The tragic events of Waco, although different in many ways to those of Jonestown (especially as it regards the role of law enforcement), also forces the scholar as well as any curious person, to ask questions about the nature of religion and human existence: why do some people decide to believe certain individuals even when their claims may seem irrational, or even dangerous? What is the difference, if any, between a cult and a religion? What is the role of government in regulating religious groups? Why are American evangelical groups so obsessed with the end of times? As Smith said, our need to understand is not the same as our approval of the practices we study, but as he warned us “if we do not persist in the quest for intelligibility, there can be no human sciences, let alone, any place for the study of religion within them.”Read more "Revisiting Waco: Prophets, Guns, and the role of the Government in Defining Religion"