11 Top RD Stories of the Year: Because in 2020 Religion Went to 11

Image: Nigel Tufnel explains that his sound system is louder in 'This is Spinal Tap.'

We could spend time preciously putting together a mildly clever and gently informative introduction to this list of RD’s most read stories, but if a perfectly rotten year has taught us anything it’s the importance of honesty and candor. In that spirit: you’re here for the list, so let’s just get right to it. Please enjoy, and also please don’t forget to show the people you love that you appreciate them. — eds


11. How an 1843 Revelation on Polygamy Poses a Serious Challenge to Modern Mormonism, Benjamin E. Park

This week, new legislation goes into effect in Utah that decriminalizes polygamy among consenting adults. The development, which was voted on in February, was a long-time coming. But while many decriminalization bills have been proposed over the years—Utah’s polygamy laws are the harshest in the entire country—what made this one successful was not who was involved, but who stood quietly to the side: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints… READ MORE



10. The Religious Reason Many Americans Refuse to Wear Masks, Kate Blanchard

Even in the most evangelical phase of my life, when I was a college student who occasionally engaged in raising my hands while singing praise songs, I was horrified to know that there were some Christians in the world who thought it was a good idea toREAD MORE



9. Coronavirus Exposes the Religious Right’s Racism, Samuel L. Perry, Andrew L. Whitehead, and Joseph O. Baker

On March 10, President Trump retweeted a post from conservative political activist Charlie Kirk, who referred to the coronavirus (COVID-19) as the “China Virus.“ Kirk also exclaimed in his tweet, “Now, more than ever, we need the wall…the US stands a chance if we can get control of our borders.” Trump retweeted this and added the comment, “Going up fast. We need… READ MORE



8. Before We Scold DeSean Jackson and Others For Anti-Semitism We Need To Talk About ‘Chosenness’, Andre E. Key

Over the past week, two prominent African-American celebrities have been condemned for promoting anti-Semitism because of their belief that Black people are the “true” Hebrews, and that there exists a conspiracy of world domination by Jews of European… READ MORE



7. QAnon’s Predictions Haven’t Come True; So How Does the Movement Survive the Failure of Prophecy?, Amarnath Amarsingam and Marc-André Argentino

John F. Kennedy Jr. is dead and has been dead for some time. In July 1999, the small plane he was traveling in crashed off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, killing him and two others. The bodies of Kennedy and his fellow passengers were found five days later in the Atlantic Ocean. This is the version of events most people know to be true. But, in the world of QAnon… READ MORE



6. Satanic Temple’s ‘Satanic Abortion Ritual’ May Challenge States’ Anti-Abortion Laws, Joseph Laycock

Last week, The Satanic Temple (TST) introduced “the Satanic Abortion Ritual”—a ritual designed to provide religious support and comfort for women who’ve decided to get an abortion. But the ritual has legal consequences as well as spiritual ones: TST claims that if abortion is incorporated into a religious ritual, then states with… READ MORE



5. Why the Media and Democrats Should Reject the Christian Right’s Pearl-Clutching and Address Problematic Religious Views, Chrissy Stroop

America is trapped in an abusive relationship—not just with the pussy-grabbing President Donald Trump, our abuser-in-chief, but also with the Republican Party, its white Christian base, the police, and the increasingly uninhibited READ MORE




4. Yes, It Can Be Hard to Be an Atheist in America; Now We Have the Data, Chrissy Stroop

Are the nonreligious a marginalized group in America? When I brought this question up to a friend who lives in New York the other day, he was skeptical. Practically everyone he knows is an atheist, he says, as if this were the most natural thing in the world. As someone who… READ MORE



3. Beneath the ‘Wacky’ Paula White Video is a Dark and Deeply Undemocratic World Propping Up the President, Frederick Clarkson

These are the end times for the presidency of Donald Trump and the White House role for his spiritual advisor, Paula White. Their futures are bound together and both have made clear that they will fight to the end, and maybe beyond. During the second night of a post-election prayer marathon… READ MORE



2. Bill Gates’ Comments on Covid-19 Vaccine Enflame ‘Mark of the Beast’ Worries in Some Christian Circles, Christopher James Blythe

If the worries of most quarantined Christians in the United States center on health and when they might resume their lives, there is a segment that wonders whether this moment has greater biblical significance. These apocalyptic-minded Christians seem to have become increasingly… READ MORE



1. Inevitable Megachurch Abuse of PPP Funds is Coming to Light — Private Jet Included, Andrew L. Seidel

“The federal government can’t take our money and give it to Joel Osteen or Robert Jeffress or Paula White—even in the wake of a pandemic,” I wrote back in May. But that’s exactly what Trump’s Small Business Administration has done by giving Paycheck Protection Program funds to churches. Paula White’s church… READ MORE