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71 minutes | Nov 25, 2022
19.5: The Prosperity Gospel
From the New Thought Movement of the 1880s to Charles Fillmore’s Depression-Era preaching to Joel Osteen’s megachurch, the notion that spiritual effort can yield material rewards has been a popular one for both New Age and Christian believers. The Prosperity Gospel asks that believers trust God and credit God for their own successes, but remind believers to work at the things they want. It preaches that money and material wealth aren’t evil and conveniently overlooks Jesus’s own poverty and teachings against the rich who have only the narrowest chance of getting into the kingdom of heaven. It is a doctrine that is full of paradoxes and omissions but it remains one of the most popular elements of megachurch Christianity on the market.
62 minutes | Nov 18, 2022
19.4: Live Action Religious Roleplaying (Interview Special)
Anna Milon joins us to discuss her ethnographic research into the way religions are imported, created, and developed within Live Action Roleplaying. Do players bring their own religious convictions into the characters they play? What are the places where belief and fantasy overlap? Are there taboos players observe even though they’re acting our a fictional scenario? As both a player and a researcher, Milon gives us insight into the strange and fascinating intricacies of religious LARPing.
66 minutes | Nov 11, 2022
19.3: A Christian Theocracy (Part Two)
Theonomy, Dominionism, and Calvinist Reconstructionism are all different names for the same idea: that the world would be better off it it operated according to a Christian Theocracy. In this episode Rob tackles the ideas of one of the more sober and influential theorists of this perspective, Gregory Bahnsen. Are ethics based on reason rather than belief in God’s law necessarily arbitrary? Did Jesus call on Christians to follow the whole of the Law or only some of the laws? And should Christians make non-Christian follow their laws?
61 minutes | Oct 28, 2022
19.2: Haunting a Harvest Horror (A Mystery Magic Theatre Special)
A mad scientist plots, fanatics roam and rant, monsters loom. This Halloween, the Alchemical Actors joined Rob’s college students to create a unique storytelling experience in a couple of acres of corn. In this special episode, Rob gives you a glimpse behind the scenes and Savannah takes you into the field to explore our harvest horror.
57 minutes | Oct 21, 2022
19.1: A Christian Theocracy (Part One)
Recent United States Supreme Court decisions on the questions of abortion rights and prayer in public school have suggested to many observers that the Court is following a theocratic Christian paradigm in passing its verdicts. The Christian Right’s involvement in politics has been a staple of twentieth-century American society and has been championed by Billy Graham in his magazine Christianity Today, Jerry Falwell with his Moral Majority, and Pat Robertson in his presidential campaigns. At its worst, the Christian Right helped to prop up a genocidal dictator in Guatemala and at its most effective it has made significant changes to American law. How have evangelicals shaped conservatism and what can that tell us about their impact on contemporary politics?
60 minutes | Oct 7, 2022
18.7: Klan Christianity
America’s white supremacist Christian Identity churches preach the abhorrent doctrine that non-white races are the descendants of Cain, birthed through a satanic tryst between Eve and the devil. Christian Identity unites the strange principles of British Israelism in the United Kingdom–which held that the British people were a lost tribe of Isreal–with American Klan and Neo-Nazi ideology. We trace the pernicious origins and results of these ideas and consider why these ideas have been so destructive to western culture.
84 minutes | Sep 23, 2022
18.6: Neo-Nazi Occultism
Savitri Devi, a French-born Greek citizen, took on an Indian name and envisioned the second coming of Adolf Hitler. The Chilean occultist Miguel Serrano sought to create “esoteric Hitlerism” as an archetype of the unconscious and believed that Hitler had survived the Second World War and lived in a secret bunker in Antarctica. Inspired by Devi and Serrano, Wotansvolk established a racist, communal Norse occultism that they brought to prisons across the United States to win converts. The Neo-Nazi occult is offensive and terrifying, but we dare not turn away lest we repeat the mistakes of the past.
70 minutes | Sep 9, 2022
18.5: Malcolm X
Malcolm X was tracked by the FBI since before he converted to Islam. Even after he died his viewing and funeral were both visited with bomb threats. He was widely regarded by people both inside and outside of his community of believers as a dangerous man. But Malcolm X did not carry weapons, he directed no army, and on the day he was assassinated he asked his bodyguards to leave their guns at home. What made Malcolm X dangerous was the revolutionary nature of his speech, the power of his thought, his evolving religious conviction, and his deep commitment to the liberation of black people the world over.
65 minutes | Aug 26, 2022
18.4: Houdini's Ghost (Interview Special)
Rob and Luke are joined by Judas and Magnolia, husband and wife magicians with a research interest in Harry Houdini. Following the death of his mother, Houdini became interested in making contact with the spirits of the dead but was disillusioned by the stage illusions he witnessed popular mediums perform for their audiences. Even Arthur Conan Doyle’s wife couldn’t change his mind about the truth of spirit communication. But he remained obsessed with the topic and performed his own seances right up to the end of his life. For more information on Judas and Magnolia, visit their website: www.judasandmagnolia.com.
70 minutes | Aug 12, 2022
18.3: Falun Gong
On April 25, 1999 between ten and sixteen thousand Falun Gong believers, clutching the little blue book of Li Hongzing, gathered outside the Chinese Communist Party's headquarters in Beijing. They stayed from dawn until well after sunset for what was the largest public protest in China since the 1989 democracy movement that resulted in the Tiananmen Square Massacre. For Chinese authorities, Falun Gong or Law Wheel Cultivation was a dangerous “devil cult” worthy of persecution decreed from the very top of the government and party structure. But what was it about this seemingly harmless belief system that the CCP found so threatening?
