The Communal, Sometimes Celibate, 19th-Century Ohio Town That Thrived for Three Generations

Zoar’s Citizens Left Religious Persecution in Germany and Created a Utopian Community on the Erie Canal 

Quaint, rural, and hardworking, Zoar, Ohio, is the kind of place that wasn’t supposed to thrive in America. 

The citizens of Zoar came to this country as religious dissenters in the early 19th century. In unorthodox fashion, they formed a communal society where all wealth was combined: men and women alike pooled their labor, their wealth, and their belongings for the benefit of the whole.

The community thrived. In a nation dedicated to individualism, Zoar’s citizens built a first-of-its-kind economic system and persevered for three generations, becoming one of the …

Why George Washington Embraced the Idea of a ‘Nondescript’ God | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Why George Washington Embraced the Idea of a ‘Nondescript’ God

The First President Wanted to Unite Americans of All Religions Without Alienating Catholics, Freethinkers, and Jews

George Washington issued what might be considered the first executive order. To commemorate the end of a bloody Revolutionary War, Washington set aside the last Thursday of November as a …

Religious Belief Was a 17th-Century Invention

Once Tightly Guarded by Church Authorities, John Locke Redefined Faith as Personal Choice

Until very recently, atheism was neither widespread nor respectable, but today 11 percent of Americans claim not to believe in God. Many people have speculated on where all these atheists …

Why George Bailey Is the American Jesus

Reflecting a Postwar Religious Revival, the Long-Suffering Hero Played by Jimmy Stewart Lives a Life of Self-Sacrifice and Resists Temptation

In the 15 years after World War II, a religious revival swept through America. Records were set for church attendance and new church construction, a succession of religious books …

Our Favorite Christmas Classic Is Really a Study in American Suicide

It’s a Wonderful Life Delivers a Haunting Treatise on the Religious, Legal, and Economic Implications of Taking One’s Life

Isn’t it a little odd that our most cherished Christmas film is about a man seeking to end his life by jumping off a bridge? Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful …

The Voodoo Priestess Whose Celebrity Foretold America’s Future

Marie Laveau, the Self-Invented New Orleans Prophetess, Blurred the Sacred and Profane While Presiding Over a Multiracial Following 

Any tourist who rolls into New Orleans’s French Quarter eventually finds themselves standing before a Bourbon Street botanica called Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo. It’s a small shop, and …