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

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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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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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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This week on the Inquisitive Minds Podcast, we analyse Hector Avalos' book Fighting Words. The Origins of Religious Violence in light of the recent clash between Ben Affleck and Sam Harris on Real Time with Bill Maher (see clip here). The question was whether or not one can critique religion, especially when it promotes bad ideas. Believing that one's religion holds the truth over all others will inevitably lead to conflict. Some see religious pluralism as a way out of this impasse, but according to Avalos, religious pluralism can be good only if it is subservient to secular humanist values. It is truly the only way to bring about non-violent global peace. But how do we contend with the fact that religions often oppose secular humanism's view of the world? Can we truly reconcile religious pluralism and secular humanism? We tackle these and other questions in this week's podcast.

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In our new series dedicated to the Religion and Violence, we will be discussing Hector Avalos' relevant book: Fighting Words. The Origins of Religious Violence (Prometheus, 2005). Is religion is prone to violence? What are different theories of violence and how does one define religion? Is religion the cause of all violence? If not, what are the differences between religious violence and secular violence? According to Avalos, religion causes violence when it creates scarce resources. As a result, the benefits of that religion are not equally distributed among everyone, and this is what essentially lies at the root of religious violence.

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