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

In our series on atheism, we examine the question of non-belief in Antiquity. In the first part of this episode, we review Jan N. Bremmer's article in the Cambridge Companion to Atheism on the various ways certain philosophers spoke and defined atheism and/or agnosticism. We then discuss whether or not human beings can be moral without belief in god/gods. Are atheists immoral because of their unbelief? Is good behavior only possible for those who embrace religion? Can non-believers also live meaningful lives or is meaning only to be found through religion? Do people really need to rely on some kind of transcendent reality or supernatural entity(ies) to find true purpose? Ancient and modern critiques argue that morality and meaning do not require one to adopt a religious outlook on life.

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This week's podcast is dedicated to the social impact of atheism. Some people today are "coming out" as atheists and speak about how religion has negatively affected their lives. They also advocate for a complete separation of government and religion. In the past few years, we have seen the rise of what some call the "New Atheists". Often labelled as radical and outspoken, these individuals have made a tremendous impact on the lives of millions people through their writings; for example, just think of the influential works of the famous "Four Horsemen": Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and Harris. Many other prominent writers, bloggers, and vloggers have now followed their lead. But what exactly is atheism? How does it differ from theism and other forms of beliefs or non-beliefs? These are some of the questions we address in this episode.
 
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Embracing a Mind / Body dualism requires a leap of faith or a dose of magical thinking since one cannot explain how immateriality interacts with the physical world. But many people, nevertheless, hold onto such an illusion. For example, this is why some think that quantum physics has supposedly solved the "hard problem of consciousness". This week on the Inquisitive Minds Podcast, we briefly discuss the impact of Descartes' Cartesian dualism and its consequences for understanding the relationship between mind and body. We also notice that first-generation of Cognitive scientists (1950s-60s) adopted a similar perspective and but that a significant change was brought about by second-generation researchers (70s +): embodied realism. Our goal is to explore some of the philosophical and scientific assumptions behind common held beliefs about consciousness, scientific inquiry, quantum physics and the afterlife.

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This week on the Inquisitive Minds Podcast (episode 12), we are concluding our discussion on Gnosticism. In this podcast, we will see how scholars have been defining Gnosticism, to the point where some would argue for dismantling the entire category. Should scholars still use the term and category of "Gnosticism"? If not, is there another way to conceptualize such an idea? Is it time to revisit and refine how scholars have defined Gnosis in the past? Can Gnosis be understood as a mood or worldview espoused by different religious and / or philosophical groups in Antiquity? 

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In the past few years, scholars of early Christian history have sharply disagreed on whether or not Gnosticism is a valid category to describe the diversity of early Christian beliefs and practices. As we now know, early Christianity was not a monolithic religion. This is why many scholars prefer to use the expression "Early Christianities". Believers had many divergent perspectives on the person of Jesus, the creation of the world, the identity of the "true" god, the means of salvation, and the value of the Jewish tradition - just to name a few. These differences caused many tensions and rivalries between the various Christian groups in Late Antiquity, and this is where Gnosticism comes into play. This week on the Inquisitive Minds Podcast, we will examine how scholars explain "Gnosticism" and the related idea of "Gnosis" (knowledge or insight). If Gnosticism is not a viable category as some scholars argue, should we not simply drop the expression? Is there any evidence of Gnosticism at the the turn of the first century CE or prior to that time period? Which ancient religious texts can be considered as Gnostic? How was Gnosis understood by philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle? These are some of the questions we will explore on this Monday's episode.

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