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.
Sep. 25 - Paul Froese Explains the Meaning of Life.
Featured Episodes
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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Date: September 18th, 2016

What do public school teachers think about the ability to exercise religious expression in the classroom? Prof. Laura Olson of Clemson University discusses her study on the attitudes teachers have towards the free exercise clause in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Dr. Olson contextualizes this issue in recent Supreme Court cases and the a decision by a public employee in Kentucky to refuse issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. We also discuss religious voting trends in light of the upcoming 2016 presidential election.

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Date: September 11th, 2016

While many scholars have focused on religious motivations for war and conflict, few have looked at how day-to-day rituals affect combat operations on the battlefield. That is, until now. Prof. Ron Hassner (UC-Berkeley) returns for his third visit to the show to discuss his new book “Religion on the Battlefield.” We learn about how sacred space, sacred time, and seemingly mundane religious practices can play a role in motivating, provoking, inhibiting, and exploiting various actions during wartime. We also talk about the role of military chaplains.

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Date: September 4th, 2016

So, you are lying in an emergency room and the doctor tells you that he is going to restart your heart in two minutes, and it should work but things could still go wrong. What goes through your mind? A motorcycle road trip through the western United States, of course! At least that is what Michael Boone thought of, and then made it reality, picking up on a religious theme of 40 days in the wilderness and learning about letting go, listening closely, and learning what Sabbath really means. He shares his inspiring insights about what became a “journey of the heart” in more ways than one.

Know somebody who might be inspired by this story? Send them an email with the link, or share it on Facebook!

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Date: August 28th, 2016

What is sharia law? And how are governments working them into their constitutions in contemporary Muslim societies? Prof. Clark Lombardi (University of Washington Law School) tackles these questions and several more in an informative discussion of the history and contemporary application of sharia law. He contrasts and compares canon and common law with sharia and has reflections on how this all affects good governance.

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Date: August 21st, 2016

Irish immigration during the 1840s and afterwards had an important effect on the cultural, economic, and political history of the United States. Prof. Maureen Fitzgerald (College of William & Marry) discusses how Irish nuns worked with poor immigrants and the effect they had on transforming New York’s welfare system over the course of the 19th and early 20th century. This seldom told story illuminates the important role women religious played in advocating for women, children, and families during a period of rapid change in American society.

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Date: August 14th, 2016

Is your congregation prepared to help out the community during a natural disaster? Prof. Jamie Aten of Wheaton College and the Humanitarian Disaster Institute discusses why religious congregations are well-suited to provide relief to individuals beset by large-scale tragedies. We discuss how churches offer both short-term and long-term assistance, and why it is important for congregational leaders to know what their ministry and members do well and build a plan around that. This is a great episode for sociologists to understand the importance of religious organizations in civil society AND a conversation that gives practical advice for those folks in the pews who want to help out.

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Date: August 7th, 2016

We celebrate our 300th episode by going back in time to look at how industrialization and globalization affected the Islamic religious landscape of Bombay, India, and what effect those changes had on a larger geography and period of time. Prof. Nile Green, a historian at UCLA, joins us to take us on this interesting journey. Instead of seeing modernization leading to a standardized and “Protestant” form of Islamic faith (as Max Weber might predict), Nile argues that the laissez faire approach of the British towards non-Christian religions combined with Christian missionaries resulted in numerous forms of Islam, from “reformist” to “customary.” He notes how this “religious economies” approach also explains the expansion of Islam into places such as Japan and the United States.

Celebrate our 300th episode by browsing our archives and sharing your discoveries with a friend!

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Date: July 31st, 2016

America has become less religious in recent years. To explore this phenomenon, both in its present form and situated historically, we invite Prof. Joseph O. Baker of Eastern Tennessee State University to talk about the history and contemporary dimensions of American secularism(s). He notes that secularism does not necessarily mean atheism, but includes an array of different categories. We also discuss some of the reasons for the recent increase in “nones,” including family structure, changing sexual norms, and political polarization.

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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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