Beyond Belief

By BBC Radio 4

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Series exploring the place and nature of faith in today's world

Episode Date
Autism and Faith
How easy is it for autistic people to believe in God? The National Autistic Society describe autism as a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people communicate and interact with the world. They say 1 in 100 of us may be autistic and the diagnosis of autism has risen dramatically in recent decades. How are religious organisations responding to the needs of a growing number of their congregations? Ernie Rae is joined by a panel of three autistic guests to discuss their experiences: Professor Grant Macaskill, the co-director of the Centre for Autism and Theology at the University of Aberdeen; Samantha Stein, a YouTuber with over seven million views, who set up an atheist summer camp; and Iqra Babar, a digital artist with a strong Muslim faith. We also hear from TV quizzer Anne Hegarty, who is autistic and a Catholic, about her relationship with faith. Producer: Rebecca Maxted Assistant Producer: Josie Le Vay Editor: Helen Grady
May 19, 2022
Fierce and Feminine: Kali and Shakti
She wears a necklace of severed human heads with blood dripping from their necks. Her tongue is bright scarlet and sticking out. She carries a bloodied sword. Meet Kali, a Hindu goddess who is one embodiment of the Hindu principle called Shakti, meaning energy, power or force. Who is Kali and what does she represent? We’re embracing some of the ideas of shakti in the West. You can take kundalini yoga classes or meditation courses to access your divine feminine energy. What is the philosophy behind these practices? Join Ernie Rea as he visits the British Museum to see a new statue of the female Goddess, part of a new exhibition called 'Feminine Power: From The Divine to the Demonic'. Curator Belinda Crerer and dancer and devotee of Kali, Indrani Datta, tell him more. Plus Ernie is joined by experts in the Shakti tradition Sumita Ambasta, Lavanya Vemsani and Acharya Vidyabhaskar. Producer: Rebecca Maxted Editor: Helen Grady Image: Kali Murti, Kaushik Ghosh, India, 2022. Image © The Trustees of the British Museum
May 09, 2022
Who Are the Uyghurs?
As Muslims around the world celebrate Eid, Ernie Rea hosts a panel on the beliefs and culture of the Uyghurs, a majority Muslim people in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, North West China. Human rights organisations have accused China of committing crimes against humanity against the Uyghur people and the US government has accused the Chinese government of genocide. For over eight years, there have been reports of mass surveillance of the Uyghur population and abuses including forced incarceration in 're-education camps' and sterilisation against the Uyghur people in Xinjiang. The Chinese government have consistently denied accusations of abuse and insist their camps are vocational facilities, and to combat terrorism. Ernie Rea explores the faith of the majority Muslim Uyghur people. What could be lost from their language, culture and heritage? Ernie is joined by experts on the region, Dr Jo Smith Finley and Dr Rian Thum. Rahima Mahmut, a Uyghur Muslim. grew up in the region and is the UK Director of the World Uyghur Congress. And Abduweli Ayup, a Uyghur poet and linguistic scholar, tells his story of incarceration in Xinjiang. Producer: Rebecca Maxted
May 02, 2022
Young and Full of Faith
In a society that’s becoming increasingly secular, why are some young people embracing a ‘full fat’ version of faith? During the pandemic a UK poll showed that those in Generation Z are more likely to believe in God than their millennial peers. A new study of British Catholics has found that younger believers show a greater degree of religious commitment than their elders. Whilst those ticking ‘no religion’ box on the census is increasing, are those who still identify with a religion more likely to have a strengthened commitment to it? Ernie Rea is joined by a panel representing different faiths, to discuss the pull of religion for young people in 2022. Bhavya Shah is the President of the National Hindu Student Forum, Jasvir Kaur Rababan is a Sikh music teacher, Professor Stephen Bullivant from St Mary's University is about to publish new research called 'Why Younger Catholics Seem More Committed' and Dr Sadek Hamid is a writer and academic with an expertise on Islam and young people in Britain. Producer: Rebecca Maxted Editor: Tim Pemberton
Apr 25, 2022
On Easter Sunday, as children hunt for chocolate eggs, the words 'Christ is Risen. Alleluia!' are proclaimed from every church pulpit. The day of Jesus Christ's Resurrection is the most joyous day of the Christian calendar. A message of death defeated, salvation secured, is the cornerstone of the faith of nearly one third of the world's population. But how do the faithful understand this extraordinary story? Do you have to believe Jesus physically rose from the dead for the story to have meaning? And what is it's resonance today, for those of faith, or without? Ernie Rea is joined by scholars Professor Helen Bond, Dr Andrew Boakye, and the Chief Executive of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, Paul Woolley, to discuss the evidence for and understanding of the Resurrection. Plus film critic and host of the 'Girls on Film' podcast, Anna Smith, discusses how the story and themes of the resurrection have appeared in popular cinema throughout the decades. Producer: Rebecca Maxted Editor: Tim Pemberton This programme contains short excepts from the following films: The Greatest Story Ever Told (Dir: George Stevens, 1965) The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (Dir: Andrew Adamson, 2005)
Apr 18, 2022
Religion IRL
In the past two years faith communities have lived through an unprecedented experiment. With places of worships closed for long periods, they've been forced to adapt digitally. Not everyone could do so fulsomely, with some acts of worship prohibited by religious teachings. As restrictions have lifted many are finding that the faithful are not rushing back, although there are exceptions. How did it feel to take communion or attend Friday prayers together again in real life? Has the pandemic permanently changed the practice of faith as a congregation or community? And why, for faith leaders and theologians, is it so important we return to the church, synagogue or mosque? To discuss why physical presence has been so important in faith and religion across millennia, Ernie Rea is joined by Dr Mansur Ali, a lecturer in Islamic studies at the University of Cardiff who advised his local mosque on the theology of online prayer during Covid. He's also joined by Dr Sara Parvis, a senior lecturer in Early Christian History at the University of Edinburgh and a practicing Catholic, and Dr Samuel Landau, an Orthodox Rabbi at the Barnet United Synagogue and a Clinical Psychologist. Plus Rev. Sean Steele, the vicar of St Isidore Episcopal Church in Texas, explains how he is exploring physical presence in worship through virtual reality services in the metaverse. Producer: Rebecca Maxted Editor: Helen Grady
Apr 11, 2022
Putin's Religious War
Days before Russian troops entered Ukraine in late February, President Vladimir Putin gave an impassioned address to the Russian people attempting to justify what he was about to carry out. He referred to Ukraine as 'an inalienable part' of Russia's 'spiritual space'. It's one of many references to faith and religion interwoven into the Russian narrative of the 'special military operation' in Ukraine. Ernie Rea explores the beliefs being used to justify this aggression, and asks why the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, has defended Putin's actions. He's joined by Andrew Louth, theologian and Archpriest in the Russian Orthodox Church here in the UK, Geraldine Fagan, an expert in religious affairs in the former Soviet states, and Katherine Kelaidis, a writer and historian whose work focuses on early Medieval Christian history and contemporary orthodox identity. Plus he speaks to the journalist and theologian Sergei Chapnin, who worked for the Russian Orthodox Church for 15 years. Producer: Rebecca Maxted Editor: Helen Grady
