonement of His death, (4) His literal
resurrection from the dead, and (5) His literal return at the Second Coming. Thus, the
following is an analysis of where any one of the doctrines are evidenced in contemporary
Doctrine I: Infallibility of Scripture
The first doctrine of Fundamentalism argues that there is infallibility in scripture.
As such, this doctrine is quite obviously displayed in the film The Omen (2006). As
stated in the Book of Revelations (as referenced above), it was common acceptance for
astronomers to be searching the night sky for oncoming comets. Any sight of a comet
speeding toward the earth would in fact alert Christians that the antichrist was indeed
born. To a Fundamentalist believer, any comet would signify the events of the antichrist
because according to doctrine one, scripture is infallible and is not to be questioned. It is
not allegorical, not a story, and not superstition. Thus, the events noted in the The Omen
(2006) were taken literally and were not questioned. Furthermore, when Robert
discovered that his son had the markings of 666 on the back of his head, he immediately
(and without question) made the decision to murder him. Robert knew and understood the
circumstances of Damien’s birth (born on June 6th at 6AM) and did not question what
needed to be done. Once more, The Omen (2006) expressed the Fundamental doctrine of
infallibility of scripture.
Fundamentalist and other Evangelical Christians generally have an entirely
different view. This is influenced by some of their beliefs. Since Fundamentalists believe
in the inerrancy of the Bible, they regard as true those passages which state that the gods
and goddesses worshiped by other religions are, in reality, Satan and his demons.
Additionally, they regard Satan as a living entity, a quasi deity who is totally dedicated to
destroying people’s lives and ruining their faith. They too regard themselves as being in a
continuous “spiritual battle” – a personal battle with Satan and his demons. Thus, it was
evident that Robert, in the film The Omen (2006) was fighting his inner demons. Robert
started to understand the signs the universe was telling him about his demon son. Thus,
Robert experienced an inner battle or perhaps, a personal battle with Satan himself,
Now that the previous analysis has profoundly touched upon some representative
examples of the foundations of religion and accessed all the historical components
within, this thesis will now direct its attention to defining the divine evil. It must be
noted, however, that defining the divine evil is only within the religious context and
realm. In further study, it could be noted that the divine evil could consume more
components that are not necessarily religious in nature. However, for the practical
implications of this thesis, evil in the religious sense will be analyzed.
The previous brief examples of religious beliefs will now frame the more focused
discussion of the divine evil. However, it must be reiterated that religion is a unique form
of communication that occurs between believers, between religious leaders and followers,
between proponents of different faiths, and even between practitioners and the deities. In
keeping this important assumption in mind, the following themes drawn from the films
will exemplify where exactly the divine evil is present and why it is included in
Personification or Possession of the Divine Evil
Demonic possession is often the term used to describe the control over a human
form by a demon. Descriptions of demonic possessions often include: erased memories or
personalities, convulsions, “fits” and fainting as if one were dying (MacNutt, 1995).
Unlike in channeling or other forms of possession, the subject has no control over the
possessing entity and so it will persist until forced to leave the victim, usually through a
form of exorcism. Other descriptions include: access to hidden knowledge and foreign
languages, drastic changes in vocal intonation and facial structure, sudden appearance of
injury (scratches, bite marks) or lesions, and superhuman strength (Ferber, 2004).
Possession occurs in multiple forms throughout the films analyzed. Since the
variety of possession is so vast, it is best handled to go film by film in this context.
Beginning with Paranormal Activity (2007), Katie suffered from a demonic possession
since the age of 5. As witnessed in the film, Katie identifies her first demonic experience
as a large black mass at the foot of her bed, whispering her name and breathing heavily.
Throughout the film it is clear that the demon moved with Katie throughout her life.
Inevitably, the demon took control of Katie and caused her to act strangely without her
knowledge. For example, Katie was filmed during the night by her boyfriend Micah; the
film showed that Katie would wake at night, get up from bed, and stand in the middle of
the room for hours on end. In fact, one encounter witnessed Katie leaving the room,
exiting the house, and moving to a porch swing where Micah later found her. She testifies
that she had no recollection of ever leaving. Additionally, during the height of her
possession, Katie was found holding a cross so tightly in her hand that it cut her severely
without her knowledge.
Throughout the duration of the film, Katie appeared to be succumbing to the
demon even more. In fact, once Micah noticed the strain it was having on Katie, he
suggested they leave the house. Katie flat out refused while laughing and smiling. In the
end, the demon had such a hold and pure control over Katie, it ultimately lead to her
murder of Micah and the inevitably murder of herself via a knife.
In the next film, The Haunting in Connecticut (2009), Matt (who suffered from a
rare form of cancer) started to experience strange encounters throughout his time at the
haunted house. Matt’s demonic possession came mostly in the form of hallucinations and
visions from the dead. For example, the milder forms of possession that Matt witnessed
were seeing blood all over the floor when his mom was cleaning or imagining putting his
hand right through a wall to find nothing but maggots and bugs inside. However, his
possession began to worsen with time and he soon found himself having visions of
people who died in the house he now lived. He commonly saw a boy (Jonah) who died in
the house on a regular basis and saw many visions of coffins being filled, of people he
never knew, and of incidents that had occurred years prior. In fact, Matt referenced his
possession as a connection with the dead.
Similarly, The Amityville Horror (2005) had events similar to those experienced
in The Haunting in Connecticut (2009). George Lutz began to suffer from demonic
possession whenever he found himself inside the house or on its property. Oddly enough,
the minute George left the home, he found himself to be free of the possession. However,
while inside the Lutz home, George experienced a fascination with a wall in the
basement. At the beginning of his possession, he found himself enamored with this wall.
