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Friday, April 27, 2012

Diversity and Stereotypes

In a recent post ("What Counts for Diversity?"), I argued that diversity of thought (e.g., theology, ideology) is one of the most important forms of diversity we should seek on boards, committees and so on because it makes them more effective and less prone to extremist views. I also noted that attaining such diversity is anything but easy as we humans tend to hang out with people like ourselves. This is known as the homophily effect and is captured by the phrase, "birds of a feather, flock together." Such clustering often cuts across class lines. As one of my friends once told me, he is more comfortable hanging out with other professionals (he is an attorney), regardless of their race or gender, than he is with what have traditionally been called "blue collar" workers, for the simple reason that he shares more in common with other professionals than he does with blue collar workers.

An unintended consequence of associating with others like ourselves is that we tend to develop stereotypes of people who are different, that is, people who run in social circles other than our own. Moreover, studies by social psychologists have found that we tend to regard those within our group as superior to those who are not. For example, we are more likely to value the opinion of an in-group member over an out-group member even if the in-group member has no idea what he or she is talking about (this is true for both liberals and conservatives, by the way). We are also more likely, especially in the political realm, to regard out-group members as either immoral, stupid or both, which is neither fair nor smart.

Thus, it seems that if we're interested in promoting a civil society, then we need to make a concerted effort of hanging out with the so-called "other." Democrats need to spend more time with Republicans, and conservatives need to spend more time with liberals. Likewise, mainline Protestants need to break bread with evangelicals, Catholics need to share the peace with Mormons, and Orthodox Jews need to spin the dreidel with Reform Jews. Interestingly, some of the worst stereotyping I have witnessed has come from people of faith discussing religious "others" within their own faith tradition (e.g., evangelicals discussing Mormons, mainline Protestants discussing evangelicals and Catholics). Many seem convinced that religious others are the devil incarnate, poised to ruin the world if given the chance.  Somehow, we need to reduce the development of such religious stereotypes (assuming, of course, that we genuinely want to do so), but how?

A mainline Protestant friend of mine suggested that one thing we (i.e., mainline Protestants) can do is that sometimes instead of sending our youth on mission trips where they will spend a week working on behalf of and with the rural or inner city poor (worthy endeavors, to be sure), we should send them to spend a week working alongside Mormons in Utah or evangelicals in Tennessee (where, of course, they can still work on behalf of and with the poor). In so doing they will discover that these religious "others" are surprisingly quite normal, hold many of the same values that we do, and aren't the demonic souls many of us make them out to be. With luck, such experiences would last a lifetime and impact how they treat and speak of others when they're adults.

Of course, that only addresses mainline Protestant youth, and some of the worst religious stereotyping I've encountered has been from adults. Perhaps, we need to go on mission trips as well. That would be interesting.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Is the Internet Closing Our Minds When it Comes to Politics?

Here's an interesting Intelligence Squared debate ("When it Comes to Politics, the Internet is Closing Our Minds"), one that addresses the issue of political polarization, and one that I coincidentally listened to just a few days after my post on diversity and how the lack thereof can lead to polarization ("What Counts for Diversity") and while I was in the midst of writing a follow-up post on diversity and stereotypes (which will be my next post). Here's a description of the debate from the Intelligence Squared website:
Does the internet poison politics? It’s been argued that the rise of “personalization,” the use of algorithms to filter what you see online, and easy access to the like-minded, have served to reinforce our pre-conceptions. Is the information bubble a myth, or is it undermining civic discourse? Is the rise of social media really broadening our world views, or narrowing them?
Prior to listening to the debate, I was unfamiliar with the debaters, but I thought they all did quite well and found many of their arguments compelling. Here's a description of those who argued on behalf of the motion:

Eli Pariser, the author of The Filter Bubble & former MoveOn.org Board President, is is the former executive director of MoveOn.org, which at five million members is one of the largest citizens' organizations in American politics, and now sits on the board. He's currently the CEO of Upworthy.com, a new site focused on spreading ideas that matter online. In his renowned book The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You, Pariser reveals how personalization undermines the Internet's original purpose as an open platform for the spread of ideas.

