religion

Kenneth Woodward edited Newsweek's Religion section from 1964 until his retirement in 2002. He remained a writer-at-large at Newsweek until 2009.

His new book is Getting Religion: Faith, Culture, and Politics from the Age of Eisenhower to the Era of Obama.

Beginning with a bold reassessment of the Fifties, Woodward’s narrative weaves through Civil Rights era and the movements that followed in its wake: the anti-Vietnam movement; Liberation theology in Latin America; the rise of Evangelicalism and decline of mainline Protestantism; women’s liberation and Bible; the turn to Asian spirituality; the transformation of the family and emergence of religious cults; and the embrace of righteous politics by both the Republican and Democratic Parties. 

  In his new book, The End of White Christian America, Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, challenges us to grasp the profound political and cultural consequences of a new reality—that America is no longer a majority white Christian nation.

For most of our nation’s history, White Christian America (WCA)—the cultural and political edifice built primarily by white Protestant Christians—set the tone for our national policy and shaped American ideals. But especially since the 1990s, WCA has steadily lost influence, following declines within both its mainline and evangelical branches. Today, America is no longer demographically or culturally a majority white Christian nation.

  The son of a Baptist pastor and deeply embedded in church life in small town Arkansas, as a young man Garrard Conley was terrified and conflicted about his sexuality.
 
When Garrard was a nineteen-year-old college student, he was outed to his parents, and was forced to make a life-changing decision: either agree to attend a church-supported conversion therapy program that promised to “cure” him of homosexuality; or risk losing family, friends, and the God he had prayed to every day of his life. Through an institutionalized Twelve-Step Program heavy on Bible study, he was supposed to emerge heterosexual, ex-gay, cleansed of impure urges and stronger in his faith in God for his brush with sin. Instead, even when faced with a harrowing and brutal journey, Garrard found the strength and understanding to break out in search of his true self and forgiveness. 

His book is Boy Erased: A Memoir.

  One in four Americans reject any affiliation with organized religion, and nearly half of those under thirty describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” But as the airwaves resound with the haranguing of preachers and pundits, who speaks for the millions who find no joy in whittling the wonder of existence to a simple yes/no choice?

Lesley Hazleton does in her book, Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto.

  After a series of childhood misfortunes her father’s death, her mother’s ill-advised love affair, her disabled sister wrecking the family GTO, self-avowed church-geek Jo Page decided it was her job to figure out how to stay on God’s good side and maybe spare the family any more tragedy.

But she was a girl. And a Lutheran. Though women were ordained in the larger branch of the Lutheran church, when Page’s own pastor handed her a brochure enumerating all the ways in which she, as a female, was to be silent and submissive, she gave up on the church and went off in search of sex and drugs and rock-and-roll like any rejected adolescent Lutheran girl would.

Eventually Page found her way back into the church and ultimately into ordained ministry, spending twenty years in the ecclesiastical trenches, presiding over life’s rituals and preaching compulsory weekly words of hope she wasn’t sure she even believed.

Her new book is Preaching in My Yes Dress.

  Samantha Hunt’s third novel, Mr. Splitfoot, tracks two women in two times as they march toward a mysterious reckoning. The novel is a contemporary gothic, a subversive ghost story and a compelling mystery. Hunt's work has been performed on This American Life and on NPR's Selected Shorts program.

  In an era of extreme partisanship, when running for office has become a zero-sum game in which candidates play exclusively to their ideological bases, Americans on both sides of the political aisle hunger for the return of a commitment to the common good. Too often, it seems, religion has been used as a wedge to divide us in these battles. But is it also the key to restoring our civic virtue?

For more than a decade, Senator John Danforth, who is also an ordained Episcopal priest, has written extensively on the negative use of religion as a divisive force in American politics. Now he turns to the positive, constructive impact faithful religious believers have and can have on our public life. The Relevance of Religion is the product of that period of reflection.

Pope Francis has brought something controversial to the papacy—the prospect of change. In his new book, The Future of the Catholic Church with Pope Francis, Gary Wills, New York Times best selling author of Why Priests?: A Failed Tradition and What Jesus Meant, takes on one of the most pressing questions in modern religion today: what does the future hold for the Catholic Church?

Gary Wills is a historian, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and professor emeritus at Northwestern University. He joins The Roundtable today to discuss the novel behavior of the current pope and his own opinions on the future of the papacy.

  When Sukey Forbes lost her six-year-old daughter, Charlotte, to a rare genetic disorder, her life felt as if it were shattered forever. Descended from two distinguished New England families, Forbes was raised in a rarefied—if eccentric—life of privilege. Yet, Forbes’s family history is also rich with spiritual seekers, including her great-great-great-grandfather Ralph Waldo Emerson. On the family’s private island enclave off Cape Cod, apparitions have always been as common as the servants who once walked the back halls. But the “afterlife” took on new meaning once Forbes dipped into the world of clairvoyants to reconnect with Charlotte.

