Published Essays and Columns

by Chris Highland

Book Cover

My new book, A Freethinker’s Gospel, a collection of 52 columns, is now available wherever you buy books

Seeking Healing in Our Natural Origins (Citizen-Times) p2

Casting Stones or Stepping Stones? (Patheos)

Is Honesty Honored in our Faith and Freethought Communities? (Citizen-Times)

“My wife and I are faithful readers of your column in the Asheville paper.  I have been wanting to thank you for your thoughtful words week after week. Yesterday’s article was especially meaningful.”

Conversations with Ancient Voices (Citizen-Times) p2 

The Pastor and the Atheist (Citizen-Times)  

Growling and Shaking Our Heads in Disbelief (Citizen-Times) p2

Trying to Understand the Lord’s Prayer (Citizen-Times)

“A rascal!”

Dangerous Crossings of Faith and Freethought (Citizen-Times) p2

What I’ve Come to Value in World Religions (Citizen-Times)

Why Would I Want Everyone to be the Same as I Am? (Citizen-Times) p2

Is Hate, Like Love, Built In to Religion? (

“Thank you for posting this article. You have a unique insight – given your pastoral history and apparent proclivity for forthrightness.”

If You Had the Ear of the World (Citizen-Times)

“Wonderful article — thanks for spreading the good word!”

-Alan Alda’s Podcast Team

Seeking Directions on the Trails of Life (Citizen-Times) p2

“Your articles in the Citizen-Times are one of the highlights of my Saturdays.”

Religi-publicans in Crisis (Patheos)

“Chris Highland’s comments have a positive reach beyond what he might think.”

A Parable of Bears, Trees and Naps (Citizen-Times)

“First let me say how much I enjoy your column. I look forward to the Saturday paper and skim most of it but always read your insights.”

Streaming Wisdom from Wilma Dykeman (Citizen-Times) p2

“I loved your article on atheism in the Citizen-Times a few weeks ago.”

Nature’s Secular Sacrament of Baptism (Citizen-Times)

Questions Often Asked of a Contented Atheist (Citizen-Times) p2

“I read your column regularly and I appreciate it so much. As a fellow humanist and free thinker –and on top of that– a mayor, I want to let you know today’s column was on the mark … Stay the course.”

A Wedding, or Church, without God? (Citizen-Times)

Jumping Spiders are Meditation Teachers (Citizen-Times) p2

“Your writings have often helped reinforce and enrich our lives. Thank you.”

Nature Reigns and Rules the Whole (Citizen-Times)

Disturbing Poverty Can Cause Disturbance (Citizen-Times) p2

“Thanks, Chris.  Keep providing that balance!”

An Important Question for Friends and Strangers (Citizen-Times)

Walt Whitman at 200:  Songs of Divinity and Humanity (Citizen-Times) p2

Saints, Socks and Sundays (Citizen-Times)

“I have walked a spiritual path much different from yours, but it feels like we’ve arrived at a similar destination.”

Our Mother Who Art in Heaven, and Earth (Citizen-Times) p2

Finding Transformation at Land of the Sky (Citizen-Times)

When the Roof Forest Burns (Patheos)

“I wanted you to know you are read and greatly appreciated by a like-minded secular friend also doing some writing.”

Is This What Jesus’ Church Might Look Like? (Citizen-Times) PDF-p1, PDF-p2

Is There Hope Beyond Death? (Citizen-Times)

“Really had to smile, even laugh out loud, on your breakdown of various communities’ beliefs of the afterlife.  I look forward to your weekly column.”

A Freethinker Climbs The Cross (Rational Doubt)

A Progressive Lutheran Minister’s Season of Questions (Citizen-Times) p2

A Black Woman Pastor Provoking Justice (Citizen-Times)

“You do great work!  I …  hope that people see the importance of doing this work in themselves and their respective faith communities to dismantle white supremacy where it began, the church.  Peace to you!”

The Light of Humanistic Judaism (Citizen-Times) PDF

Is There an Orthodox Atheism? (Patheos) 

“We share much of the same approach to our world view and need for civility and humility in approaching those religious advocates who want to shout us down.”

Wise Words from a Witch (Citizen-Times) PDF

Emergency!  Can Faithers and Freethinkers Respond Together?  (Rational Doubt)

“Thanks for making me think!”

