Thank you for listening to Research on Religion.
Your host, Tony Gill, is a professor of political science at the University of Washington and author of The Political Origins of Religious Liberty, and Rendering Unto Caesar: The Catholic Church and the State in Latin America. He is also a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion.
Our goal for this podcast series is to make scholarly research on religion interesting, relevant and accessible to a broad audience. We intend this audience to include other scholars, clergy members and any one else who has an interest in religion. The conversational format of our podcast is designed to facilitate a jargon-free discussion of major topics within the social scientific study of religion.
In addition to featuring academic research, we are also committed to highlighting the insights of individuals who are involved in the day-to-day operation of religious organizations, people we call “practitioners.” This may include members of the clergy, government officials, legal professionals or those who operate religious charities. We believe it is important to hear from the people who are often the subject of our research, as they often have valuable insights that serve to check our own scholarly research and/or which motivate new paths of study.
This is not a podcast series on theology; there are a vast number of websites on the internet that deal with theological issues. Instead, our focus is on the social scientific study of religion. We seek to understand how religion, religious institutions and spiritual individuals operate in the temporal world. For example, the topics we examine include (but are not limited to):
how churches are organized and financed;
why some religious denominations are expanding while others are contracting;
how spiritual belief and practice affect social issues such as crime, health and philanthropy;
the intersection of religion & politics and church & state;
events in religious history (e.g., The Reformation, the Crusades).
This is by no means an exhaustive list and our topics will undoubtedly expand over time. We welcome your suggestions for possible points of discussion and/or featured guests.
It should be noted that although we are a program devoted to the social scientific study of religion, our desire is not to denigrate religious institutions or people of faith. Many, though not all, of the guests on the program are religious believers themselves. The host of this show is a practicing Christian himself,* and we are hosted by a religious institution – Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR). Our main requirement is that our guests take the topic of religion seriously, even though they may be critical of certain organizations, practices or beliefs. We hope all discussions, including comments from listeners, are conducted in a civil and respectful manner.
This podcast began as the brainstorm of the host Tony Gill in the fall of 2009. He had become a regular listener and huge fan of EconTalk, a podcast series devoted to explaining economics. A search of the internet revealed that no such program existed for the social scientific study of religion, Prof. Gill’s main field of research. Wondering is such a program would be of interest to anybody, he approached several individuals with the idea of creating a podcast series and was warmly embraced by ISR, where he as a non-resident scholar. Over the course of the next several months, the wheels were put in motion to purchase equipment, line up guests and build a site that would host this program. You are now looking at the results and we hope you enjoy what we have to offer.
If you find our program enlightening and entertaining, we invite you to be our evangelists and help spread the word. Tell your friends, family members and all the folks you know at your local synagogue, church, mosque or temple. Thanks!
All opinions expressed on Research on Religion reflect those of the individual commenters, and do not necessarily represent the views or positions of Baylor University or the Institute for Studies of Religion.
There are a number of people who deserve special thanks for making this series a reality.
Byron Johnson and Rod Stark, co-founders and co-directors of Baylor’s ISR, enthusiastically agreed to help host this endeavor and provide the necessary resources to make it a reality.
Neil Luft at Internet Imagineering LLC created the website and provided a great deal of technical assistance.
Cameron Andrews and Frances Malone provide incredibly efficient administrative support for the show.
Russ Roberts, host of EconTalk and a professor of economics at George Mason University, graciously agreed to give advice on how to do a podcast. His program was the inspiration for all that goes on here.
Pastor Ryan of Redemption Church helped instruct Tony in some basic audio skills.
The theme music is “Bright Sky” by Alex de Grassi from the CD Windham Hill Sampler ’94 (courtesy of Sony Music). This song may also be found on Pure Alex de Grassi (RCA).
And, of course, we offer a big thanks to all of our guests and those of you who listen on a regular basis.
* While Tony is a practicing Christian, his pastor thinks he needs a lot more practice … and Tony agrees.