Losing Her Religion: A Former Jehovah’s Witness on Leaving the Faith

Book review: Leaving the Witness, by Amber Scorah (Amazon / Book Depository) A Witness cannot just fade away without anyone trying to intervene, and it was hard to find enough mental space to gain any perspective. It’s not the kind of religion that lets you walk away, because the people in it think that by walking away, you have lost your mind and interventions will … Continue reading Losing Her Religion: A Former Jehovah’s Witness on Leaving the Faith

Inside the Investigation that Brought Down Warren Jeffs

Book review: Prophet’s Prey, by Sam Brower (Amazon / Book Depository) Private investigator Sam Brower found something unusual in Ross Chatwin, a former member of the the insular Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). Chatwin’s case, and Brower’s investigation into the religious sect that had excommunicated him, piqued his curiosity like no other investigation had. The FLDS is a fundamentalist Mormon offshoot with near-cultlike operations, … Continue reading Inside the Investigation that Brought Down Warren Jeffs

Lawrence Wright’s Look at the Satanic Panic

Book review: Remembering Satan, by Lawrence Wright (Amazon / Book Depository) Journalist Lawrence Wright is one of my favorite nonsense-busters. It just doesn’t get past him. And his books are so well-written that even when they’re dealing with the eye-rolling (but also very sad) “Satanic Panic” of the late 80s/90s, they’re meticulous and brilliantly laid out. If there’s anyone who can take a kooky cult … Continue reading Lawrence Wright’s Look at the Satanic Panic

Light Recollections of Growing Up Arab in America

Book review: The Wrong End of the Table, by Ayser Salman (Amazon / Book Depository) If you’ve ever felt like you’ve been at the wrong end of the table – whether you were born in an Iraqi dictatorship or hail from Lexington, Kentucky – this is for you. Though I can’t speak for all of us, I can at least tell you my story. Ayser Salman, a … Continue reading Light Recollections of Growing Up Arab in America

Childhood Scenes from the Tent Revival Circuit

Book review: Holy Ghost Girl, by Donna M. Johnson (Amazon / Book Depository) [The tent] gathered and sheltered us from a world that told us we were too poor, too white trash, too black, too uneducated, too much of everything that didn’t matter and not enough of anything that did. Society, or at least the respectable chunk of it, saw the tent and those of … Continue reading Childhood Scenes from the Tent Revival Circuit

Mythbusting Rasputin’s Life and Legend

Book review: Rasputin: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs by Douglas Smith (Amazon / Book Depository) The life of Rasputin is one of the most remarkable in modern history. It reads like a dark fairy tale. An obscure, uneducated peasant from the wilds of Siberia receives a calling from God and sets out in search of the true faith, a journey that leads him across … Continue reading Mythbusting Rasputin’s Life and Legend

A Former Evangelical on American Christianity, the Midwest, and Mike Pence

Book review: Interior States, by Meghan O’Gieblyn (Amazon / Book Depository) … It’s difficult to avoid sensing something perverse in the fact that I have returned so obsessively to the religion I spent my early adulthood trying to escape. And while I have written so much about the Midwest, the truth is that I’ve often felt that I would prefer to live almost anywhere else. … Continue reading A Former Evangelical on American Christianity, the Midwest, and Mike Pence

The Rain Began with a Single Drop

Book review: Daring to Drive, by Manal al-Sharif Book Depository It is an amazing contradiction: a society that frowns on a woman going out without a man; that forces you to use separate entrances for universities, banks, restaurants, and mosques; that divides restaurants with partitions so that unrelated males and females cannot sit together; that same society expects you to get into a car with … Continue reading The Rain Began with a Single Drop

Recipe for a Zombie: Science Immerses in Haitian Magic

Book review: The Serpent and the Rainbow, by Wade Davis Book Depository The Serpent and the Rainbow is a modern classic, a story that flirts with a deep-seated fear out of one of humanity’s collective darkest nightmares – that of being buried alive, and of being raised to live as “undead”. But the book isn’t strictly horror. It’s a perfect example of reality’s scary stories being … Continue reading Recipe for a Zombie: Science Immerses in Haitian Magic

The Epicenter of Silly: Light Looks at Modern Magic and Magical Thinking

Book review: Not in Kansas Anymore, by Christine Wicker (Amazon / Book Depository) Forty years ago, when the current occult revival was beginning to gain strength, the wisest thinkers in the land predicted that faith in the supernatural was shriveling and would soon die back to insignificance. The scientific worldview demanded such a shift. Who could possibly withstand it? Organized religion, mystical meanderings, and magical ideas … Continue reading The Epicenter of Silly: Light Looks at Modern Magic and Magical Thinking

Did a Priest Murder a Nun, and Did the Catholic Church Cover it Up?

Book review: Sin, Shame & Secrets, by David Yonke On Holy Saturday in 1980, the day before Easter Sunday, elderly nun Sister Margaret Ann Pahl was found murdered in the sacristy of Mercy Hospital in Toledo, Ohio. She’d been strangled with an altar cloth and her body bore stab wounds in the shape of an inverted cross. Blood on her forehead appeared to mimic anointing. … Continue reading Did a Priest Murder a Nun, and Did the Catholic Church Cover it Up?

Living Through Scientology’s “Fair Game” Policy

Book review: The Unbreakable Miss Lovely, by Tony Ortega Amazon Journalist Paulette Cooper survived the Holocaust but she almost didn’t survive Scientology. That thought lingered while reading this biography and account of her years of harassment by the cultlike religion for daring to write honestly and critically about them. Her parents suffered persecution as Jews in Second World War Europe and Paulette was lucky enough … Continue reading Living Through Scientology’s “Fair Game” Policy