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.
July 24 - Power on Odd Rituals and Signaling.
Featured Episodes
Date: July 24th, 2016

Why would anyone walk across hot coals, pierce themselves with sharp objects, or engage in other costly sacrifices when their resources are meager? Using data collected from two years of fieldwork in India, Dr. Eleanor Power of the Santa Fe Institute explains how individuals signal their credibility, trustworthiness, and helpfulness in their communities via these public rituals. Elly also explains how this ritualistic behavior is perceived by others in the community and how it connects various individuals. Along the way, we also talk about possession, not in terms of ownership but wherein your body is taken over by demons or gods.

Drop us a note if you have interesting topics or people that you think would make for a great discussion!

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Date: July 17th, 2016

In this encore presentation from 2012, Prof. Sung Joon Jang discusses his recent study on Eagle Scouts and the Boy Scouts of America, conducted by the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion with Byron Johnson and Young Il-Kim. The report focused on the effect that Scouting has on developing the behavior and character of young men, particularly those who earned the rank of Eagle Scout. Prof. Jang details a list of pro-social behaviors that are associated with Eagle Scouts well into their adulthood and compares these traits with individuals who were in Scouting but never obtained Eagle and the general population. The results are fascinating and contain a few surprises.

We will return next week with a brand new episode. Please stay tuned and tell a friend.

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Date: July 10th, 2016

In 19th century America, Jews disproportionately filled an important role in the US economy as peddlers and merchants who brought supplies to settlers in the westward expansion. Prof. Colleen Haight of SJSU explains the logic behind this phenomenon and links it to the economics of religion and the role that religious distinctiveness played in solving reputational problems. She also addresses the matter of hostility towards Jews and how this factored in to their chosen profession. This is an encore presentation from the autumn of 2014.

We will return on July 24th with new episodes. In the meantime, search our archives!

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Date: July 3rd, 2016

As a number of religious accommodation cases are winding their way through the U.S. court system, we invite Prof. Mark David Hall (George Fox University) to discuss the history of religious exemptions in American history. In addition to whether or not a florist or baker should be exempted from providing services to same-sex weddings based on religious beliefs, we also examine rights of conscience accommodations granted to religious groups for military service, the swearing of oaths, mandatory school attendance, and vaccinations. Prof. Hall explains how “Americans at their best” have accommodated religious views since colonial days and speculates on what the future holds.

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Date: June 26th, 2016

Can a for-profit business that is inspired by one’s religious faith act as an effective charity? While many folks think that most charities need to be “non-profit,” Sozo Friends, created and operated by our guest Martin Barrett, introduces a new model that teams with restaurants, auto dealers, and mortgage companies to use wine, coffee, and chocolate to help a wide variety of faith-based organizations. We discuss Mr. Barrett’s history (including his time in Young Life) and how he used his love of wine and Jesus to help orphans, at-risk youth, and victims of sex trafficking.

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Date: June 19th, 2016

What did Adam Smith have to say on the effects of religious pluralism in a nation? And can what Smith hypothesized be tested today to see if it bears out? And what does this have to do with The Simpsons? Prof. Joshua Hall of West Virginia University explains a recent study he conducted that shows countries with higher levels of religious diversity have less regulated religious markets, just as Smith would predict. We also think about endogeneity and other fancy words, culminating in the economics of The Simpsons, which is not related to the main topic, but which is really cool nonetheless.

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Date: June 12th, 2016

Is it rational to believe in God? Is it rational to believe in Christianity? These were the some of the questions raised by Blaise Pascal in the 17th century that Prof. Michael Rota of St. Thomas University takes up in a re-examination of Pascal’s famous wager. He discusses Pascal’s life, the nature of the wager itself, and then updates it with his own insights, finishing off with a discussion of the probability that God exists.

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Date: June 5th, 2016

Can a committed Christian also be a good liberal? We invite Prof. Kyle Swan, a philosopher at Sacramento State, to share his thoughts on the topic. We discuss the general concept of liberalism, not in the sense of its use in current US politics, but rather from the perspective of the term as it originated in the Enlightenment with an emphasis on liberty and the “right to be left alone.”

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Date: May 29th, 2016

Prof. Matthew Moore explores the interesting (and limited) political theory embedded in Buddhist thought and compares it with some Western political thinkers including Friedrich Nietzsche and John Howard Yoder. We discuss the concept of “the self,” and how the notion of limited citizenship plays out in the polity for Buddhist thinkers. We even discuss whether or not robots should meditate at the end of our interview.

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Date: May 22nd, 2016

While many parishioners often look to their pastor for emotional and spiritual support, it is not often that we think that members of the clergy need such psychological assistance as well. Nonetheless, the demands of the ministry can be highly demanding and their unique professional role may often lead to isolation from important social support networks. Profs. Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell (Duke) and Chris Adams (Azusa Pacific) discuss the results of a recent study on the mental health of ministers within the United Methodist Church. The focus is not only on trying to address negative mental health outcomes, but ways in which positive mental health predictors can be encouraged. We also talk about how one counselor (Dr. Adams) has put this research to use in his own role as a counselor to seminarians and missionaries.

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