Valerie Headshot outdoors 2015Greetings –

I am a psychologist and writer with a passion for personal and social evolution.

As a social commentator, I often tackle religious fundamentalism, gender roles, reproductive empowerment, and the intersection of these three.

My two books address these topics from very different angles: Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light offers rational and moral critique of biblical Christianity and suggests alternative ways of thinking that are compatible with what we know about ourselves and the world around us.  Deas and Other Imaginings is a book of folktales that weave together magic and beauty, kindness, curiosity, resilience and self-discovery. They were originally written for my daughters.

For the last decade my writing largely has focused on short articles for news and opinion sites.  These articles (now exceeding 450) have appeared at sites including the Huffington Post, Jezebel, Salon, AlterNet, Raw Story and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. All are available here at ValerieTarico.com.

By day, when I’m not writing, my primary focus is on improving birth timing and spacing, empowering young women and men to build resilience (social, emotional, educational, financial) before co-creating a child. I aspire to a world in which young people are able to form the families of their choosing when the time feels right with someone they love, a world in which more children are born with the odds stacked in their favor instead of against them. To that end, I serve on the board of Advocates for Youth and am a founding member of the Seattle-based advocacy hub, Resilient Generation. Right now, we can we are at the beginning of a technology revolution in contraception that has the potential to radically make surprise pregnancy and related abortion go to near zero. As someone who used to work with struggling families and children who had gotten off on the wrong foot, I find that tremendously exciting.

By way of background . . . After graduating from Wheaton College of Billy Graham fame, I got a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Iowa and did postdoctoral studies at the University of Washington.  (That was about a thousand years ago, or in 1987 to be exact.) Then I joined the staff of Seattle Children’s Hospital, where I directed the Children’s Behavior and Learning Clinic in Bellevue before moving to a private practice.  Eventually it became clear that social and political trends were undermining what I was trying to accomplish as a mental health practitioner:  to have there be a little less pain and a little more delight in the world.  So, I closed my practice to take on some of those bigger issues.

Besides writing, that has lead to an interesting series of projects.

  • In 2005, I co-founded the Progress Alliance of Washington, a collective of future-oriented donors investing in progressive change.
  • In 2008, inspired by Seeds of Compassion, I created WisdomCommons.org, an interactive site that allows users to find and discuss information about virtues that emerge repeatedly across secular and religious wisdom traditions. If you know anyone with Ruby skills, it is now suspended because it desperately needs rebuilding! 
  • My YouTube Channel, AwayPoint offers resources for recovering Evangelicals and others who want to better understand the psychology of biblical Christian belief.
  • In 2015, I co-founded Resilient Generation, a family planning advocacy hub based in Seattle, Washington.  Our dream is to make intentional parenthood the new normal in Washington State, giving children the best starts in life with the cascade of benefits that brings to children, families, and whole communities.

After typing thousands of quotes into the Wisdom Commons, I can’t resist sharing four that sum up my philosophy of life:

Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty.
-Jacob Bronowski

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
-Margaret Mead

We are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.
– Gwendolyn Brooks

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
–Mary Oliver

68 Responses to About

  1. Away Point:
    My newspaper column about fading religion my interest you and your readers:

    A huge news story, barely noticed

    (The Charleston Gazette – Nov. 9, 2010)

