Contributor Bios

Heather Abraham

Heather is the founder and editor of Religion Nerd Magazine.  She graduated magna cum laude from Georgia State in 2007 with a BA in Religious Studies and earned a MA in Religious Studies in 2009.  Heather’s interests lie in various areas of religious studies including: new religious movements, Marian phenomena, women & religion, Islam, and interfaith dialogue.  In writing her master’s thesis, Heather traveled to Turkey to conduct ethnographic research with the interfaith pilgrims (Christian and Muslim) who journey to Our Lady of Ephesus.  Heather’s thesis, The Shrine of our Lady of Ephesus: A Study of the Personas of Mary as Lived Religion can be accessed at:  (

Kenny Smith

After a long residence at Georgia State University in Atlanta, where he earned BAs in Literature (1994) and Philosophy (1996), MAs in Philosophy (1999) and Religious Studies (2010), and served as a Visiting Instructor of Religious Studies and Philosophy from 1999-2002, and 2003-2006, Kenny (finally) began a Ph.D. program in American Religious Cultures at Emory University in the Fall of 2010. In August 2008, he published the results of four-year ethnographic study of a large Wiccan coven in the metro-Atlanta area in Nova Religio. He has written pieces for Religion Dispatches, and contributes regularly to Religion Nerd. He hopes to complete the Ph.D. and get on to good job before mandatory retirement kicks in.

Lauren Cooper

Lauren Cooper bio photoLauren Cooper is a contributing editor and GSU intern at Religion Nerd as well as a senior at Georgia State University working toward B.A.s in English and Religious Studies. She plans to attend graduate school in the Fall of 2014 for Religious Studies where she will focus on new religious movements in America. Her primary area of interest is religious movements that arise from elements of popular culture. On the side, Lauren writes short stories. Her first short story “Zealotry” was published in the Underground Literary Journal at GSU in Spring 2013.

Christa Lasher

Christa Lasher has earned a BA in Religious Studies at Georgia State University (2008) and will be completing an MA in Religious Studies at Georgia State University in May, 2010.  Her main interests include Religion and Law, Religion in America, New Religious Movements, and Theories and Methods of Religious Studies.  Earlier this year, she presented on a panel at SECSOR’s annual conference on Gary Laderman’s Sacred Matters.  She intends to start a joint Ph.D./J.D. program in the fall of 2011.

Scott Grubman

Scott Grubman earned a BA in Political Science and Religious Studies from  Georgia State University in 2005, and a J.D. from the University of Georgia  School of Law in 2008.  At Georgia State, Scott published an honors thesis  entitled Isaac and Ishmael: A Comparative Study.  Since graduating from law  school, he has published several articles in various legal journals.  He has  served as a federal judicial law clerk, and as an attorney with the U.S.  Department of Justice — first as a trial attorney in the Civil Division in  Washington, D.C., and currently as an Assistant United States Attorney in Savannah, Ga.

J.F. Sullivan

J.F. Sullivan worked as a Director in Marketing and Advertising from Politics to Higher Education before returning to higher education to pursue a PhD in Religious Studies. He will complete his MA at Georgia State University in May, 2011 and intends to move on to a doctoral program in Fall 2011. His primary interests are in the Medieval Mediterranean, Islam, and Art History, but his previous experience in politics and the media continue to draw his attention and commentary.

John most recently presented a paper on Religion and the Modern Conception of “Art” at SECSOR’s annual conference and has previously written on religion, politics and the media for several blogs which have appeared on Raw Story and

Kate Daley-Bailey 

Kate has a BA (2000) and MA (2004) in Religion from the University of Georgia.  She has taught as a visiting instructor at both the University of Georgia (2001-2007) and Georgia State University (2008-2010).  Her primary areas of study are Religion and Literature, Religion and Popular Culture, and American Religious History.

In 2007, Kate co-authored a chapter titled Ernest Gaines’ A Lesson Before Dying: Freedom in Confined Spaces with Dr. Carolyn Jones Medine, a professor at the University of Georgia. This past March, she presented her work on the evolution of the literary vampire at SECSOR’s annual conference.

Hannah Spadafora

Hannah Spadafora has completed the requirements for a BA in Religious Studies with a minor of English at Georgia State University, and will have finished up with a second BA in Philosophy by her expected graduation date in Summer 2011. Her significant areas of interests include Religion and the Modern Day, Religion’s Role in Media, Pop Culture and Literature, and Theories and Methods of Religious Studies. She intends, over the next couple of years, to gain further publishing of both scholarly and literary works, and to enter into a Masters Program focused in the social sciences.

Ashley Gnat

Ashley graduated magna cum laude from Emory University in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Religion.  She is currently in the process of earning her masters degree in religious studies from Georgia State University.  Her interests lie in the religious landscape of China.  Recently, she has been focusing on the Cultural Revolution and is attempting to make it more intelligible as a religious phenomenon.

Louis A. Ruprecht, Jr.

Louis A. Ruprecht, Jr. holds the William M. Suttles Chair in Religious Studies at Georgia State University.  He is an affiliate faculty member with the Hellenic Studies Center, is a research fellow of the Vatican Library Secret Archives, and regular contributor to Religion Dispatches.  Lou earned his MA in Theology and Ethics at Duke University and his PhD, Graduate Division of Religion, from Emory University.  He is the author of six books including Was Greek Thought Religious, God Gardened East, and This Tragic Gospel: How John Corrupted the heart of Christianity.  His current book projects are A Shrine to the Muses: The Modern Public Art Museum, Spiritual Space for an Irreligious Age and Winckelmann’s Secret History: the Birth of Art History and the Vatican’s First Profane Museum.