A Smile, Breath and Bow for a Buddhist Priest (Citizen-Times) PDF

A Synagogue Baking Bread, not Beliefs (Citizen-Times) PDF

The Curious Apostate in the Pew (Citizen-Times) PDF

If Uncle Tom’s Cabin Had a Library (Citizen-Times) PDF

“This writer is very balanced and fair.”–evangelical pastor

What is the Soul, if there is One? (Citizen-Times) PDF

Why I’m Not an Angry Evangelical Atheist–Part One (Patheos)

Why I’m Not an Angry Evangelical Atheist–Part Two (Patheos)

“I suspect Highland’s problem is that he’s a “pastoral” type … It’s really a little demeaning to have to waste time deflecting criticism from supposed atheists [like Highland] whose main concern is retaining warm personal relationships with all their superstitious buddies.  I would suggest that Highland’s problem with other atheists is indeed HIS problem … ” –evangelical atheist?

When the Leader Isn’t Who You Expect (Citizen-Times) p2

Do We Have to Burn All Our Bridges? (Citizen-Times) PDF

Faith and Freethought Forums (Patheos)

“What I appreciate most is that I feel that you are representing me as a “non-believer”and that it is possible to be a thoughtful, caring person participating in society.”

Sufi Stories that Make Us Laugh and Think (Citizen-Times) PDF

Collaborative Compassion:  A Secular Perspective (The Interfaith Observer)

Pauli Murray (Citizen-Times) PDF-p1, PDF-p2

“Count me among the many who read your AC-T column and appreciate the “breath of fresh air” it represents on the religion page … Thank you very much for your valuable engagement with the community.”

Good Grief and Living with Loss (Citizen-Times) PDF-p1, PDF-p2

A Deep Breath for the New Year (Citizen-Times) PDF

How to Start Your Own Religion, Just Add Water (Citizen-Times) PDF

“Your photographs are stunning. I love what you write.”

Genesis, God and the Good Earth (Citizen-Times) PDF + Des Moines Register

Unwrapping the Present:  A Chris-mas Message (Patheos)

Another Kind of Christmas (Patheos)

“A short reflection that is more along the lines of the nature-focused essays that Chris loves to write (and we love to read).”

To Be More Like God, or More Human? (Citizen-Times) PDF + Des Moines Register

Why God Created Atheists, and Nature Created Believers (Citizen-Times) PDF-p1, PDF-p2 + Des Moines Register

Good ol’ Biblical Cherry Pickin’ (Patheos)

The new book, A Freethinker’s Gospel, a collection of 52 of Chris’ columns, is now available wherever you purchase books!

Treasure Closer Than We Think (Citizen-Times) PDF

Trusting the Power of Love and Goodness (Citizen-Times) PDF

Baffled by Belief and Unbelief (Citizen-Times)

“We really get a lot of pleasure and stimulation from your AC/T column.            Thank You!”

Autumn Leaves Mark the Passing of a Pastor (Citizen-Times) PDF

Margaret Fuller’s Thirst for Truth and Good (Citizen-Times) PDF

Is a “Growing Faith” Always a Good Thing? (Citizen-Times)

Secular Sermon:  Re-defining the Sacred (Rational Doubt)

“Today’s column made me say YES out loud!”

You Show Us What Could Be (Citizen-Times) p2

Discovering Our Better Angels (Citizen-Times) PDF + Post Crescent (WI)

Prayer or Presence? (Citizen-Times) PDF only + Post Crescent (WI)

“I really appreciate your down-to-earth approach to matters of faith, including the message in today’s article which is the message so many of us desperately needed to hear.”

What’s on the Menu of Faith?  (Citizen-Times) PDF

Jail Chaplaincy:  No Place for a Closed Mind (Citizen-Times) PDF

Choosing Justice as Faith in Action (Citizen-Times) PDF

James Baldwin’s Prophetic Voice (Citizen-Times) PDF

“You always inspire me with your ability to connect with everyone, no matter what their background or belief or where they are in their life.”

