Top 10 TED Talks on Religion

This series of TED Talks introduces the ideas of the ten most popular speaker on the TED circuit in the realm of religion. You may not agree with all, or any of them, but you will certainly find something thoughtful and provocative to inspire and/or challenge your faith.

1. Matthieu Ricard – On the Habits of Happiness

A French biochemist at the renowned Pasteur Institue, turned Buddhist monk living in a hermitage in the Himalayan mountains, Ricard has often been called the happiest man on Earth. His TED talk features his enlightened view on the definition and constitution of human happiness, and the path to train the mind to be resilient to the ebb and flow of negative feelings and thoughts. Ricard emphasizes the importance of compassion as an antidote, and its benefits to individuals and humanity as a whole.

2. Richard Dawkins – Militant Atheism

Oxford professor and eminent evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins also happens to be the most famous atheist in the world. In this talk he encourages fellow atheists to be open and “out” about their atheism, as that is the only way that the stigma surrounding the word can be changed. In his impassioned way, Dawkins also asserts the division that must remain between religion and government.

3. Michael Shermer – Why People Believe Weird Things

Editor of ‘Skeptic’ magazine, and author of the book “Why People Believe Weird Things”, Shermer is one of the foremost skeptics around. This talk features Shermer emphasizing the difference between pseudoscience and real science. How true science is based on counting both the hits and the misses in supernatural claims – such as dowsing, psychic readings, UFO sightings, and astrology. True science is definable, predictable, and repeatable. Anything less is just not science.

4. Julia Sweeney – Letting go of God

Comedian, playwright, and actress Julia Sweeney performs the first 15 minutes of her comedy solo, ‘Letting go of God’. A hilariously poignant story of her religious background in the Pacific Northwest, countered with her experience with two missionaries from the Church of Latter Days’ Saints that triggered her agnostic view on the existence of a God.

5. Sam Harris – Science Can Answer Moral Questions

Sam Harris is one of the “Four Horsemen of Atheism”, and has a background in neuroscience as well as philosophy. He is also a successful author, and in this talk Harris argues that science should be taken more seriously in the realm of public policy and moral issues. Science can provide answers to moral questions and provide a solid basis for living a good, fulfilled, compassionate life.

6. Rick Warren – A Life of Purpose

Pastor and author of the best-selling book “The Purpose-Driven Life”, Rick Warren explains the self-doubt and self-searching that he underwent following his books explosive success. With the huge flow of money that came in, Warren made a series of changes in his life that revolved around breaking materialism and doing good to feel good. He asks the audience his driving message, “What are you going to do with what you’ve been given?”.

7. Dan Dennett – Let’s Teach Religion – All Religions – in Public Classrooms

Dennett is a cognitive scientist and philosopher who is also part of the New Atheist movement. He believes that all religions should be taught in a public classroom in order to shed light on the fact that religion is a natural phenomenon across human cultures. They should be studied for their value as immense social institutions and commentary on human psychology.

8. AJ Jacobs – My Year of Living Biblically

As an author, journalist, philosopher, and prankster, AJ Jacobs submits himself to long, fascinating experiments in human cultures and phenomenons across the world. In this talk, he describes what life was like for a modern man trying to live according to the tenets of the Bible – including the Old Testament and bans on eating shellfish, figs, and not wearing clothing with material from two different sources.

9. Michael Specter – The Danger of Science Denial

Working as a staff writer for the New York Times, Michael Specter discusses in his new book, “Denialism”, why people around the world are eager to dismiss scientific fact and live dangerously through such ideas as the vaccine-autism controversy, as well as religiously driven ideologies such as the denial of evolution and climate change.

10. Hans Rosling – Religion and Babies

A self-described data visionary and global health scientist, Hans Rosling uses visual technology to depict data in utterly user-friendly ways. He had a question that led to some deep insights: Do some religions have more babies than others? With his famous wit, humor, and insight, Hans presents global fertility rates and expounds on their religious background as well as their implications to the modern world.