Friday, August 31, 2012

Religion Dispatches - Burning Man: Fear of an Alternative Pagan Social Order

Steve Matthews, an evangelical "cult and new religious movement and investigative journalist" with The Worldview Center, has written an essay on Burning Man Festival for SCP Journal. The first of two installments is out in the current edition of the journal, and in light of my past research and writing on this alternative cultural event, and that this week Burners gather from across the country and around the world, I wrote an essay in Religion Dispatches critiquing Matthews' analysis. In my essay I offer the view that Burning Man functions much like a Rorschach test in that individuals see in the cultural phenomenon either their highest aspirations, or their deepest fears. For Burners, it is the former, and for many evangelicals it is the latter, as revealed by Matthews' essay title "Burning Man: Preview to an Alternative Pagan Social Order."

After reading the first installment of Matthews' essay, reading another form of this essay on The Worldview Center website, and listening to his two radio interviews on the topic on the Frank Pastore and Janet Parshall radio programs, I provide my critique of his analysis, which as he told me recently by phone, is the "most fair and balanced treatment of Burning Man" in print. As the reader will see, I beg to differ, as I take issue with several instances of Matthews' analysis, including his understanding of Burning Man participant demographics, the theoretical lens that undergirds his approach, and his misunderstanding and misrepresentation of Paganism.

Matthews' analysis is common within evangelicalism, not only in terms of an understanding of Burning Man, but also the fears associated with Paganism and the New Spirituality in general. This dovetails with the analysis of Jason C. Bivins in his book Religion of Fear: The Politics of Horror in Conservative Evangelicalism (Oxford University Press, 2008). In this volume Bivins describes evangelicalism as involving "a form of religious social criticism produced and sustained in evangelical engagements with pop culture." In his view, this results in 'political orientations [that] are shaped and spread by pop cultural narratives of fear and horror."

Interested readers can find my essay at Religion Dispatches here.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Forthcoming Volume: Aleister Crowley and Western Esotericism

My Australian colleague, Philip Johnson, made me aware of an intriguing forthcoming volume in the study of the Western esoteric tradition. It is an edited, multi-contributor volume titled Aleister Crowley and Western Esotericism (Oxford University Press, September 2012). The volume brings together a number of scholars who look at various facets of the influence of Crowley on religion from Mormonism to Scientology to Wicca.


This volume is the first comprehensive examination of one of the twentieth century's most distinctive iconoclasts. Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) was a study in contradictions. Born into a fundamentalist Christian family and educated at Cambridge, he was vilified as a traitor, drug addict, and debaucher, yet revered as perhaps the most influential thinker in contemporary esotericism. Moving beyond the influence of contemporary psychology and the modernist understanding of the occult, Crowley declared himself the revelator of a new age of individualism. Crowley's occult bricolage, Magick, was an eclectic combination of spiritual exercises drawn from Western European magical ceremonies and Indic sources for meditation and yoga. This journey of self-liberation culminated in harnessing sexual power as a magical discipline, a "sacrilization of the self" as practiced in Crowley's mixed masonic group, the Ordo Templi Orientis. The religion Crowley created, Thelema, legitimated his role as a charismatic revelator and herald of a new age of freedom. Aleister Crowley's lasting influence can be seen in the counter-culture movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s and in many forms of alternative spirituality and popular culture. The essays in this volume offer crucial insight into Crowley's foundational role in the study of Western esotericism, new religious movements, and sexuality.

