I’ve often asked myself this question: “How do religions begin?” I don’t know about you, but I think I would be very, very skeptical...

I’ve often asked myself this question: “How do religions begin?” I don’t know about you, but I think I would be very, very skeptical if someone told me that they’d had just received a revelation, communicated with some spiritual “higher power,” or had some sort of mystical-though-divinely-inspired experience. Ditto with miracles: I just don’t know if I’d believe someone who claimed to have witnesses a miracle. Perhaps it’s the age we live in: most of us just have a hard time swallowing encounters with the “supernatural.”

Yet “religions” (if that’s the right word, and I think it is) have appeared in modern times among people who (dare I say) think pretty much the way I do–and perhaps you do as well. How does this happen? Well, Ann Taves, has written a wonderful book that attempts to answer this question, and in a way that is very respectful of the new religions she studies. It’s called Revelatory Events: Three Case Studies of the Emergence of New Spiritual Paths (Princeton University Press, 2016) and I highly recommend it to you.

In the interview, we spend most of our time talking about Bill Wilson and the emergence of Alcoholics Anonymous, a “spiritual path” (to use her excellent phrase) that I myself have walked. Listen in.

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