Driving Lessons for Heretics (Citizen-Times)

Less Blessing and More Human Touch (Citizen-Times) PDF

Deliver Us from Our Concept of Evil (Citizen-Times) PDF

Broken Bridges (Citizen-Times)

Sojourner Truth:  To Stay Here and Stand the Fire (Citizen-Times) PDF

“Sensitive, creative, relevant.”

Red-Letter Bibles and Godless Gospels (Citizen-Times) PDF

Life in the Secular Jewish Community (Citizen-Times) PDF

A Secular Pilgrimage with James Baldwin (Patheos)

The Dalai Lama and Ethics Beyond Religion (Citizen-Times) PDF

When the Country is the Classroom–and Sanctuary (Citizen-Times) PDF

“I always skipped over the Religion page in the paper, but I don’t any more!”

Can the Heaven-bound and Hell-bound find Common Ground? (Citizen-Times) PDF

What an Inter-faith, Inter-secular Marriage Can Look Like (Citizen-Times) PDF

Should We Keep Our Religion to Ourselves? (Citizen-Times) PDF

I Went to the Bridge Last Night (Citizen-Times) PDF

“A weekly column on interfaith issues and the relationship of nonbelievers to communities of faith and to nature from Asheville’s Chris Highland” (USA Today)

The Awfully Incredible (R-Rated) Story of Noah (Citizen-Times) PDF

Meditation Practice Open to Anyone (Citizen-Times) PDF

Who, What and Where is a Christian? (Citizen-Times) PDF

Walking Hand in Hand into Hell? (Citizen-Times) PDF

Camps Can Help Us Appreciate Nature or Miss It (Citizen-Times) PDF

Is there a Spirituality in Nature and of Nature? (Citizen-Times) PDF

When Faith Steps in to Block the View (Citizen-Times) PDF

“These reflections and your personal blog are creative contributions to a healthy dialogue in this region and far beyond.”

The Nature of Our Tribe and the Tribe of Nature (Citizen-Times) PDF

Who is Welcome around the Communion Table? (Citizen-Times) PDF

The Resurrection of Martin (The Clergy Project)

“Thanks so much for your recent article … I have enjoyed reading your work and learning about your freethought journey.”

The Greatest Story Not Yet Told (Rational Doubt)

A Young Farmboy Learns Lessons of the Seasons (Citizen-Times) PDF

John Muir’s Prophetic Call to a Wild Heaven on Earth (Citizen-Times) PDF

“Thanks so much for your insightfulness and mind provoking articles.”

The Value of What We Don’t Know and Can’t See (Citizen-Times) PDF

The Three C’s and the Segregation of God (Citizen-Times) PDF

When a Person Loves Religious Feelings but doesn’t like Religion (Citizen-Times)

“Reading your column gives me hope that it is possible to help people find a more honest way of thinking and living.”

No Lock on the Truth in this Church (Citizen-Times) PDF

If God was Female and Holy Books were Written by Women (Citizen-Times) PDF

Searching for the Heartbeat and Drumbeat of Native America (Citizen-Times) PDF

Is Interfaith Harmony better than Unity? (Citizen-Times) PDF

In a Wholly New Light, the Biology of Faith (Citizen-Times) PDF

“Beautifully written and inspiring!”

Witches, Wicca and a Pagan View of the World (Citizen-Times) PDF

Looking Past Windows that Separate and Stun Our Beliefs (Citizen-Times) PDF 

Freethinking about Faith, Feathers and Flocks (Citizen-Times) PDF

Mountains to Sea, Crossing Lines for Humility and Humanity (Citizen-Times) PDF

A Post-Christian Christmas Card (The Clergy Project)

“Thanks for the voice you bring to our community.”

Light for the World–A Secular Christmas Story (Citizen-Times) PDF

Jesus Was Jewish, but Should Jews be Christians? (Citizen-Times) PDF

Frederick Douglass on Religion and Discrimination (Citizen-Times) PDF

Secular Responses to Addiction (Citizen-Times) PDF

Strangers on the Road, a Parable (Citizen-Times) PDF

What We Bring to the Table is Important (Citizen-Times) PDF-p1, PDF-p2

“Highland’s thoughtful essays … are a welcome addition to the paper.”