Table of Contents

ContributorsList of Figures
List of Tables

Foreword - Wouter J. Hanegraaff
1. Introduction - Henrik Bogdan and Martin P. Starr
2. The Sorcerer and His Apprentice: Aleister Crowley and the Magical Exploration of Edwardian Subjectivity - Alex Owen
3. Varieties of Magical Experience: Aleister Crowley's Views on Occult Practice - Marco Pasi
4. Envisioning the Birth of a New Aeon: Dispensationalism and Millenarianism in the Thelemic Tradition - Henrik Bogdan
5. The Great Beast as a Tantric hero: The Role of Yoga and Tantra in Aleister Crowley's Magick - Gordan Djurdjevic
6. Continuing Knowledge from Generation unto Generation: The Social and Literary Background of Aleister Crowley's Magick - Richard Kaczynski
7. Aleister Crowley and the Yezidis - Tobias Churton
8. The Frenzied Beast: The Phaedran Furores in the Rites and Writings of Aleister Crowley - Matthew D. Rogers
9. Aleister Crowley: Freemason! - Martin P. Starr
10. ''The One Thought that was not Untrue'': Aleister Crowley and A. E. Waite - Robert R. Gilbert
11. The Beast and the Prophet: Aleister Crowley's Fascination with Joseph Smith - Massimo Introvigne
12. Crowley and Wicca - Ronald Hutton
13. Through the Witch's Looking Glass: The Magick of Aleister Crowley and the Witchcraft of Rosaleen Norton - Keith Richmond
14. The Occult Roots of Scientology? L. Ron Hubbard, Aleister Crowley and the Origins of the World's Most Controversial New Religion - Hugh Urban
15. Satan and the Beast. The Influence of Aleister Crowley on Modern Satanism - Asbjørn Dyrendal

"One would be hard-pressed to put together an assemblage of people to equal the scholars included in this collection-the cream of the crop of those esoteric scholars who have studied Crowley. The volume makes a significant contribution to esoteric studies and will set future debates about Crowley. It will be a must-read text for all esoteric scholars in the next generation."
--J. Gordon Melton, Distinguished Professor of American Religious History, Baylor University 

Sections of the book can be previewed at

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Franklin Spencer Spalding: "Stupid forms of argument"

I am currently providing editing commentary for a doctoral dissertation by Charles Randall Paul of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy to be submitted for consideration as an academic volume on 19th century missionary conflicts in Utah. This book provides lessons for contemporary religious disputations which advocates peaceful contestation in religion. One of the chapters is on Franklin Spencer Spalding, an Episcopalian minister and missionary to Mormons. He differed from others during his time in the state and wrote the following:

"The theologian is a kind of philosopher who cannot avoid a sense of duty to proselytize. Yea, surely it is clear that sarcasm and ridicule are not only discourteous but stupid forms of argument. . . .  the universal flood of derision which has been poured out upon Mormonism has only made Mormons more loyal." 

These are important historical words for reflection and my hope is that other elements like this, as well as the entire volume, provides food for thought by evangelicals and Mormons alike.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

JAM Review: All You Want to Know About Religions, Cults and Popular Beliefs

My review to appear in the October 2012 edition of the Journal of Asian Mission.

Jessica L. T. Devega and Christine Ortega Gaurkee, All You Want to Know But Didn’t Think You Could Ask: Religions, Cults, and Popular Beliefs (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2012). Paper, 316 pp., ISBN: 978-1-4185-4917-6, US$19.99. The contemporary evangelical way of understanding various new religious movements came out of the late 1960s with the counterculture movement, and the increased awareness of these religious groups that came as a result. Two major responses arose, one by the secular world that took issue with allegations of mind control and coercion, forming what came to be known as the anti-cult movement. Another approach arose within evangelicalism that was concerned more with doctrinal issues, and with heretical deviations from conceptions of orthodoxy. This approach came to be known as the counter-cult movement.

The most influential figure to arise out of the counter-cult movement was Walter Martin, who founded one of the largest and oldest organizations devoted to an evangelical analysis and refutation of “the cults.” He is best known for his book The Kingdom of the Cults, which was first published in 1965 and which is still in print, having gone through various publication versions. Martin’s framework was theologically comparative and apologetic, drawing a contrast with certain doctrines in Christianity and corresponding concerns in the new religions, coupled with an apologetic refutation of doctrines and worldviews viewed as heretical. This volume continues to exert enormous influence not only on the counter-cult community’s understanding of new religions, but also that of larger evangelicalism as well.

Although the counter-cult community is not as influential in shaping evangelical attitudes toward new religions and world religions as in the past, perhaps reaching its peak in the 1980s, it continues to make its presence felt in the evangelical subculture. It is against this religio-cultural backdrop that contemporary analyses of religion for popular evangelicalism must be evaluated.  

