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Toying with God
The World of Religious Games and Dolls

By Nikki Bado-Fralick and Rebecca Sachs Norris

Toying with God
Paperback, 210 pages $29.95
Published: 15th January 2010
ISBN: 9781602581814
Format: 9in x 6in

Subjects: All Cultural Studies, All Religious Studies, All Sociology, Religion & Popular Culture

Maybe you have seen the board games. Christianity has Vatican: The Board Game; Journeys of Paul, Armor of God and Divinity (the only game to have the imprimatur of the Catholic Church). Islam and Judaism have Race to the Kabah, Mecca to Medina, Exodus, and Kosherland. Buddhism has Karma Chakra and BuddhaWheel. And then there are the dolls—plush and plastic talking Bible dolls, Christian action figures, and talking Muslim dolls that teach Arabic.

Have we humans blended fun with spirituality for good or for ill? And what does all of this say about our insatiable need for fun?

Written with verve and a healthy dollop of humor, Toying with God examines the sometimes zany world of religious games and dolls, from pre-history to today. Packed with examples that propel the narrative (and add immeasurably to readers’ knowledge of religious trivia), this is a must-read for anyone interested in the intersection of popular culture and spirituality.

1. Games of the Gods
2. Welcome to the Doll House
3. The Super-Marketing of Religion
4. Are We Having Fun Yet?
5. Ritualizing Playfulness
6. Game Over

"For Bado-Fralick and Sachs Norris (religious studies professors at Iowa State University and Merrimack College, respectively), religious games and dolls are charged with 'the magic of childhood combined with the mystery of religion.' The authors brilliantly use their subject to reveal a complex interplay between worship and the workings of popular culture. A detour into ancient divination practices using dice, magical dolls, and sports as ritual shows these items to be anything but superficial, and raises a central question: why do religious playthings often evoke feelings of unease? Like the religious toys it analyses, this book is at once fun and serious business. Dolls like Buddy Christ and Nunzilla or unwinnable Buddhist board games may produce a few perplexed laughs, but a game like Missionary Conquest, won by setting up the most global missions, has an undeniably colonialist edge. The authors also use toys and dolls to explore consumerism, feminism, politics, and the nature of ritual and play. In this readable and fresh look at religious culture, the authors are critical and respectful. They’d rather cast dice than throw stones."

Publisher's Weekly (1/11/10)

"While some people might scoff at religious toys and games, viewing them as frivolous or irreverent or both, the book argues that such playthings are simply examples of 'contemporary lived religion' in a postmodern world."

—"Religious Toys More than Play," by Leanne Larmondin (c. 2009 Religion News Service), appeared in the Christian Index (December 31, 2009).
Click here to read the full review online.

"Bado-Fralick and Norris present an analysis of religious games and toys which notes their connection to the commodification of religion in modern western society, and the efforts by religions to market their own values in competition with those of consumer culture.  There is really nothing like this very thoroughly researched work, which combines research on popular culture/material culture with study of games/toys and religion."

—John Lyden, Professor of Religion, Dana College, and Author of Film as Religion: Myths, Morals, and Rituals

"Bado-Fralick and Sachs Norris provide a dense and quite complete study on 'the world of religious games and dolls' in a perspective that will interest not only the study of religions but also other related fields of social and cultural studies."

—Florence Pasche Guignard, Numen (2011, 58)

"A work of original and seminal scholarship, Toying With God is a 210-page, informed and informative compendium providing a historical and analytical survey of the role games, toys, and dolls play within the context of a religious culture, including the underlying commercial implications for those that produce them. Enhanced with a profusion of notes, an extensive bibliography, and a comprehensive index, Toying With God is a unique and recommended addition for academic and community library Religious Studies and Popular Culture reference collections and personal reading lists."

Midwest Book Review

Nikki Bado-Fralick (1954-2016) was Associate Professor and Director of the Religious Studies Program at Iowa State University. She was the author of Coming to the Edge of the Circle: A Wiccan Initiation Ritual (2005).

Rebecca Sachs Norris (Ph.D. Boston University) is Associate Professor and Chair of Religious and Theological Studies, Merrimack College, and Regionally Elected Director of the New England-Maritimes region of the American Academy of Religion. She lives in the Boston, Massachusetts area.


Publication Details:

 Paperback , 210 pages
 9in x 6in

  SOC022000, SOC039000
 Baylor University Press

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