    By James A. Haught
    Philosopher-historian Will Durant called it “the basic event of modern times.” He didn’t mean the world wars, or the end of colonialism, or the rise of electronics. He was talking about the decline of religion in Western democracies.
    The great mentor saw subsiding faith as the most profound occurrence of the past century — a shift of Western civilization, rather like former transitions away from the age of kings, the era of slavery and such epochs.
    Since World War II, worship has dwindled starkly in Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan and other advanced democracies. In those busy places, only 5 or 10 percent of adults now attend church. Secular society scurries along heedlessly.
    Pope Benedict XVI protested: “Europe has developed a culture that, in a manner unknown before now to humanity, excludes God from the public conscience.” Columnist George Will called the Vatican “109 acres of faith in a European sea of unbelief.”
    America seems an exception. This country has 350,000 churches whose members donate $100 billion per year. The United States teems with booming megachurches, gigantic sales of “Rapture” books, fundamentalist attacks on evolution, hundred-million-dollar TV ministries, talking-in-tongues Pentecostals, the white evangelical “religious right” attached to the Republican Party, and the like.
    But quietly, under the radar, much of America slowly is following the path previously taken by Europe. Little noticed, secularism keeps climbing in the United States. Here’s the evidence:
    | Rising “nones.” Various polls find a strong increase in the number of Americans — especially the young — who answer “none” when asked their religion. In 1990, this group had climbed to 8 percent, and by 2008, it had doubled to 15 percent — plus another 5 percent who answer “don’t know.” This implies that around 45 million U.S. adults today lack church affiliation. In Hawaii, more than half say they have no church connection.
    | Mainline losses. America’s traditional Protestant churches — “tall steeple” denominations with seminary-trained clergy — once dominated U.S. culture. They were the essence of America. But their membership is collapsing. Over the past half-century, while the U.S. population doubled, United Methodists fell from 11 million to 7.9 million, Episcopalians dropped from 3.4 million to 2 million, the Presbyterian Church USA sank from 4.1 million to 2.2 million, etc. The religious journal First Things — noting that mainline faiths dwindled from 50 percent of the adult U.S. population to a mere 8 percent — lamented that “the Great Church of America has come to an end.” A researcher at the Ashbrook think-tank dubbed it “Flatline Protestantism.”
    | Catholic losses. Although Hispanic immigration resupplies U.S. Catholicism with replacements, many former adherents have drifted from the giant church. The 2008 American Religious Identification Survey found that 20 million Americans have quit Catholicism — thus one-tenth of U.S. adults now are ex-Catholics.
    | Fading taboos. A half-century ago, church-backed laws had power in America. In the 1950s, it was a crime to look at the equivalent of a Playboy magazine or R-rated movie — or for stores to open on the Sabbath — or to buy a cocktail or lottery ticket — or to sell birth-control devices in some states — or to be homosexual — or to terminate a pregnancy — or to read a sexy novel — or for an unwed couple to share a bedroom. Now all those morality laws have fallen, one after another. Currently, state after state is legalizing gay marriage, despite church outrage.
    Sociologists are fascinated by America’s secular shift. Dr. Robert Putnam of Harvard, author of “Bowling Alone,” found as many as 40 percent of young Americans answering “none” to faith surveys. “It’s a huge change, a stunning development,” he said. “That is the future of America.” He joined Dr. David Campbell of Notre Dame in writing a new book, “American Grace,” that outlines the trend. Putnam’s Social Capital site sums up: “Young Americans are dropping out of religion at an alarming rate of five to six times the historic rate.”
    Oddly, males outnumber females among the churchless. “The ratio of 60 males to 40 females is a remarkable result,” the 2008 ARIS poll reported. “These gender patterns correspond with many earlier findings that show women to be more religious than men.”
    Growing secularism has political implications. The Republican Party may suffer as the white evangelical “religious right” shrinks. In contrast, burgeoning “nones” tend to vote Democratic. Sociologist Ruy Teixeira says the steady rise of the unaffiliated, plus swelling minorities, means that “by the 2016 election (or 2020 at the outside) the United States will have ceased to be a white Christian nation. Looking even farther down the road, white Christians will be only around 35 percent of the population by 2040, and conservative white Christians, who have been such a critical part of the Republican base, will be only about a third of that — a minority within a minority.”
    Gradually, decade by decade, religion is moving from the advanced First World to the less-developed Third World. Faith retains enormous power in Muslim lands. Pentecostalism is booming in Africa and South America. Yet the West steadily turns more secular.
    Arguably, it’s one of the biggest news stories during our lives — although most of us are too busy to notice. Durant may have been correct when he wrote that it is the basic event of modern times.
    (Haught, editor of The Charleston Gazette, West Virginia’s largest newspaper, can be reached by phone at 304-348-5199 or e-mail at haught@wvgazette.com. This essay is adapted from his ninth book, Fading Faith: The Rise of the Secular Age.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. http://dechristianated.wordpress.com/2011/02/25/harvard-university-evolution-of-religion/


    Valerie I had an OS reinstall and lost your email. I wanted you to see this pdf of my favorite evolutionary biologist on the Evolution of Religion hypothesis.