With a mission to help others by sharing her own story, Forbes chronicles a world of ghosts that reawakens us to a lost American spiritual tradition. The Angel in My Pocket tells a moving tale of one mother’s undying love for her child.

Listener Essay - A Passover Story

Apr 3, 2015

  Tina Lincer is a writer living in Loudonville, NY. 

  In recent years, there have been major outbreaks of whooping cough among children in California, mumps in New York, and measles in Ohio’s Amish country—despite the fact that these are all vaccine-preventable diseases.

While America is the most medically advanced place in the world, many people bypass modern medicine in favor of using their faith to fight life threatening illnesses.

According to our next guest, children suffer and die every year from treatable diseases, and in most states it is legal for parents to deny their children care for religious reasons.

Dr. Paul Offit is a Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. His new book is Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine.

  Austen Ivereigh is a British writer, journalist, and commentator on religious and political affairs who holds a PhD from Oxford University. His work appears regularly in the Jesuit magazine America and in many other periodicals. He is well known on British media, especially on the BBC, Sky, ITV and Al-Jazeera, as a Catholic commentator.

Ivereigh has written a biography of Pope Francis that describes how this revolutionary thinker will use the power of his position to challenge and redirect one of the world's most formidable religions. The book is The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope.

    

  Although our country is still very much identified as “one nation under God,” the truth is the number of nonreligious Americans is precipitously rising. Back in the 1950s, fewer than 5 percent of Americans were nonreligious; today, that figure has jumped to 30 percent.

Drawing on sociological research and extensive in-depth interviews with men and women across the country, sociologist Phil Zuckerman’s Living the Secular Life illuminates this demographic shift with the moral convictions that govern secular individuals.

  Critically acclaimed and bestselling author James Carroll has explored every aspect of Christianity, faith, and Jesus Christ except this central one: What can we believe about—and how can we believe in—Jesus in the twenty-first century in light of the Holocaust and other atrocities of the twentieth century and the drift from religion that followed?

In Christ Actually: The Son of God for the Secular Age, Carroll explores how one can retrieve transcendent faith in modern times.

  For the first time, religious self-identification is on the decline in American. Some analysts have cited as cause a post-9/11 perception: that faith in general is a source of aggression, intolerance, and divisiveness—something bad for society. But how accurate is that view?

In her book, Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence, Karen Armstrong sets out to discover the truth about religion and violence in each of the world’s great traditions, taking us on an astonishing journey from prehistoric times to the present.

wikipedia commons

Recent grassroots efforts have prevented the razing of churches that have been closed for a number of years in Berkshire County. But the victories for preservationists don’t change the underlying issue, part of a national trend: many congregations are simply struggling to survive. In part two of a two-part series, this story takes a look at how some religious organizations in the Berkshires are having success in reaching more people.

Jim Levulis / WAMC

Recent grassroots efforts have prevented the razing of churches that have been closed for a number of years in Berkshire County. But the victories for preservationists don’t change the underlying issue, part of a national trend: many congregations are simply struggling to survive. In part one of a two-part series, this story takes a look at how active people are in existing religious organizations in the area.

  Evangelical Christianity and conservative politics are today seen as inseparable. But when Jimmy Carter, a Democrat and a born-again Christian, won the presidency in 1976, he owed his victory in part to American evangelicals, who responded to his open religiosity and his rejection of the moral bankruptcy of the Nixon Administration. Carter, running as a representative of the New South, articulated a progressive strand of American Christianity that championed liberal ideals, racial equality, and social justice—one that has almost been forgotten since.

In Redeemer: The Life of Jimmy Carter, acclaimed religious historian Randall Balmer reveals how the rise and fall of Jimmy Carter’s political fortunes mirrored the transformation of American religious politics.

9/23/14 Panel

Sep 23, 2014

  Today's panelists are WAMC’s Alan Chartock, Times Union Associate Editor Mike Spain & Albany Journalism Professor and Investigative Reporter, Rosemary Armao.

Topics include:
Airstrikes
WH Intruder
Afghan Officers - Canada Border
Companies Tax Dodge
Religion in Politics Poll

Thomas Moore was a monk for twelve years, a musician, a university professor, and a psychotherapist. He writes regularly for Psychology Today, The Huffington Post, Spirituality & Health, and Resurgence Magazine. He lectures widely on holistic medicine, spirituality, psychotherapy, and the arts. Moore has been awarded numerous honors, including the Humanitarian Award from Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and an honorary doctorate from Lesley University.