Apr 04, 2022
The 5Ks of Sikhism
In 1699, Guru Gobind Singh (the 10th Sikh Guru) formed the Sikh Khalsa and announced that its first five members should wear the 5Ks to demonstrate their devotion to their faith. Today the 5Ks are still symbols of Sikh identity: Kesh (uncut hair), Kanga (a wooden comb), Kara (steel bracelet), Kirpan (sword) and Kachera (cotton underwear). To discuss the importance of the 5Ks, Ernie Rea is joined by Dr Jasjit Singh (Associate Professor in the School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science at Leeds University), Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Labour MP for Slough and Shadow Minister for Railways) and by Professor Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh (Crawford Family Professor of Religion and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Colby College in the United States). Producer: Helen Lee
Jan 03, 2022
In the popular imagination, Satan is often a figure of evil with horns, hooves, frightening face and wings. But in scripture he does not conform to this stereotype. In Islam (in the form of Iblis) and in Christianity, he is a fallen angel - different to ‘the Satan’ of the Hebrew Bible – but all in sacred writings he is a Tempter and/or Adversary. How has our view of him changed over the centuries and what part does he play in today’s world? Ernie Rea is joined by three people who have given much thought to Satan. Darren Oldridge is Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Worcester and the author of “The Devil: A Very Short Introduction.” Roni Tabick is the Rabbi of the New Stoke Newington Shul in Hackney. He has studied ancient Hebrew culture and Rabbinic texts. And Dr Sharihan Al-Akhras is a Digital Journalist at the BBC World Service. Her PhD looked at the links between Milton’s Satan in “Paradise Lost” and the Muslim story of Iblis. Producer: Helen Lee Editor: Helen Grady
Dec 27, 2021
Benjamin Britten's A Ceremony of Carols
In the spring of 1942, Benjamin Britten and his partner Peter Pears left the United States on board a Swedish cargo ship to cross the perilous waters of the North Atlantic. On a stopover in Nova Scotia, Britten picked up a book of medieval poems and whilst the ship navigated ferocious winds and dodged U boats, he used some of them in the first draft of what was to become 'A Ceremony of Carols'. From the confines of a miserable and airless cabin he created a work of such joy and energy that it has become a Christmas staple for the high clear voices of boy trebles - or women’s choir - and harp. To discuss the enduring appeal of the music and the spiritual meaning of 'A Ceremony of Carols', Ernie Rea is joined by a distinguished trio of musicians. Michael Berkeley is a composer, broadcaster, and crossbench peer. Benjamin Britten was his godfather. Anna Lapwood is a conductor, organist and Director of Music at Pembroke College, Cambridge. She was a professional harp player. And the Rev Lucy Winkett is Rector of St James Piccadilly in the centre of London. Before becoming a priest, she trained as a singer at the Royal College of Music. Producer: Helen Lee
Dec 20, 2021
Straight after Oleksandr Usyk dethroned Anthony Joshua on points in a boxing masterclass in London, the new world heavyweight champion told a crowd of 65,000 that: "The only thing I wanted to do with this fight is to give praise to Jesus Christ." A fortnight later, the world's other heavyweight champion, Tyson Fury proclaimed to a global audience of 920,000 that Jesus helped him knock out Deontay Wilder to retain his title. Why have boxing and Christianity become so deeply embedded in each other’s corners? Ernie Rae goes toe to toe with the theology behind the punches with stories of some of the sport’s biggest names and those at its grassroots today. How do Christians in the fight game reconcile love thy neighbour with delivering knockouts? Especially when we know much more about the long term brain damage boxers are exposed to. To answer these questions and more, Ernie is joined by: Pastor Lorraine Jones, Chief Executive Officer and founder of Dwayneamics, a boxing gym in Brixton. Amy Koehlinger, Associate Professor of History and Religious Studies at Oregon State University and author of the upcoming Rosaries and Rope Burns: Boxing and Manhood in American Catholicism from 1880 to 1970. Gordon Marino, former boxer who covered the sport for the Wall Street Journal and HBO. A boxing trainer with 30 years’ experience, professor of Philosophy at St Olaf College, Minnesota and author of The Existentialist's Survival Guide: How to Live Authentically in an Inauthentic Age. Plus, as he prepares for his next fight, boxer, Jazza Dickens tells Ernie precisely why he believes God “strengthens his hands” whilst keeping him and his opponent safe no matter what he does in the squared circle. Producer: Julian Paszkiewicz Editor: Helen Grady (Image: Oleksandr Usyk celebrates after being crowned the new World Champion following the Heavyweight Title Fight between Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on September 25, 2021 in London, England. Credit: Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Dec 13, 2021
Young Voices in Northern Ireland
For this special edition of Beyond Belief, Ernie Rea has been to Northern Ireland to talk to a panel of young adults in their 20s about their views on religion and how their society has changed in the 23 years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. Ernie was born in Belfast and worked in a youth club on the Shankill Road during some of the worst years of the Troubles. He experienced the visceral hatred felt by some Protestants and Catholics towards each other and although religion was not the cause of the Troubles, it played its part; it largely determined how people voted and where they sent their children to school. Ernie acknowledges that things have changed since the Troubles but he wants to know how much? Does religious affiliation still determine attitudes towards social and moral issues in Northern Ireland? Panel: Andrew Matthews Aoibhin McNeill Chris Clague Shannon Campbell Producer: Helen Lee Editor: Helen Grady
Dec 06, 2021
Orthodox Jewish Women
There is a stereotype of the Orthodox Jewish woman. She is confined to domestic duties and bringing up many children whilst being dominated by a husband who wears a large round fur hat (a shtreimel) and has side curls and a bushy beard. This stereotype is based on the Ultra-Orthodox community which has recently been portrayed in the very popular Netflix dramas 'Unorthodox' and 'Shtisel'. The truth is that the Orthodox Jewish community is more diverse than this and that mainstream Orthodox Jewish women are taking on more responsibility in their community. To discuss the stereotype, their faith and their lives, Ernie Rea is joined by three Orthodox Jewish women. Abi Kurzer is the Rebbetzen or Rabbi’s wife at Pinner United Synagogue in North London. She is also Clinical Manager and a social worker for a charity supporting adolescent girls from the Orthodox Jewish community. Rabbi Dr Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz is a Research Fellow at Manchester University. Controversially she was ordained this summer in New York. And Avigail Simmonds-Rosten is the Jewish Programme Manager at the Council of Christians and Jews in London. Producer: Helen Lee
Nov 29, 2021
African Spirituality
