“How to Think Like a Hindu,” with guest Swami Sarvapriyananda

When people talk about Hinduism, they usually do so in very spiritual and vague language. They mention meditation and enlightenment, oneness and karma. But what does these mean and what’s it like to see the world through a Hindu lens? In this episode, philosopher Jack Russell Weinstein interviews Swami Sarvapriyananda. Together they make the religion and its ideas accessible, interesting, and relevant to everyone, regardless of their religious beliefs.Continue reading “How to Think Like a Hindu,” with guest Swami Sarvapriyananda

“On the Separation of Church and State” with guest Andrew Seidel

The first amendment guarantees that one religion is not privileged over another, so why does it feel like personal beliefs dominate the public sphere? Private conviction is supposed to guide our moral lives, so why is the Supreme Court poised to overturn Roe v. Wade? On this episode of Why? Radio we ask about these issues and more. We explore the nature and limits of the US constitution and examine the democratic justification for toleration. Ultimately, we come face to face with one of the great questions of the moment: is the first amendment obsolete?Continue reading “On the Separation of Church and State” with guest Andrew Seidel

“What’s the difference between a religion and a cult” with guest Susan Palmer

We throw the words ‘religion’ and ‘cult’ around, like we know what they mean, but do we? Sure, Judaism and Buddhism are religions, but why not the Branch Dividians or Scientology? And, why should we trust the charismatic pastor of a mega-church, but not quirky but powerful spokesman who is selling his faith on a street corner? Why do new religions make us so uncomfortable? These are important questions, not just because they help us understand the human experience, but because we use them to approve or condemn others’ choices.Continue reading “What’s the difference between a religion and a cult” with guest Susan Palmer

“What is the role of philosophy during a global crisis?” with guest Susan Neiman

We are all preoccupied with the Covid-19 global pandemic and justly so. Everyone in the world has lots of little decisions to make, and many are facing life and death situations. What is the use of philosophy in all of this? Is it helpful? Is it a distraction? Can philosophy solve problems or even make a better world? In this wide-ranging discussion, our host Jack Russell Weinstein and guest Susan Neiman explore the absurdity of “trolley problems,” whether we should use the term “evil” to to describe a pandemic, and how we can best support Amazon employees. This episode is both a compelling and accessible philosophical exploration, and a historical artifact that records a unique moment in time. It has been described by one listener as “our most human of episodes.”Continue reading “What is the role of philosophy during a global crisis?” with guest Susan Neiman

“Does accepting the theory of evolution mean there is no meaning of life?” with guest Michael Ruse

What is the meaning of life? Believe it or not, after more than ten years on the air, we at Why? Radio have never asked this question. But to make it more complicated, we want to know not just what it is, but how we can discover it in the age of evolution. If science gives us answers instead of religion, where do we look for meaning? Can Darwin provide us with what the holy scriptures have not? On this episode we will ask these very questions, while exploring the limits of science and going head to head with the most ineffable aspects of the human experience. Continue reading “Does accepting the theory of evolution mean there is no meaning of life?” with guest Michael Ruse

“Can we change social norms?” with guest Cristina Bicchieri

Every community has behaviors that are considered normal and each of them enforces these actions in a variety of ways. Why do cultures converge on particular actions and how much choice do individuals have to obey? Is it possible to identify which are norms and which are just idiosyncrasies? Most importantly, if we determine that these social expectations are immoral, is it possible to intentionally change them? This episode of Why? Radio explores behaviors ranging from child marriage to when it’s appropriate to yell at one another, and asks how and when to change social norms.Continue reading “Can we change social norms?” with guest Cristina Bicchieri

“What is Sharia Law?” with guest Robert Gleave

What is sharia law? You’d think we’d all be able to answer that question, given how much we hear the name. But most non-Muslims known almost nothing about it. Is it the Muslim version of a catechism? Is it a legal system that directs Islamic politicians and the courts? And, how does it manage interpretive disagreements? Are its precepts obvious or does it inspire deep controversies even among its adherents? These are the questions that will guide this episode of Why? Radio.Continue reading “What is Sharia Law?” with guest Robert Gleave

“Thinking Philosophically About the Black Church” with guest J. Kameron Carter

People have been thinking a lot about race lately and we’ve also been thinking about the role of religion in elections. What we haven’t been doing is examining what happens when the two intersect. On the next episode of Why? we are going to do just this, examining specifically the role of the church in the lives, politics, and self-image of the African-American community (and everyone else).Continue reading “Thinking Philosophically About the Black Church” with guest J. Kameron Carter

“is Religious Commitment Important?” with Robert Audi

Religious debate in the United States focuses on fanaticism and politics. But, do we really know what religion is and the difference between a good reason for believing something and a bad one? And what about religious commitment? What justifies it and what takes it over the top? On today’s episode of Why? Radio we are going to look at religion and ask the hard questions: Is it a good in itself? Should it remain private and what is its relationship to reason and rationality?Continue reading “is Religious Commitment Important?” with Robert Audi

“What does Buddhism Offer an African-American Woman?” with Jan Willis

Jan Willis was raised in the Jim Crow south and had crosses burnt on her lawn when she received a scholarship for Cornell University. But her life didn’t just take her through the civil rights movement and the Ivy League, it also took her to India which led her to become a professor of Buddhism and a practicing Buddhist. How did her new religion fit with her Baptist upbringing? How does being a religious scholar relate to being a practitioner? Should we think of Buddhism as an “Eastern” religion with little to do with Western philosophy? On this next episode of Why?, we’ll ask these and other related questions, as we talk memoir, belief, and religious experience with a foremost scholar of Tibetan Buddhism. Continue reading “What does Buddhism Offer an African-American Woman?” with Jan Willis