    On June 27, 1844, a mob stormed the jail in the dusty frontier town of Carthage, Illinois. Clamorous and angry, they were hunting down a man they saw as a grave threat to their otherwise quiet lives: the founding prophet of Mormonism, Joseph Smith. They wanted blood.

At thirty-nine years old, Smith had already lived an outsized life. In addition to starting his own religion and creating his own “Golden Bible”—the Book of Mormon—he had worked as a water-dowser and treasure hunter. He’d led his people to Ohio, then Missouri, then Illinois, where he founded a city larger than fledgling Chicago. He was running for president. And, secretly, he had married more than thirty women.

In American Crucifixion, Alex Beam tells how Smith went from charismatic leader to public enemy: How his most seismic revelation—the doctrine of polygamy—created a rift among his people; how that schism turned to violence; and how, ultimately, Smith could not escape the consequences of his ambition and pride.

Rabbi Dan Ornstein: Wise Blood

Jul 17, 2014

Several weeks ago, as I planned my overly ambitious summer reading list, I came across my son’s copy of Flannery O’Connor’s famous first novel, Wise Blood.  Contemplating whether or not to read the book, and always looking for an excuse to talk to my adult child, I called him to inquire about what he thought of it. “You know, dad,” he began, “It is an intensely religious novel, all about a man who is trying to  rid himself of faith in Jesus and God, yet who fails to do so.  As a rabbi and religious person, you’ll like it.”

Those prejudiced political power brokers, now trying to hang a liturgical lock on this nation’s spiritual inception, as a Christian entity, had best beware of history’s recurrent habit of self-correction…much like proof that appears to be surfacing, now. For starters, let’s not forget the Native American tribes who were here, when the Holy-Roller "conversionists" first set out to "civilize" the “savages” who helped them survive the rigors of this untamed land, they’d come to conquer.  The Amerinds’ own religion taught them to respect and preserve what nature had provided but their fortune-hunting Christian conquerors were determined to despoil. One hesitates to contradict historic errors that have (for some) become part wish-prejudiced and nationally accepted misstatements…but when facts surface, despite repetition to the contrary, truthful contradiction must intercede, like it or not.

I’ve visited this issue earlier; even quoted Teddy Roosevelt’s warning, that “…the one absolute certainty of bringing this nation to ruin, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities.”  I might have left the matter there, if the “This is a Christian nation!...” claque hadn’t decided to intensify their contention several decibels louder than before.  What seems to have gotten them steamed up now,  is a complaint from a Jewish person and an Atheist, both of whom took issue over having to sit through public prayer sessions before their Town Council’s meetings (the council being an all-Christian one) and pushed their complaint all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.  The Court, citing other instances of pre-meeting prayer by higher government units, allowed as how something similar, at the local level, wouldn’t be that bad to sit through and said so in writing, which emboldened the ‘pro-Christian-Nation choir’ to add heft to their chant.

    

  Chris Stedman, the author of the acclaimed autobiography, Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious, will be speaking at the Sunday, May 11th meeting of the Capital District Humanist Society in Albany. His topic will be “Can Atheists and Theists Coexist Peacefully?”

Stedman’s presentation is free and open to the general public. More information can be found on the CDHS website.

    Rachel Urquhart's debut novel, The Visionist, is based in real life: the Visionists were young Shaker girls who began to suffer mysterious fits, thought to be in communication with the spirit world.

The Visionist tells the story of 15-year old Polly Kimball who kills her abusive father in a fire. Her mother leads them to seek shelter in The City of Hope, a nearby shaker Settlement. She is anointed a visionist upon her arrival, where she is - by turns - worshipped and questioned.

    In Living With A Wild God, Barbara Ehrenreich reconstructs her childhood mission, bringing an older woman's wry and erudite perspective to a young girl's impassioned obsession with the questions that, at one point or another, torment us all.

Ehrenreich is the New York Times bestselling author of Nickel and Dimed.

  Former President Jimmy Carter has written his 28th book: A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power.

He writes about his concern that for political or religious reasons, more females have been murdered worldwide than all of the people who have died in every war during that same span of time.

Wikimedia Commons / Cy White

New York City's Cardinal Timothy Dolan and bishops around the state lobbied Tuesday in Albany for a tax credit that would help Catholic schools.

Dolan and the bishops met with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders to advocate for a new tax credit for charitable donations made for educational purposes. The legislation would eventually add up to $300 million a year for education, with half going to public school programs and half going to scholarships for students who attend private schools.

The state Senate has previously approved a bill with the investment tax credit.

People have an affinity for things.

In today’s Academic Minute, Dr. Brent Plate, visiting associate professor of religious studies at Hamilton College, examines how objects can have a rich personal significance.

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