All You Want to Know But Didn’t Think You Could Ask: Religions, Cults, and Popular Beliefs, attempts to provide an introduction to various expressions of religion for an evangelical audience. It is organized by World Traditions (those religions with larger populations and influence in the world, usually referred to as world religions), Religions of Place (defined as nature-based or indigenous religions), Uniquely American Religions, Pop-Culture Based Religions and Beliefs (such as those which draw inspiration from horror, fantasy, and science fiction in entertainment), Nonreligious Beliefs (such as atheism and agnosticism), and Extremism (which includes an exploration of various forms of fundamentalism and violence inspired by religion). The authors of this book describe their aim as attempting to provide a “concise, general, introductory overview of a wide range of belief systems” that also takes into account “common stereotypes and misconceptions” (8). Their approach that discusses not only the world religions and new religions, but also those new spiritualities and social identities that have arisen out of popular culture, is an admirable one, but one that is not without its difficulties. Categorizing religions is always difficult, and while the authors are aware of tensions within their classification system, it is curious to see certain religions classified by place (whether indigenous or uniquely American) when many of these are now found throughout the world, even if not in numbers as large as the world religions. In addition, many have had strong influences in popular culture even without significant numbers of adherents.

The author’s approach to each group or belief begins with an introduction, followed by a brief history, and then a discussion of beliefs, sacred texts, rituals, and demographic considerations. While this approach is very common, particularly in popular evangelical treatments of religion, it is also a very Western and Protestant way of approaching the topic where priority is given to beliefs as the major defining characteristic. Many religions begin with praxis rather than belief, and while the two are certainly related, an emphasis on belief in a religious tradition where such considerations are not primary can result in misunderstanding and reification of religion. Following the analysis of a given group this book also includes recommendations for further reading for many of the entries. But curiously, while some entries include bibliographical recommendations, many do not (e.g., Hinduism), and some of the suggestions demonstrate a lack of familiarity with some of the best academic treatments available. As the final element of their analytical approach, each chapter also includes comparative charts that involve contrast with Christianity.

This book demonstrates a more positive tone than many works designed for an evangelical audience on religion. As mentioned above, it also casts a wider net in terms of the number and types of religious and spiritual phenomena that the authors are willing to take seriously, and describe for their readers. In particular, this volume is an improvement over much of the material produced with reference to counter-cult frames of reference. Even so, the volume is not without its shortcomings.

As an initial example, in the discussion of terminology, the authors recognize the problems associated with the pejorative label “cult,” and the tendency in academic circles to substitute the more neutral term “new religious movement.” Even so, they draw upon cult nomenclature and concepts informed by problematic popular media definitions and stereotype of “cults.” In so doing they accept “cultic” definitional concepts related to charismatic leadership, and high levels of commitment in certain groups that could be applied to many mainstream religious groups, including Christianity (10).

Other shortcomings of this volume can be cited. In the chapter on Neopaganism, Wicca, and Druidism, the history section connects these traditions to antiquity and early pre-modern expressions of paganism, but no discussion is given to the modern origins of Neopaganism through influential writers like Gerald Gardner. Viewing Neopaganism through an evangelical lens also demonstrates problems here as this chapter begins its discussion by way of beliefs, whereas Neopaganism is better understood as praxis-oriented. The demographic considerations of this section are also lacking in that they do not take into consideration the recent Pew Survey or American Religious Identification Survey data. Despite this omission, thankfully this book does not include alarmist statistics of growth frequently found in evangelical treatments of Neopaganism.

 In the chapter on Mormonism there is a reference to Joseph Smith starting the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints movement.” Historically, Smith gave rise to what would later splinter into a broader Restorationist movement, originally founding a group referred to as the Church of Christ, but later by the name of the church now familiar to Mormonism. This misspelling of the official name of the church (perhaps a typo), “Latter Day Saints” as opposed to “Latter-day Saints,” is found in two places in this entry. In the analysis of Mormonism it too begins with belief, but again, a case can be made that Mormonism has other priorities and emphases, including ethics (“choose the right”), sacred narrative (The Plan of Salvation, and First Vision), and ritual over doctrine (in local ward and temple). In addition, this chapter makes the mistaken claim that Mormons “view themselves as Protestant Christians” (193). In fact, while they self-identify as Christian, they do so in ways that are not Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox, but in a sense of a restored Christianity free of creedal influence and apostasy. Other problems in this chapter are also evident, including confusion of the Mormon priesthood with the “community of Mormons” (194), a curious use of lowercase “g” in reference to Mormon conceptions of deity (again, perhaps a typo), and the claim that within Mormonism a priesthood of believers may be found (which downplays the significance of priesthood authority within this tradition). Finally, this entry concludes with mention of the controversial views of blacks and the priesthood prior to 1978, which would have been more appropriate in the history section of analysis. Its presence in this section hints at sensationalism.