71 minutes | Jul 29, 2022
18.2: Aum Shinrikyo
Panic struck the Tokyo subway on 20 March 1995. Men boarded subway cars with plastic bags and umbrellas, removed the newspaper covering the bags, and punctured them with the sharp tips of the umbrellas releasing sarin gas, a biogological weapon first developed by the Nazis during World War Two, into the underground. Eight of eleven bags were broken open and leaked 159 ounces of liquid sarin onto the cars as they hurtled through the subway system. Twelve people were killed, 1,039 were injured, and 4,460 went the hospital reporting symptoms of exposure. The men were members of Aum Shinkrikyo, a religious organization founded by Shoko Asahara in 1987, and were hoping to spark an armageddon—namely war between Japan and the United States—according to their guru's designs.
64 minutes | Jul 15, 2022
18.1: Cult Brainwashing
Brainwashing has long been used to account for why otherwise reasonable people join religious groups deemed strange or aberrant from the standpoint of mainstream society. In the nineteenth century, Mormons were accused of mesmerizing people into joining them. In the 1970s, parents in the anti-cult movement abducted their own adult children and subjected them to forced “de-programming.” Today, the narrative of an individual or group being “brainwashed” by a charismatic leader persists. But is it possible to fundamentally alter a person’s beliefs despite their own better judgment?
46 minutes | Jul 1, 2022
17.7: Pagan Saints of Mexico
For centuries, there was one primary saint Mexicans turned to for protection: the Virgin of Guadalupe. Then, beginning in the 1990s, the popularity of a new saint began to take hold: the skeletal Santa Muerte or Saint Death. The Catholic Virgin of Guadalupe overlapped with an ancient Aztec goddess in ways that blurred the boundary between Christianity and paganism. Similarly, Santa Muerte emerged as a liminal and uncertain figure on the edges of Mexican spirituality.
66 minutes | Jun 17, 2022
17.6: Tituba in Salem
In January 1692, Village minister Samuel Parris's Indian slave, Tituba, reported seeing his nine-year-old daughter, Betty, and eleven-year-old niece, Abigail, acting strangely. Parris was fully invested in the notion of a satanic conspiracy and beat Tituba to get her to confess to witchcraft. It's likely that much of what the magistrates drew out of Tituba in court can be traced back to Parris. Although Salem hung many for witches in the witch trials, Tituba managed to save herself by cleverly talking around her judges’ expectations.
58 minutes | Jun 3, 2022
17.5: The Tainos and Columbus
The celebration of Columbus day had started among Italian Americans in San Francisco and became a national holiday in 1937. Recently, indigenous people and their allies have requested changing the celebration of Columbus Day to the celebration of Indigenous Peoples' Day. While this is, in part, an effort to recognize the place of Native people in America's history and culture, it is also a reaction against Columbus who, detractors say, does not deserve his own holiday. For them, Columbus is a villain. Certainly, Columbus played a central role in the Christianization of the Americas, specifically the Caribbean. His example inspired countless European explorers to cross the Atlantic and initiate ambitious programs of colonization which ultimately decimated native populations. But is the villainization of Columbus based on the fact that he set an example for explorers to follow or crimes committed by the man himself against the Caribbean's indigenous people?
56 minutes | May 20, 2022
17.4: The Great Witch Hunt
The legend of the witch that spread during the three centuries of witch hunting and lasted through the Renaissance began with the devil. A woman or man (but usually a woman) who was down on their luck would suddenly find themselves in the company of the Prince of Darkness. Great gatherings of witches would take place on a sabbat and witches had to travel great distances to reach it, flying on a ram, goat, pig, ox, black horse, stick, shovel, spit, or the iconic broomstick. Witches who missed the service or didn't do enough mean magical stuff in the time between sabbats were whipped for their transgression, suggesting the degree to which the witch was simply an inverted mirror image of the strictly controlled religious life of Renaissance Christianity.
52 minutes | May 6, 2022
17.3: The Baltic Crusades
When we think of crusades, images of the Knights Templar riding into battle against their Islamic foes in the Holy Land spring to mind. But there was another medieval crusade against non-believers, in this case pagans, held in Scandinavia in the same time period. How did the Church arrive at the conclusion that it had no choice but to forcibly convert these Baltic heathens? Some monarchs were anxious to convert for the political advantage it gave them, but others like the Swedish Queen Sigrid the Haughty preferred a slap in the face to Christianity.
54 minutes | Apr 22, 2022
17.2: The Pope and the Barbarians
In the first millennium, Pope Gregory the Great understood humanity to be blind, cold, and lost since the fall of Adam, drawn to materialism and false gods and religions. With humility, humans who subjected themselves to God's divine will and grace could learn to live righteously and channel God's higher purposes to their fellow human beings. Gregory's vision of history was one of the species' gradual movement closer to god. The three stages of our collective spiritual development were paganism then Judaism and finally Christianity. Some of the tribes he endeavored to convert came easily. Others not so easily.
71 minutes | Apr 8, 2022
Constantine was the first Christian emperor of Rome and established Christianity as a state religion for the first time. Constantine certainly knew about Christianity and was already well on his way to a conversion for personal and political reasons before ascending to the throne. He was a fan of the Christians and saw value in aligning his reign with their God. But his concept of the Christian God may have been based, at least in part, on the Syrain worship of a rock that fell out of the sky.
62 minutes | Mar 25, 2022
16.8: Secret Clones
Was Paul McCartney replaced by a doppelganger in 1968? Was Britney Spears replaced by a clone in 1998 or Eminem in 2006? Conspiracy theorists suggest the existence of underground military laboratories where governments and corporations produce clones for various uses, including, apparently, pop music. Have some celebrities been replaced by secret clones? Could you be replaced by your own clone? Find out in this episode.
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