NEW-ELAINE PAGELS-Why Religion: A Personal Story

Written on March 7th, 2019

Free Forum – Two warnings from over a decade ago 1) ARUNDHATI ROY, author, essayist, activist. (September 2004) 2) DAVIDSON LOEHR, AMERICA, FASCISM, and GOD (December 2005)

Written on March 12th, 2017

First, the incomparable ARUNDHATI ROY, award-winning novelist, activist and essayist who speaks truth to power. “It was wonderful that on February 15th [2003], in a spectacular display of public morality, 10 million people in five continents marched against the war on Iraq. It was wonderful, but it was not enough.”
Then my interview with DAVIDSON LOEHR, minister, Texan, and author of AMERICA, FASCISM AND GOD. “When fascism comes to America, it will gain power by poisoning the channels of communication…and creating an Orwellian kind of 1984.”

Q&A: ROBERT WRIGHT, Author and Blogger

Written on December 30th, 2014
  Recorded 06/05/09 Christianity, Judaism and Islam are both peaceful and violent. Robert Wright discusses what circumstances bring out the best and worst in religion. Is religion a force for good or ill? This question has been more energetically debated over the last few years, globally, due to the West's confrontation with radical Islam, and in the U.S., to the political emergence and activism of evangelical Christians. This was brought to a head with the misadventures of George W. Bush, from Teri Schiavo to Bagdhad. Robert Wright takes on big questions, and he's taken this one on in his new book, The Evolution of God. He follows the changing moods of God as reflected in ancient Scripture, to see what circumstances brought out the best and worst in religions. According to Wright, "The moral of the story is simple: When people see their interests threatened by another group, this perception brings out the most belligerent parts of their religion. Such circumstances are good news for violent extremists and bad news for moderates. What Obama is trying to do -- make Palestinians feel less threatened, and make Muslims generally feel more respected -- may now, as it did in ancient times, bring out the tolerant side of a religion." Wright is a visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, and founder and editor of His books include: Three Scientists and Their Gods: Looking for Meaning in an Age of Information; The Moral Animal: Evolutionary Psychology and Everyday Life; and Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny. and

Free Forum Q&A: SARA DAVIDSON, author of THE DECEMBER PROJECT: An Extraordinary Rabbi and a Skeptical Seeker Take Aim at Our Greatest Mystery

Written on July 18th, 2014

Aired: 03/16/14

We all deal day to day with a lot of questions and a lot of fears – around work, money, health, politcs, relationships. And at some point, we will all deal with the final fears and the final questions – fear of death and questions about what it means and what if anything comes after.

At his request, today’s guest, SARA DAVIDSON met every Friday for two years with 89-year-old RABBI ZALMAN SHACHTER-SHALOMI, the iconic founder of the Jewish Renewal movment, to discuss what he calls THE DECEMBER PROJECT. “When you can feel in your cells that you’re coming to the end of your tour of duty,” in tHe rabbi’s words, “what is the spiritual work of this time, how do we prepare for the mystery?”

Davidson, who describes herself as having a seeker’s heart and a skeptic’s mind, feared death would be a complete annihilation, while Reb Zalman felt certain that “something continues.” He didn’t want to convince her of anything, but to loosen her mind.” Through their talks, he wanted to help people “not freak out about dying,” and enable them to have a more heightened and grateful life.

Q&A: ELAINE PAGELS, Author & Scholar – Revelations

Written on June 25th, 2014

Aired: 01/27/13

We hear a lot these days about Armageddon, the Apocalypse, the Rapture, End Times. More than a current cultural phenomenon, they appear to be a persuasive motivating force for millions of Americans. These words are now part of our vocabulary, and as metaphors, they show up all over the map — Carmageddon as the nickname for the I-405’s weekend closure in July 2011.

But, where do they come from? As many of you may know, they come from the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Christian New Testament. But how did they get there? Who wrote this? What does it mean?

This week’s guest, religious scholar ELAINE PAGELS, author of The Gnostic Gospels, considers the Book of Revelation to be wartime literature. She points out that it was written by a Jew following Rome’s resounding defeat of a Jewish uprising, and interprets it as an attack on the decadence of the Empire. Soon, however, a new sect known as “Christians” seized on it as a weapon against heresy and infidels of all kinds. I believe that weapon is still active today in American culture and politics.

We’ll talk about Revelations, and we’ll talk a bit about the Gnostic Gospels and the over 50 texts discovered hidden and preserved in Nag Hammadi Egypt in 1945. And about the impact of politics and culture on religion, highlighted by the moment when Constantine converted to the Church of Rome. Christianity went from being the religion of outsiders and freethinkers, to being the religion of the Empire. And we’ll talk about how all of this plays out today in the US and around the world.