Saturday, August 27, 2011

Religion can be weird sometimes

The attendant image was found, multiple times, in a standard Google Image Search for "Beast of Revelation." For those not "up" on their Escatology, "The Beast" is supposed to team-up with "The Dragon" and "The False Prophet" and lead the bad guys during The End Times. It's typically described as a lion/bear/leopard hybrid (i.e. all local predators that would be common to folks in the time/place Revelations is supposed to have been written) with seven heads and ten horns; and is typically depicted in the manner of a plus-sized Chimera.

I'm not going to call myself a Biblical scholar, but I'm reasonably certain that "Ginormous Triceratops Face" is conceptual-license on the part of the artist. I find it fascinating.

I can't find exactly where this came from, or if it was intended as "serious" Christian art or if someone is doing a parody of the genre, but this specific image (and imitations of it) are ALL OVER "End Times" websites; so whether it was meant seriously or not it's certainly being taken seriously by the audience for such things.

What intrigues me so much about stuff like this is, assuming for a moment that this was painted by a true-believer... whoever he/she is is not only fairly talented, but has also clearly seen and been influenced-by a pretty good deal of fantasy/monster art AND has enough real creative energy happening to conjure up "ten horns and crowns" = "what if one head is a Triceratops with a crown on the horns" out of thin air. This is probably more my own prejudices, such as they are, speaking; but to me the concept of someone whose mind is "assembled" in such a way being "on board" with the Left Behind set is kind of baffling yet fascinating.

I'm given to imagine the unknown-to-me painter as a profoundly conflicted being: a psyche torn between an obvious creative/imaginative instinct and sincere adherence to repressive-by-nature fundamentalism, with rendering Biblical demons being the only form of self-expression that can be unleashed without allowing one to negate the other - in much the same way that medieval and renaissance artists REALLY "cut loose" when depicting demonic figures or visions of Hell. That, or it's something a committed Metalhead/D&D fan trapped in Sunday School did to stay sharp until he/she could turn 18 and earn a living painting stuff like this on people's vans. Either way works.

FUN FACT: In the late-1970s, Toho actually proposed making a "Godzilla vs. Satan" movie - with Godzilla fighting the Biblical monsters of Water, Air and Earth (Leviathan, Ziz and Behemoth in the actual scriptures) followed by The Devil himself - hoping to cash-in on the success of "The Exorcist." I would absolutely watch a "Christian Kaiju" movie if that sucker up above was in it.


jaberwockomnis said...

Hey moviebob!

So, does this mean... RELGION. IS. WEEEEEEEEIRD!!?

Anyways, I actually knew about the godzilla vs. satan thing.

And I actually knew what the ziz was. (I wonder why the leviathan and behmoth are so much more well known?)

TheAlmightyNarf said...

Ya know, it's always interesting to see some one rationalize away their cognitive dissonance when they see something that clearly contradicts their prejudices.

A forward thinking person would have to consider that their prejudice may be wrong, in this case being that there's absolutely no contradiction between being a highly creative artist with broad influences and being a "true-believer". A backwards person would assume that their prejudices must be true despite evidence, and that such an artist must be "profoundly conflicted".

Very telling there, Bob.

MovieBob said...


Or C.) Someone has "been there" and can understand some of the psychology (possibly) at work.

TheAlmightyNarf said...

@ Bob

Or someone is there, and finds the idea that 2 important parts of his life would conflict when he doesn't see how they would pretty backwards.

Sylocat said...

You know, the actual story of how Revelation was written is more exciting than anything in the actual book.

You know how, in espionage movies, they always radio with coded messages like "The dice are on the table!" or something like that?

That's all those references to giant monsters, and seven heads with ten horns and crowns and all that stuff. It was coded messages passed between early Christians talking about Roman authority figures whom they couldn't bad-mouth openly.

So, the Left Behind crowd are basically treasure-hunting for actual, literal dice on a literal table, rather than realizing that "The dice are on the table!" is code.

One would think, given the religious right's massive persecution complexes, they would actually embrace the real definition, because it would comfortingly remind them of a time when Christians actually WERE persecuted, instead of being the most populous and most powerful religion on the planet like they've been for hundreds of years (and yet are still complaining about being oppressed).

