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

In this episode of the Inquisitive Minds Podcast, we have decided to discuss a chapter from Russell T. McCutcheon's book, The Discipline of Religion: Structure, Meaning, Rhetoric (2013). Our podcast focuses on chapter 6 entitled, "Alienation, Apprenticeship, and the Crisis of Academic Labor." This section addresses important questions related to the discipline of religious studies and the current expectations placed on graduate students if they wish to have a shot at an academic job! McCutcheon rightly notes that, "... pre-professional candidates must meet such professional standards as peer-reviewed publication, excellence in teaching, and public presentation of their research at conferences before even gaining entrance to the profession. It was and still is a market in which candidates may very well have a more extensive publication record than many of the people interviewing them. It is a market in which, at many schools, it takes far superior credentials to get a job interview (let alone the job!) than it might have taken one's interviewers to have been awarded tenure."

Please note that this is our last podcast of the season. We will resume our episodes around mid-September. Have a great summer and hope you can take this time to re-listen or catch up on the podcast!


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After interviewing Dr. Hector Avalos during our last two episodes of the Inquisitive Minds Podcast, we decided to do a short recap on some of the topics covered at our recent Religion and Violence conference, held at Concordia (Montreal, Quebec, Canada) last June. In this episode, André Gagné, Calogero A. Miceli and Costa Babalis briefly discuss the content of their papers and the purpose for hosting such a conference. Please note that an edited volume of the papers is currently in the works. Listeners will be informed in the coming weeks when the publication will be available for purchase.

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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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In our continuing discussion of Phil Zuckerman's Living the the Secular Life, we look at the contemporary events and causes which have led more and more people to embrace secularism. We also speak of the ways secular people raise their kids without religion, and still manage to find a sense of community despite their lack of belief in any religious tradition, nor their participation in the activities of any religious group.

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Secular societies are sometimes perceived by certain religiously minded people as hell on earth. But according to Phil Zuckeman, in his most recent book, The Secular Life, the current state of the world shows that it is among the most secular societies that one can find the greatest levels of equality, social harmony, peacefulness, civility, prosperity, and freedom. In opposition to this state of affairs, most religiously oriented societies have the greatest levels of poverty, oppression, chaos, immorality, insecurity, destitution, and inequality in the world.

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February 23, 2015  
They are growing in numbers and are known to most sociologists of religion as the "nones", people who have "no religion". They either have not been raised in a traditional religious household or simply abandoned religion altogether. Most "nones" feel no need for religion in their lives, nor do they have any time to devote to religious activities. These individuals live a complete secular life, devoid of any religious tradition or affiliation. The next few episodes of the Inquisitive Minds Podcast will be dedicated to explaining such a way of life. This secular option has been studied by Phil Zuckerman in a recent book entitled: Living the Secular Life. New Answers to Old Questions. We will discuss aspects of Zuckerman's book and see how secular people can also live moral and meaningful lives without religion.

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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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