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

On this week's episode of the Inquisitive Minds Podcast, we discuss the recent Canadian Supreme Court decision which ruled against opening city council meetings with a prayer. In this particular case, the ruling was brought against the wishes of the mayor of the city of Saguenay, in the province of Quebec. Does such a decision go against the freedom of conscience and religion? What role should religion, and more specifically prayer, play in the political realm? Does Canada truly uphold the principles of secularism? What are the differences between Quebec and the rest of Canada when it comes to secularism and the place of religion in the public sphere?

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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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What is place of scholars and education in the fight against religious extremism? This week on the Inquisitive Minds Podcast, we discuss a blog post by Calogero Miceli and an Op-Ed by André Gagné which seek to answer this important question. Are scholars of religion ready to take on a more proactive role in providing ideas and their critical assessment on the current wave of religious violence? We also ask how secular societies can counter self-proclaimed religious leaders and whether governments can establish educational policies to regulate religious extremism in the public sphere.

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