Sacred Tension: What’s Going On With Evangelicals? Feat. John Morehead

In this episode of Sacred Tension I’m joined once again by my favorite Evangelical John Morehead to discuss the psychology of evangelicals and why they do what they do. John details his research into the emotions that drive toxic evangelical behavior.

You can listen to this episode on PodbeanSpotifyApple Podcasts, your favorite podcast app, or on the player below.

Citations provided by John for this conversation, in order of appearance:

Pew Research Center – “How Americans Feel About Religious Groups,” July 16, 201

Pew Research Center – “Americans Express Increasingly Warm Feelings Toward Religious Groups,” February 15, 2017

Pew Research Center – “US Evangelical Christians are Chilly Toward Atheists, and the Feeling is Mutual,” July 16, 2014

Ryan S. Ritter and Jesse Lee Preston, “Gross gods and icky atheism: Disgust responses to rejected religious beliefs.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 47 (2011): 1225-1230

Ryan S. Ritter, Jesse Lee Preston, Erika Salomon, and Daniel Relihan-Johnson, “Imagine no religion: Heretical disgust, anger and the symbolic purity of mind.” Cognition and Emotion 30, no. 4 (October 2016): 778-796

Pew Research Center, “Faith: Few strong links to national identity,” February 1, 2017, (“Most white evangelical Protestants say it is very important to be Christian to be truly American”)

Andrew L. Whitehead, Samuel L. Perry, and Joseph O. Baker, “Make America Christian Again: Christian Nationalism and Voting for Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential Election.” Sociology of Religion 70, Iss. 2 (Summer 2018): 147-171

Allyson F. Shortle and Ronald Keith Gaddie, “Religious Nationalism and Perceptions of Muslims and Islam.” Politics and Religion 8, Iss. 3 (September 2015): 435-457

Eric Leon McDaniel, Irfan Nooruddin, and Allyson Faith Shortle, “Divine Boundaries: How Religion Shapes Citizens’ Attitudes Toward Immigrants.” American Politics Research 39. mp/ 1 (2011): 205-233

Richard Cimino, “‘No God in Common:” American Evangelical Discourse After 9/11.” Review of Religious Research 47. no. 2 (November 2005): 162-174Abstract: Text:

Holly A. McGregor, et al., “Terror Management and Aggression: Evidence that Mortality Salience Motivates Aggression Against Worldview-Threatening Others.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 74, no. 3 (590-605)

Enny Das, et. al., “How Terrorism News Reports Increase Prejudice against Outgroups: A Terror Management Account.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 45, no. 3 (April 2009): 453-459

Joanna Goplena nd E. Ashby Plant, “A Religious Worldview: Protecting One’s Meaning System Through Prejudice.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (2015), 1-14

Why We Hate documentary, Discovery Channel, 2019 (Produced by Alex Gibney and Steven Spielberg)About:

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3 thoughts on “Sacred Tension: What’s Going On With Evangelicals? Feat. John Morehead

  1. This was an informative one.
    As a current TST Satanist and former evangelical born again Christian…one thing stood out.
    It seems obvious now that I think about it, and I might have to do a 180 on this…

    The notion that Evangelical disgust comes first and foremost from the person’s own personal psychology…and NOT necessarily from their theology, from the Bible itself. The Bible, and Christianity, in so many ways is a choose your own adventure book. It kinda advocates everything…from slavery to abolition…from monogamy to polygamy. It’s all over the place.

    And modern American evangelical toxicity I kinda assumed came from the text itself. But OF COURSE it’s more likely secondary…and indeed a post hoc rationalization.
    But while I now can see the merit in this….it does beg the question: Why are American Evangelicals so damn psychologically hateful? Feeling disgust toward damn near everything? Embracing ignorance as a virtue and bulwark against contamination? The fact they can cherry pick a theology that backs all that up is somewhat uninteresting to me now.

    The real question is why are some people so deeply afraid of reality and all it entails? Why are they afraid of being contaminated by….fully embracing the messy contradictory juicy diversity of human existence? Why do some find that scary? And why are they willing to burn civilization and all the progress we’ve made to the ground just in order to avoid….idk, making friends with a gay person?

    It’s weird to me…and pretty nihilistic.

    Oh well…good episode. Made me think.
    And I got to hear that awesome Letterman Jacket song at the end! Love that so much….


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