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

* Please note that our next episode will be on Monday, November 28th, 2016.
 
In this week's episode of the Inquisitive Minds Podcast, we look at how education can play a significant role in preventing religious radicalization leading to violence. The type of education needed should equip students to discern between what is mythological and what is historical; students essentially need to acquire critical thinking skills in order to protect themselves against fundamentalism. A lack of critical thinking about religion is precisely what can lead to radicalization. Students, therefore, should not be given religious education in high school or in college - this should rather be the role of religious communities - but rather, students should be taught about religion from historical, comparative, anthropological, social, and cognitive perspectives.

 

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In the next two podcasts, we discuss some aspects of a recent conference entitled: Assaulting Cultural Heritage: ISIS's Fight to Destroy Diversity in Iraq and Syria. The event was organized by the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (MIGS) and was held at Concordia University on September 25-26, 2016. These episodes will focus on a paper given during the first panel of the conference on ISIS and the Intellectual Roots of Assaulting Cultural Heritage.

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Yesterday evening, we witnessed a super moon lunar eclipse or what Christian fundamentalists like to call a "blood moon". The latest craze among some evangelicals is the "Four Blood Moons Prophecy", an idea popularized by evangelists Mark Biltz and John Hagee. The event is interpreted in light of several apocalyptic texts from the Bible, which are believed to be tied to Israel's destiny. In this week's episode of the Inquisitive Minds Podcast, we deconstruct the preposterous claims of this so-called prophecy. People who believe such ludicrous ideas clearly lack critical thinking skills. The same goes for fundamentalist Christian preachers who promote this "prophecy". They simply are unqualified to teach the Bible, the holy book they claim to know and believe.


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The month of August has been quite violent as people have witnessed the live killing of two reporters in the US, the murder of two family members in an Ikea store in Sweden, and a terrorist attack on a train between Paris and Amsterdam. This forces us to reflect on important issues such as immigration, religious violence, radicalization, culture, politics, economics, security, public policy, education and political correctness. We discuss these various events and their implications in this week's episode of the Inquisitive Minds Podcast.

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This week we decided to tackle an issue that often comes up in discussions with people about the meaning of religious texts. Believe it or not, some people of faith sometimes label us as fundamentalists! Why? Because we seemingly read the Bible and the Qur'an too literally. If fundamentalism equates engaging in a literal interpretation of the Bible, then we can ask people if there are parts of their texts that they do not read literally, and if so, how do they determine what should be to understood literally or symbolically? One quickly realizes that people have no clear criteria on how to interpret their religious texts; it is all a matter of preference, and people develop the art or cherry-picking. We notice that texts that are more difficult to accept are either ignored or interpreted allegorically, and theological meaning is often given in order to sustain the Bible's or Qur'an's relevance. The problem with such an approach is that people are reading between the lines and not really reading the text. They are simply creating another story which sustains their own theological inclinations.

Please note that this will be our last podcast of 2014. We are taking a short break during the holidays and will be back with more exciting episodes on January 12, 2015. We want to thank all our listeners for a fantastic year and wish all a wonderful holiday season!
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This week's podcast is dedicated to the social impact of atheism. Some people today are "coming out" as atheists and speak about how religion has negatively affected their lives. They also advocate for a complete separation of government and religion. In the past few years, we have seen the rise of what some call the "New Atheists". Often labelled as radical and outspoken, these individuals have made a tremendous impact on the lives of millions people through their writings; for example, just think of the influential works of the famous "Four Horsemen": Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and Harris. Many other prominent writers, bloggers, and vloggers have now followed their lead. But what exactly is atheism? How does it differ from theism and other forms of beliefs or non-beliefs? These are some of the questions we address in this episode.
 
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In this last podcast dedicated to Hector Avalos' book The End of Biblical Studies, we examine the final three chapters (7-10) which look at the role academia, learned societies, and the media play in trying to promote the idea that the Bible is still relevant today. We also discuss how the author's critical assessment resonates with our own experience as biblical scholars. After several weeks discussing this book, we hope that listeners understand and appreciate the significance of Dr. Avalos' important work.

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This is the fourth installment of our discussion of Hector Avalos' book The End of Biblical Studies. This week we focus on the chapters dealing with Literary Criticism (Ch. 5) and Biblical Theology (Ch. 6). Dr. Avalos rightly remarks that, "literary aesthetics are still being used as the handmaiden of apologetics" (p. 220). As for biblical theology, it is truly an impossible enterprise. The Bible contains many theological discourses; so which biblical theology should one embrace? There is no one unified theology; rather, there are many theologies. This is why, "biblical theology is a thoroughly religionist endeavor" (p. 250). 

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This is our third episode dedicated to Hector Avalos' book The End of Biblical Studies. In chapter 3, Prof. Avalos discusses History and Archaeology and remarks that, "at the heart of the entire debate about whether one can write a history of ancient Israel is an epistemological problem that is besetting all of archaeology and history. Historians and archaeologists have lost confidence in examining the past objectively." (p.111). We will also see how biblical scholars face similar problems when it comes to the study of the historical Jesus.

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This week we are continuing our discussion of Hector Avalos', The End of Biblical Studies. We will examine his chapters on Translation and Textual Criticism. Speaking of biblical translation, Prof. Avalos says that "the Bible is best maintained by using translation to hide and distort the original meaning of the text, in order to provide the illusion that the information and values conveyed by the biblical authors are compatible with those of the modern world." (p.37). As for textual criticism, "there is no longer any strong rationale", according to Avalos, "for why textual criticism, as a discipline, should matter to those outside communities of faith, or even to communities of faith themselves." (p.66).

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