Over time, he was so obsessed with it that he broke through it and found the remains of a
torture chamber inside. His possession came from a former torturer by the name of
Ketchum. He also experienced a severe annoyance with his son’s dog, where one night he
was so angered that he killed the dog in cold blood after the dog refused to stop barking
in the night. Additionally, the possession did not stop at George. His young daughter,
Chelsea, also experienced a form of possession, despite her knowledge. Chelsea could
invariably see the ghost of a girl, Jodi, who was murdered in the house and would do
anything the girl asked, including climbing on the roof and jumping off.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) was indeed evident and quite obvious. Emily
experienced strange phenomena associated with demonic possession as well. Before the
full-fledged possession, Emily suffered from hallucinations, including seeing demons in
the night sky, witnessing black blood drain from people’s faces, and seeing frost
markings in the form of demon faces on windows. When completely possessed, Emily’s
pupils would consume her eyes; her body would contort into unimaginable positions, she
had superhuman strength, and she could speak multiple languages at one time such as
Latin and Aramaic. Additionally, Emily would scratch the walls until her fingers were
bloodied, eat spiders and insects, and would bite at the people restraining her.
Lastly, the film The Omen (2006) had a different form of possession portrayed.
Instead of a character becoming possessed, the main character did the actual possessing
of others. For example, Damien possessed the first nanny into hanging herself at his 6th
birthday party. Before the nanny jumped from the roof, her words to Damien were “it’s
all for you, Damien!” Additionally, Damien was brought a new nanny (was referenced as
“the gatekeeper”) who assisted Damien in the murder of his mother, Kate. To that same
effect, Damien possessed or captivated the guard outside of his mother’s hospital room so
that his nanny could walk in and put an air bubble in Kate’s veins.
In accordance with the above evidence, this data acts as examples of pop culture
containing religious ideology, symbols of Satan and evil. The ideology presented here is
personified by false consciousness and the worldview of culture. Thus, there is a shift in
religious beliefs in these films in comparison to earlier texts. This is invariably a great
representation of Fundamentalist ideology.
Paranormal Activity Associated with the Divine Evil
This theme is consistently vast and has different elements portrayed from
different films. Once more, for this particular theme, it is best referenced to look film by
film, beginning with Paranormal Activity (2007). This film depicts the possession of
Katie in various ways. Before the actual possession of Katie, however, the demon itself
plays many games to scare Katie and intensify her fear of possession. For example, the
paranormal activity associated with this film include: movement of objects (keys, Ouija
board, photograph), flickering lights, banging/scratching sounds, whispering, screaming,
TV static, footsteps, setting items on fire, footprints, slamming doors, breaking glass,
breathing, wind under the bed sheets, shadows, bite marks and finally dragging the victim
from the room.
Similarly, The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) depicts Emily experiencing many
of the same phenomena before the actual possession. For example, Emily witnesses her
pencil cup on her desk moving on its own and crashing to the floor. Slightly after, she
began to sink into her bed and an invisible presence began to choke her and force her
further into her bed. The presence then began to shake the room violently and move her
bed covers up and down. This was the initial experience that Emily had with demonic
possession. Shortly after, Emily then began to witness seeing demon faces in the night
sky and in windows and could see black blood dripping from people’s faces in the
classroom, in the courtyard, and finally in the church itself.
The Amityville Horror (2005) also depicted several of the same paranormal
activity. For example, George started to hear voices in the night and see shadows in
mirrors. He experienced many hallucinations and whispering in the night before his full-
fledged possession. His wife, Kathy witnessed objects being moved such as the
alphabetic magnets on her refrigerator. At first, the letters read “welcome home,” but
were suddenly changed to “ketch’em and kill’em.” Once the presence of something was
known to the Lutz family, they began to witness stranger things including leaking
plumbing, doors locking, and blood that would seep from the corners of the ceiling, but
would disappear upon further inspection.
Once more, The Haunting in Connecticut (2009) had similar experiences
including the phone ringing consistently with no one on the other end, shadows, creaking
noises that were blamed on the house settling, flickering lights, seeing ghosts in mirrors,
and burning door handles. Additionally, after the haunted presence was acknowledged,
the niece, Wendy, was wrapped up in the shower curtain when trying to take a shower in
an attempt to suffocate her. She also believed she saw a bird fly in through her window
and take refuge under her bed, when in reality, there was nothing there. Lastly, The Omen
(2006) exemplifies an alternative to paranormal activity associated with supernatural/
horror films: there is no paranormal activity.
In reference to the above data, it is evident that the experiences of the characters
in the contemporary films viewed are in some way referred back to evil. In this particular
context, it is essential that this information is brought back to the basics of
Fundamentalism. As according to Ruthven (2004), he argues, “for the secular non-
believer, or for the liberal believer who takes a sophisticated view of religious discourse,
the god of Fundamentalism must be mischievous, if not downright evil, a demonic power
that delights in setting humans at each other’s throats” (p. 5). Thus, this demonic power
referenced implies and acts to understand the aforementioned paranormal activity.
However, it must be noted that believers in Fundamentalism acknowledge the same god
as that of Christianity; this argument by Ruthven (2004) implies that perhaps a separate
god exists that delights in setting humans against each other’s throat.
Similarly, the historical religious components come into play here as well. As
explained in the review of literature, evil was brought into the world when Lucifer was
cast out of Heaven by God. Until this critical period, evil did not exist. However, the
paranormal activity displayed in the films could indeed represent the acts of the Devil and
his demons he controls from the spiritual world.