Drunken Lemur said...

That looks nothing like

Personally I still want to see Batman vs Godzilla.

Sylocat said...

Personally I still want to see Batman vs Godzilla.

Lemon Demon already did that.

Zacqary Adam Green said...

I always tend to read that word as "scat-ology".

Probably appropriate.

MovieBob said...

@Almighty Narf

My sense of discord is not that a religious person is a talented artist. It's that the obvious influences - unless this is the work of a natural-born ultra-prodigy - on this seemingly-anonymous painter (or, hell, is this pastels? Colored-pencil?) are the sort of thing one would not typically associate with End Times zealots in general and the type of sites I found this plastered onto specifically.

I mean, let's not dick around with generalities - that sucker is about one lightning bolt and some fetish-models away from a Heavy Metal album cover, or "high-fantasy" art, or a dozen other highly-secular sources that the audience THIS is ostensibly aimed at could be safely counted-on to reject outright as "satanic" or "pagan" or whatnot.

We're talking about two 'worlds' - a religious subset and a genre of pop-art - that are pretty consistently at direct odds with one another, and having had a similar experience in being awkwardly caught between two worlds myself I'm wondering (and, to be fair, maybe projecting a bit) as to what this person's "deal" is. The angriest, weirdest and most 'what was I ON!!??' stuff I still have (in terms of writing, art, film etc) from my youth is the stuff I did in transition from a devout Catholic Schoolboy to whatever the hell I am now; so I get the sense I can relate to where this person might be coming from.

It's like when you hear those ancient recordings of Sam Kinison when he was a preacher - what was that guy's mind LIKE in the period when he was (by all accounts) serious about his preaching and yet also discovering/exploring the vulgar standup/performance side of himself?

TheAlmightyNarf said...

@ Bob

Ok, I can see where you're coming from a bit better now. The problem is that you're thinking about some sort of caricature of fundamentalist Christians that doesn't really exist in the real world nearly as often as our popular culture would like portray. Our society likes nice, simple pigeonholes, but real people have multi-faceted lives, and don't suffer any confliction over it.

One is only caught between "two worlds" if you let other people tell you that you are. And generally those other people are assholes who are just trying to project their insecurities onto you.

Sam Kinison is a fantastic example of this. He had no issue being both a preacher and a standup comic because he didn't care if other people thought there was a conflict... he didn't think there was one. And anyone who had a problem with that could just go fuck themselves.

Just Gavin said...

Wow, I think I just lost a lot of respect for MovieBob, rationalising that talent with a Christian mind must be only possible through conflicting interests to his side.

Apparently you really have no idea what Christians are like (we do know about Heavy Metal and other art) and this assumption of "End of the World Zealot" = Christianity as a whole not only comes off as insulting but leaves me pitying Bob considerably.

I'll pray for you today Bob.

Lee Kalba said...

I believe he already mentioned that he meant the fundies, the people that end up on that website, the people that tried to convince the world that D&D is the debil (yes, with a B), the people that accused the hair band Slaughter (so-called because the guy's last name is Slaughter) of slaughtering animals on stage (despite the fact that animal rights groups would have been all over the guy for such), the type of people that view anything secular as an evil that must be purged from society. The type of people that get pissed if you say happy holidays because you don't want to be exclusionary to anyone who isn't a Christian, really, should I keep going?
Anyway, sometimes artists will dip into biblical stuff simply because there's some really fucked up imagery there. Whether or not the artist is religious, groups (Republicans, Christians, anti-theists, strippers) will claim imagery just because it suits their needs/ideas. Those that can't, steal. Like the lolwut image of the pear with teeth, it was co-opted because it summed up the idea. Sometimes the artist is fine with it, because it gets their work seen/heard. Sometimes the artist has to sue (Sarah Palin to stop using Barracuda at rallies).

lordy said...

Actually, my only problem with the monster is the triceratops head being so big, while the leopard ones are so small. Having them a bit more even would make more sense to me, as it currently looks like they were just stuck on there at the end to fit the critera.

Anthony Arndt said...

