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.
A story about God and extraterrestrials, told by Elna Baker.
Patrick Wall was a special kind of monk. He was a fixer.
When Dave Hill was in his late 20s and still basically living at home, he hung out with his mom a lot. But once she used particularly sneaky tactics to get him to attend a church fundraiser.
Rebecca was 16 years old when her mother Elizabeth died of cancer. But before she died, she wrote letters to Rebecca, to be given to her on her birthday each year for thirteen years.
Two short ideas that didn't work out so well as full stories.
Ira talks with David Ellis Dickerson about some of the bait and switch techniques David used when he was an evangelical trying to bring converts to the Church. Then Ira talks with author and evangelical Jim Henderson, who argues that evangelicals should follow Jesus's example not through conversion, but by simply befriending non-believers.
Dan Savage points a finger at the Catholic Church for being the kind of criminal organization that drives him to atheism—despite the fact that he still wants to believe he'll see his mom in heaven someday. Dan writes the sex advice column Savage Love and is the author of several books including The Commitment.
This past Christmas a story swept the internet about a football coach at a Christian high school in Texas who inspired his team's fans to root for the opposition: A team from the local juvenile correctional facility. Among the thousands of emails that the coach received in response to his actions, one stood out to him.
Rany Jazayerli was thrilled when one of his closest friends, Mazen, was hired by the Obama campaign as the liaison to the Muslim community, in the months before the presidential election. It only took 3 weeks for a newspaper to attack his character, and for Mazen to resign from the job of a lifetime.
An accountant, Bruce Wisan, is hired by the state of Utah to clean up a very complicated mess in a complicated place: Short Creek, home to hundreds of members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints—or FLDS, which practices polygamy. The community had been run by the notorious Warren Jeffs, now in prison for rape.
When Barack Obama chose Rick Warren of Saddleback Church to give a prayer at his inauguration, gay and lesbian groups cried foul, because of Warren's past remarks about homosexuality and gay marriage. But Rick Warren's constituents—Christian conservatives—also got angry.
Greg Warner was living in Pakistan, on the border of Afghanistan, when he met a man—a tough guy, former smuggler—who wanted to break his friend out of prison. He'd bought an expensive amulet, to keep his friend safe during the breakout.