When Doubt is Terminal

When I was deep in the Evangelical fold, doubt was sometimes discussed as a temporary and seasonal necessity. Doubt was talked about as a period of testing, in which we just had to lean in to prayer and trust, even in the face of an insurmountable void of evidence. Inevitably, they said, this season would come to an end, the winter would turn to spring, and you would know without a doubt that God is real. In other words, doubt was understood as a sort of spiritual flu — a seasonal disruption that builds our immune systems.

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Dismantling Supremacy Culture

In this episode of Sacred Tension I talk to Robyn Henderson-Espinoza, PhD about the process of dismantling toxic power within our culture. We talk about my gradual journey of understanding what, exactly, racism and sexism are, and the process of overcoming them. Robyn ultimately advocates for radical courage and imagination, and I found this conversation deeply moving.

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Terrible Things Christians Say When You Stop Believing in God

I always assumed that atheists were assholes. Whenever Dawkins, Harris, or Hitchens would show up on my computer screen, I would internally snarl at them: so angry, I thought. So prone to bitterness and self-righteousness.

Now that I’ve undergone my own deconstruction of faith I have to say that, while not excusing their more egregious behavior, I get why atheists can be assholes. It can feel like the whole world is against you, putting words in your mouth, or making assumptions about your character. Ever since coming out as a nontheist, I’ve gotten a steady torrent of unpleasantness from theists. I’ve gotten unsolicited challenges to debate, condescending private messages, and annoying assumptions about my personal integrity hurled at me.

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Sacred Tension: FrazzleDrip, Satanists, and Other Moral Panics

The history of the United States is dotted by moral panics: delusional mass hysterias over complete fictions like the Illuminati, 9/11 trutherism, Stranger Danger, and pedophilic satanists. Now, in a climate in which the fertile jungle of the internet seems to produce new conspiracy theories by the day, we need to understand the importance of moral panics: how they warp minds and destroy lives.

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Goblins in Appalachia, Woke Brands, and Hail Satan

Welcome to Sunday Curiosities: the blog series where I bring you the bizarre and fascinating tidbits that I’ve uncovered through the week.

Goblins in Appalachia

I love weird shit, and I recently stumbled upon a veritable goldmine of weirdness in the documentary series Hellier: a beautifully made documentary about paranormal investigators searching for Goblins in Appalachian caves.

I am a skeptic, but I absolutely love the paranormal. I love entering other worlds of possibility, suspending my disbelief, and getting spooked. What I love the most about Hellier is how it is was made with a complete lack of cynicism or irony. The people in the series truly believe in tiny underground goblins, and we get to see in real time how they interpret seemingly disconnected events as being part of some huge, ineffable, paranormal web of meaning. It’s a great case study in worldview, and I enjoyed it enormously.

Hail, Satan?

I am, much to the agitation and bafflement of some of my followers, a fan of the Satanic Temple. I support their work, and think they represent a positive movement towards nontheistic religion in America. And, more than that, I think they are a legitimate New Religious Movement. I’ve had several disputes over whether or not TST is a “real” religion, and despite their occasional gimmicks, I am convinced that they are. 

All of this is validated by the new trailer for a documentary about the Satanic Temple called “Hail, Satan?” I am unreasonably excited about this film, and I hope that many people see it, and are willing to confront their preconceived notions about religion, Satanism, and American politics.

Hbomberguy Breaks down Woke Brands

Leftist youtube has been turning out some excellent content lately, and hilarious Hbomberguy recently did a thorough undressing of “woke advertising,” like the recent Gilette “short film.” 

I was not in the thrall of the Gillette commercial when it hit the internet. I was mildly pleased that they were challenging toxic notions of masculinity, but I was skeptical of its sincerity. Hbomberguy reconfirms my cynicism, as he breaks down the new marketing methods of enormous companies by preying on our political divisions. It’s a long video, but every minute is worth it.

Meaning in a Godless Universe

Last week, I had the pleasure of appearing on the podcast Church and Other Drugs. What I expected to be a conversation about Satanism turned into an enjoyable back and forth over the existence of God. Jed, who hosts Church and Other Drugs, is a theist, while I am a nontheist. Jed finally brought up a question he says he has yet to hear a satisfying answer to, and it’s one I hear perpetually:

If there is no afterlife, how can this life have any meaning?

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Sacred Tension: The Theology of Heaven’s Gate

In March of 1997, Heaven’s Gate committed ritual suicide to the astonishment and horror of the world. Over 20 years later, we are still piecing together the mystery of this fringe UFO religion: who were they, what did they believe, and why did they end so horribly? Joining me for today’s Sacred Tension podcast is Benjamin Zeller, widely considered the leading authority on Heaven’s Gate.

Zeller walks us through why he calls Heaven’s Gate a religion and not a cult, the theology of Heaven’s Gate and how it is, at its most basic level, Christian, whether we will ever have society without religion, and much more. I found this an incredibly thought provoking conversation, and I hope you do too.

Benjamin E. Zeller is a researcher and teacher of religion in America. He focuses on religious currents that are new or alternative, including new religions, the religious engagement with science, and the quasi-religious relationship people have with food. His interests are united by an interest in expanding the conversation about religion by including less commonly studied groups, phenomena, and topics, and looking at more common topics (e.g. religion & science; American religious history) from new angles. 

Zeller is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Religion at Lake Forest College, a private liberal arts college in the Chicago suburbs. He previously served as Director of the College Honors Program, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, and Coordinator of the Religion and Philosophy Major at Brevard College, and visiting Fulbright Fellow at Åbo Akademi (Turku, Finland). Find his work here.

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Jordan Peterson, Satanic Factions, and Anti-trans Memes

Welcome to Sunday Curiosities: the blog series where I bring you the interesting, bizarre, and insightful tidbits I’ve collected over the week.

Jordan Peterson is Incomprehensible

A hilarious video of edited footage from the Joe Rogan show has Jordan Peterson arguing with himself. I was once enamored of Peterson, but I now understand him to be at best boring and at worst incomprehensible and an accessory to sexism, transphobia, and patriarchy. What amuses me about this video is how it is just slightly more indecipherable than his regular videos.

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The 4 Steps of Standing in Solidarity with LGBT People

I regularly find myself in conversation with people who feel deeply conflicted about how to love and respond to LGBT people: conservative minsters whose hearts have softened towards LGBT people, but whose theology has not; college chaplains who are suddenly finding themselves flummoxed by trans, queer, and gay students sitting in their office, struggling with faith and sexuality; parents, friends, siblings of gay people who see the damage done by the church and don’t know how to stop perpetuating that damage.

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