Barbara Ehrenreich describes herself as a “hard-line atheist,” the kind of no-nonsense rationalist who has a perpetual bone to pick with the very notion of ineffability. Yet to the surprise of many (not least herself), the muckraking author has turned her eyes heavenward. In her new memoir Living with a Wild God, Ehrenreich takes stock of her varied life in order to account for the one piece that doesn’t fit: a series of evidently mystical experiences she had in her youth.
In her past work, Ehrenreich has given religion short shrift. Christianity seems to earn special disdain in the famous Nickel and Dimed, an important undercover journalistic take on low-income labor and the precarious lives of the working poor. In Dimed, Ehrenreich visits a Christian tent revival only to muse that “Jesus makes his appearance here only as a corpse; the living man, the wine-guzzling vagrant and precocious socialist, is never once mentioned. . . . [It] may be that the true business of modern Christianity is to crucify him again and again so that he can never get a word out of his mouth.”