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

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 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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In his book Fighting Words. The Origins of Religious Violence, Dr. Avalos explains how inscripturation and sacred space are two scarce resources created by religions, and that such resources often engender violence. This week we discuss inscripturation and sacred space in the context of Judaism and the Hebrew Bible. In this episode we will also revisit two recent events related to our topic. Please note this will be Brice Jones' last episode as co-host of the podcast. Calogero Miceli will be stepping in as regular co-host as of next week. We thank Brice for his great work as co-host and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

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