The increasing influence of African spirituality on Western society is very evident. You can read it in the work of novelists like Ben Okri, see it in the work of artists such as Chris Ofili and hear it in the music of pop superstars like Beyonce. Partly driven by the desire of young people within the African diaspora to find a deeper connection to their African heritage, African spirituality is very different to Christianity or Islam; religions brought to Africa by colonizing forces. It contains many diverse beliefs which differ from region to region. There are no scriptures – the traditions are passed on by word of mouth – and ancestors play a key role. Many of the practices are not found in Western culture (such as juju), but they express deep spiritual convictions and bind societies together. To discuss African spirituality, Ernie Rea has assembled a panel of experts from across the African continent. Born in Nigeria in the West of Africa, Jacob K Olupona is Professor of African Religious Traditions at Harvard Divinity School and Professor of African American Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University. Mary Nyangweso was born in Kenya in East Africa and is Professor of Religious Studies at East Carolina University. And Adeola Aderemi is a Holistic Healer who bases her practice on her Isese Ifa spirituality with its origins in the Yoruba culture of Southern Nigeria. Ernie also talks to Nigerian born artist Laolu Senbanjo who now works in New York. Laolu’s art is influenced by his Yoruba heritage and practice of African spirituality. His ‘Sacred Art of the Ori’ (Yoruba symbols painted onto the naked body) featured on Beyoncé’s 2016 Grammy award winning video for her concept album ‘Lemonade’. Producers: Helen Lee Julian Paszkiewicz Image: Original painting by Laolu Senbanjo on display at the Belvedere Vodka x Laolu Senbanjo collaboration celebration on September 6, 2018 in New York City. Credit: Johnny Nunez/WireImage via Getty Images
Nov 22, 2021
Poetry, the Language of Religion
To celebrate its 500th edition, Beyond Belief has recorded a special programme at the Contains Strong Language poetry festival in Coventry. From the stage of the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry to discuss the theme of ‘Poetry as the Language of Religion’, Ernie Rea is joined by a distinguished panel: Michael Symmons Roberts is one of Britain’s leading poets whose work explores the connection between the things of the spirit and the things of the world, Canon Mark Oakley is the Dean and Fellow of St John’s College Cambridge and the author of 'The Splash of Words, Believing in Poetry', Muneera Pilgrim is a British born convert to Islam and a poet and cultural producer and Bel Mooney is an author with a regular column in the Daily Mail where she also reviews books of poetry. Each member of the panel has chosen (and recites) a poem to illustrate the idea that poetry can be the language of faith: 'Names' by Wendy Cope 'To men who use "Why are you single?" as a chat up line' by Muneera Pilgrim 'Belsen, Day of Liberation' by Robert Hayden 'Rehearsal for the Death Scene' by Michael Symmons Roberts Producer: Helen Lee
Oct 04, 2021
Ignatian Spirituality
If you have ever been so immersed in a book or film that you feel you're part of the story, you are doing something similar to the Gospel contemplations in the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius. As a soldier, Ignatius spent his early life chasing adventure, glory and pleasure. Whilst leading a doomed last stand at the Battle of Pamplona 500 years ago, he was struck by a cannonball that shattered his legs. This began a dramatic spiritual conversion through intense prayer, ascetism and visions. As the founder of the Jesuits, his lessons were published in a book called The Spiritual Exercises which are basis of Ignatian Spirituality. It's one of the world's most influential books of prayer, meditations and contemplations. It emphasises using all your senses to imagine Jesus, hell, and biblical scenes with the goal of discerning God's will for you. Ernie Rae meets three people to discover how it transformed their lives and asks: does it's focus on individual discernment mean 'anything goes'? What's it like conjuring up a visceral image of you at your absolute worst? And how has Ignatian Spirituality shaped the papacy of the first Jesuit Pope, Francis I? Plus, we meet Toy Story co-creator, Pete Docter. He tells us how another goal of Ignatian Spirituality of finding God in all things influenced him and his latest Oscar winning film, Soul. To discuss all this, Ernie is joined by: Father Jim Martin (a Jesuit Priest and author of ‘The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything’), Ruth Holgate (Director of St Beuno’s Jesuit Spirituality Centre in North Wales) and Sister Anne Arabome (a member of the Sisters of Social Service in Los Angeles and Associate Director of the Faber Centre for Ignatian Spirituality). Producer: Julian Paszkiewicz Editor: Helen Grady
Sep 27, 2021
Scotland and the Union
There has been a ‘Great Britain’ for over 300 years but the union is now under threat. Part of what has held Scotland and England together is the fact that they have shared a monarch since 1603. But whilst the Queen holds the title 'Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England', she not not the Supreme Governor of the Church of Scotland. The two nations have different ecclesiastical arrangements. Anglicanism in Scotland is not very prominent whilst - until recently - the Presbyterian Church of Scotland dominated the religious landscape. Numbers in the Scottish Catholic Church have been maintained by immigration from Ireland and, more recently, from Eastern Europe but it too is in decline; whilst black, Asian and minority ethnic communities are growing in size and influence. Has the change in the religious landscape in Scotland had any influence on the move for political independence? And why do the religious bodies appear so reluctant to take a public stance in the debate about Scotland and the union? Ernie Rea is joined by a panel which is split equally between pro and anti-union sentiments. Murdo Fraser is a Conservative Member of the Scottish Parliament and a Patron of the Conservative Christian Fellowship; the Rev Scott Rennie is a Church of Scotland Minister in Aberdeen and a member of the Lib Dems; both are pro union. Angela Haggerty is a Catholic journalist and commentator and shares a pro independence position with Graham Campbell an SNP councillor on Glasgow City Council and a Rastafarian.
Sep 20, 2021
What do the Taliban believe?
It’s a month since Afghanistan entered a new era under the 'Taliban 2.0'. Foreign forces have gone and the eyes of the world are fixed on how they will govern their ‘Islamic Emirate’. Many of those who remember life under the Taliban the first time around in the 1990s are not hopeful. They describe an oppressive regime, justified Islamically through an extremely narrow interpretation of sharia law. Women couldn’t work, girls couldn’t go to school; there was a strict dress code for men and women; music, TV and cinema were banned. There were brutal punishments for those who stepped out of line. Ethnic and religious minorities were targeted and killed. Mobeen Azhar and guests explore what the Taliban believe, how they have justified their actions theologically and whether any of those core beliefs are likely to change. Contributors: Dr Sayed Hassan Akhlaq - Afghan-Iranian philosopher at Coppin State University in Baltimore, who has specialised in Islamic theology; Dr Haroun Rahimi - Assistant Professor of Law at the American University of Afghanistan; John Mohammed Butt - Islamic scholar and graduate of Darul Uloom Deoband in India; Dr Weeda Mehran - lecturer at the Department of Politics at the University of Exeter, who grew up in Afghanistan in the 1990s. Producer: Dan Tierney Editor: Helen Grady.
Sep 13, 2021
Ganesh or Ganesha - also known as Ganpati - is one of the best known Hindu Gods. Easily identified by his elephant head, pot belly and four arms, Ganesha has many fine attributes and is revered as the remover of obstacles and the god of beginnings. As Hindus prepare to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi (the birth of Lord Ganesha), Mobeen Azhar is joined by Hindu monk Swamini Supriyananda, Dr David Frawley (Founder of the American Institute of Vedic Studies) and by Dr Raj Balkaran (Teacher and Consultant at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies). They discuss why Ganesha is so important and the appeal he has outside the Hindu faith. Mobeen also talks to Game of Thrones actor Lena Headey about why she has a tattoo of Ganesha on her right shoulder. Producer: Helen Lee Editor: Helen Grady This episode of Beyond Belief contains a short audio excerpt from an episode of The Simpsons entitled 'The Two Mrs Nahasapeemapetilons' (Season 9, Episode 7). It was written by Richard Appel and broadcast by the Fox Broadcasting Company.