    Bryan Edmondson
    aka Hanson Anderson

    Liked by 1 person

  3. George Bryce says:

    Dear Dr. Tarico:

    Can you recommend any books or published articles that explain the biological, psychological or social/cultural reasons why (many) humans have faith (in a god, in particular)? Maybe another way to ask my question: Is faith some form of biologically-based or sociological-grounded form of psycho-pathology that we now need to get beyond (even if it did serve some useful purpose thousands of years ago)?

    Thanks for your consideration.


    Liked by 1 person

    • I find Pascal Boyer’s book, Religion Explained, to be tremendously helpful in understanding how religion fits the structure of the human brain — why we are vulnerable to religious thinking. Another (much quicker and more accessible (though less rigorous) look at religion from a psychological standpoint is Andy Thompson’s lecture, Why We Believe in Gods: http://watchdocumentary.com/watch/why-we-believe-in-gods-andy-thomson-lecture-video_741aa4d3e.html.

      Liked by 1 person

    • LLZ says:

      Dear GKB,
      I see that you wrote this question over two years ago. You wanted to know if there is something written that addresses man’s need to have faith in a god. Have you ever heard of CS Lewis? He wrote a book called Mere Christianity. He was a self-proclaimed atheist as well as an Oxford professor. His pilgrimage to faith in God and Christianity is spell-binding and makes total sense. I encourage you to read it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • LLZ says:

      Dear GKB,
      I was captivated with CS Lewis’ book Mere Christianity. He was an Oxford professor and a self-proclaimed atheist who found his way to faith in God.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. dan bloom says:

    Valerie, the biggest problem with Xianity which you still seem unwilling to confront is that the entire Gospels were written by a church that wanted to push hatred on Jews, women, gays and anyone else who wasn’t a church father or brother. You inherited a 2000 year old sick puppy and nothing can save it except to jettison it completely and start all over again. You know this, yet you still cling to your faith. WHY? Valerie, there is no God or gods and Jesus was a fake false messiah prophet and the Hebrews had it all wrong, too. If you really want to heal the world, grow up and face reality. First, tell me which untruth of Xianity is the one you are most wiliing to admit to and tell the world? Dish! (danny in his wireless cave in Taiwan, Tufts 1971) . SMILE

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan – Excellent. Having just finished writing a 940 page book, Christianity in Ruins, I can say without fear of contradiction (there’s no one here to contradict me!) that Chriistianity is daffy and incoherent beyond belief. It has nothing valuable to say that can’t be said better by seculars.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Dr Tarico,

    I just read your piece on Alternet — excellent. Mental illness is my thing, if one can have a thing like mental illness, and I’ve written a book about the experiences my ex-husband and I had when he became severely mentally ill (we lived in Seattle at the time, and resources were . . . not there.) I apologize for mentioning this here, but I’m currently marketing the book and looking at every outlet — I’m an accountant, with extensive hands-on experience in dealing with mental illness, and for years I’ve been advocating for mental health. If you should get a chance, please take a look at http://www.anuncommonfriendship.com, or on Amazon for Monique Colver.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Debra B. says:

