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

In this last episode of the year, we thought it would be good to end with a discussion on the purpose of the University. With the increasing corporization of the university, one wonders what the purpose of post-secondary education today can be? Do universities exist solely to help people get a job, and what role should universities play in society? We also look into the recent controversies concerning political correctness on certain university campuses. Universities, we contend, are places where open discussion and debate about ideas should be found, where bad ideologies are to be thoroughly critiqued and where students acquire critical thinking skills. This is the only way students can be prepared to face the harsh realities of life; in a nutshell, the university is not a place for the fainthearted; it is not a "safe-space" to shelter one from controversial ideas and sensitive issues. 

Please note that our next episode of the Inquisitive Minds Podcast will air on January 18th, 2016. We would like to wish all our listeners a Happy Holiday Season and all the best for 2016.

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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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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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This week on the Inquisitive Minds Podcast, we analyse Hector Avalos' book Fighting Words. The Origins of Religious Violence in light of the recent clash between Ben Affleck and Sam Harris on Real Time with Bill Maher (see clip here). The question was whether or not one can critique religion, especially when it promotes bad ideas. Believing that one's religion holds the truth over all others will inevitably lead to conflict. Some see religious pluralism as a way out of this impasse, but according to Avalos, religious pluralism can be good only if it is subservient to secular humanist values. It is truly the only way to bring about non-violent global peace. But how do we contend with the fact that religions often oppose secular humanism's view of the world? Can we truly reconcile religious pluralism and secular humanism? We tackle these and other questions in this week's podcast.

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In this week's episode, we discuss the content of Gavin Hyman's interesting piece in the Cambridge Companion to Atheism entitled, "Atheism in Modern History." In his article, Hyman describes what he considers being an inextricable connection between atheism and modernity. He also explains how the English term "atheism" was first used in 1540 by Sir John Clarke in his translation of Plutarch's On Superstition, and was understood as "a denial of the intervention of divine providence, rather than a denial of the existence of God." It is only in the 18th and 19th centuries that the expression was used in a self-definitional way by French philosopher Denis Diderot, and by Charles Bradlaugh, a British parliamentary member who founded the National Secular Society in 1866.


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