Many entries in this volume are very brief, in fact, so brief that it would have been better not to have included them at all. The limited discussion on some groups makes it difficult to accurately represent the groups under consideration. In addition, there is a question as to why certain groups were included in this volume, and chosen in the category of indigenous beliefs. These include Scientology, the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (popularly known and included in this volume as “Hare Krishnas”), and the Nation of Islam. These new religions are not large or influential, but have been of concern to evangelicals since the early years of the “cult controversy” of the late 1960s. Their inclusion in this volume raises the possibility that this book incorporates the lingering influence of evangelical concerns over “the cults,” and the focus of the evangelical counter-cult.

As mentioned previously, the authors of this volume are to be commended for including a section on popular culture. This segment of the book would have made more sense to readers, and would have been strengthened, with an introduction on the significance of popular culture and imaginative narratives in entertainment from which so many are forming personal identities and finding inspiration in the formation of new concepts of the sacred.

One of the segments on popular culture includes a consideration of vampirism. Here the authors refer to it as new religious movement, but recent scholarship has argued that a more accurate conception of vampirism is that of a social identity, which may or may not include reference to the sacred. The authors also correctly describe pranic vampires who feed on energy, but then include them in the sanguinarian typology (those who feed on blood) rather than the psychic category where they are appropriately classified. Here familiarity with additional research sources would have strengthened the section, including bibliographic recommendations such as Joseph Laycock’s Vampires Today, and the research archives of the Atlanta Vampire Alliance.

 Another group considered in this section is Jediism, the hyper-real or fiction-based spirituality informed by the Star Wars mythology. This entry helps raise awareness of the new forms of spirituality that are arising out of popular culture, but it would have been strengthened by interaction with Adam Possamai’s work in this area, and inclusion of it in the bibliographic recommendations.

This volume also includes a section on divining, astrology, tarot cards, and New Age. Unfortunately, this chapter is far too brief, it folds multiple items together without sufficient consideration of any of them, and in particular, the cultural and religious significance of the New Age or the New Spirituality. No mention is made of Western esotericism as a significant tradition in this regard, an unfortunate omission given that scholars like J. Gordon Melton consider it to be the third largest religious tradition in America. Finally, this entry also shows its bibliographical shortcomings, with a lack of any sampling of academic works on New Age.

This volume should also earn praise for its willingness to consider the paranormal, an area often missed in contemporary religious analyses. But again, this entry is too brief, and no mention is made of the most recent demographic surveys or the new academic treatments of the paranormal.

In the entry on Fandom, the authors recognize the religious or spiritual potential for these subcultures to draw upon aspects of the sacred. Future writers might broaden this discussion to mention various transformational festivals, such as science fiction and fantasy conventions, and the power of imaginative narratives in popular culture functioning as sacred narratives.

This volume also includes a segment on Apocalypticism. The chapter might have demonstrated some self-critical reflection for evangelical readers by way of thoughts on Protestant fundamentalist and evangelical Dispensational pre-tribulationism and its influence not only in these subcultures, but also broader popular culture as well.

I commend these authors for a different approach to religions, new religions, and popular beliefs. They use a tone and demonstrate an openness to a broader palette for consideration in contemporary religious expression. Although it is not completely free of the limitations of counter-cult volumes of the past, and can benefit from a greater interaction with the academic literature dealing with the subject matter, there is much to build on for future volumes for the evangelical subculture.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Parallelling the Enemy?: A Consideration of the Pagan Countercult

In past years I was a part of the evangelical countercult community. This segment of evangelicalism exists as a boundary maintenance and apologetic function for the borders of evangelicalism in terms of what it perceives as spiritual danger in terms of "cults" or new and minority religious movements. An examination of the websites of some of these groups reveals certain patterns which includes quotations from group leaders so as to warn the faithful of heresy. In countercult thinking, to the extent that certain evangelicals may get to close to "false prophets" in these groups these evangelical leaders are then viewed as dupes who are contributing to the problem of the false teachers who want to come in by stealth whenever possible to deceive the elect.

