Your host, Anthony Gill, is professor of political science at the University of Washington and distinguished senior fellow at Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion.  Learn more.
Nov. 13 - Lerone Martin on Preaching on Wax.
Featured Episodes
Date: November 28th, 2016

The notion of “the umma” — the community of Islamic believers — is often thought to be at odds with modern (post-Westphalian) notions of national territory. Islam, it is said, transcends the geographic boundaries of the nation-state and this may present unique problems for how societies understand and interact with one another. Prof. Matthew Derrick discusses the role of territory in history and how the umma fits into this, taking on scholars such as Samuel Huntington and Bernard Lewis who see a disjuncture between the umma and national territory. Prof. Derrick, a geographer, argues that territory is still important and often trumps transnational religious identity, or is at least a concept that cannot be discarded so easily.

We will return shortly with some new episodes.

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Date: November 20th, 2016

While Tony takes a break for the Thanksgiving holiday, we offer you an encore presentation about the Pilgrims. Thomas Kidd (Baylor University) enlightens us about the history of the Pilgrims, tracing their roots in 16th century England to The Netherlands and eventually to the Plymouth Colony in what is now today Massachusetts. Prof. Kidd discusses the differences the Pilgrims had with the Church of England and their Puritan brethren. We also explore why the king of England would allow a group of his critics to settle land in North America, the hardships that this group of religious refugees faced in their first years in the wilderness, and the imprint the Pilgrims left on U.S. history.

A great podcast for high school educators and homeschoolers, as well as a nice refresher course for those of us who think we remember our American colonial history. Plus, you get to hear your host recite poetry!

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Date: November 13th, 2016

Beginning in 1925, Columbia Records and a number of other independent record labels began to record and distribute the sermons of African American preachers. These recordings became enormously popular and represented a “folk worship” stream of African American religiosity in the first half of the 20th century. Dr. Lerone Martin (Danforth Center, Washington University) explains the origins of this phenomenon that lasted for several decades, as well as the dynamics and lasting impact of “phonograph religion.” We include three clips from popular preachers in our interview, and more can be found on by clicking “read more” below.

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Date: November 6th, 2016

While the United States, until perhaps recently, has always been presented culturally as a Christian nation, atheists and other non-believers have always existed. Prof. Leigh Schmidt (Washington University) discusses how a “village atheist” movement emerged in the 19th century, what it looked like, and what implications it had on the American religious landscape. We learn about a number of colorful characters such as Samuel Porter Putnam, Watson Heston, and Elmina Drake Slenker.

Invite your friends to check out our podcast. We have over 300 episodes in our archives.

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Date: October 30th, 2016

Who believes in the paranormal and why? Prof. Chris Bader returns to our podcast to discuss an updated version of his book “Paranormal America” (co-authored with Joseph Baker and Carson Mencken). This conversation is filled with ghost stories and UFO abductees and may sound a bit preposterous, but the lessons to be drawn from individuals who believe in the paranormal should be taken very seriously. Chris explains the social scientific importance of studying the paranormal.

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Date: October 23rd, 2016

The walking undead have swept popular culture in the form of books, movies, and comics in recent decades. Prof. Roger Luckhurst (University of London) discusses the origins of the zombi(e) narrative and how it has developed over time, examining how the cultural and socio-political context of the time drove how we looked at the “unhuman other” and how we envisioned ourselves. We encounter a number of very interesting literary characters along the way and discuss why movies such as “Dawn of the Dead,” “28 Days Later,” and “Warm Bodies” played important roles in rethinking what it means to be dead, yet not dead.

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Date: October 16th, 2016

Encore Presentation: Dr. Frank Newport, the Editor-in-Chief at Gallup, discusses the process of public opinion research and what it tells us about America’s changing religious landscape. We spend a significant amount of time discussing how polls are conducted, what their limitations are, and how survey companies like Gallup try to overcome these problems. This is a fantastic primer for those who are unfamiliar with survey research. We spend the second half of the interview discussing Dr. Newport’s book, “God Is Alive & Well,” which argues that America is still a vibrantly spiritual nation.

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Date: October 9th, 2016

Paul was a central figure in the progress of early Christianity. Looking back at his writings with 21st century eyes and sensibilities, we often see an individual who was arrogant, gruff, misogynistic, and even racist. Prof. Brandon O’Brien puts Apostle Paul into context for us and discusses his book “Paul Behaving Badly” (co-authored with E. Randolph Richards). We learn about Paul’s history, his cultural context, how he could have written letters while imprisoned in Rome, and whether or not we should pay any heed to what he said back then for our lives today.

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Date: October 2nd, 2016

Sociologists have long noted, and perplexed by, the long-term trend in interpersonal violence in industrializing nations, a pattern that dates back several centuries. William Reimer, author of “Revisiting Toronto the Good,” explains how the spread of religious ideas and themes in the late 19th century helped to mitigate murder rates in this Canadian “city of churches.” We discuss the rise of British Evangelical Protestantism, its influence on proper manliness and prison reform, and how it became infused in the political fabric of the city in the late 1800s.

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Date: September 25th, 2016

What is our purpose in life? How do we find it? While the good folks at Research on Religion would like to provide you with a definitive answer to that question, we can only offer you up a sociological analysis of how people search for meaning to their lives. Prof. Paul Froese (Baylor University) helps us with this task as he talks about his newest book, “On Purpose: How We Create the Meaning of Life.” Our journey includes everybody from Jesus to King Missile and from Tony Robbins to a pig who just doesn’t care.

If you know of somebody who might make a great guest on our show, let us know! Drop us a line on our Facebook or Twitter pages.

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