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Prologue

How does the Devil work? We hear stories from five different people who say they found themselves inexplicably doing something random and bad, something which made no sense to them at all. Host Ira Glass explains why this might be, cadging a bit from C.S.

Act One: It's Fun To Make Hell On Earth

Trinity Church in Texas puts on something called Hell House every Halloween. It's like a haunted house, but each scene shows teenage church members acting out scenes of things the church considers sins.

Act Two: Sixteen Candles Can Lead To A Lot Of Fire

Faron Yoder lives in Amish country in Indiana. When he was a teenager, like every Amish sixteen-year-old, Faron was allowed to abandon the restrictions of Amish life and live as a regular American teenager.

Act One: Adventures In Turning The Other Cheek

An explanation of what Christians and Muslims talk about in a place you might not expect them to get along at all: Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Host Ira Glass talks with Georg Taubmann, a relief worker with the Christian missionary group Shelter Now, who built houses and did other good works in Afghanistan for seventeen years, until he was arrested by the Taliban in August.

Act Three: The Epiphany Biz

Bill Lychak reports on what it's like to be a factory worker in the Epiphany Plant, bringing news of miracles to Christians in a magazine called Guideposts. It's a good job, he says.

Prologue

Host Ira Glass talks to Bible scholars Paulene A. Viviano of Loyola University and John Spencer of John Carroll University about the story of the golden calf in the book of Exodus.

Prologue

We hear from Father Jim Kastigar, who got on the wrong side of Town Hall and suffered the kinds of consequences people in Cicero suffer. His parish was denied a permit to hold an outdoor religious ceremony they'd held peacefully for seven years, the youth group's tamale fundraiser was shut down by city inspectors and the parking lot near the church was deemed unfit for Sunday parking.

Prologue

Host Ira Glass talks with Stephen Nissenbaum, author of a history called The Battle for Christmas, which explains when people started believing in a Santa who arrives Christmas Eve carrying presents. It was in 1822, and incredibly, the poem that created our modern idea of Santa is still around, known by heart by tens of millions.

Prologue

This American Life host Ira Glass and producer Susan Burton spent a week in August recording a suburban Chicago youth group at every stage of their very first mission trip. The teenagers were from Covenant Presbyterian Church in Chicago.

Act One: Exodus

These teenagers are the children the Christian right has in mind when it holds conferences on what's at stake in America's culture war. On the fourteen-hour drive to West Virginia, we listen to the Backstreet Boys and talk about Dawson's Creek. One of the things that's so interesting about these teenagers is the odd mix of Christian and secular pop in their lives.

Act One: Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad

When she was 21, Julia Sweeney got a job as a bartender's assistant and stole between ten and fifteen thousand dollars in cash. She describes the thrill of stealing, and how she justified her thefts to herself, and—oddest of all—how she became a more religious Roman Catholic during her crime spree.

Act Two: Brothers Of Different Mothers

In this act we hear two stories of people who stumbled upon a place where they instantly and instinctively felt more at home than in their real homes. Stephen Dubner, author of the memoir Turbulent Souls: A Catholic Son's Return to His Jewish Family, talks about an encounter with a Jewish man named Irving that changed his life.

Prologue

When the end of time comes, what videos will we watch? Under fundamentalist Christian doctrine, the first thing that will happen during the End Time is that all the good Christians will be whisked suddenly to heaven. We hear clips from Left Behind—a video designed to be played after all the Christians have vanished, by all the people left behind.