A survivor of conversion therapy gets the wedding of her dreams.
One rabbi’s tactics against husbands who refuse to divorce their wives.
Scenes from a scary faith healing session.
"The one to be delivered shook at the apostle’s touch, recoiled from his voice. His boots stamped the floor, wrung more sweat free from his jumping body. It was darkest bluest winter and the one was dressed for the weather, had kept his coat on the whole dance. The look in his eyes, the exhaustion, the fear, his and not his. He named some of his demons at sentence length, readying his voice for story, but the apostle stopped him."
A classis psychological work on Hawthorne's 210th birthday.
"The cause of so much amazement may appear sufficiently slight. Mr. Hooper, a gentlemanly person, of about thirty, though still a bachelor, was dressed with due clerical neatness, as if a careful wife had starched his band, and brushed the weekly dust from his Sunday's garb. There was but one thing remarkable in his appearance. Swathed about his forehead, and hanging down over his face, so low as to be shaken by his breath, Mr. Hooper had on a black veil. On a nearer view it seemed to consist of two folds of crape, which entirely concealed his features, except the mouth and chin, but probably did not intercept his sight, further than to give a darkened aspect to all living and inanimate things. With this gloomy shade before him, good Mr. Hooper walked onward, at a slow and quiet pace, stooping somewhat, and looking on the ground, as is customary with abstracted men, yet nodding kindly to those of his parishioners who still waited on the meeting-house steps. But so wonder-struck were they that his greeting hardly met with a return."
A driver and passenger engage in uneasy political and social discourse.
"Darshan could all too easily picture Malik at prayer while on the job. He saw every detail--head bowed, eyed shut, both hands clutching the wheel as a laundry list of requests was whispered towards heaven: a new carburetor for the engine, a new dress for the wife, new sneakers for the children. Each and every petty need enunciated like a brave but modest child, the requests a thing of beauty in their humility, a delicate song of worship and desire that would only come to an end when Malik veered slightly into the opposing lane and plowed directly into the headlights of an oncoming sixteen-wheeler."
A profile of a previously unknown rookie pitcher for the Mets who dropped out of Harvard, made a spiritual quest to Tibet, and somewhere along the line figured out how to throw a baseball much, much faster than anyone else on Earth.
A deaf boy and his mother take part in an odd religious community.
"My mother wasn’t always this way. Before the accident we never even went to church, never mind twice in one day. Then my dad had to go and wrap his car around a tree and mumble some crazy shit about angels and white tunnels while he’s dying. It was just bad luck that brought us here. My mother Googled churches in the area, and it’s no surprise which ranked number one on the search results page."
A mysterious figure appears to early settlers in Wisconsin.
"t would make sense to Tellie later, after she'd hear it at the mill, after she'd race back the four miles in her bare feet to the home of the family where she'd just that morning left her babies, that it had happened to Adele Brise in the woods. The Lady, the Queen of Heaven, showing herself."
A long, philosophical courtship between a wealthy man and an intelligent woman.
"She looked up. Man and manservant were circling the property. They picked their way slowly, gazing down, grimly. She had not seen anyone move like this; it was the walk of people in a graveyard who knew all the buried. He was wrong. For him it was a test of devotion. Her devotion had nothing to do with it. She craved that man’s face and hands, her sweetest concern was what he would say next, the air she liked best had the damp of his breath in it."
Memories of the magical, enlightened daughter of a religious leader.
"It was in this moment that we began to wonder when her father might sense these happenings and descend upon us; when we turned to look, he had only just begun his approach, had only just caught sight of his daughter. He betrayed no surprise but drew himself up, preparing to mete judgment, and quickened his step as though eager to commence the necessary violence—"
On Westmont College, a “feeder school” to the upper ranks of the Christian conservative movement.
A young woman engages in various misguided religious devotions.
"She reaches out and takes one of his hands, lifts it to her mouth as if to taste his blood, but he pulls it away and takes her hands—both of them—in his own. Because he is Christ, she lets him. He kisses her palms, each of them in turn, and then once more, lingering over the taste of salt; of something like stone, like metal; of roses from the tomb of the saint; and the taste, he swears, of hunger.
Mystical, unsettling rumors surround a student at an all-girls school in Nigeria.