When Suffering Comes to the Door (Citizen-Times) PDF

Walt Whitman: Model for Chaplains, Secular Saint (Citizen-Times) PDF

Mission Work, Compassion or Conversion (Citizen-Times) PDF

Facing Disasters with Faith or Without Faith (Citizen-Times) PDF

Blessed are the Poor? (Citizen-Times) PDF

“Thank you so much for your eloquent essay.”

So You Believe or Don’t Believe in God, Then What? (Citizen-Times) PDF

The Fiery Freethinking Gospel of Frances Wright (Citizen-Times) PDF

Theology for Beginners, Hints from Hindus (Citizen-Times) PDF

Seeing Through Stevie Wonder’s Eyes (Citizen-Times) PDF

“Wonderful pieces. . . .  Your articles must come as a relief to many of the readers in [the] community.”

An Incredulous Creed (Rational Doubt)

Awakening to Sabbath (Citizen-Times) PDF

The Interfaith Alternative (Citizen-Times) PDF

The Face of Nature (Citizen-Times) PDF

Proverbs from the Sea-Island Gullah (Citizen-Times) PDF

“Just read [your] article–wonderful and very well-written, expressed. YES!”

A Secular Crusade? (Citizen-Times) PDF

Is Your Family Divided By Faith? (Citizen-Times) PDF

Rivers Across the Religious Landscape (Citizen-Times) PDF

Does Nature Care? (Citizen-Times) PDF -corrections:  fourth paragraph should begin with “Pleased that I am now known. . .” and in the first paragraph of the last column the line should read “beauty, God or much good”

No Clergy Guilt for a Naturalist/Secular Chaplain (The Clergy Project blog)

Kitty Hawk, Curiosity and an Ethic of Care (Citizen-Times) PDF

“‘A’ [grade] to Chris Highland for his ‘Highland Views’ inspirational column found weekly in the Saturday paper.  ‘A’ also to AC-T for … publishing views of a perspective differing from [others] on the religion page.”

Thoreau, Darwin and the Book of Nature (Citizen-Times) PDF

Ingersoll’s Middle Name was Green (Citizen-Times) PDF

What Does it Mean to Be a Religious Progressive? (Citizen-Times) PDF

Here We Sit:  The 500th Year of Luther’s Reformation (Citizen-Times) PDF

The Wisdom of Doubt (Citizen-Times) PDF

“I thoroughly enjoyed your most recent column.”

Francis of Assisi: Secular Saint? (Citizen-Times) PDF

In Whom Do We Trust? (Citizen-Times and Coloradoan) PDF

Naturally Curious, Children Ask Good Questions (Citizen-Times) PDF

The Heaven I Look For Now (Citizen-Times) PDF

The Nature of Humanism and Faith (Citizen-Times) PDF

“Thank you for posting this great article! I plan on picking up a few of your books and I’m enjoying your website.  Please keep posting!”

Fostering Contemplation (Citizen-Times) PDF

Peeves, Goats and the Faith of Children (Citizen-Times) PDF

A Secular Reflection on Passover and Easter (Citizen-Times) PDF

Meditations of Robert Ingersoll, Part 4: “Fear” (North American Review)

The new book, A Freethinker’s Gospel, a collection of 53 of Chris’ essays, is now available wherever you purchase books!

Bridging the God-Gap (Citizen-Times) PDF

Welcoming People Not Like You (Citizen-Times PDF and USA Today)

Non-Fiction Book Review:  Manifold Nature (Rain Taxi)

Bridges to and from Belief (Citizen-Times) PDF

“I look forward to following you and reading more of your articles.”

A Secular Jesus (Citizen-Times) PDF

Climbing Beyond Scripture (Citizen-Times) PDF and USA Today)

Meditations of Robert Ingersoll, Part 3: “An Equal Right to Be Wrong” (North American Review)

Faith and Frederick Law Olmsted (Citizen-Times) PDF

Freethinker’s Trek Through Spirituality, Mysticism and Nature (Rational Doubt)

“Great column as always. As a Unitarian Universalist I enjoy the intellectual and theological thought you put into your writing.”

Climbing Out of Hell (Citizen-Times) PDF

Shoes On, Shoes Off (Citizen-Times PDF and USA Today)

Nature Calls Us to Step Back, Consider (Citizen-Times) PDF

Meditations of Robert Ingersoll, Part 2: “A New, Secular Scripture” (North American Review)

“A very refreshing read. . . Thank you for your courage in publishing such clear, well thought out (albeit controversial) common sense articles.”