Siva Vaidhyanathan, is the chair of the Department of Media Studies at the University of Virginia & author of The Googlization of Everything, is a cultural historian and media scholar, Siva Vaidhyanathan is currently the Robertson Professor and the Chair of the Department of Media Studies at the University of Virginia. He also teaches at the University of Virginia School of Law. The author of The Googlization of Everything and Why We Should Worry, Vaidhyanathan is a frequent contributor to the American Scholar, The Chronicle of Higher Education, New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Slate and The Nation. Named “one of academe’s best-known scholars of intellectual property and its role in contemporary culture” by the Chronicle of Higher Education, Vaidhyanathan has testified as an expert before the U.S. Copyright Office on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

And here is a description of those who argued against it:

Evgeny Morozov is the author of The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom. Morozov is currently a visiting scholar in the Liberation Technology program at Stanford University and a Schwartz fellow at the New America Foundation. He was formerly a Yahoo! fellow at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University and a fellow at George Soros's Open Society Foundations, where he also served on the board of the Information Program. Before moving to the US, Morozov was Director of New Media at Transitions Online, a Prague-based media development NGO active in 29 countries of the former Soviet bloc. He's written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, Slate, The New Republic and other publications.

Jacob Weisberg is the Chairman & Editor-in-Chief of The Slate Group, which is a division of The Washington Post Company. A native of Chicago, he attended Yale University and New College, Oxford. From 1989 until 1994, he worked as a writer and editor at The New Republic. Between 1994 and 1996, he wrote the National Interest column forNew York Magazine. In the fall of 1996, he joined Slate as Chief Political Correspondent. He succeeded Michael Kinsley as editor of Slate in 2002. He has also been a Contributing Writer for The New York Times Magazine, a contributing editor of Vanity Fair and a reporter for Newsweek in London and Washington, and a weekly columnist for the Financial Times. In 2007, Min Magazine named him Web Editor of the Year.

As with all Intelligence Squared debates, those attending vote before and after the debate, and the winning team is decided by how many minds were changed and in what direction. As always not only can you listen to the debate at the Intelligence Squared website ("When it Comes to Politics, the Internet is Closing Our Minds"), but you can access transcripts of the debate as well. The debates can also be downloaded from iTunes.

Monday, April 23, 2012

What Counts for Diversity?

Some years ago I participated in a workshop on how to diversify non-profit boards. One participant (the executive director of a non-profit) shared that she just kept searching for qualified individuals who varied in terms of race and gender until her board was diverse. While it has been some time since I was in this workshop and my memory may be faulty, my recollection is that while this executive director was interested in racial and gender diversity, she wasn't in the least bit interested in ideological and theological diversity (it was a religious-based institution). I'm fairly certain that everyone she recruited were theological and political liberals. I don't think my experience was unique, which raises the question, "Just how diverse was this board?" In my opinion, not enough because I believe that diversity of thought is ultimately the most important form of diversity.

Why? There's a considerable amount of evidence to suggest that groups of like-mined individuals are more likely to drift toward more extreme views. This phenomenon is what former University of Chicago Law Professor Cass Sunstein ("Why Societies Need Dissent" and "Going to Extremes: How Like Minds Unite and Divide") calls the "law of group polarization." It predicts that when like-minded people deliberate as an organized group, the general opinion shifts toward extreme versions of their common belief. Thus, as the Emory University English professor Mark Bauerlein notes, “In a product-liability trial... if nine jurors believe the manufacturer is somewhat guilty and three believe it is entirely guilty, the latter will draw the former toward a larger award than the nine would allow on their own. Or, if people who object in varying degrees to the war in Iraq convene to debate methods of protest, all will emerge from the discussion more resolved against the war” ("Liberal Groupthink is Anti-Intellectual").

Mark Sageman’s study of the global salafi jihad (GSJ) uncovered similar group dynamics at work with terrorist groups ("Understanding Terror Networks"). He found that people who joined the GSJ were often homesick young men who drifted to familiar settings, like mosques, looking for companionship. There, small clusters of friends formed. They often moved into apartments together where they underwent a long period of intense social interaction. As they became closer, they progressively adopted the beliefs of the group’s most extreme members. This distanced them further from their childhood friends and family, leading to increased isolation and loyalty to the group, which in turn intensified their faith, and they were then ready to join the jihad.

As a consequence like-minded groups tend to be less "effective" than groups that are populated by people holding a wide range of opinions. This is because diversity of thought encourages group members to consider alternative points of view that challenge and sometimes change their taken-for-granted assumptions. (As you might have guessed, diversity of thought is one of the reasons why groups don't drift toward extremes.)  For instance, Brooke Harrington ("Pop Finance") found that the worst performing investment clubs (i.e., small groups of people who pool their money and make joint decisions about stock market investments) are those that are composed primarily of close friends who think alike and have little open debate. The highest performing clubs, by contrast, are characterized by looser friendships and more dissent.