Use and/or References to the Divine Evil
Uses and references to the divine evil are found all through the films. However,
in particular, references to the belief in demonic possession are the most prominent. For
example, the entire plot in The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) is centralized in a court
case. The struggle exists between the prosecution and the defense in whether or not
Father Moore had the authority and power to perform the exorcism, despite medical
implications. It is the defense’s task to convince the jury that Emily was indeed possessed
by a demonic presence and that Father Moore’s actions were defendable. Furthermore,
not only is Erin (the defense lawyer) trying to argue Father Moore’s justification, but she
is also in a “spiritual battle” herself. According to Father Moore, “demons exist whether
you like it or not.” As evidenced, the references here are acknowledged in the form of
belief in demons.
Similarly, Paranormal Activity (2007) has comparable references. When Katie
and Micah invite a psychic into their home, he immediately states that there is a presence
he can feel. He makes the distinction between what he usually feels and what he feels
now. The presence of a ghost is common in his line of work and he acknowledges the
existence of a human spirit. Demons are different; demons are not a human entity and
feed off of evil and negative energy. He then identifies the presence he feels as demonic,
warning Kate and Micah that its goal is to tear them apart.
Contrastingly, The Haunting in Connecticut (2009) depicts a different form of
reference to the divine evil. This film does not simply argue the belief in demonic
possession but takes it one step further: contacting other entities. Jonah, the boy in the
flashback portion of the film, was said to be a medium. Mediumship is the claimed ability
of a person (the medium) to experience what he/she or others believe is contact with
spirits of the dead, angels, demons or other immaterial entities. The role of the medium is
supposedly to facilitate communication with spirits who have messages to share with
non-mediums. Mediums claim to be able to listen to, relay messages from and relate
conversations with the spirit, to go into a trance and speak without knowledge of what is
being said, to allow a spirit to control their body and speak through it (Wood, 2007). This
then introduces the term séance. Séances can be used specifically for a meeting of people
who are gathered to receive messages from spirits or to listen to a medium discourse with
or relay messages from spirits (Wegner, 2002). Jonah, in this case, is the medium and
initiates the séance.
In comparison to both a medium and the belief in demonic possession, another
reference is introduced in The Haunting in Connecticut (2009). Ectoplasm is said to be
produced by physical mediums when in a trance state (Baker & Nickell, 1992). Thus,
when Jonah the medium is holding a séance, this material is excreted as a gauze-like
substance from orifices on his body, enabling them to interact in the physical universe.
Although the term is widespread in popular culture, the physical existence of ectoplasm is
not accepted by science. Thus, this is an example of a pseudo-science that explains
religious intelligent design. Furthermore, the notion of necromancy is introduced as well.
In modern time, necromancy is used as a more general term to describe the pretense of
manipulation of death, and generally has a magical connotation. Modern séances,
channeling, and spiritualism verge on necromancy when the invoked spirits are asked to
reveal future events (Kieckhefer, 1989).
Symbols Associated with the Divine Evil
Though divine evil is represented in many different ways throughout the films
analyzed, perhaps the most significant way is through the varying use of symbols.
Symbols have a unique way of foreshadowing events to come within the films. As
referenced in the introduction, symbols can be found in popular culture, even without
prior knowledge. Some of the most prominent symbols displayed include: the
significance of 3:00AM, the Petrine Cross, Pentagrams, 666, the Grim, Ouija Boards,
cats, Old Hallows Eve, and evil biblical figures.
According to Pagan beliefs, the time between midnight and 3:00AM is the
“Witching Hour.” During this period, the veil between the spirit world and earth thins,
allowing entities from other realms to visit humans. Some Christians call 3:00AM the
“Devil’s Hour.” Based on the idea that Jesus died at 3:00PM, this theory proposes that
the opposite point on the clock belongs to the dark side, i.e., demonic forces whose power
is strongest at this time (Adler, 1979). 3:00AM is also the largest distance from sunset-
dusk to mornings’ dawn. Sunlight, even in small traces of UV and infrared from the sun,
can still be seen for well over an hour after sunset. But at 3:00AM for example, a “new
moon” in a dark sky can leave a full cover of darkness. Darkness is power to demons and
evil spirits and, as thought, demons prefer darkness as light can be unbearable (Drury,
1992). Thus, time is ideologically changed to evil at 3:00AM.
The notion of the “Devil’s Hour” is quite popular in the films analyzed as well.
For example, in The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), Emily first experiences her demonic
interaction at 3:00AM. While Father Moore is aware of this, he explains to Erin (the
defense lawyer) the significance of 3:00AM as the mock of the Holy Trinity in
Christianity. As he implies that demonic forces are surrounding the trial, Erin also begins
to experience many disturbing things at the 3:00AM hour. Once more, the historical
components of religion are at play in this film again. As Father Moore explains the
significance of the 3:00AM hour, the crucifixion of Jesus is acknowledged and
Similarly, in Paranormal Activity (2007), Micah consistently records both he and
Katie sleeping every night. Almost every night where they experience some form of
paranormal activity, it is between the hours of midnight and 3:00AM, as identified as the
“Witching Hour.” During this time block, Katie experienced many phenomena including
her getting up and standing in the center of the room for hours, walking about the house,
and finally exiting the house. Additionally, they both experienced lights flickering
downstairs, loud banging/scratching, doors slamming, TV static, and objects moving on
their own, such as the bed sheets.
Lastly, the significance of 3:00AM was uncanny in The Amityville Horror (2005).
Every night at 3:15AM, George would wake to experience paranormal activity.