One Nature Indivisible (Citizen-Times) PDF

A Religion of Freedom: Ingersoll’s Cane and Thomas Paine (North American Review) PDF (Ingersoll’s Cane, Dresden, NY) 

Secular Prayer (Citizen-Times) PDF

When a Minister No Longer Believes–The Clergy Project (Citizen-Times) PDF

Meditations of Robert Ingersoll, Part 1: “A Church of the Future. . .Without God “(North American Review)

“I really liked and appreciated the article … and what you are doing in the column … a member of my congregation [said] he looks forward to reading your column every single week!”

Do Holy Books Speak? (Citizen-Times) PDF

Ever Mindful of the Needs of Others (Citizen-Times) PDF

Give Fire to Your Dreams (Citizen-Times) PDF

Nailed to the Manger: A Christmas Baby Reflection (Patheos)

The Good Beyond Us and Them (Citizen-Times) PDF

“Thanks to ACT and Chris Highland for his excellent column “Highland Views.” He offers a much needed example of taking the high road … that it does no good to vilify people we disagree with, but rather we can seek common ground as we must live together for a while and can agree on some work for the common good. Pretty much what Jesus taught.”

Adopting the Bethlehem Baby (first printed in the Citizen-Times) PDF

Welcoming to a New State? (Rational Doubt)

Something is Broken in Religious Education (Citizen-Times) PDF-p1 PDF-p2

Giving Thanks–Without Religion (Citizen-Times) PDF

Can Secular People Also Have Devotion? (Citizen-Times) PDF

(My original letter to the editor of the Citizen-Times, August, 2016)

“I hope the column. . .by Chris Highland. . .is a harbinger of things to come.”

~Reader’s Letter to the Editor of the Citizen-Times

Beyond the Trumpery (Rational Doubt)

A Freethinker Returns to Seminary (State of Formation-Journal of Interreligious Dialogue)

“Secular Testimony” (The Clergy Project)

The New American Religion (Patheos)

Divorcing Spirituality (Patheos)

Why Isn’t Wonder Wonderful Enough? (Rational Doubt)

Why Progressive Faith Needs Progressive Secularism (Patheos)

Taking the Sacrament with John Muir (Patheos)

“Your articles are amazing.  I want to echo your thoughts.  Free-thinking is not anti-faith.”

Climbing (not cutting) a Christmas Tree (Rational Doubt)

An Atheist at the Cross (Rational Doubt)

A Post-Supernatural View of Death (Patheos)

The Bible of Nature: A Scripture for Seculars (Realization)

Clergy Doubt (interview with Rational Doubt)

Seminary or Cemetery (Rational Doubt)

Leopard in a Minefield (Patheos)

Practicing Secular Chaplaincy (Rational Doubt)

Holy Babies (Faith Forward, Patheos)

Higher Trails (Ex-Christian Net)

John Muir Was a Pagan (Patheos) 

Bless You!  The Last Blessing (State of Formation)

Proof of Heaven (State of Formation)

Why I Am a Freethinker (Faith Forward, Patheos)

The End of Spirituality (State of Formation)

Beyond Sectarianism (Patheos)

“My kind of read…I truly enjoyed this article!
Well-written & an excellent read to pass forward!”

Praying Down the Tornado (State of Formation)

God in 100 Words (Patheos)

“Waterfall Spirituality” (Marin Independent Journal, interview)

Free to Be a Freespeaking Freethinker (Marin Interfaith Council blog)

Interfaith Marriage (Patheos, interview)

There’s Always that Beginning (SFTS Chimes, interview)

Energizing Trail Mix:  A Review of “Engaging Voices” (Patheos)

“Local Author Writes Two More Nature Books” (Whidbey Record, interview)

“Thoreau’s Teachings Still Inspire Many Lives” (USA Today, interview)

Rain and Need for Shelter Return (Marin Independent Journal)

End of Shelter. . .Closer to Home? (Marin Independent Journal)

Tam House Keeps the Light Burning (Marin Independent Journal)

Homelessness is an Emergency (Marin Independent Journal)

Selected Essays from Chris Highland’s e-book, Nature is Enough

17 thoughts

    1. Thanks for the comment. You are correct that freethinking is not necessarily anti-faith, but Freethought tradition challenges orthodoxy and questions faith and theology, so I wouldn’t say it is “pro” faith or god. There is a primary agnostic position, which is the most reasonable, in my opinion. Glad you’re reading.