Sep 06, 2021
The College of Cardinals
For over 1000 years, the College of Cardinals has been responsible for electing the Pope. The Papal Conclave is always conducted in private and very little was known about how its members actually make their final choice for the role of Pontiff. But in recent years, the secrets of the Conclave have begun to leak out and public interest in its inner workings has been piqued by bestselling authors Dan Brown and Robert Harris who have featured the College of Cardinals in novels read by millions. Ernie Rea takes a look at the College of Cardinals. How influential are they outside the Vatican, what do they do in Conclave and how can a Pope influence the choice of his successor by deciding who should become a cardinal. Producer: Helen Lee Assistant Producer: Julian Paszkiewicz
Aug 30, 2021
Harry Potter
Some Christian voices have suggested that the Harry Potter stories about witchcraft, magic and mythical beasts provide a gateway into satanic practices. But JK Rowling completely disagrees and she was glad that readers were unaware of her Christian faith at the time the books were first published because they might then have guessed the ending of the final book. To discuss the Christian allegory and religious themes in the Harry Potter books, Ernie Rea is joined by Dr Beatrice Groves (Research Fellow and Tutor in English at Trinity College, Oxford), Vanessa Zoltan (co-host of the podcast 'Harry Potter and the Sacred Text') and by author and lecturer John Granger who has been described by Time Magazine as “The Dean of Harry Potter Scholars”. Producer: Helen Lee Assistant Producer: Barnaby Gordon Editor: Helen Grady
Aug 23, 2021
The Monarch as Defender of the Faith
The Queen holds two titles that date right back to Henry VIII: 'Defender of the Faith’ and ‘Supreme Governor of the Church of England'. The coronation is always held within the context of a religious service and there is no doubt that the Queen has a deep Christian faith but how relevant is her role as Defender of the Faith in a Britain where membership of the Church of England is in decline and minority ethnic religious groups are growing? To discuss these issues, Ernie Rea is joined by Martin Palmer who was Prince Philip’s Religious Advisor on the environment; Rabbi Julia Neuberger - a Crossbench Peer in the House of Lords; Dr Jasjit Singh - an Associate Professor in the School of Philosophy, Religion and the History of Science at the University of Leeds; and Dr Daniel Loss from Harvard University - an historian of modern Britain. Producer: Helen Lee Assistant Producer: Barnaby Gordon Editor: Helen Grady
Aug 16, 2021
Scottish Independence
In the new Scottish Parliament, a majority of MSPs want independence for Scotland but recent opinion polls suggest that only half the population is in favour. In all the debates, the religious voice has been very muted. That may be because, religious observance in Scotland has plummeted. Over half of people surveyed recently, said that they had no religion. The rise of the independence movement has coincided with a decline in the social significance of religion. So, is nationalism filling the vacuum? To discuss the religious dimensions in the Scottish independence debate, Ernie Rea is joined by the Rev Doug Gay, who is a minister of the Church of Scotland and lectures in Practical Theology at the University of Glasgow; Peter Kearney is Spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland; the Very Rev Kevin Holdsworth is Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow and as such, a senior figure in the Scottish Episcopal Church; and the Rev Kathy Galloway is a Church of Scotland minister and former Leader of the Iona Community. Producer: Helen Lee
May 20, 2021
Ernie Rea takes a look at a religion that emerged on the Caribbean island of Haiti about 500 years ago when the traditional religions of enslaved West Africans merged with the Catholicism of the French colonialists. Here in the West we call it Voodoo; but the correct term is Vodou. 60 million people worldwide practice Vodou. It is thought to have originated in the West African country of Benin where the word ‘Vodou’ means “Spirit” in one of the indigenous languages and the ‘Lwa’ (the Vodou name for Spirits) are central to the religion's belief and practice. Ernie is joined by Her Majesty Queen Mother Dr Dowoti Desir (a Mambo Asogwe - Vodou High Priestess) from her Royal Palace in the city of Ouidah in Benin. Also taking part in the discussion are Dr Louise Fenton (a Senior Lecturer in Contextual Studies at the University of Wolverhampton) and Dr Kyrah Malika Daniels (Assistant Professor of Art History, Africana Studies and Theology at Boston College in the United States). Producer: Helen Lee
May 10, 2021
On February 1st, the government in Myanmar was overthrown in a military coup. Aung San Suu Kyi is now being held in prison and hundreds of protestors have been shot on the streets. For many decades, Christians and Muslims have been at the hard end of military oppression. Now the Buddhist majority are feeling the crack of the whip. To discuss Myanmar’s turbulent history and the current crisis, Ernie Rea is joined by Soe Win Than (Editor of the BBC Burmese Service), Khin Ohmar (a democracy and human rights activist noted for her leadership in the 1988 uprising in Myanmar) and by Benedict Rogers (Senior Analyst for East Asia at Christian Solidarity Worldwide). Producer: Helen Lee
May 03, 2021
Dante's Inferno
This year marks the 700th anniversary of the death of the Italian poet Dante Alighieri. He is best known as the author of 'The Divine Comedy' which describes his journey through Hell and Purgatory, until he finally reaches Paradise. But it is 'Inferno', containing gruesome descriptions of Hell, that has captured the popular imagination and it is this first part of 'The Divine Comedy' that Ernie Rea discusses with Professor Akash Kumar and Dr Paula Nasti. Ernie also interviews jazz saxophonist and composer Sherman Irby about his jazz ballet score based on Dante's Inferno. Producer: Helen Lee
Apr 26, 2021
The Vaccine
The rollout of the UK’s vaccination programme has been the envy of much of the world but there is concern about the reluctance of people from black and minority ethnic communities to take the vaccine. Ernie Rea asks why this is the case. He also takes a look at the religious reasons contributing to vaccine hesitancy and asks some of the wider ethical questions posed by the vaccine rollout. Who should receive the vaccine first? And how do we address the problem of ‘vaccine nationalism’? Panel: Dr Hina Shahid (GP and Chair of the Muslim Doctors Association) Dr Rosemarie Mallet (Archdeacon of Croydon) Dr Mark Pickering (Chief Executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship) Producer: Helen Lee
Apr 19, 2021
Prince Philip
In all the tributes to Prince Philip, one of the things that surprised many people was that he was a man of deep, personal faith. We knew of his passion for science and technology, his commitment to the environment and his strong sense of duty to Queen and country. We also knew that Christian faith is the driving force in the life of the Queen, but the fact that her husband shared that faith commitment seems to have passed under the radar. To discuss Prince Philip's spiritual life, Ernie Rea is joined by a multi-faith panel: Martin Palmer (The Prince's advisor on religion and the environment), Catherine Pepinster (a writer and commentator on religion and a former editor of The Tablet). Mona Siddiqui (Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies at the University of Edinburgh) and Rabbi Jonathan Romain (Maidenhead Reform Synagogue). Producer: Helen Lee
Apr 12, 2021
In the first of a new series of Beyond Belief, Ernie Rea is joined by three beekeepers. Bees have been important to humans for thousands of years. Honey was found in Tutankhamun’s tomb, Aristotle and Virgil wrote about beekeeping and bees and honey get an honourable mention in the scriptures of many religions. There is a whole surah (chapter) in the Qu’ran called ‘The Bee’ ('An-nahl') and the Old Testament refers to Israel as ‘a land of milk and honey’. Bees are vital to our world ecology and they pollinate a third of our crops but their numbers are in decline. To discuss the role of bees and honey in different religious traditions, Ernie is joined by three urban beekeepers: Salma Attan looks after her bees on the roof of the East London Mosque, Rabbi Kelley Gludt tends a hive in Baltimore, Maryland and Adrian Rhodes was the 'Canon Apiarist' at Manchester Cathedral. Producer: Helen Lee
