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

This week on the Inquisitive Minds Podcast, André Gagné continues his series on the Gospel of Thomas and will focus on the question of its interpretation. Since its discovery, most scholars have studied Thomas from a diachronic perspective, in order to uncover its sources and milieu. Unfortunately, very little research has been done on the possible meaning of this collection of saying.

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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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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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We continue our discussion of Hector Avalos' book, Fighting Words. The Origins of Religious Violence. Scholars have a social responsibility to denounce false reasoning when it comes to religion and violence; expose lies which contribute to the detriment of humanity. For example, several biblical scholars and most Bible believers maintain the relevance of their sacred text through "hermeneutical gymnastics", by offering "new" interpretations of ethically questionable biblical texts despite the fact of misrepresenting their content. It is also often thought that scholars should not be critical when it comes to certain religious / theological beliefs and practices; but such a stance in the context of the university would be unique, since all scholarly fields should normally adopt a critical perspective in research. According to Avalos, biblical and religion scholars are responsible to "analyze how religion may contribute to the detriment or well-being of humanity based on verifiable facts and reason."

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