Jennifer Michael Hecht's Headshot

Jennifer Michael Hecht

Atheist & Humanist, Author, Philosopher - Panelist Blurb

Jennifer Michael Hecht is a poet, historian, and commentator. She is the author of the bestseller Doubt: A History, a history of religious and philosophical doubt all over the world, throughout history. Her newest book is Stay: A History of Suicide and the Arguments Against It (Yale University Press, 2013). Her The Happiness Myth (HarperOne, 2007), brings a historical eye to modern wisdom about how to lead a good life. ​Hecht’s The End of the Soul: Scientific Modernity, Atheism, and Anthropology won Phi Beta Kappa’s 2004 Ralph Waldo Emerson Award “For scholarly studies that contribute significantly to interpretations of the intellectual and cultural condition of humanity.”  Her books have been translated into many languages. She is now writing, The Wonder Paradox (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a guide to using poetry to find meaning, invoke awe, and rest in some clarity of mind.

Hecht calls herself a Jewish Atheist, and has been an outspoken member of the secular community since 2003, accepting the label "atheist" somewhat reluctantly. "Initially after writing my book Doubt, I avoided the atheist label, saying only that I did not believe in God. After some reflection, I realized I needed to defend what I truly believe. I now call myself an 'atheist,' and proudly."

Publisher’s Weekly called her poetry book, Funny, “One of the most original and entertaining books of the year.”  Her first book of poetry, The Next Ancient World, won three national awards, including the Poetry Society of America’s First Book award for 2001. Her most recent poetry book is Who Said (Copper Canyon, 2013). Hecht has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Politico, Vox, Poetry, and The New Yorker. She holds a Ph.D. in the history of science/European cultural history from Columbia University (1995) and has taught in the MFA program at Columbia University and the New School in New York City.

Hecht has also published in peer-reviewed journals, including;The Journal of the History of IdeasIsis: Journal of the History of Science Society, French Historical Studies, The Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, and has delivered lectures at Harvard, Yale, MIT, Cal Tech, Columbia University as well as The Zen Mountain Monastery, Temple Israel, Saint Bart’s Episcopal Church, and other institutions of learning and introspection. Hecht has been featured on many radio programs, including On Being with Krista TippetLeonard Lopate Show, the BBC, Speaking of FaithTalk of the Nation, and Brian Lehrer. In 2010 Hecht served as one of the five nonfiction judges for the National Book Award. She is a member of the New York Institute for the Humanities. She has appeared on Hardball on MSNBC, the Discovery Channel, and The Morning Show. She lectures widely.