Category: Religion & Psychology


Matthew Moore on Buddhism, Meditating Machines, & the Robopocalypse

Can robots meditate? And with the “near-future technology” of artificial intelligence (AI) and whole brain emulation (WBE), how are humans to wrestle with the concept of suffering? Political theorist Matthew Moore (Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo) returns to our program to discuss these issues from the spiritual framework of Buddhism. He argues that the Buddhist conception of how to deal with suffering offers a number of important insights into policy-related questions regarding if we should proceed, or how we should manage, AI and WBE. Along the way, we talk about the possibility of a Robopocalypse! A futuristic discussion that may be of “near future” relevance.

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Frank Selden on the Military, Suicide, and Faith

Frank Selden, a Seattle-area attorney and author, joins us for a very personal and impactful discussion on his service in the military, his various suicide attempts, his faith, and how religious faith has approached the topic of suicide over the years. We learn how his views towards the Iraq War changed over two tours of duties, how he emerged from a suicidal spiral, and his perspective on religious faith today.

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Chris Bader on the Paranormal

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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Paul Froese on the Meaning of Life

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.

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Michael Boone’s Spiritual 40 Day Road Trip

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.

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Jamie Aten on Religion and Disasters

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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Eleanor Power on Rituals, Community, and Signaling

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.

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Michael Rota on Pascal’s Wager

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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Matthew Moore on Buddhism and Political Theory

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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Proeschold-Bell and Adams on Clergy Mental Health

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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