Sometimes he was under the impression that his clock was stuck at this particular hour
and minute. However, George did many things at this particular hour and minute that
exemplified his possession including killing his son’s dog. Similarly, it was found out
further along in the film that the previous occupants (the Defeo’s) were all murdered by
their son/brother Ronny at this exact time. In effect, the 3:00AM hour has severe
implications and phenomenal historical implications and meanings attached to it and
serve as a primary symbol of evil, displayed by demonic forces.
The Petrine Cross
The Cross of St. Peter (officially known as the Petrine Cross or Peter's Cross) is
an inverted Latin cross traditionally used as a Christian symbol, but in recent times is also
used widely as an antichrist symbol. The origin of this symbol comes from the Catholic
tradition that St. Peter was crucified upside down, as told by Origen of Alexandria. It is
believed that Peter requested this form of crucifixion as he felt he was unworthy to be
crucified in the same manner that Christ died (upright). As such, some Catholics use this
cross as a symbol of humility and unworthiness in comparison to Christ. According to
Roman Catholicism, the Pope is St. Peter’s successor as Bishop of Rome. Therefore the
Papacy is often represented by symbols that are also used to represent Peter; one example
being the Keys to Heaven, another, the Petrine Cross. The inverted cross is also one of
the traditional symbols used by Petrine Orthodox Sebomenoi. It has also often become
associated with Satanic and anti-religious attitudes, as it is considered to represent the
opposite of Christianity by inverting its primary symbol, the Latin Cross (Medway,
2001). Once more, historical components of religion are found within the evidence of the
divine evil resulting in an ideological shift.
The Petrine Cross was most prominent in The Amityville Horror (2005). Once the
possession had taken full effect on George Lutz and his family, they invited a priest to
come in and cleanse the home. Upon his entrance, the doors to the room he was in
immediately locked themselves, as to trap him inside. The door knobs themselves were
engraved with a Latin Cross, but once locked, the knobs were flipped upside down,
inverting themselves into a Petrine Cross. This of course symbolized evil, as the next
scene was the priest being attacked by a swarm of flies and him running from the Lutz
Additionally, the Petrine cross was found in The Omen (2006). After Robert has
been convinced that he was raising the antichrist, Damien, as his son, he becomes
obsessed in the way to kill him. When he visits an ancient village to speak with the priest
that talked him into raising Damien, he discovers a graveyard where his true son was
buried in secret. The graveyard itself was hidden from view and every grave inside had a
Petrine Cross as a tombstone. To be discussed further later, the graveyard was also
protected by numerous black dogs, acknowledged as “Grims.” Once Robert discovers his
son’s grave, he opens the casket to find his remains. The grave next to his son’s was
marked as his mother. Upon opening this casket, they find the remains of a jackyl. In
reference to the historical components of the Petrine Cross, another ideological shift has
Pentagram (Pentacle)/ Sigl of Baphomet
The pentacle is an ancient symbol, with pre-historical origins. According to
Christianity, it was used by the Biblical figure Solomon and in a Christian and Gnostic
sense is said to represent the “victory of spirit over matter.” Each of the vertices
represents the 5 classic elements: fire, water, earth, air, and idea. There are many
interpretations of its meaning and significance, but what must be admitted is that it has
been used by many people, at many times, to mean a variety of different things
(Grunbaum & Shephard, 1987). The inverted pentacle with a goat’s head is called
the Sigl of Baphomet. It has also been called the Black Goat, Devil’s Goat, Goat Head,
Goat of Mendes, and Judas Goat (Medway, 2001). Thus, in this symbol’s multiple
meanings and multiple beliefs, it results in multiple ideologies.
This particular symbol, though originally depicted as a positive symbol in
Christianity, has also turned into something many assign to the devil, resulting in a shift
of both meaning and ideology. For example, in the very title screen of The Omen (2006)
the Sigl of Baphomet was evident, enticing viewers and foreshadowing the plot beyond.
Additionally, this symbol was also present within the film Paranormal Activity (2007).
After Katie learns that she is being sought after by a demon, Micah begins to do research
on the Internet. He finds a website that is dedicated to a girl named Diane. As he reads
further, he learns that Diane experienced the same exact phenomena that Katie is
currently experiencing including: having a “presence” following her through life and
having an internal understanding that a demon is always present. Plastered all over the
website is the symbol of the pentacle, foreshadowing the conclusion of the website:
Diane’s death from demonic possession.
The “Number of the Beast” is a concept from the Book of Revelation of the New
Testament of the Christian Bible, relating to the figure of “The Beast.” One interpretation
is that 666 encodes the letters of someone’s name identifying the antichrist. In Hebrew,
every letter has a corresponding number. Summing these numbers gives a numeric value
to a word or name. According to the Book of Revelation’s text:
“And he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who
has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name. Here is
wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the
number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.”
In the Bible, the Book of Revelation (13: 17-18) cryptically asserts 666 to be “the number
of a man,” associated with the beast, an antagonistic creature that appears briefly about
two-thirds into the apocalyptic vision (Just, 2002).
In modern popular culture, 666 has become one of the most widely recognized
symbols for the antichrist or, alternately, the Devil. Earnest references to 666 occur both
among apocalyptic Christian groups and in anti-Christian subcultures. Any appearance of
the number 666 in contemporary Western art or literature is, more likely than not, an
intentional reference to this number of the Beast symbolism (Herman, 1991).