    I just read an article written by you that was posted on Facebook by the Christian Left about the mindset of evangelicals and their tactics in pushing Christianity on non-believers. I found it very enlightening, and disturbing, frankly. I have become more and more disenchanted with conservative Christianity in the past 5 years, even though I was raised in evangelical churches and continued to attend them into adulthood, raising my children in the faith as well. After examining my own faith many times over, I have come to love Jesus Christ more than ever–finding Him alive and well apart from the confines of The Church! I read His words, and my soul is lifted; I see Him in every face, and realize that His love is indeed boundless! My question is this: In this corrupt and defiled world (and the church is part of that), what am I supposed to do with the “Great Commission”? I’m not willing to just ignore it. Is it that I should try to BE the Jesus I know, and allow the Spirit to speak in my place? I would appreciate your input.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Debra –
      I think your question turns on another question. What is knowable and what can we know about the Bible and the person of Jesus? Only then can one ask, what does it mean to share the Good News in the 21st Century? Linguistic and archeological studies, and the most scrupulous methods of historians reveal the Bible to be a document with human handprints all over it for those who who know where and how to look. Christian theologian Thomas Stark’s book, The Human Faces of God, gives an accessible window into how scholars can know this–what their methods are and how one can center a strong, loving Christian faith despite some traditional conservative beliefs being in doubt. A small book called, “On Being Certain” by Robert Burton offers an interesting window into how our minds work and what we can and cannot know. I personally think that when people place dogma or biblical texts over Love, then they are actually engaged in the worship of texts or tradition. Some modernist Christians call this bibliolatry. Starting with the question about what is knowable and known–understanding our own limitations and also our own history can feel complicated and humbling. I think in that context the way that St. Francis interpreted the Great Commission is at least a good beginning place: “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.”

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Debra B. says:

    Hello, Valerie. Thank you so much for the answer! I will look into the books you mentioned; they sound interesting. I will think more on the concept of “knowing what is knowable”; it does cause one to wonder about scriptures that have been passed through the hands of so many different translators. I can know this: God has respect for my individuality, and even for my opinion. He and I don’t always agree, but if I ask for illumination, He will give it–freely and without condemnation or disdain! Such is your response, as it matches up with the comments of a friend who recently said, “I try to live in love, which means simply to care for each other, listen to and respect each other, as we hope others will care for us. Not hurting each other, giving each other the benefit of the doubt, working together for the common good as much as possible. It isn’t ‘all about me’; it’s about all of us.” God cares about my journey in finding answers. Please know you (and St. Francis!) had a hand in it! Debra.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ryan says:

    Hi Valerie,

    Just wanted to ask, do you no longer believe in any god(s) now?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ryan-
      I think that the term “God” can be defined so abstractly that all any of us can do is to say, “I have no way of knowing the answer to that question.” That said, we can feel confident that the gods humans have defined and worshiped over the millennia are man-made, a product of our how we project our own psyches and cultures onto the unknown. Even those that don’t have human bodies have human minds. Pascal Boyer’s book, Religion Explained, describes interesting research in which you can see that even people who claim to worship the abstract God of theologians actually worship person-gods. To worship the god of most Christians is actually an act of self-worship.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Val – It’s not that we can’t answer whether there’s a god or not. It’s up to believers to show us why we should entertain such a notion. There are too many silly ideas running around to pay attention to any but the most likely, and God is not one of them.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Ryan says:

    Hi again Valerie,

    I also just wanted to take the time to respectfully ask,

    why does the link to your book (Trusting Doubt) link to The Oracle Institute?

    The image of the pentagram on their website triggered some questions in me.

    What are your thoughts on Wicca and Paganism?

    I read the Mission Statement on the Oracle website. It seems to maintain a collective focus on “Advocating for Enlightenment and a Vanguard for Spiritual Evolution”.

    This sounds (and I’m sorry if I’m assuming falsely) to be very religious.

    I’ve been exposed to loaded language like this before in religious and spiritual discourse and in my experience often websites that give vague and abstract answers to their purpose and motivation are very often new age in different clothing.

    Again, I’m sorry if I’ve misunderstood this.

    From what I’ve read of your articles (by the way I find them valuable and very interesting) I still don’t understand why your book is linked and promoted on a website that seems to directly plug and promotes new age spirituality, with integrations that seem to include a mish-mash of deism, neo-pagan symbols and shared words from the American founding fathers. Using language like hearth, commune and abstract labels such as “god is light” I have to honestly conclude that this is just new age. I don’t understand, this seems worlds apart from what your articles on psychology reflect. When you touch on critical thinking in your articles how do you reconcile this website to your articles? How are these new age labels any more tangible than right wing Christianity?

