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

This is special episode of the Inquisitive Minds Podcast on the terror attacks which happened earlier today (March 22, 2016) in Brussels, Belgium.

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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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The month of August has been quite violent as people have witnessed the live killing of two reporters in the US, the murder of two family members in an Ikea store in Sweden, and a terrorist attack on a train between Paris and Amsterdam. This forces us to reflect on important issues such as immigration, religious violence, radicalization, culture, politics, economics, security, public policy, education and political correctness. We discuss these various events and their implications in this week's episode of the Inquisitive Minds Podcast.

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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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For our first podcast of 2015, we decided to have a special episode on the Paris shootings which happened on Wednesday, January 7th. The offices of the satirical newspaper "Le Charlie Hebdo" was attacked by terrorists who managed to kill 12 people and injure 11 more. In solidarity with the people of France, this podcast is entitled "I am Charlie"; the slogan and symbol of freedom of expression and of the press. As we start this new year, we also welcome Costa Babalis as a third co-host. Please note that this podcast is an early special edition. Our second episode (#40) will run on January 19th.

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It has been quite an exciting journey into Hector Avalos' important book, Fighting Words. The Origins of Religious Violence. In this last episode dedicated to this topic, we briefly review Avalos' last few chapters where he provides a synthesis and some solutions to the issue of religion and violence. We end this series with a quote found at the end of the book on the scholar's responsibility toward the topic at hand: "Most academic scholars are not so frank in acknowledging that their scholarship is an apologetic enterprise. Given the violence in the scriptures we have examined, I would suggest that the opposite should be our mission. Our job as biblical scholars is to undermine the value of any scripture that endorses violence. [...] We become complicit in violence when we attempt to maintain the value of a book whose main truth claims can never be verified. [...] Our final mission, as scholars of these scriptures, must be to help humanity close the book on a long chapter of human misery."

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In his book Fighting Words, Hector Avalos does not say that secularism is devoid of any violence. Religious violence, however, is more tragic than secular violence since it is predicated on unverifiable premises. In this week's episode of the Inquisitive Minds Podcast, we examine the claim that Hitler's and Stalin's atheism is what led them to heinous acts of violence. As we will see, the Nazi Holocaust was not inspired by atheism and Stalin's actions were mostly political in nature. Atheism does not necessarily equal communism, nor does communism imply atheism. Some early Christian communities were depicted as communistic social groups (Acts 4:32-35) and they were certainly not atheistic.

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In this week's episode, we continue our exploration of Hector Avalos', Fighting Words, and discuss the issue of violence in Islam and the Qur'an. As with Judaism and Christianity, Islam also creates scarce resources which could also somtimes result in acts of violence. Some defenders of the Islamic faith insist that today's violent actions perpetrated by groups such as ISIS are not representative of "true" Islam. Can one really know which types of interpretations of Islam are more authentic than others, since every Islamic sect believes that it faithfully adheres to the teachings of the Qur'an. Avalos argues that even scholars of religion have sometimes fallen into the trap of essentialism, thinking that Islam can be defined by a specific set of attributes, and that all other radical forms do not truly reflect the faith.
 
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