Apr 06, 2021
Religion and Science in Schools
Since Darwin published The Origin of Species, there has been a perceived battle between science and religion. It was not always so. For hundreds of years, science was designed to help people reach a better understanding of God rather than the world. The Enlightenment changed all that. Today schoolchildren are taught science and religion as separate subjects. Are the two incompatible? Would it not be better if science and religion were taught together to help children consider some of the Big Questions of Life? To discuss this subject, Ernie Rea is in debate with Berry Billingsley (Professor in Science Education at Canterbury Christ Church University); Dr Ruth Wareham (Education Campaigns Manager at Humanists UK); and Dr Myles MacBean (National Director at Scripture Union England and Wales). Producer: Helen Lee Editor: Amanda Hancox
Jan 04, 2021
The Dalai Lama
This year, the Dalai Lama celebrated his 85th Birthday. He is one of the world's most prominent religious leaders and is certainly the most famous Buddhist but talk is now turning to who will replace him. In 1959, His Holiness was forced to leave Tibet and since then he has been living in Dharamsala in northern India. In exile, he has become so much more than just the Tibetan spiritual leader but what do we really know about him and what will his legacy be? Discussing the 14th Dalai Lama with Ernie Rea will be Kate Saunders (a writer and independent specialist on Tibet), Professor Robbie Barnett (Former Director of Modern Tibetan Studies at Columbia University and now a Professorial Research Associate at SOAS). the Venerable Lama Losang Samten (Spiritual Director of the Chenrezig Tibetan Buddhist Centre of Philadelphia and personal attendant to the Dalai Lama in the 1980s) and Andrew Quintman (Associate Professor of Religion at Wesleyan University who specializes in the Buddhist traditions of Tibet). Producer: Helen Lee Editor: Amanda Hancox
Dec 28, 2020
Virgin Mary
Christmas is often a time of celebration and reflection. A time of sitting by the Christmas tree, eating and drinking, spending time with loved ones and for Christians reflecting on the birth of Jesus. His mother Mary is a highly revered figure in both Christianity and Islam. The iconic pose of the Madonna and Child is celebrated in art but we are told very little about her in the Bible. Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the Virgin Mary is Prof Tina Beattie, Director of the Catherine of Sienna College, the University of Roehampton; Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic and Interreligious Studies at the University of Edinburgh; and His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London. Producer: Amanda Hancox
Dec 21, 2020
Beethoven's Spirituality
Born into a musical family in Bonn towards the end of the 18th century, Ludwig van Beethoven became one of the greatest composers who ever lived. But whilst much is written about his life and music, little attention is paid to his faith and spirituality. To mark the 250th anniversary of his birth, Ernie Rea explores Beethoven's interest in God, Eastern religions and how his spirituality influenced his music with the pianist Stephen Hough; Professor Barry Cooper, editor of the Beethoven Compendium and Professor of Music at the University of Manchester and Birgit Lodes, Professor of Historical Musicology at the University of Vienna. Producer: Amanda Hancox
Dec 14, 2020
The Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on people's lives in so many ways including the way we are able to say goodbye to our loved ones. Funeral ceremonies and burial rites have had to adapt to these challenging times. But what impact has not being able to be with loved ones at their time of death or be at their funeral had on people. Have our feelings of loss intensified? What are the consequences for our ongoing sense of grief and remembrance? Ernie Rea and guests discuss the way in which religions can help people express their grief and remember those they have lost. Producer: Amanda Hancox
Dec 07, 2020
Britain is in the midst of a huge Debt Crisis. Recent research by a debt charity has found that household borrowing and arrears have soared 66% since May to £10.3 billion. For many people, there seems to be no way out. Month by month they sink deeper into debt. Desmond Tutu once said: “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.” Ernie Rea discusses religious responses to debit with Rt Rev David Walker, Bishop of Manchester and Deputy Chairman of the Church Commissioners; Mohammed Kroessin, Head of Islamic Microfinance at Islamic Relief UK; and Jasvir Singh, a family law barrister and chair of City Sikhs which exists to provide a voice for Progressive Sikhs in the UK. Producer: Amanda Hancox
Nov 30, 2020
Religion and Soap Operas
Since the nation was introduced to the likes of Elsie Tanner and Ken Barlow in the northern town of Weatherfield almost 60 years ago, television soap operas have gripped viewers across the networks. Some talk about it as an addiction as the weddings, funerals, rows, murders, love triangles, crashes, affairs and divorces are played out on our screens. As these epic stories draw on our emotions, some have argued that it's easy to see the biblical and other religious parallels in the story-lines. In this addition of Beyond Belief, Ernie Rea discusses the religious influences on the soaps and how they have portrayed religious characters over the years with Dr Katie Edwards, a freelance writer and broadcaster who has researched the Bible in popular culture; Mark Pinsky author of "The Gospel According to the Simpsons", the Right Reverend Dr John Saxbee, retired Bishop of Lincoln and June Brown who played Dot Cotton. Producer: Amanda Hancox
Nov 23, 2020
There is evidence that, since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, more people are turning to prayer. Is this a last desperate resort on our part to divert an existential threat? Do we really expect God to intervene? If not, what are we hoping to achieve? Prayer is a vital part of any religion. The ritualising of prayer is one of the things that makes each religion distinctive whilst private, personal prayer seems to sustain the spiritual life of the believer. How does prayer impact on us as individuals and on the world around us? To discuss the importance of prayer, Ernie is joined by Shaunaka Rishi Das, Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies; Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic and Inter Religious Studies at the University of Edinburgh: and by Douglas Davies, Professor in the Study of Religion at Durham University. Producer: Helen Lee
Oct 05, 2020
Hong Kong
In 1997 Britain handed sovereignty of Hong Kong to the Chinese and for the first few years, the Basic Law that came into effect at the handover meant that, the people of Hong Kong enjoyed religious freedom. But now religious freedom is under threat. Again this summer, pro-democracy demonstrators have taken to the streets to protest against a new National Security law and a number of Christian Churches have been involved in these demonstrations. Joining Ernie Rea from their homes to discuss religion in Hong Kong are Chris Patten, Lord Patten of Barnes who served as the Last Governor of Hong Kong; Professor Steve Tsang, the Director of the China Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London; and the Rev Dr Kim Kwong Chan, an Honorary Research Fellow at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Producer: Helen Lee
Sep 28, 2020
The US Presidential Election