Of course, boards and other groups may achieve diversity of thought by recruiting only along lines of race and gender, but there's no guarantee that they will. More likely, a little extra work will be needed. Indeed, a lot of extra work will probably be needed. As researchers have found repeatedly, we tend to hang out with people who think like we do (known as the homophily effect -- "birds of a feather, flock together"), which is probably why the executive director I mentioned earlier ended up recruiting people for her board who were very much alike one another and her. However, if true diversity is our goal and/or if we want our groups to function more effectively, then I believe that a little extra effort will be worth it.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Does Good Corporate Citizenship Pay Off?

Does good corporate citizenship pay off? Possibly. A recent study by Robert G. Eccles, Ioannis Ioannou and George Serafeim (“The Impact of a Corporate Culture of Sustainability on Corporate Behavior and Performance") found that
"there is significant variation in future accounting and stock market performance across the two groups of firms. We track corporate performance for 18 years and find that sustainable firms outperform traditional firms in terms of both stock market and accounting performance."
It is possible that the causal arrow runs the other direction, however. Companies that perform well may be more likely to be good corporate citizens, perhaps because they can afford to. In other words, struggling companies can't afford the extra costs of being good citizens. Still, I'm hoping the causal arrow runs from responsibility to bottom line. I'm sure future research will tease this relationship out in more detail.

You can read (and listen) to more about this at the latest Freakonomics podcast and companion blog post ("Is Good Corporate Citizenship Also Good for the Bottom Line?"). The podcast is rather short (5 minutes) because it was produced for a segment of the NPR news magazine "Market Place," so the blog post actually contains more information and interviews.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Is Any (Baseball) Game This Important?

I posted this story on Facebook a couple of days ago, but it's worth mentioning here. In a high school baseball game in Louisiana that went 18 innings, two pitchers accounted for 347 of the 501 pitches thrown in the game ("Two Pitchers Combine to Throw 347 Pitches in One Game"). One, Mitch Sewald (pictured at left) who has signed to play ball at LSU next year, pitched 10 innings and allowed one run on two hits, striking out 10 and throwing 154 pitches. The other, Emerson Gibbs who has signed with Tulane, pitched 15 innings and allowed one run on six hits, striking out 13 and throwing 193 pitches.

According to current research, high school pitchers shouldn't throw more than 105 pitches in a single game, but here we have two who went way beyond the recommended limit, I assume because their respective coaches wanted to win the game. But this begs the question, "Is any game so important that a coach is willing to risk the long-term health of his pitcher?" I don't think so, but evidently these coaches do.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Belief in a God Who Talks Back

A very interesting story recently aired on National Public Radio's show "Fresh Air" about a study conducted by Stanford anthropologist T.M. Luhrmann that explored how evangelicals understand prayer ("When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God"). In her study, Luhrmann examined the personal relationships people developed with God and explored how those relationships were solidified through the practice of prayer. One thing she found was that several individuals said that God had repeatedly spoken to them and that they had heard what God wanted them to do.

While the story is interesting (which can be heard and/or read here: "'When God Talks Back' to the Evangelical Community"), I couldn't help but get the feeling that Luhrmann (and her target audience) regards evangelicalism as something of a strange phenomenon in need of explanation. While this may be true for Luhrmann and perhaps "Fresh Air's" listeners, evangelicals are far more part of the mainstream than are academics such as Luhrmann. Indeed, for many, it is the academy, not evangelicalism, that is the phenomenon in need of explanation. As the sociologist Peter Berger observed back in 1996 (The National Interest, #46):

