Author Explores Odd Beliefs & Peculiar Religious Practices


Listen to the podcast at the link below

During this episode I explore some bizarre and interesting religious traditions with guest Dr. Karen Stollznow, author of the 2013 book, God Bless America: Strange and Unusual Religious Beliefs and Practices in the United States. We’ll consider a variety of groups, from the Amish to exorcists, from satan worshipers to Scientology practitioners, from old-time voodoo to new age woo-woo. Stollznow discusses her experience with these varied organizations, and what she learned by researching and interacting with them. She corrects more that a few Hollywood stereotypes along the way, including my own, and shares some interesting adventures. Stollznow is a linguist with a background in history and anthropology. Previously a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, Stollznow has spent two decades writing about a diverse array of topics, including language, culture, religion, science, pseudoscience, and the paranormal. She writes the “Bad Language” column for Skeptic magazine and is a research fellow of the James Randi Educational Foundation.

Written By: Alan Litchfield
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  1. I listened to the podcast yesterday. This extremely enjoyable interview gave Dr Srollznow ample opportunity to discuss her research. It was often funny and always interesting. Thanks.

  2. In reply to #2 by rod-the-farmer:

    Ahh, but how many understand the reference!

    My dear, mere mortal, you may explain-if you wish 😉

  3. We tend to let large cults off the hook for weirdness simply because of their familiarity.

    Imagine some little American cult that believed in stoning left handed people to death. They did everything they could to encourage others to do the dirty work because they wanted to avoid prosecution. We would consider them dangerous and crazy. Yet the Catholics do the same thing for gays without interference.

  4. In reply to #5 by alaskansee:

    I heard some of their beliefs include holy water full of fecal mater, very peculiar.

    That was weird. It was only briefly touched on, so I wasn’t quite sure that I’d heard correctly.

  5. In reply to #1 by bluebird:

    Deliciously ironic – image by Pyewhackett.

    Ok, I must claim ignorance. What do you mean? Rod-the-farmer seems to know as well.

  6. In reply to #6 by Roedy:

    We tend to let large cults off the hook for weirdness simply because of their familiarity.

    “The only difference between a cult and a religion is the amount of real estate they own”
    Frank Zappa

  7. In reply to #8 by Nitya:


    In short, a pyewacket is a spirit / familiar, associated with the Salem witch trials. These days, the cat (Pyewacket) from ‘Bell, Book, Candle’ is what most folks think of.

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