    I’m really interested to read your thoughts on this.

    Kind regards, Ryan

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ryan –
      Thank you for taking the time to ask. Oracle is a small publisher seeking to advance a wide range of challenges to traditional tribal orthodoxies. These challenges may include critiques of old ways of thinking as well as suggestions of alternatives. They are open to ideas that I myself find lacking in evidence and that fall broadly under the New Age umbrella. To the publisher, the pentacle represents the centering point between the world’s five major religious traditions. Like you, I tend to think that people are likely to misperceive it as a symbol of the pagan tradition specifically.

      As a critique of Evangelicalism specifically and orthodox Christianity more broadly, my book was on mission for them even though it doesn’t embrace New Age ideas. And as an author, it was on mission for me to have a publisher. :) The team at Oracle has been tireless and generous in their support of Trusting Doubt.

      I will say, too, that I think that if we are going to get rid of old ideas and institutions that aren’t working any more we need to replace them with something better. We can’t merely expose tired old religions based on book worship. We need to channel humanity’s moral, communitarian, and spiritual impulses (and I use the term broadly) and build rituals and institutions that are compatible with what we now know about ourselves and our planet. Else we simply leave a void that weird cults, fundamentalists and secular ideologues are only too glad to fill. I myself tend to look to some of the recent experiments at, for example, the Harvard Humanist chaplaincy and the Foundation Beyond Belief, in the hopes that this can happy in a way that is rigorously accountable to evidence and science as well as compassion.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Ryan says:

    Hi Valerie,

    Thankyou for taking the time to write back. Your response helps puts things into perspective :)

    I appreciate that finding a publisher who is both flexible and generous is important. I also understand that because they are a publisher of yours you are in a very different position. However, out of interest I’ve been reading more from Oracle and I feel it’s important to outline a few things.

    Some of their pages misrepresent other religions to make them more compatible to their own views (http://www.theoracleinstitute.org/compare) the website also quote mines from people who were traditionally considered deist. This gives weight to concepts that they would probably not agree with. That’s the great thing about quotemining though: if the person is dead or unaware your quoting them then they can’t contest or correct them :) I would argue that the language Oracle uses is misleading (whether this is intentional or not ).

    Oracle seeems to essentailly do what many evangelicals and other religious movements are accused of doing: cherrypick from many applied disciplines (including psychology) to build a case from sources that many of these very sources would not actually support.

    Oracle starts with their premise and then mine through the evidence, selecting what is useful and needed to build their case while ignoring any evidence that would debunk it.

    I give them the benefit of the doubt however. From what I’ve seen I also assume the writers of the Oracle website are kind, caring and compassionate people. Like many communities built on religious concepts, I assume these people have good intensions :)

    However this doesn’t negate from the fact what they choose to convey on their website is misleading. Even if their intensions are well meaning.
    What are your thoughts?

    Kind regards, Ryan

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes. I mean any kind of brief writing for a popular audience inevitably cherry picks and oversimplifies–especially the kind of writing I do, which has a strong point of view. I struggle with that regularly as a writer. The best one can hope for is that the center of gravity is on, and that the writing leaves the reader with a more informed, accurate or nuanced approximation of reality than they came with. But I think you are saying something more than that. I think what makes you uncomfortable is that synthesizing the traditions requires distorting them and making claims that cannot be substantiated. Is that right?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ryan says:

        Yes, this distortion does frustrate me.

        I generally think that faiths should be considered accepted through their primary sources. Otherwise this mixing just confuses and misrepresents. It detracts from learning what faiths actually teach.

        I don’t really agree when a belief is taken and twisted to say something entirely different from what the primary source states. In these cases it seems that a faith is watered down to say only what a person wants to hear, rather than what a faith teaches.

        This seems to me like a sort of abstract fuzz that just confuses and distracts. A sort of pick and mix that asks nothing of them while stroking their ego by insisting that the focus in all on them. I think faiths should be accepted for what they teach, not warped to what we want them to teach.

