Roadside Religion by Timothy Beal
In Search of the Sacred, the Strange, and the Substance of Faith

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In the summer of 2002, Timothy K. Beal loaded his family into a twenty-nine-foot-long motor home and hit the rural highways of America in search of roadside religious attractions—sites like the World’s Largest Ten Commandments, Golgotha Fun Park, and Precious Moments Chapel. Why, he wanted to know, would someone use miniature golf to tell the story of the Creation? Or build a life-size replica of Noah’s ark in Maryland?

As a scholar, Beal hoped to come to understand the meaning of these places as expressions of religious imagination and experience. But as someone who had grown up in an evangelical Christian church in which he no longer rested comfortably, Beal found himself driven by a desire to venture beyond the borders of his cynicism to encounter faith in all its awesome absurdity. And so he found himself deep in conversation with people like Bill Rice, whose Cross Garden features thousands of makeshift crosses and old air conditioners bearing the message NO ICE WATER IN HELL! FIRE HOT!

Part travel narrative, part religious study, and part search for the divine madness that is faith, Roadside Religion takes the reader on a tour of the strange and often wondrous ways people have tried to give outward form to their inner religious experiences. Religion is most interesting—and most revealing—Beal shows us, where it’s least expected.


About Timothy Beal

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Timothy K. Beal is Florence Harkness Professor of Religion and director of the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. His books includeReligion and Its MonstersandThe Book of Hiding,and his essays have appeared in theNew York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education,and theWashington Post.He lives in Cleveland, Ohio.
Published May 15, 2005 by Beacon Press. 216 pages
Genres: Religion & Spirituality, Education & Reference, Political & Social Sciences, Travel. Non-fiction

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A personal tour of America’s roadside Christian kitsch as an earnest and at the same time a condescending religion professor (Case Western Reserve) hauls his family around the country in an RV.

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The New York Times

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Timothy K. Beal, a professor of religion, investigates unusual pilgrimage sites throughout rural America.

Jun 05 2005 | Read Full Review of Roadside Religion: In Search ...

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