Religious Horror

What is the Religious Horror Subgenre?

Religious horror is more commonly known as Christian horror, and that may seem like a bit of an oxymoron, given that most religions, and Christianity in particular, seem to shun the stuff that horror is made of. But, on closer inspection, it's really not that big of a leap. Christian beliefs are rife with the supernatural, from angels and demons to the devil himself. The book of Revelation, for example, reads almost like a Clive Barker novel. So, it's easy to see how the two could, in fact, work together.

Christian horror takes on the supernatural beings from its religious doctrine and puts them in a more, modern setting with plenty of religious overtones added. Plots in this subgenre will focus on good versus evil, with the supernatural entity embodying evil and generally with good prevailing.

Protagonists will be Christian or espouse a Christian worldview. Themes in religious horror will also reflect Christian values, and supernatural beings will be described according to their nature in Christian doctrine. Though religious horror could be used to describe horror in which other religious values are represented, there are not many other types of religious horror out there. In fact, Christian horror, itself, is a relatively new subgenre. That is not to say that other horror subgenres do not borrow supernatural creatures or lore from different faiths, but these generally lack the overtly religious overtones that categorize religious horror as such.


Religious Horror Characteristics

Level of Characterization: The level of characterization in religious horror is moderate to low.  Usually, protagonists will be good Christians, and their antagonists will embody evil.


Level of Plot: Plotting will always involve the standard trope of good vs. evil with very little deviation. So, the level of plot in religious horror is low.

Level of Supernatural: The level of supernatural in religious horror will be moderate, given that  often, the antagonist is an evil supernatural entity.


Level of Scary: The level of scary in religious horror is moderate to low. This is because, given the subgenre, most readers will already know the outcome of the story.

Level of Violence: Given the religious nature of the subgenre, expect violence here to be low or occur off the page.


Typical Setting: The typical settings of religious horror can vary widely from modern day America to biblical times, to even, the end times.

Related Horror Subgenres

Given the subject matter of religious horror, the supernatural and crime genres could be related to religious horror. Similarly Satanic bargains could be related to religious horror and tales of demonic possession. However, due to the nature of religious horror, quiet horror or gothic horror might be more appealing to readers of religious horror, due to their low violence and their emphasis on atmospheric chills as opposed to guts and gore. 

Don't Read Religious Horror If You Dislike…

Religion, particularly Christianity. This subgenre contains religious overtones, most often Christian overtones. There will be battles for the soul and crises of faith. So, if you prefer your stories to not come with a hefty side of moral guidance, perhaps this genre is not for you.

This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti- Something strange is at work in the small college town of Ashton. When a newspaper editor investigates the false charges filed against his reporter, the two find themselves on the wrong side of the dark forces bent on taking over the town.


Thr3e by Ted Dekker- Seminary student, Kevin Parsins is stalked by a deranged killer who calls Parsins each time he kills and demands that Parsins confess his sin in three minutes before he claims his next victim. But Kevin has led a good life and can't figure out what he's supposed to be confessing to.


Demon: A Memoir by Tosca Lee- When Clay is hired to write the memoirs of Lucian, the demon weaves a dark tale that will change Clay's life forever.


The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty- While leading an archeological dig in Iraq, Father Merrin unearths a small statue of a demon that has huge consequences half a world away where a young girl starts displaying signs of being possessed.

The Dead Whisper On by T.L. Hines- Candace MacHugh, also known as Canada Mac, is alone. Her father died eleven years ago, and she doesn't speak to her mother. She's got a dead-end job and longs to make a difference. All that changes when her father speaks to her from beyond the grave… with her first mission.
Field of Blood by Eric Wilson- The first novel in the Jerusalem's Undead trilogy tells the story of Gina Lazarescu, a girl on the run from The Collectors, vampires forged in the wake of Judas Iscariot's suicide.


When the Day of Evil Comes by Melanie Wells- Dylan's life changes forever when a chance encounter with a sickly stranger leads to a series of strange, inexplicable events. Dylan soon realizes that these are only a preamble to a harrowing spiritual battle in the first book of the Dylan Foster series.


Vanished by Kathryn Mackel- In this series opener, police sergeant, Jason Logan finds himself in a new  and nightmarish world when a terrorist bombing transports his community into a primitive wilderness.


The 13th Tribe by Robert Liparulo- When the twelve tribes of Israel began worshiping a golden calf as they waited for Moses to return from Mt. Sinai, they were punished with a swift death, but not all. Those who survived that day were cursed with imortality, and desperate to earn a way into heaven, they have been killing sinners ever since.


The Hunted by Mike Dellosso- Joe Saunders is on a mission to find out the truth about what happened to his missing nephew, but the deadly secrets he unearths could shatter his faith.

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