On a friend’s recommendation, B.A. Parker decides to try attending First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem.
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What does God get out of us praising him? Or is it actually for us? (7 minutes)
Reporter Eric Mennel introduces Host Ira Glass to church planters, a group of evangelical Christians who apply the lessons of Silicon Valley to their goals of building new churches and growing their flock. (9 ½ minutes)
Eric Mennel tells the story of one church planter, Watson Jones, who sets out on his mission to build a new church in a very challenging setting.
A private basketball coach teaches a young student some things his parents don't agree with. David Kestenbaum has the story.
Cody's parents try to get him to unlearn some of what AJ taught him—and it's difficult.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is from Grand Rapids, Michigan. So is This American Life producer Susan Burton.
Will McMillan found a home in the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses when he was a teenager. Ultimately he was kicked out of the church.
Elna Baker talks to a Republican woman who voted for Hillary Clinton this year, and has suffered consequences in the Mormon community she lives in.
Fat is seen by so many people as a kind of moral issue. They think you’re fat because you’re weak and can’t get control of your own life.
When Mariya Karimjee was little, members of her family made a decision that would affect her entire life. Years later, she wants to know why.
Producer Zoe Chace goes to Greenville, South Carolina to talk with Tony Beam – host of the radio show Christian Worldview Today. Tony and his listeners are evangelical Christians, and usually, Tony backs a candidate for office and his listeners tend to agree with him.
Actor Alex Karpovsky reads a short story by Etgar Keret, from his book, “The Bus Driver Who Wanted To Be God." (4 minutes)
Before the war in the East Ramapo, New York school district, there was a truce. Local school officials made a deal with their Hasidic and ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighbors: we'll leave you alone to teach your children in private yeshivas as you see fit as long as you allow our public school budget to pass.
Mark Oppenheimer reports on agunah in the Orthodox Jewish community. An agunah is a woman whose husband refuses to give her a divorce – in Hebrew it means "chained wife." If you're an Orthodox Jew, strictly following Jewish law, the only real way to get divorced is if your husband agrees to hand you a piece of paper called a get.
Ira talks to Father Thomas Santa about the kind of confession that he finds among the most difficult to listen to — and not because what’s being confessed is too big or too horrible — but because, as Father Santa explains, they aren’t sins at all.
In Israel, Sayed Kashua, writes a weekly newspaper column that are these very frank, entertaining conversations about his day-to-day life. A few years ago, he moved his family from East Jerusalem (where most of the Arabs in the city live) to West Jerusalem (where it’s almost all Jews, not Arabs) and that kind of blew people’s minds, his included.
Ira admits there is a question he’s wanted to know the answer to since he was a kid in Hebrew school: Why is it that Jews don’t sacrifice animals anymore? Especially since the Old Testament is so clear that God wants it? Ira talks to religious studies scholar Jonathan Klawans to find out. Jonathan is the author of a book covering this subject, Purity, Sacrifice and the Temple.
Ira talks with UC Davis Professor Kathy Stuart about a macabre trend that dates back to 17th and 18th century Europe. It seems that in order to avoid eternal damnation for the sin of committing suicide, a number of people began committing murder for the express purpose of turning themselves in, confessing their sins to a priest in order to be blessed and forgiven before being executed.
Jack Hitt tells the story of the Christian card counting team featured in the documentary Holy Rollers, and why they see no contradiction in being devout Christians who spend their days in casinos. Jack is the author of the book Bunch of Amateurs.
Alix Spiegel revisits a story she reported in 2006 - which caused more listeners to email us than any other story we've broadcast. It was about a Muslim American girl named "Chloe," who was tormented at school after the students had a lesson on 9/11.
David Ellis Dickerson tells the story of heading home to Tucson after six years away, having rejected the evangelical Christianity of his family. David came prepared for war, armed with new beliefs.
Producer Jane Feltes spends a day with two young Mormons, on mission to possibly the least receptive environment they could find...the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
Despite our nation's attempts to make Christmas all about toys and shopping, it is still a religious holiday. Mike Birbiglia tells this story about Catholicism and his mother. Mike is author of the memoir Sleepwalk With Me.