Research Tracks

A publication of the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at Baylor University

December 3, 2015
by Baylor OVPR
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Baylor philosopher explores legal issues surrounding religion in new book

beckwithIn a pluralistic society, there is a constant balancing act between the rights of individuals and the need for social order.  These balances are perhaps never quite as tenuous as when they involve a conflict between an individual’s religious faith and a law that would seem to prevent the believer from acting in accordance with the requirements of his or her faith.

Dr. Francis J. Beckwith, a professor of philosophy and church-state studies in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences, explores these conflicts in his new book, “Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith,” published this year by Cambridge University Press. In the book, Beckwith examines cultural issues over which religious and nonreligious people may disagree including the rationality of religious belief, religiously motivated legislation, human dignity in bioethics, abortion and embryonic stem cell research, reproductive rights, evolution and marriage.

The problems often stem from a misunderstanding regarding the true nature of religious practices.  The misunderstanding, Beckwith says, often spring from a failure of non-religious individuals to understand the perspective of the believer.

“I believe religion involves obedience, not just belief,” he says. “Observers who aren’t familiar with the tenets of a religion may argue that religious belief is irrational and therefore adherents are not deserving of special protection for their practices. To those who believe, however, religious practices aren’t something they choose to do but something they are obligated to do.”

“Taking Rites Seriously” is available on Amazon.

March 2, 2015
by Baylor OVPR
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Baylor scholar’s new book sheds light on Muslim-Christian relations

Defending Christian FaityChristianity and Islam, the world’s two largest religions, have been engaged throughout history and interconnected for thousands of years. The relationship between the two faiths has historically been marked by conflict, but despite differences, there have also been many successful attempts at peace, mutual understanding and harmony. Dr. Abjar Bahkou in Baylor’s department of modern language and cultures highlights these examples in his book, Defending Christian Faith: The Fifth Part of the Christian Apology of Gerasimus.

“Muslim-Christian relations have been subject to startling waves of events in history,” Bahkou said. “We can learn a lot and get ample food for thought and reflection when we look back at the past and examine the way Muslims and Christians lived and looked at each other. This book is a testimony of such interaction.”

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May 5, 2014
by Baylor OVPR
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Baylor English professor’s forthcoming book explores influence of oral storytelling in works of great southern authors

Ford_CoverIn her upcoming book, Tracing Southern Storytelling in Black and White, Baylor associate professor of English Dr. Sarah Ford digs deep into the rich literary mother lode of such diverse southern writers as Mark Twain and Alice Walker to uncover their artful use of oral storytelling in creating some of America’s most treasured stories and characters.

Ford uses each chapter of the 200-page work to detail the connections to and adaptations of southern storytelling common to a different pair of authors, one black, one white. It is a topic and an approach that already is gathering a trove of positive reviews and has many anticipating the book’s release by the University of Alabama Press in August.

More information on Tracing Southern Storytelling in Black and White can be found at the Amazon pre-release listing by clicking here.

Ford earned her Ph.D. at Tulane University, and also serves as director of undergraduate studies at Baylor.

January 21, 2014
by Baylor OVPR
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Baylor professor wins award for book on spirituality and nature

The Spirit of the Appalachian Trail CoverDr. Susan Bratton’s book, The Spirit of the Appalachian Trail: Community, Environment, and Belief on a Long-Distance Hiking Path (University of Tennessee Press, 2012) recently was recognized as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2013 by Choice, an academic periodical of the Association of College & Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association. Only about ten percent of reviewed publications are selected for recognition.

The book relates Bratton’s experiences hiking the 2,180-mile-long trail, but primarily presents the results of her systematic study of the spiritual, religious or quasi-religious experiences hikers often claim to undergo while on the trail. Over 200 hikers participated in the study.

“Some hikers have very intense religious experiences on the Trail,” Bratton says. “About a third of the hikers reported experiencing God in nature, or the trail as a spiritual environment. “

Bratton is a professor of environmental science at Baylor University. She holds PhD degrees from the University of Texas at Dallas and Cornell University, a master of arts from Fuller Seminary, and graduate certification in environmental ethics from the University of Georgia.