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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After interviewing Dr. Hector Avalos during our last two episodes of the Inquisitive Minds Podcast, we decided to do a short recap on some of the topics covered at our recent Religion and Violence conference, held at Concordia (Montreal, Quebec, Canada) last June. In this episode, André Gagné, Calogero A. Miceli and Costa Babalis briefly discuss the content of their papers and the purpose for hosting such a conference. Please note that an edited volume of the papers is currently in the works. Listeners will be informed in the coming weeks when the publication will be available for purchase.

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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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