A few years ago the first volume coming out of the so-called Fundamentalism Project landed on my desk. The Fundamentalism Project was very generously funded by the MacArthur Foundation and chaired by Martin Marty, the distinguished church historian at the University of Chicago. A number of very reputable scholars took part in it, and the published results are of generally excellent quality. But my contemplation of this first volume gave me what has been called an "aha! experience." The book was very big, sitting there on my desk--a "book-weapon," the kind that could do serious injury. So I asked myself, why would the MacArthur Foundation shell out several million dollars to support an international study of religious fundamentalists?
Two answers came to mind. The first was obvious and not very interesting. The MacArthur Foundation is a very progressive outfit; it understood fundamentalists to be anti-progressive; the Project, then, was a matter of knowing one's enemies. 
But there was also a more interesting answer. "Fundamentalism" is considered a strange, hard-to-understand phenomenon; the purpose of the Project was to delve into this alien world and make it more understandable. But to whom? Who finds this world strange? Well, the answer to that question was easy: people to whom the officials of the MacArthur Foundation normally talk, such as professors at elite American universities. And with this came the aha! experience. The concern that must have led to this Project was based on an upside-down perception of the world, according to which "fundamentalism" (which, when all is said and done, usually refers to any sort of passionate religious movement) is a rare, hard-to-explain thing. But a look either at history or at the contemporary world reveals that what is rare is not the phenomenon itself but knowledge of it. The difficult-to-understand phenomenon is not Iranian mullahs but American university professors--it might be worth a multi-million-dollar project to try to explain that!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Is Early Retirement Bad for You?

Is early retirement bad for you? Evidently, it is for some. Recent research by Andreas Kuhn, Jean-Philippe Wuellrich, and Josef Zweim├╝ller ("Fatal Attraction? Access to Early Retirement and Mortality") examined the effects of early retirement on a sample of Austrian blue-collar workers and found
that a reduction in the retirement age causes a significant increase in the risk of premature death – defined as death before age 67 – for males but not for females. The effect for males is not only statistically significant but also quantitatively important. According to our estimates, one additional year of early retirement causes an increase in the risk of premature death of 2.4 percentage points (a relative increase of about 13.4%; or 1.8 months in terms of years of life lost). In line with expectations, we find that IV estimates are considerably smaller than the simple OLS estimates, both for men and for women. This is consistent with negative health selection into retirement and underlines the importance of a proper identification strategy when estimating the causal impact of early retirement on mortality. Our results also indicate that the causal effect of early retirement on mortality for females is zero, suggesting that the negative association between retirement age and mortality in the raw data is entirely due to negative health selection. There are several reasons why male but not female blue-collar workers suffer from higher mortality (eg women may be more health-conscious and adopt less unhealthy behaviours than men; they may be more active after permanently exiting the labour market due to their higher involvement in household activities).
Whether it applies to other types of workers is still an open question. Nevertheless, be careful what you wish for. You can read more about it at the Freakonomics blog "Early Retirement: Bad for Your Health?"

Monday, April 9, 2012

Belief in a Bodily Resurrection?

My sense from chatting with mainline Protestant ministers about the Resurrection is that many, if not most, understand it metaphorically rather than literally, that they are more inclined to see it as an experience that the early Christians shared when they broke bread together, rather than as an historical event that profoundly altered their hearts, minds, and subsequent behavior. I also get the sense that many of these mainline Protestant ministers assume that the majority of their congregations' members hold similar beliefs.

That would be a mistake, however, for most Christians, including mainline Protestants, believe in Jesus' bodily resurrection:
  • In the 2008-2009 wave of the U.S. Congregational Life Survey, 94 percent of evangelicals, 91 percent of Catholics and 78 percent of mainline Protestants said Jesus was raised bodily from the dead after his crucifixion.
  • 75% of the more than 25,000 respondents to congregational surveys offered by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research from 2004 to 2010, most of whom were mainline Protestants, said that they believed that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was an actual event.
  • According to the Portraits of American Life study more than 2/3 of Christian respondents, including 84% of black and evangelical respondents and approximately 67% of mainline Protestants and Catholics, strongly agreed with the statement, “Jesus Christ physically rose from the dead” (15.4% of mainline Protestants and 13.4% of Catholics "somewhat" agreed with the statement).
Of course, just because a majority of Christians believe that something is true, doesn't mean that it is true (any more than a majority vote by the Jesus Seminar on a saying of Jesus is the final word on whether it is authentic or not). Nevertheless, it appears that a majority of Christians, including mainline Protestants, need a bit more to hang their hat on than a notion that the hearts of the first Christians were strangely warmed when they gathered around the table.

You can read more about these results and related matters at the latest post to the ARDA's "Ahead of the Trend" blog ("Belief in resurrection central to religious identity across Christian landscape").

