A road trip across the U.S. to gather information for a book on religious faith steered two Penn State researchers through a spiritual landscape that was as diverse and vibrant as America's scenery. The researchers -- Roger Finke, professor of sociology and religious studies, and Christopher Scheitle, a doctoral candidate in sociology -- documented their journey in "Places of Faith, a Road Trip Across America's Religious Landscape" (2012, Oxford University Press). They experienced a few surprises during the trip that added a fresh perspective to their research.
The popular idea is that brainwashing techniques can completely alter a person's opinions, while he or she is powerless to stop the conversion," he says. "But such techniques have never actually been found to exist," says Roger Finke, professor of sociology and religious studies at Penn State.
Terrible news pours in daily from Iraq, Israel, Lebanon and other violent hot-spots where religion intermingles with politics. Here in the U.S., a country founded on freedom of religion, there is fierce debate about religion's influence in government.