Concerning this reference, it is only appropriate to correlate The Omen (2006). As
referenced above, this film’s plot depicts the birth of the antichrist. After Robert speaks
with the priest in the ancient land, he learns that if Damien possesses this marking, he is
indeed the antichrist. Robert at first denies any marking exists, as he has known him since
birth and knows every mark on him. However, the priest advises him to cut his hair, as
the marking may be hidden from view. When Robert appeases the priest, he does in fact
find the marking of 666 etched into the back of Damien’s head. Coincidently, Damien’s
birthday is called into question as well. When asked by the priest, what day Damien was
born, it is revealed that he was born at 6:00AM on June the 6th. Interestingly enough, and
on a different level of significance, the release date for The Omen (2006) was on June the
6th of 2006: 06/06/06.
This depiction of 666 is referenced specifically in the Book of Revelation,
discussed above. As such, it is a literal representation of the Bible and is adhered to by
Fundamentalists. As a historical component of religion, the story associated with 666 is
by far one of the most noticed and referenced symbols in popular culture today and is
highly noted as a primary function of the Book of Revelation.
The Grim (black dog) is the name given to a being found primarily in the
folklores of the British Isles. The Grim is essentially a nocturnal apparition, often said to
be associated with the devil, and its appearance is regarded as a portent of death. The
Grim is generally supposed to be larger than a normal dog, and often has large, glowing
eyes. The Church Grim is a figure from English and Scandinavian folklore. They are said
to be the attendant spirits of churches, overseeing the welfare of their particular church.
They may appear as black dogs or as small, misshapen, dark-skinned people. Similarly,
Grims are said to be the spirits of animals sacrificed by early Christians at the building of
a new church. In parts of Europe, including Britain and Scandinavia, a completely black
dog would be buried alive on the north side of the grounds of a newly built church,
creating a guardian spirit in order to protect the church from the devil (Arrowsmith,
1978). In regards to other contemporary pop culture, in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of
Azkaban, Sybill Trelawney, the divination teacher, associates Harry's tea leaves with the
Grim, which she calls “the giant, spectral dog that haunts churchyards...it is an omen –
the worst omen – of death” (Rowling, 1999, p 107). The Church Grim inspired the
creation of the Grim, which is said in the book to be an omen of death.
The Grim is found within the film The Omen (2006) early on. At Damien’s 6th
birthday party, his nanny brings Damien out of the house to his mother, Kate. As soon as
Damien is taken from the nanny’s arms, she turns to see a large black dog off in the
distance. As soon as she sees the dog, she disappears. The next scene depicts her on the
roof of the mansion with a large rope strung around her neck. She screams to Damien
“this is all for you” and jumps, committing suicide. The Grim disappears after the act of
death. Additionally, as referenced above, the graveyard Robert journeys to is also
protected by several Grims. The sighting of the Grim is additionally a figure of evil. As
referenced earlier, specific animals are said to be the minions of the underworld and are
in control by Satan himself. Circling back to the understanding that evil was brought into
this world by the fall of Lucifer, the Grim is a literal interpretation of the Bible as an evil
figure under the power of the Devil.
An Ouija board, also known as a spirit board or talking board, is a flat board
marked with letters, numbers, and other symbols, theoretically used to communicate with
spirits. It uses a planchette (small heart-shaped piece of wood) or movable indicator to
indicate the spirit’s message by spelling it out on the board during a séance. The fingers’
of the séance participants are placed on the planchette, which then moves about the board
to spell out messages. The Ouija board is highly critiqued by many, but is ironically one
of the first tools utilized to begin communication with other entities (Gruss, 1994).
The Ouija board makes an appearance in the film Paranormal Activity (2007).
After Katie and Micah have experienced many paranormal events, Micah tries to
communicate with the demon. He sets up the board and puts the video recorder next to it
in order to catch any activity while they are out of the house. Once gone, the invisible
demonic figure moves the planchette 5 times around the board. Then, the board bursts
into flames and a screeching noise is heard. Once Katie and Micah return home, they see
the scorch marks on the board. Micah watches the video back and figures out that the
message the demonic entity leaves for them is “Diane.” Later, Micah discovers the
website devoted to Diane and her demonic possession. This example of the Ouija Board
is consistent with that of a séance and a medium discussed earlier. Thus, this is an
additional example of religious intelligent design and science.
In ancient lore, cats are typically depicted as disciples of the devil and are
regarded as the guardians of the underworld in ancient Egyptian belief (Amter, 2007).
Similarly, in Western history, black cats have often been looked upon as a symbol of evil
omens, specifically being suspected of being the familiars of witches; other cultures also
consider them to be bad luck. (Sometimes, other black creatures, such as black dogs, also
share in the prejudice and suspicion of being “familiars”). The black cat in folklore has
been thought to change into a human shape to act as a spy or courier for witches or
demons. During the Middle Ages, these superstitions led people to kill black cats
(Lepper, 2000). Similarly, and in accordance with the Grim, it must be understood that
evil was brought into this world by the fall of the angel Lucifer, and the references to cats
are a literal interpretation of the Bible as an evil figure under the power of the Devil.
The underlying symbolism in The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) is uncanny. At
the onset of the film, the first thing the medical examiner comments on is the fact that the
Rose family has an unusual amount of cats. Mrs. Rose acknowledges his comments by
saying Emily could never leave an abandoned cat a stray and therefore, always brought
them home with her. In Emily’s actions, she may have subconsciously been gathering
cats to surround her before her demonic possession took place; she may have been
attracted to the guardians of the underworld.