Not Taking Baseball Too Seriously

While there's a tendency for some of us to take sports too seriously, just last week the Southern Miss and Ole Miss baseball teams helped to remind us that in the end it's just a game with something of an impromptu rain delay dance-off. There's more than just dancing, however -- there's human bowling, a roller coaster ride, and a rescue at sea as well:


Ol' Miss and Southern Miss weren't the first teams to do this, though. Check out the Clemson and Davidson baseball teams "facing off" last year:


Unfortunately, not everyone has gotten the message. In this short (30 second) video, the left fielder thinks he has a right to take a cheap shot at a member of the opposite team:


But, I can't leave you with that one, so here's one more dance off -- this time between University of South Florida and University of Connecticut back in 2009. This one has moonwalking (to Michael Jackson), Irish jigs, and even a little James Brown (I Feel Good!)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Did Jesus Exist?

A question that Bart Ehrman, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is often asked by his students is "Did Jesus Exist?" This may seem like an odd question to many, but there is a contingent of scholars (mythologists) who argue that he didn't. They point out that Jesus was never mentioned in any Roman sources and that there is no archeological evidence that he ever existed. Moreover, they argue that the Gospels can't be relied upon because they were written by individuals who lived several decades after Jesus is alleged to have lived. They also note that stories about gods who die and rise again were hardly unique to the ancient world. Many pagans believed in gods who did just that, so these mythologists contend that the early Christians simply made up the stories about Jesus and modeled them after stories about resurrected pagan gods.

Ehrman, a former evangelical who nows considers himself (at best) an agnostic, decided to take up this question, and that is the subject of his new book, "Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth." Ehrman's conclusion is that, yes, Jesus did exist, and he marshals historical evidence on behalf of this conclusion. Ehrman was recently interviewed on National Public Radio about his new book, and the audio recording and transcript of the interview can be found here: "'Did Jesus Exist?' A Historian Makes His Case." It's interesting and worth your time if you're interested in the subject.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Does China Do Capitalism Better than America?

On March 13th, Intelligence Squared US held a debate on the motion "China Does Capitalism Better than America." Arguing on behalf of the motion were Orville Schell and Peter Schiff; arguing against it were Ian Bremmer and Minxin Pei. The pairing of Schell and Schiff is an interesting one. Schiff is a libertarian; Schell clearly is not. I suspect that the only thing they agree on is that China does do capitalism better than America. In my opinion, of the four debaters, Bremmer and Schiff were the best. At least I found them the most engaging.

Those attending an Intelligence Squared debate vote before and after the debate, and the winning team is decided by how many minds were changed and in what direction. As always not only can you listen to the debate at the Intelligence Squared website ("China Does Capitalism Better than America"), but you can access transcripts of the debate as well. The debates can also be downloaded from iTunes.

Here's a brief description of the participants (from the Intelligence Squared website):

The former professor and Dean at the University of California, Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism, Orville Schell is the Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society in New York. The author of fourteen books, nine of them about China, Schell worked for the Ford Foundation in Indonesia, covered the war in Indochina as a journalist, and has traveled widely in China since the mid-70s. He is a Fellow at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University, a Senior Fellow at the Annenberg School of Communications at USC and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Schell was a Fellow at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and the recipient of many prizes and fellowships, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Overseas Press Club Award, and the Harvard-Stanford Shorenstein Prize in Asian Journalism.

Peter Schiff is CEO & Chief Global Strategist of Euro Pacific Capital. He accurately and publically predicted the bursting of the housing market and the subsequent collapse of the financial sector and the broader U.S. economy. A staple figure in the media, he appears frequently on CNBC, Fox Business, CNN, and Fox News. He is the author of several books, including the bestselling Crash Proof: How to Profit from the Coming Economic Collapse, and an upcoming book, The Real Crash: A Blueprint for a Bankrupt America. Schiff served as an economic advisor to Ron Paul in 2008 and in 2011, launched The Peter Schiff Show, a daily radio talk show.

Ian Bremmer is the founder and president of Eurasia Group, a leading global political risk research and consulting firm providing financial, corporate, and government clients with information and insight on how political developments move markets. Bremmer created Wall Street’s first global political risk index and has authored several books, including the national bestseller, The End of the Free Market, The J Curve and the upcoming, Every Nation for Itself. Bremmer is a contributor for the Financial Times A-List and Reuters.com, writes "The Call" blog on ForeignPolicy.com, and is a panelist for CNN International’s "Connect the World.” He has a Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University, and presently teaches at Columbia University.

