Show cover of ReligionWise


ReligionWise features educators, researchers, and other professionals discussing their work and the place of religion in the public conversation. Host Chip Gruen, the Director of the Institute for Religious and Cultural Understanding of Muhlenberg College, facilitates conversations that aim to provide better understanding of varieties of religious expression and their impacts on the human experience. For more about the Institute for Religious and Cultural Understanding, visit


Islam, Education, and Politics in Afghanistan - Rangina Hamidi
This episode features Rangina Hamidi, who, until the fall of the government in 2021, served as the Education Minister for Afghanistan. In this conversation, Hamidi talks about her life in public service and discusses the complicated relationship between religion and education in contemporary Afghanistan.
87:01 11/15/2022
Beyond the Headlines - The Fall of Kabul - Matthieu Aikins
Today’s episode features Matthieu Aikins, an award winning journalist and reporter who covered the war in Afghanistan and the subsequent refugee crisis.In this conversation, we consider both his reporting from Kabul after the fall of the Afghan government as well as the plight of refugees as they flee the country and the Taliban. Show notes:Matthieu Aikins' website ( Naked Don't Fear the Water ( Aikins' articles (
46:36 10/15/2022
Discourse, Science, and Religion - Kocku von Stuckrad
This installment of ReligionWise features Kocku von Stuckrad, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.In this conversation, we discuss discourse analysis and its utility in the academic study of religion. In particular, we consider examples from Professor von Stuckrad’s two most recent books: The Scientification of Religion (2015) and A Cultural History of the Soul (2022).Show Notes:A Cultural History of the Soul: Europe and North America from 1870 to the Present  ( Scientification of Religion: An Historical Study of Discursive Change, 1800–2000 (
55:28 09/15/2022
The Narratives of Buddhism - Tim Loftus
This installment of ReligionWise features Tim Loftus, a recent Ph.D. from Temple University who studies contemporary forms of Buddhism.  In this conversation, we discuss Buddhism in various geographic and cultural contexts. In particular, our conversation turns to the way that Buddhism is imagined in the contemporary world and the relationship between that narrative and the historical record.
54:47 08/15/2022
Distinguishing the Academy From the Temple - Tom Robinson and Hillary Rodrigues
In this episode of ReligionWise, we talk with Tom Robinson and Hillary Rodrigues, two professors at the University of Lethbridge who direct the Robinest project, a website that provides digital resources for the academic study of religion. In this conversation we talk about these resources, and more generally about dispelling misconceptions of the academic study of religion in contemporary higher education and public discourse.Show notes:Robinest - Digital resources for teaching world religions (
51:37 07/15/2022
Storytelling, Trauma, and Meaning - Jodi Eichler-Levine
In this episode of ReligionWise, we talk with Jodi Eichler-Levine Professor of Religion Studies and Berman Professor of Jewish Civilization at Lehigh University. Our conversation considers the way that storytelling helps individuals and communities organize their lives and imagine their own identities, particularly when processing traumatic events.Show Notes:Suffer the Little Children: Uses of the Past in Jewish and African American Children’s Literature ( Pomegranates and Needlepoint Rabbis: How Jews Craft Resilience and Create Community (
43:40 06/15/2022
Does religious studies have a place in public education? - Greg Soden
This installment of ReligionWise considers the place of teaching about religion and religious diversity in public secondary education. Our conversation features Greg Soden, who has taught courses on world religions in various high school contexts. Together, we think about the benefits and challenges of a religious studies curriculum in a public context.Show Notes:The Classical Ideas Podcast (
45:55 05/15/2022
Religion from the Ground Up - Jessica Cooperman
In this episode of ReligionWise, the discussion features Jessica Cooperman, Associate Professor and Chair of Religion Studies and Director of Jewish Studies at Muhlenberg College.  Our conversation focuses on the materials and methods that a historian uses to paint a picture from the past, including publicly and privately held archives.Show Notes:Making Judaism Safe for America: World War I and the Origins of Religious Pluralism (