Hey Bob, I can relate to what you say about Fundies and the conflict between creativity and literalism. Growing up in a small meat-packing town during the "Satanic Panic" while being publicly Pagan (and just one year behind the West Memphis 3) was an uncomfortable place to be in Minnesota. I was surrounded mostly by Lutherans who had swallowed the SRA bullshit but they were resisting the "End Times" narrative.

But even then there was a lot more religious education in the form of "this means this" rather than "what do you think this means."

Pat said...

Well since a lot of fundies think that Satan created dinosaur bones to make us doubt the "real" story, it seems consistent that dinosaurs would be used in Satan's army.

It's completely silly, but at least consistent.

Arturo said...

Bob why would you be Googling "beast of revelations" in the first place?

Van the Man said...

Some artists will do anything to get paid. Look at the field of graphic design. For the most part it's typography and photoshop, but it also involves some fine art - it's called illustration. The picture looks to be using a lot of mainstream illustration techniques, too. It looks like many other works made for money do.

They don't have to be a "sick believer" to be motivated to make such a thing. It was probably commissioned for several hundred pieces of self worth. (and please do ponder the irony in my using self worth to mean money as it relates to this context)

I'm not going to argue about mental illness this time, since we're talking about "End of days people on the internet" - yeah, people meeting those criteria are crazy.

But I do have to defend the common sense that the guy with the paints possibly just did it to buy more paint, buy some ramen noodles, and pay the rent. A job's a job. Some people work at Burger King 40 hours a week, so I'd say he's a step up.

Your "assumption for a moment" and the half of your post that it's based on are really far out on a limb.
So your theories on "what this guy might be like" are kind of pointless, a bunch of talking out your ass, and sort of offend my concept of working artists - quite a large amount of art has nothing to do with passionate feelings, just money.

Money. Believe it. Plenty of people with talent, that don't like to starve.

cathal said...

I am genuinely baffled how you can find it strange for religious art to show imaginaition. In fact i'm actually kind of insulted by that kind of religious bigotry, and i'm not even religious.

Scott said...

I'm a Christian, and I like Marilyn Manson......'s music. Did your brain just explode, Bob? ;)

Mister Linton said...

Bob, what you are forgetting is that a lot of Christians weren't believers their whole life. In fact, most Christians held the same views you hold at one point in their lives, but time and experience have proven those views wrong.

MovieBob said...

Oh FFS...

I'm not "surprised" that a Christian artist has talent. I'm amused that something that looks like a Boris Valejo rendering of an Ultraman enemy was thought-up as a sincere piece of Escatologic art.

Is the notion of something seeming not to "fit" completely foriegn to you? Do you look at "rapping grandma" skits and go "I don't get it, it's entirely plausible for octagenarians to be fans of Public Enemy?"

Matt said...

So, Bob's been thinking about religion quite a bit lately hey? Meh, whatever. Keep on keepin' on, Bob. It's always nice to see people fighting in your comments sections.

For the record though, that painting is fucking hideous. I mean seriously, which head controls the legs?

Matt said...

Also, chill out Bob, so you have some idiot followers. Such is life on the internet, eh?

JDude said...

@Mister Linton:

Heh, really? What views are those?

Far as I can tell, Bob is a pretty secular-leaning guy who hasn't quite taken to full-blown atheism yet, but he's in that general mindset of taking a closer look at what he might have taken for granted, and finding out it's a lot spottier than he previously thought.

If you're suggesting that those "later in life" christians were somehow justified in becoming so, then I think we're going to have a pretty colossal difference in opinion.

Atomic Skull said...

Read the descriptions of angels from the actual bible and they read like H.P. Lovecraft style eldritch horrors from outside of space and time. The image of an angel as an attractive human with wings is a modern invention.

pws said...

Here's Oliver Stone's take on the Beast of Revelations in a deleted scene from the movie Nixon:

Nixon versus "The Beast"

Try watching from about 9:11 on and look carefully...

And that's why Nixon is Oliver Stones greatest movie... or would have been if Richard Helms hadn't threatened a lawsuit...

pws said...

Actually, you should watch the scene from the beginning, because that's not the first overt reference...