Inquisitive Minds Podcast Critical Thinking on History, Religion, Politics and Culture

We continue our discussion of Hector Avalos' book, Fighting Words. The Origins of Religious Violence. Scholars have a social responsibility to denounce false reasoning when it comes to religion and violence; expose lies which contribute to the detriment of humanity. For example, several biblical scholars and most Bible believers maintain the relevance of their sacred text through "hermeneutical gymnastics", by offering "new" interpretations of ethically questionable biblical texts despite the fact of misrepresenting their content. It is also often thought that scholars should not be critical when it comes to certain religious / theological beliefs and practices; but such a stance in the context of the university would be unique, since all scholarly fields should normally adopt a critical perspective in research. According to Avalos, biblical and religion scholars are responsible to "analyze how religion may contribute to the detriment or well-being of humanity based on verifiable facts and reason."

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As a follow-up to last weeks episode, we continue our discussion on the value of critical thinking. But one might ask: What exactly is critical thinking and what are the steps of inquiry needed to engage in such a practice? When tackling specific questions, people need to go beyond the descriptive and carefully analyse the topic at hand through the use of a coherent methodology, as well as to evaluate the outcome of any given inquiry. Failing to identify the implications of our reasoning is the most common mistake when attempting to apply critical thinking.

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At the start of the academic year, we decided to talk about the importance of critical thinking in the context of the university. Each semester, professors need to remind students that university life is designed to help them engage in the critical examination of a wide range of topics, some of which deal with various ways of thinking and diverse human experiences. This is especially true when it comes to topics such as religion and / or theological studies. In the context of a secular university, students are expected to learn how to think critically about different belief systems, ritual practices and experiences which are deemed religious. University classes are not to be faith-based, but rather fact-based. Critical thinkers are not afraid to have their preconceptions challenged. The university is a place where people can expand their minds and get a broad perspective on life.

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