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Molly Worthen, Ph.D. - UNC-Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC, US

Molly Worthen, Ph.D. Molly Worthen, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of History, College of Arts and Sciences | UNC-Chapel Hill


Professor Worthen’s research explores North American religious and intellectual history.



Molly Worthen, Ph.D. Publication Molly Worthen, Ph.D. Publication



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Book TV: Molly Worthen, The Bible - Who Cares? Molly Worthen asks NT Wright questions about scripture and culture UNC-CH's Molly Worthen discusses evangelicals and authority UNC-CH historian Molly Worthen rebuts myths about conservative evangelicals




Molly Worthen is an associate professor of history in UNC's College of Arts and Sciences. Her research focuses on North American religious and intellectual history, particularly the ideas and culture of conservative Christianity. She is the author of the books "Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism" (Oxford University Press, 2013), and "The Man On Whom Nothing Was Lost: The Grand Strategy of Charles Hill (Houghton Mifflin, 2006.) Worthen teaches courses in global Christianity, North American religious and intellectual culture, and the history of politics and ideology. She is a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times and has also written about religion and politics for Slate, the Boston Globe, Foreign Policy and other publications. She is working on a 36-lecture course for the Teaching Company's Great Courses series, "History of Christianity II: From the Reformation to the Rise of Evangelicalism," scheduled for release in 2018.

Areas of Expertise (6)

American Religious and Intellectual History

American Christian History

Conservative Christianity

American evangelical Christian life

Global Christianity

The history of politics and ideology

Accomplishments (3)

Religion Newswriters’ Association Nonfiction Book Award (professional)

First Place, 2015. Prize for best nonfiction book of the year pertaining to the study of religion.

Theron Rockwell Field Prize (professional)

2011. University-wide award for “best poetic, literary, or religious work of scholarship."

Jacob K. Javits Fellowship (professional)

2006-2010. U.S. government award to support doctoral studies and research.

Education (3)

Yale University: Ph.D., Religious History 2011

Yale University: M.Phil and M.A., American Religious History 2008

Yale University: B.A., History 2003

Affiliations (1)

  • New York Times : Contributing Opinion Writer

Media Appearances (10)

Collection of Molly Worthen's NYT articles, 2007-present

The New York Times  online

Worthen writes about religion, ideology and American politics.

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Stop Saying 'I Feel Like'

The New York Times  online


IN American politics, few forces are more powerful than a voter’s vague intuition. “I support Donald Trump because I feel like he is a doer,” a senior at the University of South Carolina told Cosmopolitan. “Personally, I feel like Bernie Sanders is too idealistic,” a Yale student explained to a reporter in Florida. At a Ted Cruz rally in Wisconsin in April, a Cruz fan declared, “I feel like I can trust that he will keep his promises.” These people don’t think, believe or reckon. They “feel like.” Listen for this phrase and you’ll hear it everywhere, inside and outside politics.

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For Trump, Tubman on $20 Bill Illustrates Broader American Problem

NBC News.com  online


"The decision to put Tubman on the twenty is a powerful sign of Americans' changing relationship with their own history. At the same time, it's also the gesture of liberals who have been fairly impotent lately in their efforts to correct the deep socioeconomic sources of racial inequality," said Molly Worthen, a history professor at the University of North Carolina who has written extensively about how views of identity shape each party.

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Who are the Gay Evangelicals?

The New York Times  online


THE anti-gay ideology that has long held sway in American evangelicalism seems to be crumbling. Conservatives’ insistence that the Bible proscribes homosexual acts and their claim that protecting gay rights infringes on their own religious liberty have depended on another assumption not found in Scripture: that homosexuality is not a biologically rooted identity but a sinful temptation, an addiction that one must control.

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Defining 'Evangelical'

The Atlantic  online


In recent years, however, a range of definitions for evangelical have been proposed. Many polling firms, like Pew Research, count everyone who identifies themselves as “evangelical” or “born again.” A prominent Christian polling firm, Barna Group, has traditionally used a very specific nine-question definition that requires, for example, the person to claim they believe Satan exists. And Molly Worthen, University of North Carolina professor and author of Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism, defines evangelicals as Christians who are wrestling with a set of specific questions...

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Can Twitter and Facebook Make Good Thinkers of America’s Next Leaders?

The National Interest  online


Next, the quality of the education matters. Here both form and content have to be addressed. It might be “deeply unfashionable,” writes Molly Worthen, but emails, Facebook, blog posts, videos and PowerPoint slides aren’t good tools for teaching deep thinking. Daniel Levitin comes to the same conclusion in his book. Deep thinking is stimulated by prolonged attention to a subject that requires activities such as reading books; listening to live, interactive lectures; and experiencing Socratic teaching. If school officials are not building programs around these time-consuming, contemplative and challenging activities, they are just delivering diplomas...

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Wanted: A Theology of Atheism

The New York Times  online


One Sunday last month, I walked into an auditorium past greeters and a table loaded with coffee, fruit and cookies. Onstage two young men tuned their guitars. A blank screen hung down, a silent signal that not knowing the words would be no excuse for not singing along. But this was no typical church service...

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Life in the Public Square: The Life and Thought of Richard John Neuhaus

CBC Radio  online

May 5, 2015 Panel discussion for the show, "Ideas."

Charismatic Catholicism is Alive and Well

Crux (Boston Globe)  print


How Billy Graham Became an American Icon

CNN.com  online


Event Appearances (5)

“Inside the Mind of the Christian Right: A Deep History of the Culture Wars”

Connell Lecture  Lehigh University


“The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism”

Crum Lecture  Gordon College


"Evangelicals and the Authority Problem"

Lecture  Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary


“The Curious History of the Christian Worldview: Theological Origins of the Culture Wars”

Schrag Lecture  Messiah College


“Adventures in Ideas: American Christianity”

UNC-Chapel Hill  Program in the Humanities


Articles (3)

The Theological Origins of the Christian Right

University of Pennsylvania Press

2015 (Book chapter) in Julian Zelizer, Andrew Preston and Bruce Schulman, editors, "Faithful Republic: Religion and Politics in Modern America."

The National Association of Evangelicals

Oxford University Press

2012 (Book chapter) in "Oxford Encyclopedia of American Social History"

The Chalcedon Problem: Rousas John Rushdoony and the Origins of Christian Reconstructionism

Church History

2008 According to the town criers of liberal American journalism, readers must wake up and do something. Hide your children—there is a movement afoot among conservative Christians to take over our country and give America a theocratic makeover. A slew of ...

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