        Ryan :)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Val – There isn’t much value in trading one silly belief system for another. New-Agery is, like religion, mainly the result of wishful thinking. Science, our best method for decoding reality, is admittedly cold, difficult, and unforgiving (you can’t make it say what you want), which is the reason it’s unpopular compared to religion or New-Agery.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Ryan says:

    sorry again for the typos :)


  12. Ryan says:

    so to summarise, I believe faiths should be accepted or rejected based on what the primary sources teach, not what we want them to teach.

    What is attempted on Oracle does just the opposite (and in a very real sense just confuses people) since it borrows so heavily from so many different faiths and traditions that directly and openly contradict each other through their primary sources. Despite their possible noble intensions for doing this, this is just as misinforming as me selecting certain statements from your articles and using them to say that you are actually a devout Muslim :) From what I’ve read you’ve never stated this, but unless I actually take what your primary sources outline at face value I could justify anything I wanted. This is the dilemma. I think a teaching should be accepted for what it teaches. Otherwise this kind of study just convolutes and actually misinforms our understanding of what faiths truly teach. They need to speak for themselves, to stand on their primary sources :)

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Ryan says:

    I know that wasn’t really a summary :) but I hope you understand what I mean.


  14. Ryan says:

    Sorry if those last two posts were a bit strong, I didn’t mean to have a aggressive tone. sorry if it came off like that.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. misslisted says:

    Wow, so glad to find you. My daughter is a junior at Holy Names in Seattle, and just returned from a retreat which was a fantastic experience for her and a direct challenge to her developing sense of personal faith, and her relationship to Catholicism. She came home and told me that most of the women and girls on the retreat were disillusioned with the church, to which I replied “of course they are!”. I was not born and raised Catholic, or even Christian for that matter, but found Catholicism in my mid-thirties and it became a stepping off point for my own spiritual development. I wanted my children to have such for themselves, a place to work from so to speak, as I felt it missing in my own childhood, though I’m grateful for that too! It’s been interesting. I no longer consider myself to be a Christian, and my time as such was brief, though I am passionate about the subject of “God”. Looking forward to reading…
    Thanks, Chris

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Chris –
      Welcome. I think of myself as a spiritual nontheist. That said, there are many thoughtful Catholics in Seattle who are pained by the direction the Church hierarchy has taken in the past thirty years or so, and especially of late. The Church is powerful, and that power gets used at different times for good and harm. Of late it seems like the men at the top are hellbent on harm. The recent death in Ireland of a young woman denied a lifesaving abortion because of Catholic directives is a reminder of how heartbreaking that harm can be. I so wish things had gone in a different direction, that the old institutional powers were laboring to reformulate our sense of the sacred and to create a better future instead of defending an indefensible set of Iron Age priorities.

      Tangentially, when my daughter was looking at schools I myself wanted to go to Holy Names. :)

      Liked by 1 person

      • The case of Savita Halappanavar puts the lie to the Church’s claim of being pro-life. They are anti-life in many respects. Their views on sexuality and parentage are pre-medieval, having NO justification except ancient ideology.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Brianna says:

    I just read your article on alternet (“What If Religious Fanaticism Killed Someone You Love?”). Thank you for writing it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Brianna. The recognition that traditional religion is killing people was what first got me out of the closet, if you will, as a non-theist. It was what got me to write my book, Trusting Doubt. When George Bush indicated that he had consulted his heavenly father about the Iraq war, and when my evangelical relatives supported both him and that war because they saw him as born-again spiritual kin, I felt like I had to do something. Perhaps together our voices will be heard.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. sgtlhunter says:

    Hi Valerie,
    I’m a big fan. Im reading “The End of Chritianity” by you, Loftus and others. Im really enjoying your work. Recently i heard an interview in which you mentioned that if anyone emailed you they could receive two different complete series on the psychology of religion. If you could forward them to me i would appreciate it. Thank you and keep up the good work.


    Liked by 1 person

  18. Ryan says:

    Hi again Valerie, hope you are going well

    I just wanted to ask about your book Deas, what inspired you to write it?

    kind regards, Ryan

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Ryan says:

    also, when you say call yourself a spiritual nontheist whaqt do you mean by the word spiritual?