43:26 04/15/2022
Islam, Humanism, and the Good Life - Khurram Hussain
This episode of ReligionWise features a conversation with Khurram Hussain, Associate Professor of Religion Studies at Lehigh University.In this far ranging conversation, we discuss the often overlooked humanistic elements present in Islam, reflect on ill-conceived narratives of intercultural interactions, and consider better ways of facilitating understanding across difference. Show Notes:Islam as Critique: Sayyid Ahmad Khan and the Challenge of Modernity( Muslim Speaks( Oxford Handbook of Humanism: Humanism in the Middle East(
37:45 03/15/2022
Disney as religion? - Jill Peterfeso
This episode of ReligionWise features a conversation between Carrie Duncan, Program Specialist for the Institute for Religious and Cultural Understanding and Jill Peterfeso, the Eli Franklin Craven and Minnie Phipps Craven Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Guilford College. In this conversation, we consider how an element of American popular culture, the Disney corporation and in particular Walt Disney World, can be better understood using the tools of religious studies. Dr. Peterfeso not only teaches on the confluence of Disney and religion, but took a group of students to the Magic Kingdom as part of the “Fantastic Journeys” curriculum at Guilford. This conversation demonstrates a different way of thinking about religion itself and asks you to consider similarities and differences between traditional religion and broader cultural experiences.
48:40 02/16/2022
Belief, Conspiracy, and Identity - Dustin Nash
This episode of ReligionWise features a conversation with Dustin Nash, Associate Professor of Religion Studies at Muhlenberg College.In this conversation, we discuss conspiracy narratives and how the methods of religious studies can help us understand why individuals believe what they believe. Additionally, we consider how belief can lead to action as well as support an individual's view of self and identity.Show Notes:Dustin Nash article: Fossilized Jews and Witnessing Dinosaurs at the Creation Museum: Public Remembering and Forgetting at a Young Earth Creationist “Memory Place” (
42:58 01/15/2022
Philosophy of Religion - Tad Robinson
This episode of ReligionWise features a conversation with Thaddeus “Tad” Robinson, Associate Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Muhlenberg College.In this conversation, we discuss the field philosophy of religion. Among other topics, Dr. Robinson details some of the classic questions addressed in philosophy of religion and the place of this sub-field in the larger field of philosophy. Finally, we explore how considering the philosophy of religion  might lead to a more nuanced, sophisticated conversation about religion in our world.
38:50 12/15/2021
Antisemitism - Hartley Lachter
This episode of ReligionWise features a conversation with Hartley Lachter, Associate Professor of Religion Studies at Lehigh University, where he holds the Philip and Muriel Berman Chair in Jewish Studies, and serves as the director of the Berman Center for Jewish Studies.In this conversation, the origins of antisemitism are discussed as well as the contemporary social functions of the phenomenon.Show NotesKabbalistic Revolution: Reimagining Judaism in Medieval Spain (
35:56 11/15/2021
Simran Jeet Singh
This episode of ReligionWise features a conversation with Simran Jeet Singh, a highly sought out speaker on diversity, equity, inclusion, justice and anti-racism. His thought leadership extends across corporate, university and government settings, and his work has been featured in various outlets including NPR, CNN, BBC, Time, The Washington Post and The New York Times. Simran is especially passionate about creating more cohesion, equity, and joy for all stakeholders. The conversation includes his experiences growing up a Sikh in South Texas, his role as an activist working for change and for a more just and more equitable society, and his role as a scholar whose job is to describe and help other people understand the belief and practice of religious communities. Show NotesSimran Jeet Singh ( Singh Keeps Going: The True Story of the Oldest Person to Ever Run a Marathon ( News Service: Articles of Faith ( Light We Give: The Power of Sikh Wisdom to Transform Your Life (Riverhead/Penguin Random House, 2022)
41:26 10/20/2021
ReligionWise Introduction
What is ReligionWise and why should you listen? Also--what to expect this inaugural season!For more about the Institute for Religious and Cultural Understanding, visit
02:29 10/11/2021