Old Hollow’s Eve (Halloween)
All Hallows’ Eve is the evening before the Christian festival of All Saints Day,
otherwise known as All Hallows. More commonly known as Halloween, All Hallows’
Eve is an annual holiday celebrated on October 31. It has roots in the Celtic festival
of Samhain and the Christian holy day of All Saints, but is today largely a secular
celebration. Historically, this day is known for the most spiritual activity and is
commonly believed to be a day in which portals to different worlds are easily accessed
(Truwe, 2003). Father Moore, in The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), chose to perform
the exorcism of Emily on this exact day, in hopes of tapping into the historic power and
assisting him in performing this task effectively.
To that effect, this particular day (as evidenced above) has historical religious
implications and is also associated with the many symbols discussed earlier such as cats,
the Ouija Board, the goat’s head, and so on. Oddly enough, this day is celebrated in
contemporary culture and acts to associate evil into everyday life. Just as the 3:00AM
hour acts to mock the Holy Trinity, Old Hollow’s Eve acts to mock the everyday
implications of religion.
Evil Biblical Figures
Several evil biblical figures were referenced within the films including: Cain,
Nero, Judas, Legion, Belial, and Lucifer. In fact, these biblical figures were all referenced
as one in the film The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005). While the exorcism was taking
place, Father Moore asked the demon to identify itself. The demon responded by reciting
all 6 of these figures names, as if encompassing all the evil these characters have
To begin, the figure Cain will be analyzed. In the Hebrew Bible, Cain and
Abel are two sons of Adam and Eve. In the Greek New Testament, Cain is referred as “of
the evil one.” Some interpreters take this to mean that Cain was literally the son of the
serpent in the Garden of Eden (Brewer, 1978). A parallel idea can be found in Jewish
tradition, that the serpent from the Garden of Eden was father to firstborn Cain (Kimball,
1969). In all versions, Cain is a crop farmer and his younger brother Abel is a
shepherd. Cain is portrayed as sinful, committing the first murder by killing his
brother, after God has rejected his offerings of produce but accepted the animal sacrifices
brought by Abel (Brewer, 1978).
Nero was the fifth and last Roman emperor of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Nero
was adopted by his great uncle Claudius to become heir to the throne. Nero’s rule is often
associated with tyranny and extravagance. He is known for a number of executions,
including those of his mother and stepbrother, as the emperor who “fiddled while Rome
burned,” and as an early persecutor of Christians. Few surviving sources paint Nero in a
favorable light (Griffin, 1981).
Judas Iscariot was, according to the New Testament, one of the twelve original
apostles of Jesus. Among the twelve, he was designated to keep account of the “money
bag,” but he is best known for his role in betraying Jesus into the hands of Roman
authorities. The Gospel of Mark states that the chief priests were looking for a “sly” way
to arrest Jesus. They decided not to do so during the feast because they were afraid the
people would riot; instead, they chose the night before the feast to arrest him. In
the Gospel of Luke, Satan enters Judas at this time. According to the account given in the
Gospel of John, Judas carried the disciples’ money bag and betrayed Jesus for a bribe of
“thirty pieces of silver” by identifying him with a kiss, “the kiss of Judas,” to arresting
soldiers of the High Priest Caiaphas, who then turned Jesus over to Pontius Pilate’s
soldiers (Pagels, 2007).
Legion, also known as the Gerasene Demon, is a demon referred to in the
Christian Bible. The New Testament outlines an encounter where Jesus healed a man
from Gadarenes possessed by demons while traveling. Legion, the demon of Gadarenes,
appears frequently as a character in popular culture. The Christian New Testament
gospels of Mark, Luke and Matthew describe an incident in which Jesus meets a man, or
men, possessed by demons who, when asked what their name is, respond: “My name
is Legion, for we are many.” The quotation has been referenced and eluded to many
times throughout history in popular culture (Newheart, 2004).
Belial is one of the seven princes of hell and a demon in the Bible, Christian
apocrypha, and Jewish apocrypha. It is also a term used to characterize or embody the
immensely wicked or iniquitous. In the Book of Jubilees, uncircumcised heathens are
called “sons of Belial.” Also appearing in Muslim scripture, the demon is said to have
feasted on the poor and fed the rich with the regurgitated remains. When the rich denied
his service, he was sent back into the underworld to serve Satan himself. In the Goetia,
Belial is said to be a mighty and a powerful king over 50 legions, created after Lucifer
(MacGregor & Crowley, 1904). He appears as two beautiful angels sitting in a chariot of
Lastly, Lucifer, as referenced in greater detail earlier, is of course the fallen angel
God cast into the depths of Hell after his betrayal and sins on earth (Pagels, 1995).
Including Lucifer, the six demons referenced are not only clearly utilized as historical
components of religion, but once more represent a clear ideological shift in contemporary
Psychic Abilities/Mind Games Played by/Exposed by the Divine Evil
While demonic possession has its physical marks, in terms of these films, this
form of possession can also take into account psychic abilities and mind games. For
example, beginning with the film The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), Father Moore
experiences such an extreme fear one night when he wakes. Upon smelling smoke and
observing flickering lights and locking doors, he exits his small room and tries to run
from the building. Once reaching the outdoors, he trips and falls. When he looks up, the
apparition of death is before him, visible only to his eyes. As he states later in the trial,
the fear was incredibly overpowering and overwhelming.
On a different level of mind games played, The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)
emphasizes the power of a medium and the importance of events long past. As referenced
earlier, Matt experiences many visions and hallucinations of the medium Jonah and how
he ultimately died. As he sees these visions, it appears that his mind is playing tricks on
him. As a side effect of his trial cancer treatment, his family believes his hallucinations
and visions are simply temporary. However, Matt truly experiences these visions first
hand and at times becomes so involved and overwhelmed, that he makes rash decisions
including setting his house on fire to set the spirits free. Similarly, The Amityville Horror
(2005) intensifies similar hallucinations, only experienced by George.