"We shuddered when we heard her invoke Allah. All but begging her not to unleash her powers on us, we recounted, in turns, how we had heard from someone who had heard from someone of the pencil case in the gym. Pencil case in the gym? What pencil case in what gym? We said that we had heard stories, too, about the blotting paper. Naturally, we made no mention of her Islamic faith. The word ‘witch’ remained unsaid. We said only that, whatever she had done, we were certain she had done for a good reason. And that her adversary, whomever it was, probably deserved it. Nuratu, as the full implication of our story dawned on her, looked as if she had been stabbed. She slowly sank to the floor, and began to weep and shake her head.
Inside the political battle over reproductive rights in Texas.
Struggling to pay for her mother's medical care, a young woman is drawn into the sex industry.
"The man arrived in a BMW, a Be My Wife, Njideka teased. He was tall and dark, his simple linen buba and sokoto crisply ironed, and his shoes shone even in the dim evening light. He reached out his hand and took mine. He drew my hand upwards, and tipped his head just a bit as he placed a kiss on the back of my hand. He wore gold rings on three of his five fingers. They were not massive rings, but small diamonds circled each of them and sparkled so that the rings appeared much larger than they actually were."
In the ’50s and ’60s, the Reverend Will Campbell marched with MLK Jr. and worked to desegregate the University of Mississippi. Later, broke, he took a job as Waylon Jennings’ roadie and occasional spiritual guru. Afterward, his ministry grew even stranger and more itinerant.
A woman struggles with her faith while caring for her addicted husband.
"She stood up, brushing off the back of her jeans. She would choose to believe the anointing had worked. That there would be some change. That she and Mitch would embrace and begin the path toward healing. God would never give her more than she could handle. It said that in the Bible. Nothing beyond what you can bear. She and Mitch were only being tested, refined like silver."
“Fear is running rampant in the Curia, where the mood has rarely been this miserable. It’s as if someone had poked a stick into a beehive. Men wearing purple robes are rushing around, hectically monitoring correspondence. No one trusts anyone anymore, and some even hesitate to communicate by phone.”
Two missionaries share their histories, experiences, and brushes with sin.
"They could walk together and talk without holding anything back. It had been like that since their third week together in school. They were sitting up on the roof of Oldham-Betts, and Samuel said, 'It’s hard to be up here and not smoke a cigarette,' and when Leslie gave him a sideways look, Samuel said, 'Look, I have a past. It’s pretty apparent, right? I’m a good thirteen years older than everybody here. There’s some things I had to walk away from. Can you handle that?' 'Who am I,' Leslie said, 'to judge you. I’ve got my own things to walk away from.' And Leslie—this kid—began to lay out his confessions, chief among them the lust he held in his heart when he looked upon a woman, this guilt he carried around with him daily, along with images he had seen in the magazines his father had kept behind some Time/Life books about World War II."
A woman attempts to find her own closure following losses on 9/11.
"The Rumson police, the Little Silver police, the Middletown police especially insisted, they’d already had funerals of their own and knew what to expect. The roads were cordoned off from the Sea Bright Bridge to the Avenue of Two Rivers and cars parked for a mile all the way down Rumson Road, women in black sling-backs climbing the rutted grass along the road, made the shortcut through the tennis club across the school yard to the gray shingle church, capacity four hundred, someone said a thousand stood inside and out to hear Father Jim say no words could gather the force he needed to say his prayer, they would all join him in silence. Kathleen in the choir loft, alone, sang “Danny Boy” for her brother, for her father, and the thousand beyond prayer, beyond tears, shook and trembled now."
On the culture of misogyny and abuse at one of the nation’s largest megachurches.
A Ugandan bill that would threaten homosexuals with imprisonment, or in some cases death, has its roots in the shadowy American evangelical group known as the The Family.
A Hanukkah story revolving around anarchists, crooks, and vandals. [Free registration required.]
"'Anyway, what's this talk about roots?' he said and immediately regretted it. He could see the magazine covers already. The Return to Religion: The New Tribalism. He liked it better when Wendy was insolent and yelled 'Death to the pigs!' at a couple of off-duty cops having a cup of coffee at a local diner before Frieda pulled her away."
The next generation of America’s most controversial (and likely most despised) church.
A community says its children are being targeted by a group of pedophiles. But did widespread sexual abuse actually take place?
A young boy deals with mean relatives and religious extremes as he embarks on his first communion.