“How do Muslims, Christians, and Jews See Each Other?” David Nirenberg

Muslims, Jews, Christians: they’ve been fighting for millennia and living next to each other for just as long. They share the same prophet—Abraham—and have many of the same beliefs. Yet, they define themselves in opposition to one another, demonizing and even killing each other along the way. Is this intrinsic to who they are or is this something that can be changed? Can they coexist or must they be enemies? These questions are the focus of this episode of Why? Radio.Continue reading “How do Muslims, Christians, and Jews See Each Other?” David Nirenberg

“How to Think about Antisemitism” with Daniel Goldhagen

Almost two decades ago, Daniel Goldhagen wrote a book about the holocaust that changed the entire discussion. For the first time, people were forced to consider how everyday Germans influenced the genocide. Since then, he’s written more books on related topics and watched as global antisemitism got worse and worse, publishing, finally, a powerful study called The Devil that Never Dies. On this episode Danny and Jack have a wide-ranging discussion about antisemitism itself, Israel, the use of language to describe Jews, and even Microsoft Word! Continue reading “How to Think about Antisemitism” with Daniel Goldhagen

“Saying ‘No’ Through Civil Disobedience” with Jason D. Hill

When Jason Hill was in Turkey, he met a family with a gregarious nine year old daughter. When he compared her lively personality with the distant, quite, and isolated behavior of her burka-clad mother and sister, he began to shudder. He realized that in a few years, she too would be expected to put on similar outfits and withdraw from the world. Continue reading “Saying ‘No’ Through Civil Disobedience” with Jason D. Hill

“Are Indian Tribes Sovereign Nations?” with George Tinker

It is no secret that there are strained relations between Native American tribes and the U.S. Government. In fact, many tribes want to be considered sovereign nations, free from US law and expectations. Even more so, most Americans understand little about American Indian life, traditions, and history. How are we to have a serious conversation about Indian liberation if we don’t know the basic facts? On this episode, we look not only at political question of tribal sovereignty, but delve deeply into its relationship to Native American culture, theology and history. Continue reading “Are Indian Tribes Sovereign Nations?” with George Tinker

“Can there be a world without borders?” with Seyla Benhabib

Our world is getting smaller and people are migrating from place to place. It feels like the old ideas of ethnicity and national origin just don’t hold the same power that they used to. Instead, the real question may turn out to be, how can we all be world citizens? On this episode we investigate cosmopolitanism and ask what it means to live without national boundaries and travel restrictions. Continue reading “Can there be a world without borders?” with Seyla Benhabib

“The Case for Religious Moderation” with William Egginton

We are, people will tell us, in the midst of a religious war. Depending on who you believe either science is making us immoral heathens or religion is making is ignorant rubes. William Egginton however challenges this view. He not only claims that this dichotomy is false, he asserts that the two sides are both fundamentalists and cut from the same cloth. Egginton argues that we should all be religious moderates combining scientific truth with religious belief. Continue reading “The Case for Religious Moderation” with William Egginton

“WHY? Goes to China: Confucius and Today’s China” with Daniel Bell

Confucian philosophy plays an important role in the Chinese family, but what role does it play in politics? Chinese is a traditional society, but modern China is built on a break from the past. China holds dearly to its own past, but is experiencing more change than ever before. Join us for a discussion about how tradition works in a changing China and the importance of cities in moral life. This interview was recorded at The American Culture Center at The University of Shanghai for Science and Technology before a live audience. Continue reading “WHY? Goes to China: Confucius and Today’s China” with Daniel Bell

“Marriage and the Family” Stephanie Coontz

Is the “traditional” marriage between one man and one woman really the most preferred form of marriage? History suggests it is not. In addition to polygamy (the most valued, historically), there is also polyandry (one woman, many husbands), ghost marriages, “female husbands,” and many others, and almost none of them had anything to do with love. Join WHY? as we talk with Stephanie Coontz about her research on the history of marriage, family, and the moral systems that justify the choices. Continue reading “Marriage and the Family” Stephanie Coontz

“Honor Codes and Moral Revolutions” with K. Anthony Appiah

How does the concept of honor inspire moral revolutions? What is the ethical code at the core of dueling? How does dishonor lead to fundamental changes in behavior and shifts in entire moral systems? These questions lie at the core of a fascinating discussion about the nature and origin of ethical practices. Join WHY? as we interview K. Anthony Appiah, as he discusses his new book The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen. Talk with us as we draw lines between British aristocratic duels, “honor killings’ in Pakistan, the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade, and foot-biding in turn-of-the-century China. As Appiah shows, by focusing on the age-old question of honor, we can see, more clearly than ever, why moral beliefs are what they are.
Continue reading “Honor Codes and Moral Revolutions” with K. Anthony Appiah

“A Secular Age” with guest Charles Taylor

Even the most religious of people understand that their belief is only one option of many; a different attitude than those who lived 500 years ago when theological commitments were so automatic as to not be questioned. What caused this radical cultural shift? This is the question Charles Taylor seeks to answer in his new book A Secular Age. In doing so, he asks about the nature of religion, the meaning of secularism, and the history of how much of the world shifted from the former approach to the latter. Join WHY? as we ask about this innovative and important topic, and connect it to Taylor’s long career of influential philosophical study.Continue reading “A Secular Age” with guest Charles Taylor