I find this interesting in that I just found a pagan parallel in a website titled egregores. Although it does not devote its complete energy to exposing non-pagan dangers, it has created posts that warn the pagan community about certain evangelicals, including little ol' me. Interested readers can click here, here, here, and most recently here, to find posts about me and my work in paganism and in other areas of new religions, missiology, and dialogue. As you read note how this parallels with the evangelical countercult organizations as I've sketched it in the paragraph above.

I contacted the website and asked that one misrepresentation be removed, and it was, an attribution of work to me that was not my own. This was an unfortunate error that should have been more carefully fact checked by the author. In addition, the tone is unfortunate in both the author's posts and some of the comments by fellow pagans. The worst possible motives are assumed on the part of myself, and fellow pagans who "work with" me are considered unfortunate dupes who don't realize that I am trying stealth evangelism. I recognize that many pagans are suspicious of evangelicals and dialogue. That's fine. Many evangelicals are just as suspicious. But let's be fair about it.

As I said in a comment which may or may not be approved on the site, let me clarify. I am not involved in stealth evangelism. Christianity is a missionary religion, and as a disciple of Christ I take just as seriously his command to love my neighbor as myself as I do to share the gospel. However, this is not done in every instance in pagan contexts or otherwise. If the context is inappropriate, or there is no interest, and most of the time there isn't, then there is no sharing. My relationships with pagans and my dialogue work are authentic and stand by themselves and are not pragmatic uses of individuals and relationships as the means to the end of evangelism. (See the interview with me at the Alternative Religions Educational Network for more thoughts from me on this.) Had egregores not assumed the worst in my ethics and motives, and been willing to more fairly assess my work in pagan studies and dialogue, perhaps at least the form of these posts would have been different.

Unfortunately, no mention was made about my critical reviews of evangelical books and approaches to paganism. Neither was there any commentary on the many pagans who have been interviewed at this blog and allowed to express themselves freely on the subject matter under discussion, including the difficult topic of Christian mission. The egregores selection and portrayal of material in representing my views thus exhibits the "pagan countercult" perspective that underlies them.

At any rate, I find it interesting that there is a pagan version of the evangelical countercult. Pagans have unfortunately been misrepresented by countercult apologists over the years (see my reviews of various evangelical books on Paganism as in this example) so it is a pity to see the pagan version of this surface within this fine religious community.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Sikhs and Muslims, Shootings and Burnings: Rescuing the American Experiment

This last Sunday morning the horrible news broke out of Oak Creek, Wisconsin and quickly spread through the media. As Sikhs gathered at the place of prayer and worship in a local gurdwara outside Milwaukee, a man walked through the parking lot and shot individuals before moving into the worship facility and shooting worshipers, including the community’s religious leader. At the end of the incident seven people were dead, including the suspect, who was killed by a police officer. Several others were wounded and three people remain in the hospital in critical condition.

In the initial hours after the shooting, the incident following just weeks after another mass shooting in a crowded Aurora, Colorado movie-theater, the media speculated as to the motives for the shooter. While little is known for certain as the investigation continues, some media outlets are reporting that the shooter had connections to white supremacy ideology. If confirmed it would make this incident a hate crime.

Of course this is not the first case of hate crime directed at Sikhs. Sikhism has been the unfortunate recipient of religious misidentification and hatred since 9/11. In the days following the September 2001 terrorist attacks, Sikhs, identified by turbans and beards among males, were assumed to be Muslims by vengeance-minded and religiously illiterate Americans, and as a result, some were assaulted and killed in cases of mistaken religious identity. This unacceptable state of affairs continues to be a major problem for the Sikh community, so much so that some Sikh men have considered violating their deeply held religious practices by cutting their long hair and removing their turbans. The incidents of violence have been so numerous that some members of Congress have urged the FBI to begin collecting data on how the Sikh community has become the special focus of hate crimes paralleling that directed at Muslims. Understandably, the Sikh community nationwide now lives in a state of fear.

In addition to the shooting at the Sikh temple in Michigan, this week saw another incident of religiously inspired violence. This one was directed at Islam as a mosque was burned to the ground in Joplin, Missouri, just one month after it had previously been the target of arson.