"Then, to crown my misfortunes, I had to make my first confession and communion. It was an old woman called Ryan who prepared us for these. She was about the one age with Gran; she was well-to-do, lived in a big house on Montenotte, wore a black cloak and bonnet, and came every day to school at three o'clock when we should have been going home, and talked to us of hell. She may have mentioned the other place as well, but that could only have been by accident, for hell had the first place in her heart."
Michael Quinn took on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – and lost.
Becoming a priest in Boston amidst a sex abuse scandal and church closings.
A doctor and a rabbi try to find ways to understand the world, and God, and one another.
"The rabbi pulled out some books. She talked about Jacob wrestling the angel. She talked about Heschel and the kernel of wonder as a seedling that could grow into awe. She tugged at her braid and told a Hasidic story about how at the end of one's life, it is said that you will need to apologize to God for the ways you have not lived."
A Javanese shrine where Muslim pilgrims seeking good fortune must peform a ritual: find a stranger, have sex with them.
On the 1,600-year-old text that suggests that Jesus, long believed to be celibate, was a married man.
In this previously-unpublished Fitzgerald story, a saleswoman wants a cigarette, and perhaps encounters something more profound.
"Smoking meant a lot to her sometimes. She worked very hard and it had some ability to rest and relax her psychologically. She was a widow and she had no close relatives to write to in the evenings, and more than one moving picture a week hurt her eyes, so smoking had come to be an important punctuation mark in the long sentence of a day on the road."
On a former Louisiana preacher who converted to Atheism.
The secretive financial behemoth that is the American Catholic Church.
A Green Beret returns from Haiti and surprises his wife with news of his unusual spiritual "marriage."
"She got it, sort of, how fluid and free your mind might become when life took on the quality of hallucination. How that might blow your coping strategies all to hell? Dirk meditated daily in the middle of the den, which Melissa took for a joke at firstGreen Berets, snake-eaters, did not meditate, nor did anyone else she knew except people from Chapel Hill. 'Keeping it real' was how he explained himself; meanwhile Melissa took wary note of her dreams and watched her life fill up with nagging signs and portents."
How and why did 200 pages of the Aleppo Codex, “the oldest, most complete, most accurate text of the Hebrew Bible,” go missing?
A murderer fights off vengeance seekers, including God.
"I sundered Him, and He rejoined Himself. I interrupted Him, and He resumed Himself. I adjourned Him, and He reconvened Himself. I perforated Him, and He performed holy acts of closure. I peeled Him, but He only laughed—the old fox!—and could not be tricked into repealing Himself in order to end up sitting among the superannuated gods."
A personal history of “America’s most misunderstood religion.”
I am gay. I am Mormon. I am married to a woman. I am happy every single day. My life is filled with joy. I have a wonderful sex life. And I’ve been married for ten years, and plan to be married for decades more to come to the woman of my dreams.
The anatomy of a sex abuse scandal at a Christian school in Oklahoma.
Inside the ultra-Orthodox Jewish rally at Citi Field to discuss the dangers of the internet:
A man in a black fur hat asked him what, exactly, was an app, and he explained it to him. The man grimaced and walked away.
Life and death envelops a polygamist family.
"Walker Getty led us to the candle with thirteen flames, which he said symbolized our family. Twelve small candles circled and bowed to one large flame. Hiram lit the large flame with a butane lighter, and one by one we wives lit one small candle with his big candle. Six candles stayed unlit, Walker Getty said, until the Lord saw fit to bless Hiram with more."
A mother and daughter seek various forms of spiritual guidance and stability.
"The waitress came over and her mother ordered a coffee, plenty of cream and sugar, and Melissa ordered a pop with everything—Coke, Sprite, and Dr. Pepper but no root beer. The psychic ordered a side of bacon and an iced tea with three slices of lemon. He touched her mother gently on the hand and said, Shelley, you are a Gemini. Pollux, one of Gemini’s stars, is the nearest giant star to Earth. Her mother ooohed and went glass-eyed, and Melissa wished she could take her mother home, where the two of them could wait on the porch for dark, and when it came, Melissa would point and say, There, Mother. There’s Gemini. Right there. But Melissa didn’t know where Gemini was."
How a scandal involving sex, money and a Wiccan coven brought down yogi John Friend.
An interview with the experimental filmmaker and Hollywood chronicler Kenneth Anger, 85.
A grifter uncle visits his fundamentalist family.