  1. Your column today on peeved goats and faith of children was spot on. When I had children and started to teach them the practice of kneeling by the bed for prayer each evening, I started to teach them the prayer I had recited as a child: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray thee Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake,, I pray thee Lord my soul to take.” and it hit me: what a terrifying thought with which to end each day! No wonder I suffered from insomnia all my life!

    1. Thanks, Karolyn. Yes, it seems we need those “hit me” moments to wake up sometimes!
      Same prayer I recited as a child. Others tell me they were horrified too when the real message hit them.

  2. Re: “What if nature doesn’t care about us?”

    A very refreshing read. Nice to disconnect the frivolity of anthropomorphism from Earth’s activities and forces. Faith, in and of itself, is fine. It only becomes clouded and controversial when contaminated by organized religion and its dogmas. I am reminded of a cartoon by Wiley, the creator of Non Sequitur, showing the supreme deity gazing down on a turbulent Earth and saying, “That’s it. Lesson learned. Next time, no religion.”

    To say that the solar system and the vast, intricate, and expanding universe are stunning, is an obvious understatement — to say the least. We, intellectually lilliputian, short-term residents, of the planet, lack the depth of intelligence and mental power, in our present state of evolution, to grasp how this all came about. Given the current course of human events, it is unlikely that we will reach that understanding before we achieve our own extinction. That is a shame, because the odds against our having come into existence at all are truly astronomical. Homo sapiens really need to re-evaluate priorities.

    Thank you for your courage in publishing such clear, well thought out (albeit controversial) common sense articles. Nice to experience “thought freedom” so well articulated.

    1. Good to hear, and well said, Peter.
      Yes, it would be a shame if we didn’t learn our lessons and show human evolving.
      I figure that publishing more common sense, in the radical tradition of the writer of “Common Sense,” shall we say, makes sense!
      I appreciate your comment.

  3. In re your article “Theology for beginners, via Hndus,” your “summary of the world’s major religious philosophies” was cute. Even though you have handed in your membership card with Christian religion, I still see many echos of it in your writing. You probably know that there are many different kinds of yoga (cognate with “yoke”). The brand of yoga one practices reveals what your yoke to God is: Hatha yoga connects through the physical body; jnana yoga connects through knowledge and the mind; bhakti yoga is practicing devotion to God; nada yoga connects through sound/music; karma yoga is the path of unselfish action. Christianity falls very nicely into the karma yoga path, as the heavy emphasis on behavior suggests: what you do or don’t do foretells whether you go to heaven or hell. In my mind the two best features of Christianity are its call to forgiveness and charity. In your writing I often see your approval of such behavior. Perhaps you are a karma yogi? I recall one of my spiritual teachers explaining “guru” as G-U-R-U (Gee, you are you!)

  4. Re your column today on Sojourner Truth: did you know that at the turning point in her life, she was tried for murder? She had fallen into cahoots with a religious cult leader who called himself Mathias. It was said she was one of his wives. Matthias’s cult was funded by a man named Pierson. Pierson was murdered.

    When I was director of the Westchester Co. Historical Society, Princeton historian Nell Painter contacted me because she was writing a biography of Sojourner Truth and wondered if we had the transcript of the trial. We did not but she came and used what research info we had. Then many months later, a county staff person came to me and said “The County Courthouse just gave us an old filing cabinet they found in a closet. And it is in the transcript of the trial.” Nell came up immediately. Alas, the transcript did not shed much light on the situation.

    But do read Nell’s fine biography of Sojourner Truth. Nell also wrote an awesome book titled The History Of White People. She really gets at the heart of how we came to distinguish races.

    1. Yes, thanks for the note, Karolyn. Truth was an amazing human being. I read Painter’s book and The Narrative before writing the article. Very good. Truth will be among the “Most Dangerous Women” I’ll be teaching in my course this fall alongside Mott, Stanton, Wright and Fuller. All the best.

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