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Monday, August 29, 2011

More on "Research on Religion"

Recently, I mentioned the weekly "Research on Religion" that is sponsored by the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University and hosted by Anthony Gill, Professor of Political Science at the University of Washington. In that post, I provided the links to a few of the podcasts but provided few details. Here, I include links to some of those I mentioned before along with some other ones (you can also subscribe through iTunes); I've also included brief descriptions (from the Research on Religion website) of the podcasts, which should provide a better sense of what they're about.
    Radical, Religious, and Violent: The New Economics of Terrorism
  • Eli Berman on Religious TerrorismProf. Eli Berman, professor of economics at UC-San Diego and Research Director of International Security Studies at the University of California’s Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, discusses his new book Radical, Religious, and Violent: The New Economics of Terrorism. Contrary to popular notions that suicide bombers are pyschologically-distressed or economically-disadvantagted individuals, Prof. Berman discusses how radical religious groups are rational in their selection of tactics. Using Laurence Iannaccone’s theory of strict religious clubs, Berman argues that radical religious groups excel at providing social services to their members, while simultaneously filtering out “free riders.” Here we discuss the case of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel as well as the Amish. We then discuss how successful insurgency operations require that groups limit membership defection, since a defector could easily compromise the secrecy of an entire organization. Adherence to strict religious requirements (e.g., intensive religious training, dietary restrictions, distinct clothing) provides behavioral signals about the loyalty of an individual to a group, making radical religious sects an ideal recruiting ground for rebels. We do not discuss the particular grievances of various terrorist organizations; rather the discussion focuses on the organizational aspects of terrorism and insurgency. 
    The Price of Freedom Denied: Religious Persecution and Conflict in the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge Studies in Social Theory, Religion and Politics)
  • Roger Finke on Religious Persecution: Roger Finke — professor of sociology and religious studies at Penn State University and director of The Association of Religion Data Archives — takes us on a journey around the globe to discover how and why religious persecution arises in some nations but not others. Based on his book The Price of Freedom Denied (co-authored with Brian Grim), Prof. Finke makes the argument that religious liberty is a vital component of all civil liberties in society. He makes the case that small violations of religious freedom (often in the form of seemingly innocuous regulations) can open the door to an erosion of other freedoms and invite various forms of religious persecution. We detail some of these regulations focusing on the importance of registration requirements for religious groups. Also, Roger challenges an interpretation of Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” theses, claiming that it is not the presence of two different religious cultures within a nation that automatically gives rise to conflict, but rather the various laws that regulate different faith traditions that sets the table for whether or not conflict (and persecution) will arise. We pepper our discussion with examples from France, Russia, China, Japan, Iran, Nigeria and the United States. 
    The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity
  • Philip Jenkins on Global ChristianityIn a conversation that covers two millenia of Christian history and every region of the world, noted historian Philip Jenkins – the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of the Humanities at the Pennsylvania State University and Distinguished Senior Fellow at Baylor University’s Institute for Study of Religion — talks about the ever-changing nature of Christianity. Our discussion begins with a reminder that a strong understanding of history is essential for understanding the contemporary religious world. Contrary to the popular notion that Christianity is a European faith, Jenkins reveals that this religious tradition had an extensive geographic reach through its inception up until the 13th century. The podcast then turns attention to how Christianity has been growing and changing in the “global South,” which includes Africa, Asia and Latin America. We see how Pentecostal and charismatic forms of Christianity tend to predominate in these regions and discuss how Christians on these continents view The Bible. We end our discussion with some speculation on how religion in the “global South” may be influencing Christian beliefs and practices in Europe and North America.
    More God, Less Crime: Why Faith Matters and How It Could Matter More
  • Byron Johnson on More God, Less Crime: How effective are religious-based rehabilitation programs in reducing recidivism among released prisoners?  We invite Prof. Byron Johnson, co-founder and director of Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion and author of More God, Less Crime, to discuss his comprehensive research into this issue. We begin with a review of how church-state partnerships have helped to reduce juvenile delinquency in places such as Boston and Philadelphia, and then turn out attention to general theories of whether incarcerated individuals can be rehabilitated or not. Based on numerous studies, including his own, Byron takes a firm stance in favor of rehabilitation and argues forcefully for faith-based educational programs in jail. We then talk about Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship and devote a significant amount of time to examining the InnerChange Freedom Initiative (IFI) sponsored by the Prison Fellowship in a Houston-area penitentary. Byron reviews how inmates are accepted into the program, what the IFI entails, and reveals that graduates of this program show a remarkable decrease in recidivism rates. We address the methodological skeptics by talking about some of the limitations of the study and Byron makes a good case that participants in this program are, if anything, the least likely to show any progress yet the IFI program does yield an insipiring success rate. The last part of our interview focuses on the critical need for “aftercare” — i.e., developing church-based mentoring programs for paroled or released convicts. While most of the energy in prison ministries is devoted to what goes on inside the jail walls, the long-term success of these programs requires extensive follow up when former prisoners are released into environments that can often tempt them back into old habits. We also discuss the opportunity for greater partnerships between religious organizations and local, state, and federal agencies that are cost-effective and an attractive alternative to purely government-based.
    God's Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics
  • Daniel Philpott on Religious Resurgence & Democratization: Is the global resurgence in public religiosity over the past 40 years linked in any way to the increase in democratic governance over the same period of time? Prof. Dan Philpott (Notre Dame) covers the historical trends of church-state relations and discusses how changes in political theologies and the increasing independence of religious organizations have provided a fertile ground for political democratization in some corners of the world. We examine how and why some religious traditions have been involved in promoting democracy under authoritarian conditions. Our discussion turns toward some speculation about the future of the “Arab Spring” at the end of our interview. This is the first part of a discussion of the book “God’s Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics.”
    God's Battalions: The Case for the Crusades
  • Rodney Stark on the CrusadesWhat motivated the Crusaders to pick up arms and travel to the Holy Land? How did a group of Christian soldiers succeed in winning battle after battle even when they were significantly outnumbered? Rodney Stark, Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University and co-director of the Institute for Studies of Religion, reviews a number of contemporary myths about the Crusades and offers some new and revived explanations for what happened in the conflict between Christians and Muslims in the 12th and 13th centuries. We discuss the differences in technological innovation between the two civilizations, why the Crusaders did not focus much attention on Spain, and why the topic of the Crusades has become so salient in contemporary times. This podcast is based upon Prof. Stark’s bestselling book, God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades.
    Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites...and Other Lies You've Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media
  • Bradley R.E. Wright on Christian StereotypesBradley R.E. Wright, associate professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut, discusses his new book, Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites … and Other Lies You’ve Been Told. Is it true that evangelical Protestants have a divorce rate equal to or higher than the secular public? Are Christians really more honest than their unchurched counterparts? Are evangelicals simply poor, white Southerners who are easily led? Using data from a variety of sources, Prof. Wright challenges some commonly held myths about Protestantism in America — myths that are not only propogated by a secular media, but often perpetuated by Christian leaders themselves! We end the podcast with an observation that it may be harmful for Christian ministers to alarm the public about the decline of religion and Christianity.
Some of you may have noticed that in an earlier post I discussed Byron Johnson's finding that increased religiosity is inversely related to crime and delinquency ("More God, Less Crime").  Chances are, I'll return to some of the podcasts listed above (and their related books) in later posts. All of them offer interesting insights of which many, if not most, people are unaware.

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