My Favorite Podcasts — Religious and Otherwise
I love spoken-word audio. Audiobooks. Podcasts. iTunes U lectures. It all started with Jim Dale reading aloud the Harry Potter books on family road trips from Arkansas to Maine and back, first on cassette tapes and then on compact discs. Now I live in a city in southern Peru and most days I have a 30-60 minute commute, and I get to listen. We handwash our dishes and hang our clothes on the rooftop to dry, so I get to listen.
In early 2015, I started dabbling in podcasts that touched on questions of faith, the Bible, spirituality, and what it means to be human. I had already been listening to a lot of podcasts at that point, but they were almost exclusively tech podcasts. A year in on my little project I wrote about my favorite religious podcasts. At that point, the Smart Speed feature on my favorite podcast listening app, Overcast, had saved me 35 hours of listening time. It has now saved me 143 hours. Did I mention I love spoken-word audio?
I’m still going strong with Newsworthy with Norsworthy, the Liturgists, and Nomad, though I’ve tinkered with my podcast app so that The Bible for Normal People, Rob Bell’s podcast, and the Bible Project now play before the other three.
That’s right, I now listen to Rob Bell’s podcast and I really like it. His updates on his book tour and speaking appearances can be a bit laborious at the beginning of every episode, but it’s a free podcast and his platform is how he makes his living so I respect the self-promotion. The actual content of the episodes is phenomenal and accessible. And, as was the case two years ago, his interview episodes are incredible (e.g. this one where he interviews Pete Holmes about his HBO show Crashing or this one where he interviews Krista Tippett). I still can‘t bring myself to say “the RobCast” though.
The Bible Project is a non-profit that creates videos and podcasts to explore biblical themes and the literary structure of the Bible. Their mission is to show that “the Bible is a unified narrative that leads to Jesus and has profound wisdom for the modern world.” Even though the YouTube channel their main product, I haven’t watched many of their videos. Instead, I listen to the podcast, where they might spend three or four or five episodes talking through what will eventually become a 5-minute video. The creators, Tim Mackie and Jon Collins, are fun and easy to listen to and have a great dynamic. My good friend Jake Blair has used their video series quite a bit here in Arequipa and turned me onto their podcast.
The Bible for Normal People is just a few months old but has quickly become a favorite. Pete Enns and Jared Byas interview brilliant guests and try to make their scholarship and experience accessible to a broader audience. I’ve enjoyed every one of the first eleven episodes, though some episodes may not pass the “Bible for normal people” test.
I’ll link to some favorite episodes from these three new (to me) podcasts soon.
My favorite tech and Apple-focused podcasts are still The Talk Show and Accidental Tech Podcast. I also listened through the entire backlog of Hello Internet and am now current with it. I love On Being with Krista Tippett (though I can’t stay subscribed because the current feed publishes both the main interview and an unedited version of the same interview, so I just pick the episodes I want to listen to when I run out of other things I want to listen to). I occasionally listen to an episode of You Made it Weird with Pete Holmes. He’s a tremendous interviewer, has amazing guests (I don’t know half of them, but they’re famous, so you probably know them), and the backlog is an endless archive of hilarious and fascinating conversations. And I’ve found Personality Hacker to be fun and enlightening (thanks to Michael Daniel for the recommendation).
Here’s a screenshot of my primary playlist in Overcast, organized by priority (that means that as new episodes are published from any of these podcasts, the playlist sorts them based on my preference).
You’ll notice that my love for tech podcasts still rules, but the spiritual/religious world wins out in quantity. Then again, if we count by sheer runtime, The Talk Show might win single-handedly with episodes like this massive, 3-hour extravaganza. Have no fear—I listen to all of these at 2x speed with Smart Speed turned on, so a 3-hour episode only takes me about an hour and 20 minutes to get through. It would be impossible to listen to as much as I do at 1x, and 1x now sounds unnaturally slow.
(My thanks to Steven Hovater for challenging me to greater listening speeds. He was recently seen praising Overcast for it's new 3x speed feature. It‘s official, Steven. You‘re nuts.)