    • I mean simply that questions of meaning and morality are at the heart of what defines us as a species and what defines me as a person: What is real? What is good? How shall we live in community with each other? These are the questions that religion has tried to answer through mythos and proto-science and by sanctifying cultural scripts. I think we can now do better, and, in fact, I might argue that science does a better job than religion at answering even the prescriptive “should” questions once we simply agree that we are seeking wellbeing and harm-avoidance. But I think the quest is as old and enduring as our species.


  20. Ryan says:

    ok, thanks :)


  21. veraersilia says:

    THANKS FOR YR. ARTICLE ABOUT RELIGION IN MEDICINE. I will stay the hell away from Catholic-sponsored health organizations. I was raised a catholic and I know them all too well. BUT what about other religious organizations taking over other medical slices ? they ll have huge stones to grind. Is anything sacred any more ? not even our health? ( given that religion is NOT sacred!) are we reverting to dark ages practices ? IT IS ALARMING. Vera Mottino

    Liked by 1 person

  22. James Graham says:

    Fascinating to learn you’re so close. I live in P. Orchard. In fact I take my son out there to Bellevue to have an exam every year. :)

    Liked by 1 person

  23. portal001 says:

    Hi Valerie,

    hope you are well :)

    I have another question

    What are your thoughts on Christians (myself included) who believe they should be focusing on the teachings of Jesus rather than the traditions of the church. Although I am very much a work in progress, I really don’t see how going the extra mile to treat others as you would like to be treated and loving those around you is a bad thing at all :)

    All the best,


    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Ryan–

      I think that if more Christians were focused on the great commandment, and on values you just described there would be far less animosity toward Christians and that if more people were focused on living like that our world would be a better place.

      I don’t personally think those teachings are unique to Jesus, and in fact I would say that we have very little idea who the historical Jesus actually was, assuming that the devotional narratives in the gospels were based on a historical rabbi. But I honor those values and anyone who seeks to live by them.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jesus probably never existed. There is lots of evidence indicating, but not quite proving, this. And as a human he was quite a pain in the ass, not the gentle moralist he’s usually pictured as

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Read The Text Please says:

    It’s a pleasure to meet another recovering evangelical. I am also one who would love to see more common ground between theists and non. Love and compassion are pretty simple yet powerful concepts that do away with the need for religious rules based on a long-outdated collection of religious books.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Cassandra Montenegro says:

    Hello Valarie,

    I just read your Salon.com interview and was truly moved. Much of what you said resonated deeply with me.

    One thing I wondered was why you felt you were not able to find a home in Unitarianism, either. I recently stumbled upon Unitarian Universalism, a few years after my own loss of faith in my childhood faith. I was searching for a liberal, (borderline secular) spiritual community, and was happy to find one in my home region, which is not a liberal city. For me, this has become a haven of thoughtful, intellectual discourse with atheists and theists alike: a community of difference, which we celebrate. Did you have a different experience?

    In kindness,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Garth Spruiell says:

      Cassie- I was wondering the same thing. Unitarianism is not easily explained even for people like me who was raised in a UU church. Many people seem like they are natural Unitarians though they are unaware of the religion. Unitarianism doesn’t lend itself to proselytizing which I like though it doesn’t help with membership.

      All the best,


      Liked by 1 person

  26. Pingback: July Book Review: Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light by Valerie Tarico | Vilma Reynoso

  27. WinAero says:

    Valerie, I heard you are former christian…. Is it true?

    Liked by 1 person

  28. John Meier says:

    Keep up the good work, look forward to reading more!

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Pingback: Salon deletes an article pointing out that the Bible is man made and full of flaws « Why Evolution Is True

  30. Beth varley says:

    You are so sadly mistaken about the Bible. The Bible clearly states that is spiritually written and can only be spiritually discerned. I felt the same way you do until I was wonderfully saved by a God I was not looking for. ALL ancient manuscripts PROVE that the Bible is real word for word. You need to open mindedly and open heartedly seek the truth of God because ETERNTY in hell will be HORRIBLE!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Have you ever asked yourself why it is that you so instinctively pivot from how lovely and wonderful your god is to the threat of eternal Abu Grabe? It’s a clear–even ordinary–abuser script: “Love me, and if you don’t I’ll make you miserable.”