Minxin Pei is the Tom and Margot Pritzker '72 Professor of Government and the Director of the Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies. Formerly a Senior Associate and Director of the China Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, his research focuses on democratization in developing countries, economic reform and governance in China, and U.S.-China relations. He is the author of From Reform to Revolution: The Demise of Communism in China and the Soviet Union and China’s Trapped Transition: The Limits of Developmental Autocracy. Pei’s research has been published in Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, The National Interest, Modern China, China Quarterly, Journal of Democracy and many edited books. His op-eds have appeared in the Financial Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other major newspapers. Dr. Pei received his MA and PhD in political science from Harvard University.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Case for Religious Freedom

The Witherspoon Institute recently released a very interesting report on religious liberty ("Religious Freedom: Why Now? Defending an Embattled Human Right"). The report is the product of a three-year effort that seeks to make the legal, moral, psychological, and political case that religious liberty is a good thing for both individuals and for societies. The principal author is Professor Timothy Shah, who is featured on a recent Research on Religion podcast, which focuses on this report ("Timothy Shah on the Case for Religious Liberty"). Here's the description of the podcast from the Research on Religion website:
What case can be made for promoting religious freedom worldwide? Prof. Timothy Shah discusses the moral, political, and strategic reasons why religious liberty is a crucial human right and why it is often called “the first freedom.” He reviews the justifications for religious freedom from three different faith traditions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — as well as the ontological reasons why religion should be considered for special consideration in debates about human rights. Tony even uses the word ontology in the discussion, but don’t let that scare you off since he didn’t know what it meant until very recently and our conversation is both enlightening and extremely accessible.
Here's a quick overview of the report that is less than 100 pages (86 to be exact):
  1. What is Religion? The Anthropological Basis of Religious Freedom
    • Building upon the work of cognitive scientists of religion (in particular, Justin Barrett, author of Why Would Anyone Believe in God?, Jesse Bering, author of The Belief Instinct, and Robert McCauley, author of Why Religion is Natural and Science Isn't), the report notes that human beings are naturally religious
    • By this, the report is not arguing that religion is natural in the sense that it is biologically determined, that everyone is religious, or that what people come to believe is necessarily true; rather, it simply argues that it is cognitively easy for humans to be religious because "religion belongs to a set of human cognitive capacities that seem to be part of the natural maturing process" (p. 14)
    • Thus, the report argues, that the "anthropological case for religious freedom suggests that religious freedom is not special pleading, for the simple reason that religion is not a sideshow in human experience or an incidental feature of human life... Religion is so profoundly intertwined with human existence the it cannot be repressed except at the price of undermining individuality and disrupting society"
  2. A Political Case for Religious Freedom
  3. A Moral Case for Religious Freedom
    • This chapter focuses on respecting the dignity and integrity of human beings
    • It argues that when people lose their religious freedom, they lose their freedom to be human
  4. A Religious Case for Religious Freedom
    • After a brief introduction this chapter explores notions of religious freedom from three different faith perspectives: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
    • The Jewish case for religious freedom is written by David Novak, Professor of Religion and Philosophy at the University of Toronto
    • The Christian case for religious freedom is written by Nicholas Wolterstorff, Professor of Philosophical Theology at Yale University
    • The Islamic case for religious freedom is written by Abdullah Sayeed, Professor of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Melbourne
  5. A Legal Case for Religious Freedom
    • This chapter notes the prominence of religious freedom in the legal traditions, statutes, constitutions, and international covenants of modern times
    • In notes that it is often help up in such documents as the "first freedom" in terms of importance
  6. A Strategic Case for Religious Freedom
    • This chapter begins by noting the widely-held belief among intellectuals that as the world became increasingly modernized, religion would wane
    • That clearly has not been the case. In fact, one could argue that in recent years there has been a resurgence of religion, and that to ignore this or pretend that it isn't happening is not in the strategic interests of nations around the world
    • The one response that isn't helpful, however, is religious repression; as I noted above, the research of Grim and Finke has found that the repression of religious belief is associated with increases in religious violence
  7. The Strategic Dimension: Policy Implications
    • The final chapter notes that currently there are three major threats to religious freedom: theocracies (e.g., Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Burma), seculocracies (e.g., China, North Korea, Vietnam, Syria), and radical movements (e.g., Taliban, Al-Qaeda, the Bharatiya Janata Party (Hindu) in India, and Sinhalese Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (Buddhist) group in Sri Lanka)
    • It then offers a series of policy recommendations that would address these threats and help promote religious freedom around the world
So, here's what I recommend. Listen to the podcast interview with Timothy Shah. Then buy the report (it's only $5.95 on Amazon); my summary above doesn't do it justice. Then let's see if together we can do something to promote religious freedom around the world.