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

In this week's episode of the Inquisitive Minds Podcast, we share our thoughts about the recent terror attacks which happened last November in France. We discuss the mechanisms of radicalization, the place of religion in violent extremism, the issue of reform in Islam, the role of the Canadian government in the fight against ISIS, the current refugee crisis, the complex geopolitical situation of the Middle East and several other topics.

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In one week (19 Oct. 2015), Canadians will be voting for a new government. A debate around the place of the niqab (a "religious" garment covering the face and worn by some Muslim women) during the oath of citizenship ceremony has caused quite a stir. Politicians take sides in this issue citing security, terrorism, Canadian values, women's oppression, individual rights and freedoms, religious liberty, etc. to state their case. The debate has revealed that people in Canada are unclear when in comes to individual rights, as defined by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In the end, it seems that the niqab debate revealed that Canadians (and especially Quebecers) experience a certain malaise with their current political system. What seemed at first to be an insignificant issue has turned out to be something which might clearly affect Canada's political future.

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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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In this last episode dedicated to Phil Zuckerman's book Living the Secular Life, we discuss the concept of "aweism". Zuckerman recognizes that theists, atheists, and agnostics do not understand everything about life; there are still "mysteries" about the world and the universe that one cannot yet grasp. What is life's purpose? How do we understand our place in the universe? Accordingly, Zuckerman says that "a lack of belief in God does not render this world any less wondrous, lush, mystifying, or amazing... One need not have God to feel and experience awe. One just needs life."

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This week on the Inquisitive Minds Podcast, we discuss Canada's Supreme Court ruling which declared that the Government of Quebec had infringed on the religious freedom of Montreal's Loyola High School. This decision will have serious repercussions since it could incite other religious groups to request for the same exemptions as those of Loyola. This question is also at the heart of the current debate on secularism in Quebec. It is quite surprising to see how a secular state has so much difficulties establishing its own educational policies.

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March 23, 2015  
This week on the Inquisitive Minds Podcast, we discuss how secular people cope with hardships and death. In his book, The Secular Life, Phil Zuckerman speaks of how secular people endure life's difficulties through their connection with others, and how they also learn to be more self-reliant. They are less inclined to try to find meaning and purpose in their hardships. Life happens and nothing supernatural is responsible for its outcome. The same goes for death. The fear of death is what leads many people to embrace religion. But secular individuals hold firm to the idea that there is but one life to live. Therefore, we must seize, savor and be opened to it. Death is part of life, and since we live only once, living life to the fullest and caring for those around us is of utmost importance.

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In our continuing discussion of Phil Zuckerman's Living the the Secular Life, we look at the contemporary events and causes which have led more and more people to embrace secularism. We also speak of the ways secular people raise their kids without religion, and still manage to find a sense of community despite their lack of belief in any religious tradition, nor their participation in the activities of any religious group.

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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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Some people see secularism as a positive personal orientation which focuses on the here and now, and is concerned with people and nature, life and existence. This week, we continue our discussion of The Secular Life by Phil Zuckerman. In his book, Zuckerman notes that George Jacob Holyoake was the first person to coin the term "secularism" in 1851. Holyoake defined secularism as "a code of duty pertaining to this life, founded on considerations purely human, and intended mainly for those who find theology indefinite or inadequate, unreliable or unbelievable. Its essential principles are three: (1) The improvement of this life by material means. (2) That science is the available Providence of man. (3) That it is good to do good. Whether there be other good or not, the good of this present life is good, and it is good to seek that good."

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