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

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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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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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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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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