Friday, 29 May 2009
As Robert A Heinlein said "Theologians can persuade themselves of anything”, and some have persuaded their lives away on the theory of transubstantiation. I don't intend to join them here. The purpose of this piece is simply to highlight how the principal rite of christianity, the eucharist, manifests to the naive eye of the non-religious onlooker. It surely requires its participants to make a leap of superstitious belief that is far greater than the witch doctor and his client need to make about a potion concocted from the body-parts of a murdered albino.
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
The former Prime Minister's faith is claimed to have influenced all his key policy decisions and to have given him an unshakeable conviction that he was right.
John Burton, Mr Blair's political agent in his Sedgefield constituency for 24 years, says that Labour's most successful ever leader – in terms of elections won – was driven by the belief that "good should triumph over evil".
"It's very simple to explain the idea of Blair the Warrior," he says. "It was part of Tony living out his faith."
Mr Blair has previously admitted that he was influenced by his Christian faith, but Mr Burton reveals for the first time the strength of his religious zeal.
Mr Burton makes the comments in a book he has written, and which is published this week, called "We Don't Do God".
In it he portrays a prime minister determined to follow a Christian agenda despite attempts to silence him from talking about his faith."
Many of us had niggling suspicions about this even in the days leading up to the war, but this was also a time when we would not accept that the incidence of belief and influence of religion in society was anything but vanishingly small. How wrong we appear to have been. If this report is accurate it reveals an absolutely disgraceful state-of-affairs. The UK's participation in the Iraq war was not to protect our borders or our citizens. It was based on lies and manipulations of evidence to fulfil the agenda of a christian fanatic. How, in the 21st. century, in an advanced, supposedly civilised and democratic country can we have allowed this to happen?
Saturday, 23 May 2009
I think Tally is from the US because elsewhere she makes reference to the American ABC and she also exemplifies the fairly naive attitude to religious belief that still holds sway over large areas of the States. To give prosyletisers on this side of the pond due credit I think they would have adopted a far more sophisticated or oblique approach if venturing to advance some pro-religion argument on this particular blog.
Thursday, 21 May 2009
We know that wouldn't do at all.
Thursday, 14 May 2009
Wednesday, 13 May 2009
Tuesday, 12 May 2009
"We believe it appropriate for the ESC to make a decision as to whether to hear your complaint on appeal due to the arguments you have raised. We will therefore place all of your correspondence with the BBC, as well as your appeal letter to the ESC in front of the Committee at their next meeting on 1 July 2009."
So far so good. I presume this means I've sprung some new argument on them that they need to consider. Watch this space. . . .
Monday, 11 May 2009
Friday, 8 May 2009
Tuesday, 5 May 2009
Monday, 4 May 2009
35 Marylebone High Street,
3rd May 2009
“Thought for the Day”
I am writing to ask you hear on appeal my complaint about the programming of “Thought for the Day” (TftD); in particular the omission of the humanist or atheist voice from among its presenters.
I first complained to the BBC about the TftD slot by email on 1st January 09. I received a response from Mark Damazer (MD) on 8th January and I responded to this on the 9th January. I received a further reply from MD on 25th January in which he was unable to add anything to his first and advised me to refer the matter to the BBC Trust. (I have since learnt that this was in fact the wrong advice.)
I wrote to the BBC Trust on 9th February and they referred my letter to Tim Davie (TD), Director of Audio and Music for a further response which I have now received. This is dated 21st April 09.
Neither MD or TD have addressed my specific reasons for considering the views expressed in TftD lacking in balance. They seem content to rely on mere assertion to the contrary.
Also I am surprised that I have had no response from the Religion & Ethics Department who produce TftD and would seem to be in a unique position to throw some light on the matter. The web page of the Religion & Ethics Department provides a list of "featured religions & beliefs". This list is headed (alphabetically) with "Atheism" with a sub-category “humanism”. The R & E Department is evidently quite content to feature atheism elsewhere in its schedules but, in a strange lapse of impartiality, seems unable to include a humanist speaker in the TftD slot.
However to return to the responses I have received, I understand from Mr Damazer that: TftD aims to offer a brief, uninterrupted interlude of spiritual reflection in the midst of the three hour Today programme; that the speakers are chosen from those religions having a “significant” membership in the UK; and that a “careful balance” is maintained between these different religions.
To anyone who considers humanism as valid as any religious creed this “careful balance” is self-evidently absent. But even among the religions presently represented in TftD I do not see evidence for this “careful balance”. Surely my complaint calls for the “balance” to be quantified in some way. For example, in very round terms what is the threshold for a religion to be considered significant and how many TftD slots per annum would that give entitlement to?
According to Tim Davie speakers are expected to make brief references to their faith & its scriptures but are not allowed to proselytise or to disparage other religions.
The monologues are in fact very variable in quality. Some, by expressing humane and readily endorsed views can stand alone without reference to religion, which reference is sometimes brought in like an afterthought. The worst monologues are platitudinous or strain to answer moral or ethical questions in way that fits religious dogma. Yet the humanist viewpoint is never represented because, in the words of Mr Damazer, it would “detract from the distinctiveness of the slot”. It is impossible to see how this would be so. As religious proselytisation is not allowed the distinctiveness of TftD overwhelmingly relies on its scheduling, brevity, and meditative nature. Again Mr Damazer has not made any attempt to justify his assertion.
Even if the occasional humanist presenter would in a small way alter the character of the slot it is surely an insufficient reason for exclusion. According to the 2001 census 20% of the UK population stated that they had no religion or left the question blank. Many of these will switch off their minds if not their radios during TftD. Is it really the BBC’s position that this 20% have no interest in spiritual reflection or that only religious believers are fit to cater for it?
Both MD and TD give examples of other programmes in which religious & non religious voices are balanced such as Sunday, Beyond Belief, and The Moral Maze on Radio 4, Good Morning Sunday and World of Faith on Radio 2.
I do not understand the relevance of this to TftD. In the examples given it is possible to provide balanced views within the scope of a single programme and, as far as I know the BBC generally succeeds in this. In the case of a 5 minute slot this is obviously not feasible but balance can still be demonstrated over a run of programmes by regular inclusion of the humanist voice.
Lastly, in support of their case, MD and TD both make reference to the non-religious voices that “are also heard extensively across the general output in news, current affairs, documentaries, talks, science, history”.
Again this seems irrelevant to TftD. MD has stressed the unique nature of TftD. This uniqueness sets it apart from the general run of programming, and its present lack of any humanist input cannot be notionally rectified by random non-religious voices elsewhere in the general programme output.