Paranormal Activity (2007) asserts an unknown and unseen entity that ultimately
kills both Katie and Micah. In this context, it is truly the unknown and the unseen that is
the most intense in the form of mind games played. When the psychic is asked to come
back for a second time, he immediately refuses to enter their home, as the power is far
too much for him and the entity is angered by his presence. He admits that the negative
energy surrounding their home is overpowering and ultimately he refuses to help them,
leaving Katie and Micah as victims to the mind games being played on them.
Lastly, The Omen (2006) has its own form of mind games as well. Damien, after
being recognized by his mother as being “different from the other children,” terrifies the
monkeys at the zoo and upsets a large gorilla simply by his piercing stare. Additionally,
Damien seems to put the guard in a trance at the hospital when he and his nanny come to
visit Kate in the hospital. While the orderly at the hospital refuses to let them both in,
Damien manages to simply captivate him and allow the nanny to slip into the room and
ultimately kill Kate with a small air bubble in her vein. As soon as the task is
accomplished, the trance immediately wears off and the nanny and Damien walk out of
the hospital, unnoticed.
Ultimately, there is a vast amount of both historical religious components and
divine evil references within the films analyzed that invariably represent the current
ideological shifts in today’s contemporary pop culture. By identifying these 10
characteristic themes associated with contemporary film, this thesis has provided a basis
of understanding into what themes represent the divine evil. In sum, the first point of
analysis include: symbols of religion/faith in daily life and activity, the use of religion
and spirituality as separate entities, the use of historical components of religion
(Christianity), the use of Fundamentalist ideologies, and the use of any of the five
After identifying the historical implications of religion within the films, the
elements of the divine evil were themed and include: the personification or possession of
the divine evil, the paranormal activity associated with the divine evil, the uses and/or
references to the divine evil, the symbols associated with the divine evil, and lastly, the
psychic abilities and/or mind games played by or exposed by the divine evil.
Religion and spirituality are important forms of communication and are widely
accepted and acknowledged within popular culture today. In sum, religion is a form of
communication and is truly an essential aspect which occurs between believers, between
religious leaders and followers, between proponents of different faiths, and even between
practitioners and the deities. Therefore, within both religion and communication, certain
themes are presented that are representative of the divine evil. Throughout contemporary
film, the symbols of evil are revealed and expressed. Specifically, films are a fantastic
medium for expressing the Fundamentalist beliefs. As evidenced above, Fundamentalist
believers look to the Bible for a literal interpretation. Thus, film presents a manor in
which to represent those literal interpretations.
Additionally, the method of a textual analysis demonstrates a practical way to
explore religious beliefs in daily life. In sum, the previous textual analysis acted to
explain the current ideological shift that is occurring within contemporary popular
culture. For example, what once may have been taboo to portray or exemplify in pop
culture, is now currently accepted and actually coveted; an ideological shift has
inevitably occurred. Similarly, a point of analysis that must be identified is the fact that
most films viewed for this particular thesis were re-makes of the originals that were
initially a representation of an ideological shift from decades past. Thus, a trend may be
developing; what happened in prior decades may be revisited at today’s present time in
Problem Statement Revisited
Given this review of religious ideologies and the personification of the divine
evil, it is important to come back to popular culture and understand why evil is a rooted
theme present today in many popular culture contexts. Therefore, the purpose of this
research was to understand and identify the major themes present today in association
with the divine evil. After examining various popular culture films, one can now
understand where religious ideologies clash with divine evil themes. In understanding
what themes are present in popular films, this led to an assumption of why these
themes are coveted by producers of popular culture and by consumers of popular culture.
Particularly, this thesis identified that religious themes are present in contemporary film,
showing particular attention to evil and that an ideological shift is indeed occurring
within the context of religion. In utilizing the historical components of religion within
films, consumers of contemporary film are encouraged and invited to experience the
ideological shifts that are currently present.
Directions for Future Research
As this thesis only identified what themes are present in contemporary film, future
research would benefit from understanding why these themes are present and who
consumes them. This would be most efficiently collected in the form of ethnography.
Ethnographies are a qualitative research method often used in the social sciences. They
are often employed for gathering empirical data on human societies/cultures. Data
collection is often done through participant observation, interviews, questionnaires, and
so on. Ethnographies aim to describe the nature of those who are studied (i.e. to describe
a people) through writing. In utilizing ethnographies, research would understand why
consumers are inspired to view historical religious concepts in ideological shifts within
Additionally, future research would benefit from further exploring the divine evil
themes in more detail. For example, a common theme found within the films was that of
an exorcism. In exploring this theme deeper, an argument could be made that exorcism
takes place in contemporary film in more than the literal sense of the word. As referenced
above, an exorcism can take place in both a human form and in a physical location.
Perhaps, with future research’s aid, the definition and use of an exorcism could be
expounded upon and referenced in many alternative ways.
For the purposes of this thesis, contemporary films were analyzed. However,
examining other popular culture artifacts would provide future research with other forms
of divine evil representation. For example, the examination of novels and music could
also render additional divine evil themes that were perhaps not represented within
contemporary films. Additionally, future research has the potential to examine not only
popular culture, but also curriculum changes within university systems.
Furthermore, a more complete list of films could be analyzed. Initially, this thesis
planned to encompass additional films that ranged from the 1960’s through the 2000’s.