There is no doubt that religion plays a large part in US Presidential Elections. Donald Trump is supported by the religious right which includes white evangelicals and conservative Catholics, whilst Joe Biden appeals to more liberal Catholics and Protestants and to the majority of black voters. Which raises two interesting questions. Why do white evangelical Christians vote for a man whose lifestyle is at odds with their moral principles? And how is Joe Biden going to persuade fellow Catholics to vote for him when his pro-choice views in the abortion debate clash with the teachings of his Church? To unpick the intricacies of the religious vote in the upcoming Presidential Election, Ernie Rea is joined by four experts: Sarah Posner, whose most recent book is ‘Unholy: Why White Evangelicals Worship at the Altar of Donald Trump’; Jane Little, a former Religious Affairs Correspondent for the BBC who now commentates on Religion and Politics in the United States; Christopher White; the National Correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter; and Anthea Butler, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Producer: Helen Lee
Sep 21, 2020
Rosh Hashanah
Later this week, from Friday to Sunday, Jews around the world will celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. It is a time for reflection and repentance and for coming together to share delicious food as well as special services at the synagogue. But it will be a different Rosh Hashanah in this Covid-19 year. How will the essence of the Festival be maintained? And, as this is a period of reflection, what specific issues have given British Jews cause for concern since the last Rosh Hashanah? To discuss these questions and to take a look at the festival itself, Ernie Rea is joined by Robyn Ashworth-Steen, Community Rabbi at the Manchester Reform Synagogue; Alby Chait, Orthodox Rabbi at the United Hebrew Congregation in Leeds; and by journalist Justin Cohen who is News Editor of the Jewish News. Producer: Helen Lee
Sep 14, 2020
The Mayflower
Four hundred years ago, a group of 102 passengers and 30 crew set sail from Plymouth for the New World. Their journey on the Mayflower is one of the foundation stories of the United States and today, more than 30 million Americans claim descent from the Pilgrim Fathers. So how important were these Puritans? Why did they feel the need to go to America? And what is their lasting legacy? To answer these questions, Ernie Rea is joined by Dr Kathryn Gray, Associate Professor in Early American Literature at the University of Plymouth; Professor Peter Mancall who teaches history at the University of Southern California; and Paula Peters, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe. Producer: Helen Lee
Sep 07, 2020
The Face
Because of Covid-19, we now have to cover our faces with masks which means that we are becoming more anonymous. In this edition of Beyond Belief, Ernie takes a look at the importance of the face to people of different faiths. Jews and Muslims don’t have images of God in their places of worship. However, if you go into a Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist Temple you will see many images or statues of their Gods. Christian art has long depicted the face of Christ, usually showing a blue eyed, blonde Jesus far removed from that of a Jew from the Middle East 2000 years ago. As for the human face, some Muslim women cover theirs in public; Hindus adorn their faces with colourful marks which signify their status; while many Christians have a cross of ash placed on their faces during Lent. Joining Ernie to discuss The Face are Dr Jessica Frazier, a Fellow at the Centre for Hindu studies and a Lecturer at the University of Oxford; Joanna Moorhead, a freelance writer and Arts Editor for The Tablet; and Rania Hafez, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at the University of Greenwich and a Fellow of the Muslim Institute. Producer: Helen Lee
Aug 31, 2020
If you are a follower of one the main religions, it is more than likely that you will have undergone a bathing ritual. Cleansing with water is an integral part of Christian Baptism, Muslim Prayer and Jewish purification. Hindus aspire to bathe in the waters of the River Ganges. Why are rituals in water important to so many faiths? What do they mean? And how do they differ from religion to religion? Joining Ernie to discuss ritual bathing are Dr Diana Lipton (teaching fellow in the department of biblical studies at Tel Aviv University), Sudipta Sen (professor of history at the University of California, Davis and author of 'Ganges: the Many Pasts of an Indian River') and the Very Reverend Peter Robinson (Dean of Derby, whose doctoral thesis was on Christian Initiation focusing on Baptism). Producer: Helen Lee
Aug 24, 2020
Animal Farm
George Orwell’s allegorical novel ‘Animal Farm’ was first published on 17th August 1945 and has never been out of print. It tells the story of a group of exploited animals who take over their farm and attempt to create an ideal society. On the face of it, ‘Animal Farm’ is not a religious book – it is a criticism of Stalin and his totalitarian regime - and Orwell is often described as an atheist. However in this edition of Beyond Belief, Ernie Rea discusses the influence of religion on Orwell and his writing. He is joined by Jean Seaton (Director of the Orwell Foundation and Professor of Media History at the University of Westminster), Michael Brennan (author of the book ‘George Orwell and Religion’ and Professor of Renaissance Studies at the University of Leeds) and the priest and author the Rev Marie-Elsa Bragg. Producer: Helen Lee
Aug 17, 2020
There are growing reports of couples opting for private wedding ceremonies or even resorting to marrying online during lockdown. On a less celebratory note, the divorce rates in China are said to have rocketed after their lockdown ended. There are concerns that the same will happen in the UK after weeks of couples living in isolation together. Is it time to accept that marriage has had its day? Or has marriage simply acquired a different meaning in the 21st century? Dr Katie Edwards discusses marriage with Imam Ajmal Masroor, who's also a marriage counsellor, Hannah Brock Womack, a Quaker and civil justice campaigner and the Rt Rev Dr Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry. Producer: Rajeev Gupta
May 18, 2020
During the lockdown, with gyms shut and exercise outdoors restricted, social media is littered with anecdotes of people putting on weight or turning to diet plans. Most religious traditions have some kind of rules when it comes to what we eat. From Lent to Yom Kippur, from Karva Chauth, to Ramadan many religious followers observe days of abstinence. So why is the relationship between food, fasting and faith so meaningful for so many? Dr Katie Edwards discusses faith, food and fasting with Dr Hannah Bacon, Associate Professor in Feminist Theology and Acting head of Theology and Religious studies at the University of Chester, Dr Hina Shahid, General Practitioner and Chairperson of the Muslim Doctors Association and Geeta Vara, Ayurvedic Practioner and author of Ayurveda: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Wellbeing Producer: Rajeev Gupta Series Producer: Amanda Hancox
May 11, 2020
2020 marks 250 years since the birth of William Wordsworth, one of England's most celebrated poets. Wordsworth and his friend and colleague Samuel Taylor Coleridge were pioneers of English Romanticism and they produced works including The Excursion, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and The Prelude. Religion and nature were great sources of inspiration and debate for both men. Wordsworth's childhood home, The English Lake District, was alive with different and often 'dissenting' ideas about Christianity but what influence did these ideas have on his work? Did Wordsworth and Coleridge share a common idea of the nature of God and what resonance does their work have today? Joining Dr Katie Edwards to discuss the influence of faith on the life of Wordsworth, is Rev Marie-Elsa Bragg, priest and writer; Seamus Perry, Professor of English Literature at The University of Oxford and Heidi Snow, Professor of English Literature and holder of the Edith and Lewis White Distinguished Professorship at Principia College, Illinois, USA. Producer: Dan Jackson
May 04, 2020
Religion Online
