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

This last episode on Whitmarsh's Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World focuses on atheism in the Roman Empire. The rise of Rome brought with it the belief that the Empire's existence was the result of a divine mandate. Some opposing voices were raised against this idea of divine providence. Atheistic arguments circulated through various doxographies written mostly by people opposing non-believers. These texts give us insight into how disbelievers argued somewhat successfully against theistic perspectives. As Rome embraced Christianity, rulers such as Theodosius I (379-395 CE) established that it was now insufficient to simply adopt the right religion; one also needed to adhere to the right theological position on the right religion. Codex Theodosianus goes as far as treating "heresy" (which was now clearly understood as an incorrect theological position) as crime against the state. According to this law, "any crime committed against divine religion is treated as an aggression against everyone".

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In this third episode dedicated to Tim Whitmarsh's book, Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World, we review his section on the Hellenistic Era where kings were sometimes worshiped as "gods". Some philosophers, however, were skeptical of such ideas and adopted an agnostic position toward the existence of gods. Epicureans, on the other hand,believed in gods but not in their involvement in the world, and since the gods were different in matter and not part of this world, they even thought that there existed a plurality of universes; a concept similar to what is now referred to as "multiverse".


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This week, we start a series of podcasts discussing Tim Whitmarsh's, Battling the Gods: Atheism in the Ancient World. In this episode we will discuss how the ancient Greek world differentiated between the sacred and the profane, despite the fact that people embraced polytheism. We will also note that Greeks did not consider their texts as sacred, certainly not in the sense Jews, Christians and Muslims understand their own scriptures. Homer's Iliad and Odyssey were not sacred texts even if they are comprised of divine characters; these are rather to be understood as myth. We will end our podcast with an important note on the concept of "mimesis" and how such a practice could be understood as a "battle with the gods" (theomachy), a way to contest their very existence.

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In our third and last podcast dedicated to the "The Second Wave of the New Atheism. A Manifesto for Secular Scriptural Scholarship and Religious Studies", we will answer as to why the authors have framed their manifesto in the context of the New Atheism. This question was asked several times by some of our listeners. We would like to discuss how Avalos and Gagné respond to people who think the manifesto should not be associated to the New Atheism.
   
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This week again, we examine the manifesto written by Hector Avalos and André Gagné entitled: "The Second Wave of the New Atheism. A Manifesto for Secular Scriptural Scholarship and Religious Studies." We invite scholars of religion or scriptural studies who share some of the ideas and would like to become signatories, to contact the authors at the information found on the manifesto's website accessible here.


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Happy New Year to all our listeners! We are back with a new episode of the Inquisitive Minds Podcast. This week, we discuss Part 1 of a manifesto written by Hector Avalos and André Gagné entitled: "The Second Wave of the New Atheism. A Manifesto for Secular Scriptural Scholarship and Religious Studies." The piece was first published on January 7, 2016 on the Bible and Interpretation website. We now have a permanent page where you can find the manifesto and the signatories who have recently endorsed it (read the statement here). Scholars of religion or scriptural studies who share some of the ideas and would like to become signatories, can contact the authors at the information found on the website.

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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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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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