"Uncle Skillet had stayed the same as he was in the stories my dad told. He had become a nomad, somebody my parents argued about in loud hisses, thinking they were whispering while they thought I was asleep. The idea of Uncle Skillet thrilled me. He was one of the bad guys from the Bible, a nomad on a permanent adventure, no agenda. Wild, dangerous, sinning all over the world, a life like the underside of the lawnmower."
Jeanette Winterson (author of a new memoir) contemplates the pleasures and the dangers of sex with the gods.
"He was close. She fell. He was on her. She pulled away. He grabbed her. He kissed her. She, in the time it takes to remember, in the time it takes to forget, kissed him. There was a second of surprise. Something happened. Anything might have happened because a world of gas and bubbles and heat was washing between their mouths. Then the known killed the unknown, and he was a god and she was a girl."
Following their mother's death, two Colombian half-sisters visit a cathedral built within an old salt mine.
"She had imagined the church where the funeral was held, but pillared with white salt instead of gold and marble. A sort of whimsical confection. Only upon arriving at the mountain in Zipaquirá does she realize what this sight-seeing really entails: she and Valentina must descend with hundreds of people 600 feet into the earth. It’s a disturbingly morbid activity to undertake so soon after her mother’s death. But it is also something to do, so she buys their tickets and joins Valentina in the long line near a tall cement cross that marks the entrance to the mountain."
An elderly woman and her extended family make their traditional pilgrimage to a cave shrine.
"Much depended on the weather, for a trek up the wind-swept mountain could not be undertaken except on a fine day. When the conditions seemed propitious, the bandobast would start the night before. The feast that followed the puja was always the most eagerly awaited part of the pilgrimage, and the preparations for it occasioned much excitement and anticipation: the tin-roofed bungalow would ring to the sound of choppers and chakkis, mortars and rolling-pins, as masalas were ground, chutneys tempered, and heaps of vegetables transformed into stuffings for parathas and daal-puris. "
All violence is not like all other violence. Every Jewish death is not like every other Jewish death. To believe otherwise is to revive the old typological thinking about Jewish history, according to which every enemy of the Jews is the same enemy, and there is only one war, and it is a war against extinction, and it is a timeless war.
Before I met Robert Jeffress, I wanted to hate him. Jeffress is the conservative preacher who made national headlines in October, when he called Mormonism a cult. He’s the senior pastor at First Baptist Dallas, the oldest megachurch in America, and I am certainly not a Baptist. He endorsed Rick Perry for president, and I’m definitely no fan of Perry’s. As a matter of fact, Robert Jeffress and I probably disagree on every major political and religious issue. And yet, I really, really like him.
A young woman’s attempt to flee from the most religiously conservative community in America, and to take her daughter with her:
The critical battleground in the War Between the Grunwalds would prove to be niddah, or “separation,” i.e., when the menstruating female is considered “impure” and kept apart from her husband. “It isn’t just your period,” Gitty says. After a woman stops bleeding, she has to wear white underwear for seven days, checking constantly to see if there’s any discharge. Should spotting occur, the woman takes her underwear to a special rabbi who examines the color, shape, and density of the stain. It is he who divines when it is safe for the woman to immerse herself in the mikvah (ritual bath) and be reunited with her husband.
An Indian woman is torn between Hinduism and Christianity.
"We were all somewhat worried by this, but Gold Teeth's religious nature was well known to us, her husband was a learned pundit and when all was said and done this was an emergency, a matter of life and death. So we could do nothing but look on. Incense and camphor and ghee burned now before the likenesses of Krishna and Shiva as well as Mary and Jesus. Gold Teeth revealed an appetite for prayer that equalled her husband's for food, and we marvelled at both, if only because neither prayer nor food seemed to be of any use to Ramprasad."
A man's memories of his troubled childhood lead to extravagant personal imagery of heaven and hell.
"Is heaven full of surprises? Our minister made it sound static. Happy, happy, happy, and no sleep, just blissed up like an addict, people bowing whenever Jesus walks by. Or the Father. Or the Holy Spirit sent a breeze-puff near where you stood by a window with a golden sill. Did the Holy Spirit get tired of being invisible? Maybe in heaven all is visible, even the Spirit."
The identity of the designer of a proposed 9/11 memorial competition inflames the emotions and the prejudices of an observer.