However, due to time constraints, the list of films had to be condensed to 5 films from the
2000’s. Future research would benefit, however, from the following films:
1. The Haunting (1963) – A group of insomniac volunteer research subjects
travel to a massive old mansion to undergo testing for what they believe to be
insomnia studies. What they do not know is that the professor in charge is
actually conducting experiments on human fear. They soon realize that the
house is evil, and they must battle a terrifying spirit to escape the house of
2. The Omen (1976) – The premise of the film comes from the end all times
prophecies of Christianity. The film depicts the childhood of Damien
Thorn (said to have been born on June 6 of that particular year at 6:00AM),
who was switched at birth in Rome. Damien's family is unaware that he is
actually the offspring of Satan and destined to become the antichrist.
3. The Amityville Horror (1979) – This film depicts the Lutz family, who move
into a house in Amityville, New York. Thirteen months before the Lutz’s
moved in, Ronald DeFeo, Jr. had shot and killed six members of his family at
the house. The family experiences 28 days of horror and possession.
4. The Poltergeist (1982) - A group of ghosts begin communicating with five-
year-old Carol Anne in her parent’s home via static on the television.
Eventually they use the TV as their path into the house itself. They kidnap
Carol Anne, and most of the film reflects the family’s efforts to rescue her.
5. The Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986) – This sequel exists to explain in
much greater detail why Carol Anne was targeted in the first film. Carol
Anne’s house in the first movie was built over a massive underground cavern
that was the final resting place of a utopian cult that died there in the early
6. The Poltergeist III (1988) – Between the second and third films, Carol Anne is
now living with her aunt and her uncle. The spirits comes back to take Carol
Anne by taking over peoples’ reflections in mirrors and taking them to the
7. The Haunting (1999) - A group of insomniac volunteer research subjects
travel to a massive old mansion to undergo testing for what they believe to be
insomnia studies. What they do not know is that the professor in charge is
actually conducting experiments on human fear. They soon realize that the
house is evil, and they must battle a terrifying spirit to escape the house of
8. The Others (2001) – A woman moves into a remote island mansion to await
her husband’s return from World War II. Her two sons become very ill and
cannot be exposed to sunlight, causing them to live in darkness. Grace hires a
group of servants to help, but soon discovers there’s something mysterious
about the house.
9. An American Haunting (2005) - The events in the film are based on the legend
of the Bell Witch. The film switches from the 19th century to the 21st, and
features a side story about a recently divorced mother whose daughter is going
through something similar to the experience of Betsy Bell.
10. The Skeleton Key (2005) - The film focuses on a young hospice nurse who
acquires a job at a New Orleans plantation home and becomes entangled in a
mystery involving the house, its former inhabitants, and the hoodoo (folk
magic) rituals and magic that took place there.
11. 1408 (2007) - The film follows Mike Enslin, an author who specializes in the
horror genre. Enslin’s career is essentially based on investigating allegedly
haunted houses. Through an anonymous warning (via postcard), Enslin
eventually learns of the Dolphin Hotel in New York City, which houses the
infamous “Room 1408.” Interested yet skeptical, Enslin decides to spend one
night in the hotel.
12. Shutter Island (2010) - A pair of U.S. Marshals travel to a secluded island off
the coast of Massachusetts to search for an escaped mental patient, uncovering
a web of deception along the way as they battle the forces of nature and a
As outlined above, future research would also benefit from seeing different versions of
the same films. Some of the films included above are representative of the re-makes from
different generations. Future research may benefit from seeing changes in the ideologies
present from one decade to the next.
Lastly, while this thesis focused entirely on the evil associated with the
supernatural, future research would benefit from examining ordinary evil such as greed,
racism, sexism or selfishness as a rhetorical lens. In analyzing this, it may offer additional
insight into other aspects of the divine evil and allow future research to expound upon
this categorization of evil; it may identify thematical evil. Additionally, a closer look at
these films may be needed; a narrative analysis may have implications into how evil is
portrayed. For example, the climaxes of these films either result in evil winning or losing.
It may be interesting to see if climaxes are ideologically charged as well. For example,
studying a narrative can either legitimize or de-legitimize an ideological shift; narratives
are played out in the drama and can influence writers with a new motif.
Limitations are a part of any thesis. However, a few key limitations must be
identified. Primarily, the largest limitation was the method utilized: a textual analysis.
Items drawn for the films analyzed were by no means mutually exclusive and exhaustive.
All findings were biased in part by the researcher. Thus, it must be noted that all textual
analyses have subjective pre-conceived notions. Additionally, as evidenced above in the
problem statement, this thesis did not act to understand “why” these themes exist, but
only focused on which themes were actually present. However, this limitation can be
remedied with the use of ethnography, proposed as future research. Finally, another
limitation exists in the fact that only 5 contemporary films were analyzed. Once more,
due to time constraints, additional films were not analyzed, but several more
supernatural/horror films were proposed as future study.
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SAMPLE CODING SHEET FOR FILMS VIEWED
FOUNDATIONS OF RELIGION
1.) Use of Religion/Faith in Daily Life and Activity:
2.) Use of Religion & Spirituality as Separate Entities:
3.) Use of Historical Components of Religion (Christianity):
4.) Use of Christianity and/or Fundamentalist Ideologies
5.) Use of any of the Five Fundamental Doctrines:
1.) Personification or Possession of the Divine Evil:
2.) Paranormal Activity Associated with the Divine Evil:
3.) Use and/or References to the Divine Evil:
4.) Symbols Associated with the Divine Evil:
5.) Psychic Abilities and/or Mind Games Played/Exposed by the Divine Evil: