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

In our third and last podcast dedicated to the "The Second Wave of the New Atheism. A Manifesto for Secular Scriptural Scholarship and Religious Studies", we will answer as to why the authors have framed their manifesto in the context of the New Atheism. This question was asked several times by some of our listeners. We would like to discuss how Avalos and Gagné respond to people who think the manifesto should not be associated to the New Atheism.
   
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This week again, we examine the manifesto written by Hector Avalos and André Gagné entitled: "The Second Wave of the New Atheism. A Manifesto for Secular Scriptural Scholarship and Religious Studies." We invite scholars of religion or scriptural studies who share some of the ideas and would like to become signatories, to contact the authors at the information found on the manifesto's website accessible here.


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Happy New Year to all our listeners! We are back with a new episode of the Inquisitive Minds Podcast. This week, we discuss Part 1 of a manifesto written by Hector Avalos and André Gagné entitled: "The Second Wave of the New Atheism. A Manifesto for Secular Scriptural Scholarship and Religious Studies." The piece was first published on January 7, 2016 on the Bible and Interpretation website. We now have a permanent page where you can find the manifesto and the signatories who have recently endorsed it (read the statement here). Scholars of religion or scriptural studies who share some of the ideas and would like to become signatories, can contact the authors at the information found on the website.

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This is Part 2 of our interview with Dr. Hector Avalos (Iowa State University). In this week's episode, Prof. Avalos answers a wide array of questions. He shared his thoughts on the Historical Jesus, health care and the rise of Christianity, scarce resource theory in relation to religion and violence, the role and responsibilities of biblical and religion scholars in today's world, the end of biblical studies, and his future research projects, and many more topics. Once again, listeners will appreciate Dr. Avalos' perspective on such crucial issues.

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This episode of the Inquisitive Minds Podcast features Part 1 of an interview with Dr. Hector Avalos, professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University, on his latest book entitled The Bad Jesus. The Ethics of New Testament Ethics (Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2015). Professor Avalos was a keynote speaker at a recent colloquium on religion and violence held at Concordia University (Montreal, Quebec, Canada). During his visit to Montreal, Dr. Avalos graciously agreed to speak with us about his life story, his recent monograph, and his various research interests. Listeners will truly enjoy and learn from this exciting interview.

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It has been quite an exciting journey into Hector Avalos' important book, Fighting Words. The Origins of Religious Violence. In this last episode dedicated to this topic, we briefly review Avalos' last few chapters where he provides a synthesis and some solutions to the issue of religion and violence. We end this series with a quote found at the end of the book on the scholar's responsibility toward the topic at hand: "Most academic scholars are not so frank in acknowledging that their scholarship is an apologetic enterprise. Given the violence in the scriptures we have examined, I would suggest that the opposite should be our mission. Our job as biblical scholars is to undermine the value of any scripture that endorses violence. [...] We become complicit in violence when we attempt to maintain the value of a book whose main truth claims can never be verified. [...] Our final mission, as scholars of these scriptures, must be to help humanity close the book on a long chapter of human misery."

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In his book Fighting Words, Hector Avalos does not say that secularism is devoid of any violence. Religious violence, however, is more tragic than secular violence since it is predicated on unverifiable premises. In this week's episode of the Inquisitive Minds Podcast, we examine the claim that Hitler's and Stalin's atheism is what led them to heinous acts of violence. As we will see, the Nazi Holocaust was not inspired by atheism and Stalin's actions were mostly political in nature. Atheism does not necessarily equal communism, nor does communism imply atheism. Some early Christian communities were depicted as communistic social groups (Acts 4:32-35) and they were certainly not atheistic.

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In this week's episode, we continue our exploration of Hector Avalos', Fighting Words, and discuss the issue of violence in Islam and the Qur'an. As with Judaism and Christianity, Islam also creates scarce resources which could also somtimes result in acts of violence. Some defenders of the Islamic faith insist that today's violent actions perpetrated by groups such as ISIS are not representative of "true" Islam. Can one really know which types of interpretations of Islam are more authentic than others, since every Islamic sect believes that it faithfully adheres to the teachings of the Qur'an. Avalos argues that even scholars of religion have sometimes fallen into the trap of essentialism, thinking that Islam can be defined by a specific set of attributes, and that all other radical forms do not truly reflect the faith.
 
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Most people think that Christianity is non-violent. But such a perception is flawed, since the foundational event of the Christian religion - the sacrifice of the Son of God - is of extreme violence and has engendered some of the most horrific acts of violence in the history of humankind; actions which led directly to the Holocaust. In his book, Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence, Hector Avalos discusses how Christianity also creates scarce resources. Even if there seems to be less violence stemming from the Christian religion at this time - this can be questioned since it depends on how one understands violence - Christians still cling to the hope of the New Testament authors, when God will establish his kingdom and bring judgment upon unbelievers. The New Testament clearly speaks of a "deferred violence" awaiting those who do not surrender to God and believe in Jesus Christ as their way to salvation.

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This week on the Inquisitive Minds Podcast, we discuss two other scarce resources created by religion and mentioned in Hector Avalos' book Fighting Words: (1) Group Privileging and (2) Salvation. The Hebrew Bible promotes the idea that Israel was specifically chosen by God and they were not to mix with other nations. Salvation was also reserved for people who belonged to the group and adhered to its laws and rituals. As with inscripturation and sacred space, group privileging and salvation create violence since religious groups believe they are the chosen ones who have the knowledge to the path of salvation. We will also see how some scholars will try to minimize violence in the Hebrew Bible by referring to what they call the "Greater Good" theory. As of today, we are pleased to welcome Calogero Miceli as co-host on the podcast; his insight and comments will be greatly appreciated.

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