"The Rally to Protect Sacred Ground kicked off on a balmy Saturday morning in a plaza opposite the site. The members of both the Memorial Defense Committee and Save America From Islam were there, gathered in a cordoned-off area in front of the stage. Behind them stretched thousands: women holding signs that said NO TOLERANCE FOR THE INTOLERANT or KHAN IS A CON; fathers hoisting small children on their shoulders; men in camouflage who may or may not have been veterans. "
A young Jewish man makes a comical attempt to smuggle items into Canada.
"When I sit back in my seat I feel dampness on my ass. My jeans came in contact with some mystery liquid on the lavatory floor. I finish filling out the declaration card. I'd stopped in the middle after reading that I'd have to declare any meat products I'm bringing into Canada."
We have at long last opened our hearts to you, expressing the sorrow and agony which we have restrained over six long years. Any time you express the wish to resume normal relations and exchange with us, the past will be forgotten. For after all we do love you and the children more than any other persons. We shall continue to cherish you to our last day on earth. The peerless joy of raising you from childhood to youth is a unique life experience, indeed. Your father and mother
A profile of Harold Camping, a Christian radio host who (falsely) predicted the end of the world.
In the next hour or so, Laurie asks me a number of questions: Am I married? Am I happy? What are my goals? Do I feel that I’m living up to my potential? A failure to live up to potential is one of the things known in Scientology as one’s "ruin." In trying to get at mine, Laurie is warm and nonaggressive. And, to my amazement, I begin to open up to her. While we chat, she delivers a soft sell for Scientology’s "introductory package": a four-hour seminar and twelve hours of Dianetics auditing, which is done without the E-meter. The cost: just fifty dollars. "You don’t have to do it," Laurie says. "It’s just something I get the feeling might help you." She pats my arm, squeezes it warmly.
The low-key swingers of sleepy Amarillo, Texas find themselves relentlessly harassed by a militant Christian group.
Lovecraft's classic story. Terrifying cosmic revelations await you herein.
"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age."
Alumni report in secret on Delphian, the mysterious boarding school that Scientology built in the mountains of Oregon.
Fabulist fiction, about a shoeshine boy with a secret.
"Dr. Fessenden takes an interest, both medical and fatherlike. He wears black leather brogues at least twenty years old, the kind they don't make anymore. He prods my back with his doctorly fingers and makes considering sounds. "
The Jews are happy in the United States. There are now two hundred congregations of them here, half of whom have arrived within the last twelve years. They are good citizens, firmly attached to those liberal principles to which they owe their deliverance from degrading and oppressive laws, and are rising in the esteem of the people among whom they dwell. Their attachment to the system of universal education is hereditary; it dates back three thousand years; and though their religious feelings are wounded by the opening exercises of many public schools, they would not for that reason destroy them.
What the Madonna is thinking.
"The Madonna is bored with this tiny naked Jesus in her lap. She is bored with her situation: relegated to a stool for his display."
An account of the trial of Warren Jeffs, the polygamous prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Charles Morton Luger unexpectedly becomes Jewish.
"When they sat down to dinner, Charles stared at his plate. Half an hour Jewish and already he felt obliged. He knew there were dietary laws, milk and meat forbidden to touch, but he didn't know if chicken was considered meat and didn't dare ask Sue and chance a confrontation -- not until he'd formulated a plan."
A detailed, fictionalized diary entry of a German Jew in the early 1940s.
"We actually forgot we were Jews most of the time. But the men in charge keep reminding us of our heritage in an increasingly torturous way. My father laughed it away at first."
But you were drinking and having premarital sex, right? Isn’t that kind of an indirect way of questioning your faith? Is disobeying questioning? It can be, but I don't think I was really pondering questions of faith when I started drinking in high school, and the premarital sex didn't actually happen until after I graduated. I think looking back the answer is yes, I was looking at other options. But I didn't think about it in those terms then. I think lots of people of every faith experiment in these ways but ultimately decide to embrace their religion.
Inside the safe houses where Syrian youth protesters have retreated since the uprising:
Around his neck he wore a tiny toy penguin that was actually a thumb drive, which he treated like a talisman, occasionally squeezing it to make sure it was still there. I sat next to him on the mattress and watched as he traded messages with other activists on Skype, then updated a Facebook page that serves as an underground newspaper, then marked a Google Earth map of Homs with the spots of the latest unrest. “If there’s no Internet,” Abdullah said, “there’s no life.”
