Piet Levy

Piet Levy is a writer living in Chicago.

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Man Behind ‘Near-Death Experience’ Ponders the Afterlife

by Piet Levy 04-12-2012
Photo by isifa/Getty Images

Raymond Moody poses for a portrait on September 2, 2010 in Prague. Photo by isifa/Getty Images

Raymond Moody has spent nearly 40 years looking forward, trying to understand what happens when people die. That pursuit led to the publication of "Life After Life" in 1975, a seminal collection that actually coined the term "near-death experience."

But in his new memoir, "Paranormal: My Life in Pursuit of the Afterlife," the 67-year-old Moody instead looks back, reflecting on his fascination with death, the effect of his life's work, and trying to figure out what it's all meant.

One key revelation: despite his frustrations with some religious and New Age interpretations of his work, and the fact that he does not practice a religion, the psychologist and philosopher who grew up the son of an agnostic surgeon says he has "woken up to God."

Why is it So Hard to Do Religion in Prime Time?

by Piet Levy 03-14-2012
Photo by Karen Neal/ABC via Getty Images

Still from upcoming 'GCB' episode. Photo by Karen Neal/ABC via Getty Images

Many TV network executives, advertisers and producers would sell their souls to get the kind of audience God has. But giving religion a starring role in prime time? Not so much.

Religion, God and spirituality have made cameos across the dial from "The Sopranos" to "The Simpsons" -- though usually as a prop or walk-on role. But shows where religion is a central part of the premise are rare, and the ratings are generally far from heavenly.

Short of touchy-feely shows like "Touched By an Angel" or "Highway to Heaven," why is religion so radioactive in Hollywood?

This month, cable network TLC canceled "All-American Muslim" after only about 700,000 viewers watched the season finale of the reality show featuring Muslims in Dearborn, Mich.

Meanwhile, ABC's saucy new drama "GCB" -- think "Desperate Housewives" in choir robes -- that's based on Kim Gatlin's novel "Good Christian Bitches" has been panned by critics and called "anti-Christian" by Newt Gingrich. The "GCB" premiere on March 4 lost the coveted 18-49 demographic, but climbed back during its sophomore episode.

On Ash Wednesday, Episcopalians Take it to the Streets

by Piet Levy 02-22-2012
People on the Street. Photo by Jon Candy/Wylio. (http://www.wylio.com/credits/Fl

People on the Street. Photo by Jon Candy/Wylio. (http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/5204148454)

Five years ago, the Rev. Teresa K.M. Danieley had an epiphany of sorts. If people can grab breakfast on the go or pay a bill from their cell phone, she thought, why shouldn't they be able to get their ashes in a flash?

That's why, on Ash Wednesday 2007, Danieley planted herself in full priestly regalia at a busy intersection in St. Louis, smudging the sign of the cross on the foreheads of bicyclists, drivers and bus passengers.

This year, at least 49 Episcopal parishes across 12 states will offer ashes to passersby at train stations, bus stops and college campuses on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 22) as Danieley's "Ashes to Go" concept spreads nationwide.