Covid-19 has had us all scrambling to adapt to life in lockdown. But the period of lockdown also coincided with a number of key religious festivals from Easter to Passover, Vaisakhi to Ramadan. This in turn has led to a flourishing of new and inventive ways for religious communities to mark their holy days. But religion online is not a new phenomenon and virtual spaces, live streaming and words of wisdom have been available on the internet for many years. So what should our relationship be with religion on the internet and where does its future lie post lockdown? Joining Dr Katie Edwards to discuss this is Dr Beth Singler, Junior Research Fellow in Artificial Intelligence at Homerton College, University of Cambridge; Swami Ambikananda, a Hindu monastic and founder of the Traditional Yoga Association; Adrian Harris, Head of Digital at the Church of England and Abid Khan, Imam at Cheadle Mosque in Manchester. Producer: Amanda Hancox
Apr 27, 2020
At some point in our lives, most of us will have wondered about what happens after death: is there an afterlife or is there nothingness? For many religions in the East the answer is found in reincarnation. Reincarnation is the belief that the human spirit inhabits new lives over and over, each time a person dies. Reincarnation is supported by Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism. But all these traditions have different views on how and why reincarnation takes places. Today we want to have a deep dive into what reincarnation really means within these faith traditions. Joining Ernie Rea to discuss reincarnation is Dr Chakravarti Ram-Prasad, Distinguished Professor of Comparative Religion at Lancaster University; Dr Saeko Yazaki, Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Glasgow and Dr Douglas Davies, Professor in Theology and Religion at the University of Durham Producer: Rajeev Gupta Series Producer: Amanda Hancox
Apr 20, 2020
Ethical Investing
It is estimated that religious institutions own trillions of dollars' worth of investments but some have acknowledged that their financial choices have not always reflected their principles. Can faith values help people to choose how to invest their money in ways that align with their ethics? Can new technologies like blockchain provide greater transparency and control, and where are the potential pitfalls for people looking to invest their money? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss ethical investing are Rabbi Mark Goldsmith of the Edgware & Hendon Reform Synagogue and member of the International Interfaith Investment Group; Devie Mohan, an expert in the relationship between finance and technology; Martin Palmer President of Faith Invest and Umer Suleman a member of the UK Islamic Finance Council and a Sharia Finance Consultant. Producer: Dan Jackson Series Producer: Amanda Hancox
Apr 13, 2020
Easter is the most important time in the life of the Church. It’s the time when Christians retell the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. Christians believe that Jesus died to atone for the sins of the world. But what does that actually mean and how do we define what a sin is? Ernie Rea is joined in the studio to discuss what we mean by sin by Dr Gemma Simmonds, Director of the Religious Life Institute in Cambridge; Robyn Ashworth-Steen, Rabbi at Manchester Reform Synagogue and a former human rights lawyer; and Davinder Panesar, transpersonal psychologist and author. Producer: Amanda Hancox
Apr 06, 2020
Religion and Smell
No school nativity play is complete without the Three Wise Men ‘traversing afar’ bearing gifts for the baby Jesus. One of these gifts is frankincense, which for centuries has played a powerful role in many religious rituals. As an important ingredient in incense, its perfumed smoke has been a part of much religious worship since the time of the pharaohs in ancient Egypt. So why has smell become an important part of many faiths and how does it enhance religious observance? To discuss these questions, Ernie Rea is joined by Tim Jacob (Emeritus Professor at the School of Biosciences at the University of Cardiff), Kim Lahiri (Director at the International Federation of Aroma Therapists) and Dr Nicky Nielson (Lecturer in Egyptology at the University of Manchester). Producer: Helen Lee
Jan 06, 2020
This year, the Catholic Church declared John Henry Newman a saint following a lengthy investigation which concluded that two miraculous cures had resulted from the Cardinal’s intercession. It’s not only the Christian Church that believes in miracles. But what actually are they and should we find a new and broader definition for the 21st century? Nuclear scientist Professor Ian Hutchinson; John Thavis, former Rome Bureau Chief for the Catholic News Service and Dr Sarah Shaw, a Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, join Ernie to discuss. Producer: Helen Lee
Dec 30, 2019
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Although it was written nearly seventy years ago, ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ still appears in the top ten favourite children’s books and has sold over 100 million copies in 47 different languages. It's set in the magical Land of Narnia where the White Witch has cast a spell to make sure that it is always winter and Christmas never comes. This changes when four siblings – Lucy, Peter, Susan and Edmund – stumble into Narnia through the back of a wardrobe and defeat the evil that has engulfed Narnia with the help of the mighty lion Aslan. For some readers, ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ is an allegory of the story of Jesus. Many others view it simply as a good yarn. To discuss the religious message behind the book – and whether or not it really matters – Ernie is joined by three authors: Lucy Mangan, Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Francis Spufford. Extracts are read by Julie Hesmondhalgh. Producer: Helen Lee
Dec 23, 2019
Saudi Arabia and Iran
Saudi Arabia and Iran have been rivals for many years but recently this rivalry has become more intense. As the two countries struggle for regional dominance, what is the impact of this new ‘Cold War’ on the whole of the Middle East? And why is the tension between the two more complicated than simply a disagreement between Sunni and Shia Muslims? Joining Ernie to discuss this conflict are Iranian academic Dr Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi (Goldsmiths, University of London), Dr Simon Mabon (Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Lancaster University) and Saudi Arabian academic Professor Madawi Al-Rasheed (London School of Economics). Producer: Helen Lee
Dec 16, 2019
As we come to the end of an acrimonious General Election campaign, Beyond Belief attempts to soothe the fractious public mood with a discussion on Friendship. The dictionary defines Friendship as “a state of mutual trust between friends but can friendship survive a deep division of opinion? Can we be friends with someone who holds radically different religious and ethical principles to ours? Can we really describe someone whom we have only met online as a Friend? To discuss these questions are the Reverend David Butterworth, a Methodist Minister; Julie Siddiqi, a leading Muslim feminist and activist with a focus on gender equality and inter faith relations; and Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism. Producer: Helen Lee
Dec 09, 2019
Who could have predicted that the 13th century Persian poet Rumi would have such a huge presence on the Instagram feeds of post-Millennials? Jalal ad-Din Muhammed Rumi, to give him his full name, was a Sufi master who wrote ecstatic mystical poems about joy and love and the search for divine truth. His poetry would literally move people to dance, which is where the notion of the ‘whirling dervish’ comes from. 800 years on, what is it about the poetry of Rumi that continues to strike a chord with so many today, including artists like Madonna and Coldplay’s Chris Martin? For some, Rumi has been sanitised for a secular Western audience, but not everyone can read Persian. Ernie Rea chairs a special discussion about Rumi's appeal, recorded at the BBC's Contains Strong Language Festival in Hull. Contributors: Narguess Farzad – Senior Lecturer in Persian Studies at SOAS University of London; Alan Williams – Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Religion at the University of Manchester, who is currently translating the six volumes of the Masnavi; Shaykh Paul Salahuddin Armstrong – Managing Director of the Association of British Muslims and member of the Naqshbandi Sufi order; Jamal Mehmood - writer and poet. Producer: Dan Tierney