A Jewish family moves from Florida to Tennessee, and a prodigal son returns.
"My father decided he would cook a genuine Jewish brisket for the in-laws’ first Tennessee meal. They were coming up from West Palm Beach and he thought the brisket would make for the perfect pastiche of Jewish and Southern tradition, to the extent that either could be embodied in a slab of beef."
Inside the dynastic war between the heirs to rulership of the largest Hasidic sect in the world. The prize – all of Hasidic Williamsburg – may prove to be ungovernable.
A religious leader in colonial New England builds a mysterious machine.
"The motor will cause great floods of spiritual light to descend from the heavens. It will reveal the earth to be a limitless treasure trove of motion, life, and freedom. "
A former priest becomes the prime suspect in the 1960 murder of a Texas beauty queen.
This is a litany to those of us in this field. “What more will the Negro want?” “What will it take to make these demonstrations end?” Well, I would like to reply with another rhetorical question: Why do white people seem to find it so difficult to understand that the Negro is sick and tired of having reluctantly parceled out to him those rights and privileges which all others receive upon birth or entry in America? I never cease to wonder at the amazing presumption of much of white society, assuming that they have the right to bargain with the Negro for his freedom.
As a teenager, Trey Smith snuck into the cash- and porn-filled home vault of his friend’s father. Fifteen years later, he told the story from prison.
Death in various forms looms over a 1960s family.
"As she snubbed out her cigarette and rinsed her cup in the sink, Marianne thought, thirty-four. One of the television commentaries had mentioned Jackie Kennedy’s age and it was Marianne’s age exactly. She was in this way aligned with the grieving first lady: they had seen the very same days."
John C. Favalora is a sallow old man who looks like the corpse of Dom Deluise. He likes attractive young men to sit on his lap and allegedly treats them to trips in the Florida Keys. He was, until recently, part owner of a company that makes "all natural" boner-inducing beverages. He's also the Archbishop Emeritus of Miami.
437 children were removed from Yearning for Zion Ranch as part of the largest custody battle in American history. They were eventually returned to the compound polygamist Warren Jeffs made infamous—but questions remained.
On the world’s longest foot race, which takes place entirely within Queens, N.Y.:
Such were the hazards last summer in Jamaica, Queens, at the tenth running of the Self-Transcendence 3,100. The fifteen participants—all but two of them disciples of the Bengali Guru Sri Chinmoy, who has resided in the neighborhood for forty years—hailed from ten countries on three continents. They ran in all weather, seven days a week, from 6:00 a.m. to midnight, or until their bodies compelled them to rest. If they logged fewer than fifty miles on a given day, they risked disqualification. By their own reckoning, the runners climbed eight meters per lap, mounting and descending a spectral Everest every week and a half. They toiled in this fashion for six to eight weeks, however long it took them to complete 5,649 circuits—3,100 miles—around a single city block.
A youth set to the shifting sounds of CCM, Christian Contemporary Music:
This, by the way, is considered the ultimate sign of quality CCM, even amongst Christians: the ability to pass as secular. Every band’s goal was to have teenagers stop their grooving mid-song and exclaim, like a soda commercial actress who’s just realized she’s been drinking Diet, “Wait, this is Christian?”
An investigation into clergy sexual abuse in Philadelphia.
Before the guru, Prakashanand Saraswati, vanished in March—before a jury convicted him of sexual abuse; before he slipped across the border into Mexico overnight—he led the premier Hindu temple in Texas and, perhaps, the whole United States.
A polygamist clan descended from four original families, the Order are believed to run the largest organized crime operation in Utah. When a chest full of gold disappeared, suspicion immediately fell on a group of boys who had split with the cult.
Ricky Rodriguez was born in the role of the messiah. His father was David Berg, the leader of the polygamous/incestuous cult The Children of God, which published a book documenting his early life:
In 1982 a shop in Spain printed several thousand copies of a book that was then distributed to group members around the world. Bound in faux leather, illustrated with hundreds of photographs, the 762-page tome meticulously chronicled Ricky's young life and was intended as a child-rearing manual for families. Its title, The Story of Davidito, was stamped in gold. With its combination of earnest prose and unabashed child pornography, it is perhaps the most disturbing book ever published in the name of religion.Eventually, he left the cult and found work as an electrician. But revenge called him back.
