This list of TED talks on religion, theology, and divine will inspire thought and discussion. From serious to humorous, these talks explore a wide variety of religious and theological topics such as the purpose of religion, the role of religion, and the relationship between religion and culture. These talks are sure to encourage, inspire, and stretch your own thoughts on religion. Even if you don’t agree with everything that these speakers have to offer, your own thoughts and beliefs will be challenged by these TED Talks.
For far too long, atheists have insisted that religions are not only wrong, but ridiculous; however, Alain de Botton suggests that atheists can adopt several aspects of religion in order to enhance everyday life. In this engaging and thoughtful talk, he suggests that atheists selectively adopt the ritualistic, moral, and communal aspects of religion in order to create Atheism 2.0, which would satisfy human needs for connectivity without belief in a higher being or power.
While researching the life of the prophet Muhammad, Biographer Lesley Hazleton describes how Muhammad doubted what happened to him after being called by God. This detail of Muhammad’s journey revealed to Hazleton that without doubt, faith is not possible. She claims that doubt is an essential aspect of faith and that without it, what’s left is absolutism and arrogant fundamentalism. This fascinating talk questions the conviction of fundamentalism while exploring Muhammad’s journey to becoming a prophet.
Filmed a few months after the 2004 Tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia, clergyman Tom Honey poses the question of why would God allow such tragedy to happen in the world. Honey questions the nature of God and his relation to the universe and humanity. This talk explores themes such as the reach of God’s control over the world and the events that occur and whether God is active agent in the world or merely a spectator. Posing the question of why God allowed the tsunami, Honey concludes that the answer is not as simple or neatly wrapped as we would like.
Author of the best-selling book The Purpose-Driven Life, Pastor Rick Warren shares his journey and struggle of finding his own purpose after the success of his book. In this transparent talk, Warren encourages the audience and explores the meaning of life. He concludes that finding meaning and significance cannot be found in material things, but by finding one’s purpose, talents, and gifts, and using them to create the most good for others and in the world.
Ex-Moonie Diane Benscoter shares what she learned as a result of her escape from a cult. She shares insights on the dangers of extreme religious movements and how they can affect the way people think. She explores the affects that cults have on the brain as a way to explain how easily a person can be duped into blindly following a dangerous movement. This talk explores the circular logic that leads people into extremist groups and cults and suggests that understanding how this happens can prevent others from being victim to the dangerous world of cults.
A central tenant of most religions is compassion. In this inspiring TED talk, Karen Armstrong shares her desire for those who are religious to work hard to make religions more compassionate. She argues that the Golden Rule should be the central purpose of all religions. cHer call to action is for people to stop using religion as a way to divide people, but as a tool for harmony and compassion. She charges the TED audience to bring back the Golden Rule and create a Charter for Compassion.
Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast explores gratefulness and its relationship to one’s happiness. According to Steindl-Rast, everyone desires to be happy, and the way to get happiness is through grateful. He argues that being happy does not make one grateful, but instead that gratefulness makes one happy. This talk explores how to be more grateful by taking the time to appreciate what you have, to reflect on where you are going, and using each moment as an opportunity to express and share gratefulness with each other.
Devdut Pattanaik explores the mythology of India and of the West to explain the why people from Eastern and Western cultures misunderstand each other. This talk explores ideas such as religion, God, heaven, and the divine and relates them to the worldview of the East and the West. Pattanaik concludes that these myths that drive culture have implications in the way that people relate to each other in art, entertainment, and business. The ability to understand and appreciate the way that mythology shapes our worldview will help us to better connect with each other in the face of the continuing globalization of the world.
Buddhist scholar Bob Thurman explains how modern advances in technology make it more possible than ever to reach ultimate connectedness and enlightenment. With information readily available to us with the a few clicks on a keyboard or pushes of a button, the ability to be one with all things and know all things is within our grasp. This technology enables us to become modern day Buddhas with all knowledge right at the end of our fingertips.
In this powerful and emotional talk, Karima Bennoune recounts her own tale and the tales of others who are fighting and challenging extreme Muslim Fundamentalism. She argues that Islam is being misused and abused to support a political agenda that does not preserve the true nature and purpose of the religion, but instead twists it to use a tool for crime, hate, and violence. Theses stories serve as a reminder about the power of standing up for one’s beliefs and taking back one’s faith from those who use their religion for evil instead of good.
In this humorous talk, Julia Sweeney relives her early experience with religion and shares her experience when two Mormon missionaries appear on her doorstep. She shares with the audience how this chance encounter and exchange about the history of Mormonism helped her to consider her own beliefs.
Writer AJ Jacobs views his life as a series of experiments, and in this talk, he experiments with living principles found in the Bible as literally as possible. Throughout the experience, Jacobs faces the challenge of living by every rule of the Bible. He recounts how the changes in his behavior also changed his way of thinking. This thoughtful and humorous talk will inspire discussion about how the Bible should be interpreted and applied to everyday life.