A billboard next to a road that reads, "Hell is real."

How 19th-Century Spiritualists ‘Canceled’ the Idea of Hell to Address Social and Political Concerns

Spiritualists believed that after shedding the body in death, the spirit would continue on a celestial journey and help those on Earth create a more just world.
Séance with spirit manifestation, 1872, by John Beattie.

Immortalizing Words

Henry James, spiritualism, and the afterlife.
Volunteers at Big Creek Missions in Leslie County, Kentucky

Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood

I’ve been going back to eastern Kentucky for over a decade. Since 2016, something there has changed.
Henry Ward Beecher.

When Preachers Were Rock Stars

A classic New Yorker account of the Henry Ward Beecher adultery trial recalls a time in America that seems both incomprehensible and familiar.
A burning candle in front of the American flag.

The Origins of Conservatism’s ‘Gnostic’ Meme

You can thank Eric Voegelin for the right’s clichéd catchall critique for the left.
Donald Trump speaks to the Pastors Leadership Conference at New Spirit Revival Center on September 21, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio.

Spreading the Bad News

Right-wing evangelicalism’s moral and religious descent into Trumpism has been near-total. Is there a way out?
A presidential portrait of George Washington.

The Enduring Power of Purim

Since colonial times, the Book of Esther has proved a powerful metaphor in American politics.
An illustration of a solar eclipse next to a portrait of James Fenimore Cooper.

Solar Eclipses in American History

How the spectacle of the 1806 solar eclipse impacted the national consciousness.
Michael Knott playing guitar

Michael Knott, Who Changed The Course of Christian Rock, Dies at 61

An entire industry wouldn't exist without him, yet few know his name. In his songs, Knott challenged the faithful to examine their faults and hypocrisies.
Rose Mackenberg.

The Ghost-Busting 'Girl Detective' Who Awed Houdini

As an undercover investigator, Rose Mackenberg unmasked hundreds of America’s fake psychics.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Glad to the Brink of Fear

A new biography reveals how Ralph Waldo Emerson gave Americans a vocabulary to understand themselves in an era even more tempestuous than our own.
A drawing of a burning ship engaged in battle at sea.

Burnt Offerings

Aaron Bushnell and the age of immolation.
A first edition of the book "Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral", by Phillis Wheatley.

Presidents Day, Meet Black History Month

Remembering an exchange between George Washington and the poet Phillis Wheatley.
Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln’s Faith

The President's spiritual journey transformed him and the nation.
Carl McIntire reading the Christian Manifesto outside Riverside Church in New York City and on the right, McIntire leaves Riverside Church, where the Christian Manifesto hangs above the doorway.

The U.S. Culture Wars Abroad: Liberal-Evangelical Rivalry and Decolonization in Southern Africa

As evangelicals worked to gain public legitimacy during the Cold War, historians of evangelicalism search for a usable past for their fellow believers.
Black and white portrait of Jones Very

The Voice of Unfiltered Spirit

In the poetry of Jones Very, whom his contemporaries considered “eccentric” and “mad," the self is detached from everything by an intoxicated egoism.
Martin Luther King preaching at Ebeneezer Church.

Lessons from MLK's Fight to Mobilize the Black Church

The history of Black churches’ struggles offers both warnings and hope for the U.S. today.
Watch meeting on New Year's Eve in Grafton, Virginia.

Countdown to Freedom

The significance of New Year’s Eve ‘watch night’ services for Black Americans.
Manifest Destiny painting by Gast.

'Pure White' Examines the White Supremacist Origins of Evangelical Purity Culture

The new podcast discusses how purity is woven into many of the myths that have fed White supremacy in the nation’s past and continue to do so today.
A large KKK Rally with burning crosses in the background.

100 Years Ago, the KKK Planted Bombs at a US University – Part of Their Crusade Against Catholics

Most of the Klan’s victims were African American, but many other groups have been targeted during the hate group’s century and a half of history.
A gem tintype album of Elizabeth (Almy) Cobb Hall, with portraits of the Almy family and friends

Past Lives

Who wants to watch a show whose characters never make real moral choices?
"The American River Ganges," a 1871 political cartoon by Thomas Nast from Harper's Weekly, depicting Catholic priests as foreign crocodiles preying on US children, illustrating the fear behind the proposed Blaine Amendment.

After the Blaine Era

The landscape for educational freedom is finally freed of 19th century prejudices, but other federal constitutional questions remain.
Signing of the Declaration of Independence.

How Christianity Influenced America’s Notions of Equality

'All men are created equal' coexisted with the understanding that not all were meant to be treated equally in life.
Representative Mike Johnson speaking about his faith on Fox News

Of Little Faith

The relatively unknown Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana has been elevated to the powerful position of Speaker of the House.
Max von Sydow and Jason Miller in ‘The Exorcist.’

‘The Exorcist’ & Catholicism

What explains the traditionalist Catholic infatuation with ‘The Exorcist’?
Jonathan Engel

As SCOTUS Examines School Prayer, Families Behind a Landmark Ruling Speak Out

The Supreme Court opened the door to challenges on school prayer, 60 years after a landmark ruling in Engel v. Vitale.
J. Edgar Hoover in front of a stained glass church window

One Bureau Under God

On the white Christian legacy of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI.
Ghostly woman.

Why Are There So Many Female Ghosts?

Female ghosts seem to dominate the afterlife. Whether the spirits are real or not, the reasons for the disparity could be revealing.
J. Edgar Hoover

How the FBI Aided the Rise of White Christian Nationalism in the US

It was J. Edgar Hoover who did more than any fire-breathing churchman to turn fearful white suburbanites into the crusaders of a renewed conservative backlash.
From left: A red and white sign protesting Critical Race Theory, groups of people stand in a parking lot

(White) Christian Roots of Slavery, Native American Genocide, and Ongoing Efforts to Erase History

15th century dogma connects the genocide and land dispossession of Native Americans with the enslavement and oppression of African Americans throughout history.