On the Birthright Israel program, which sends young American Jews on a tour of Israel free of charge, thanks to massive funding from both the Israeli government and philanthropists like the conservative casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.
A new era is dawning for Birthright. What began as an identity booster has become an ideology machine, pumping out not only Jewish baby-makers but defenders of Israel. Or that’s the hope.
Doc moves quickly. He takes off his windbreaker, tosses his leather bag on the counter and unzips it. He pulls out a slate-blue polyester vest, V-necked, with six buttons. He raises his arms and jumps into it and then says, with an air of deep satisfaction, "Aah." Doc is proud of his bulletproof vest.
A travelogue through the contradiction-rich and predominantly Muslim Southern Thailand.
Early last year, 10 churches were torched in East Texas. The culprits? Two Baptist teens having a crisis of faith.
An investigation into the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in Alaska Native villages.
How France’s public schools became the battleground in a culture war.
On Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and their new Broadway musical about Mormons, which “may just be their highest artistic achievement yet.”
A crusading minister has built a forested Utopia for the itinerant and destitute. But is a social experiment what they’re looking for, or just a place to live?
With Washington State debating a bill that would force Christian pregnancy centers to be more forthright about their anti-abortion agenda, a pair of reporters hear firsthand what the centers are telling young women.
Reporting from inside the Church’s Celebrity Centre in Los Angeles.
During his 35 years as a member of the Church of Scientology, Oscar-winning writer and director Paul Haggis went “all the way to the top.” The story of why he left, and what happened once he did.
What has Ted Haggard, who left the New Life megachurch after admitting he purchased crystal meth and sexual favors from a male escort, been doing in the four years since? Selling insurance door to door and then… founding a new church and returning to the pulpit.
Bruce Wisan received one of the toughest assignments ever thrust upon an accountant; to take control of the assets (and by proxy, followers) of the polygamist Mormon breakaway sect, F.L.D.S., after their prophet, Warren Jeffs, went on the lam and their compound was raided.
How Zion, Ill., a fundamentalist Christian settlement with a population of 6,250, created one of the most popular stations in the country during the early days of radio.
He was an itinerant preacher who claimed god have revealed him to be the one true prophet. He kidnapped Elizabeth Smart and lived with her in a makeshift camp for years. She was hard to find; not because he was sly, but because Utah is full of prophets with multiple young wives.
On the visionary architecture and disturbing goals of Yearning for Zion, the utopian experiment undertaken in rural Texas by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Nineteenth century Muslim-Christian hero Abd el-Kader, the “Algerian George Washington.”
An interview with R. Crumb on how he adapted Genesis into comic form.
A rare co-mingling between Hasidic Jews and their Crown Heights neighbors within Brooklyn’s ‘Basil Pizza & Wine Bar.’
Inside the C Street house in Washington and the little-known spiritual group behind it.
How the U.S. Army went evangelical and turned a war into a crusade.
The author enrolls in three cults - ADIDAM, the Moonies, and Aleph (formerly Aum, who carried out the Tokyo metro Sarin attacks) - via their New York branches.
A profile of Francis Collins, a fervent Christian, former head of the Human Genome Project and Obama’s appointee to head N.I.H., now at the center of the stem cell research debate.
Alex Haley interviews the Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s number two - Malcolm X - in a Harlem restaurant.
A new Egyptian TV channel called 4Shbab—“for youth” in Arabic—aims to get young people interested in Islam through music videos and reality shows.
Pat Robertson was 29 years old, possessionless, and living in a Bed-Stuy brownstone when he announced that God had told him to buy a fledgling TV station in Virginia. Here’s what happened next.
Admiring evangelicals are helping David Berkowitz, the imprisoned serial killer who murdered six people in NYC during the summer of 1977, with an unusual image makeover.
Sandinista, reverend, and president of the U.N. General Assembly.
An early 1995 peek at what happens when secretive groups meet the Internet: a Scientology Usenet group, populated by believers and critics, stirs conflict that results in raids.
75 years after its founding, it’s still hard to explain exactly why Alcoholics Anonymous works.
A weekend at a Christian gay-to-straight sexual reorientation retreat.
An acquaintance dies in Iraq and a writer investigates. “How did Michael come to inspire such loyalty? And how did he come to die on the floodplain of the Euphrates? I looked closer and saw they were the same.”
During the 90s, David Bazan was Christian indie-rock’s first big crossover star. Then he stopped believing.