It has been over a decade since 9/11, and the recent violence toward Sikhs and Muslims is a clear signal that America still bristles at its experiment with religious pluralism. Many times, perhaps not so violently, the melting pot is not mixing, and those who chaff at the presence of certain religions on the American landscape make their displeasure known through acts of violence.

Even so, there has been positive pushback from those opposed to hate crimes directed at religious groups. The communities in Wisconsin and Missouri are rallying around the Sikhs and Muslims as they come to grips with grief, fear, and how to overcome these challenges. In addition, religious groups are lending support and speaking out from diverse places. Recently The Hindu American Foundation issued a statement discussing their outrage at the attacks and their support with the victims. The earth-based religions making up the pagan community have also been supportive expressing interfaith condolences through Cherry Hill Seminary and other noted personalities within the pagan movement.

Although it has not often responded well to the realities of religiously plural America, Christians must also join this chorus of support for the Sikh and Muslim victims of hate crimes. Although not a scientific or exhaustive methodology, a recent Google search of mine on "Christian leaders + Sikh temple shooting" revealed precious little by way of public responses by Evangelical leaders, with the curious exception of one comment by Pat Robertson who attributed the violence to atheism, another Evangelical scapegoat. Although they were very visible in the culture wars over same-sex marriage and chicken, in regards to religious hatred and violence, Evangelical leaders and people in the pew seem embarrassingly absent. However, one organization within Evangelicalism, the Evangelical Chapter of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy, offers its deepest sympathies to the Sikh community of Oak Creek, Michigan for their recent losses. It also extends the same to the Muslim community of Joplin, Missouri as they rebuild their place of worship.

How then might Evangelicals and others respond to this situation beyond the expression of sympathies, seemingly the least that can be offered in response to such tragedies? In this situation Evangelicals must exemplify the best from their religious tradition in the ethic of love for their neighbor.  We must reach out to both the Sikh and Muslim communities in Michigan, Missouri, and beyond to contribute to a national climate that fosters understanding and the ability to not only tolerate, but also to embrace the other in civility despite our religious differences.

America’s Founding Fathers put together a form of government that enabled its citizens to maintain their religious differences and to express them in ways that avoided the religion-fueled wars of Europe.  But episodes like those in Wisconsin and Missouri test these important American ideals. Our grand experiment must continue but something new needs to be added to the mix. Yes, we need to counter religious illiteracy, but that leaves a huge chasm between the religiously informed individual but who remains one who harbors distaste if not hatred for religious others in their community. How then do we incorporate religious literacy programs but do so in ways that also overcome the perception of monstrous religious others?  The prescription comes through peaceful contestation provided for a citizenry committed to a life lived in service to others through religious diplomacy.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

"Divine Disenchantment:" Sunstone Paper Online

Last Sunday I presented my paper at Sunstone Symposium at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. The paper was titled "Divine Disenchantment: Transitions, and Assisting Those in Religious Migration." The abstract:

Reliable statistical data from social science research indicates that thousands of Latter-day Saints leave the Mormon Church each year. Over time, these individuals adopt a variety of irreligious and religious pathways in reaction to their prior Mormon experience. Although much focus has been given to the study of religious affiliation, very little attention has been given to the processes of religious disaffiliation and reaffiliation (religious switching), and how this journey relates to new destinations for former Mormons. Multidisciplinary material exists that can serve in the creation of resources to those making a spiritual migration from one religious group to another.  In order to address this deficit, this seminar will discuss the background behind Transitions, a new video and workbook resource designed for immigrants shifting from Mormonism to more traditional forms of Christianity. It will consider the reality of religious disaffiliation and switching; the perspective and needs of the former LDS transitioner; the multidisciplinary perspectives, resources, and strategy that inform Transitions; and how religious institutions might better assist those making the journey from one religious tradition to another.
The paper was surprisingly well received. Although my respondent took some exception to aspects of the paper, one notable audience member pushed back as to the Sunstone audience finding aspects of the approach worthy of consideration, and another audience member shared his inner conflict over the high quality of the video.

This paper is being considered in a forthcoming volume. In the near future Sunstone should have the presentation available for purchase in MP3 and CD. It is available for download on my page.

Update August 7, 2012: I just discovered a presentation at the recent FAIR LDS apologetics conference that parallels my own at Sunstone. Rosemary Avance presented an interesting paper titled "Seeing the Light: Parallels in Mormon Conversion and De-Conversion Stories."