      It never ceases to astound me how often Christian commenters who I suspect would never create such a dynamic with their lover or child go off of that cliff when religion tells them to. It is, I think, one of Christianity’s ugliest superpowers.

      Liked by 2 people

  31. Gerard Clark says:

    For Misslisted Chris,
    The Catholic church has many valuable resources within its history. St.Francis, who never was ordained gives us a tradition of social justice, care for the and a respect for interfaith experiences.
    During the Fifth crusade, he went unarmed to visit the Sultan. If Francis were alive today he would be the person we need for an ambassador to the Muslim world to undo Trump’s islamophobia.
    But along with that is the Catholic Church’s Christian Misogyny. For that I feel a disappointment for
    you and your daughter. There is HOPE Catholic Womenpriests!

    One of the problems with the Evangelical tradition is that it is sin/fall/salvation oriented. All liberation spiritualities and theologies are creation oriented. All begin with Gen1:27, each and every human being is created in the image and likeness of God. There is an emphasis on Original Blessing rather than Original Sin. Many substance abuse programs teach “God doesn’t make junk”. Each and every person has a right to develop to the fullest of the potential of the gifts God has given them. Contrary to the Evangelical tradition, that development is not solitary. Every
    Christian is a part of the Mystical Body of Christ. (1 Cor 12) We not only must recognize the gifts of other Christians, we must empower them and support them so that those gifts and ours can bear fruit, not for our own enrichment, but for the benefit of all the members of the Body of Christ.

    Dr. Harold Koenig MD of the Duke Medical School is an internationally known author who along
    Dr Pargmnet developed the RCOPE Scales. which demonstrate the harm to both physical and mental health caused by preachers and cultures of “Retribution Theology”. (You are suffering because God is punishing you) The Prosperity gospel (I drive a Mercedes, and you walk, because God loves me more than you (and I’ve driven the Lady Wisdom out of you, so you do not know any better than to put money in the collection basket so I can make my Mercedes car payments) (As the televangelist accepting donations from poor widows said “they know what they are buying”)
    (The viewers somehow knew he was following the Three Pointed Star (Mercedes symbol and hood ornament) the Bethlehem Star. )

    Gerard Clark BS MDiv OEF
    Rochester, New York

    you and your daughter. .

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Laurence Topliffe says:

    Dear Valerie, I like your essay about capital punishment.

    I’m sure you are aware that people pick statements out of the bible to justify what they want to do to anyone who doesn’t agree with them. They don’t seem to know “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.” They also probably don’t know that the bible was compiled 500 years after Jesus was alive and they sure don’t know he was a yogi and teaching people to meditate so they could develop the state of consciousness that he had. You probably know that the pope just said capital punishment is wrong. About time.

    Laurence ♥

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Jeff Vance says:

    Excellent article on Evangelicals and the Woke culture. Right in my wheelhouse. I am also a former professional Christian. 23 years I’m Christian radio. I was asked to resign 7 years ago and I’ve been going through a tectonic shift of life purpose and goals ever since. I also blog occasionally but nothing near your passionate expertise. Thanks so much for some clarification

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Sharon Plummer says:

    Very reasonable comments.

    Liked by 1 person

  35. monikkabest says:

    I love you so much!
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping to make the world a much better place. I found you from a Jesus Camp update article, came here to read your comments, and am just blown away by your kindness & intelligence in responses, and the time you take to respond to everyone in a thoughtful, thorough manner.

    You are such a beautiful human being.

    Thank you for all your work and efforts into making the world more intelligent, more thoughtful, more questioning/reflecting, and more understanding.

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Stephanie Ruthlessly says:

    Hi Valerie! I found my way here via your article about abortion in the animal kingdom. I am an instant fan. Thank you for your refreshing pragmatism.

    Liked by 1 person

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