Dec 02, 2019
Frankenstein, the tale of a scientist who creates a creature that ultimately destroyed him, has been a popular subject for films for many years. But the religious content of the original novel written by Mary Shelley is lost on the big screen. Her story centres on the scientist Victor Frankenstein, who plays God. His creation identifies first with Adam and then with Satan in Paradise Lost. He has admirable human qualities but is deprived of love and affection and becomes brutalised. Joining Ernie Rea to discuss Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein are Andrew Smith, Professor of Nineteenth Century English Literature at the University of Sheffield; Marie Mulvey-Roberts, Professor of English Literature at the University of the West of England; and Dr James Castell, Lecturer in English Literature at Cardiff University. Producer: Helen Lee
Sep 09, 2019
The Nature of God
Who or what is God? Assuming here, that he or she exists. The traditional image is that of an old man with a beard, sitting somewhere up there, keeping an eye on his creation. But for many the nature of God has evolved far beyond this. But to what? What do we mean by God in today's world? Can we ever pin down the unknowable and does that matter? Ernie Rea is joined by the Right Rev Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, Bishop of Ripon; Dr Mark Vernon, a Psychotherapist and author of A Secret History of Christianity and Pradip Gajjar, President of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness movement in Leicester and a teacher of Philosophy, Religion and Ethics. Producer Catherine Earlam Series Producer Amanda Hancox
Sep 02, 2019
The Religion of Spain
500 years ago this summer a fleet of ships left Spain in search of the Spice Islands and a way around the new world. Three years later just one ship returned barely afloat. The first documented circumnavigation of the Earth was complete. The voyage signalled the growth of the Spanish Empire and the spread of Christianity to the new world. The voyage was financed by a Papal grant and Spaniards were committed by Vatican decree to spread Catholicism to the new world. So how do we assess the role of religion in Spanish history, what have been the key moments and how has the place of religion changed in today’s contemporary Spain. In this episode of Beyond Belief, Ernie Rea is joined by historian Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Dr Elizabeth Drayson, author of “The Moor’s Last Stand: how seven centuries of Muslim rule in Spain came to an end" and Dr Javier García Oliva, Senior Lecturer in Law, The University of Manchester. Producer: Catherine Earlam Series Producer: Amanda Hancox
Aug 26, 2019
Religion and Climate Justice
Barely a day goes by without some dire warning about the state of the environment. But we also hear that if we act now we may be able to avoid the worst consequences of man-made climate change. The vast majority of the world’s population hold to a faith tradition. So what role can religion play in bringing about the kind of change that is needed? Religion appeals not only to science but to deeply held beliefs and values. Religion can talk the language of hope as opposed to fear and can tap into vast networks and mobilise communities. So what difference can religions make, what kind of things are already happening and are they doing enough to tackle a problem that will connect all people regardless of faith and belief? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss religion and climate justice are Dr Husna Ahmad is Chief Executive Officer of Global One 2015, a Muslim Independent non-governmental organisation led by women, Gopal Patel, Director of the Bhumi Project, which works to mobilise the Hindu community on environmental issues and Martin Palmer former Secretary-General of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation. Producer: Catherine Earlam Series Producer: Amanda Hancox
Aug 19, 2019
Relationship Education
“You say we are homophobic, we say you are Islamophobic”. These were the words of a protester outside a primary school in Birmingham which has found itself on the front line of a culture war. Parents, many of them Muslim, have been protesting against a programme called, “No Outsiders.” According to the school’s website the programme teaches that “Everyone is welcome, regardless of their race, religion, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation and age.” The protesters claim that the “No Outsiders” curriculum is pushing a pro LGBT agenda and that this contradicts their religious beliefs. The school rejects their claim. The issue is not going to go away. From September next year, all primary schools are compelled to teach Relationship Education and parents at a number of other schools have raised concerns. At the heart of the matter is a clash of rights, a tension between the need to protect LGBT rights while accommodating certain religious convictions. How do you adjudicate between competing rights? In a plural, liberal democracy how do get along with respect and difference? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss those questions are Yusuf Patel, Founder of SRE Islamic, an organisation which provides advice, support and training to parents concerned with how Sex and Relationship Education is taught in schools; Dr David Landrum, Director of Advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance; and Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of Humanists UK. Producer: Catherine Earlam Series Producer: Amanda Hancox
Aug 12, 2019
The Religion of Game of Thrones
The TV series Game of Thrones has been a world wide phenomenon. Based on a series of books by American novelist George RR Martin, Game of Thrones depicts a medieval-inspired fantasy world torn apart by a violent power struggle. At once fantastical and familiar, it reflects both the political dimensions of various historical time-frames as well as a number of real world belief systems and religions. In this episode of Beyond Belief Ernie Rea and guests explore the way in which religious ideas are developed and used in Game of Thrones, what it adds to the story telling and about the role of belief in the fantasy genre. Ed West is former deputy editor of the Catholic Herald and the author of “Iron, Fire and Ice: The real History that Inspired Game of Thrones”. Dr Jeffrey D Long Professor of Religion and Asian Studies at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. Dr Jayme Reaves is Public Theologian and Coordinator at the Centre for Encountering the Bible at Sarum College, Salisbury. And Racha Kirakosian is Associate Professor of German and the Study of Religion at Harvard University. Producer: Catherine Earlam Series Producer: Amanda Hancox
Aug 05, 2019
Throughout time trees have inspired awe and a sense of the spiritual. There is a persistent idea running through religious traditions that trees connect us to the heavens. In Judaism, the Torah is called “The Tree of Life.” The Buddha attained Enlightenment while sitting under a Bodhi Tree. Our Celtic ancestors venerated the mighty oak and the ancient Yew. Trees provide food, shelter and fuel so they've always been vital to human life on earth but increasingly we are discovering that by reconnecting with trees we can become happier, healthier people. In this programme Ernie Rea is joined in the studio by Charley Baginsky, a Rabbi from Liberal Judaism; Mabh Savage, Pagan Federation Children and Families Secretary; and John Parker who is the Senior Technical Officer at the Arboricultural Association to explore what the worlds great religious traditions can teach us about why trees matter so much.
Jul 29, 2019
Free Will
What is the relationship between free will and religion? Historically, theistic religions have been dogged by questions concerning the nature of human agency. Do we make the choices we have in life because we can freely choose or does God somehow map life for us? If we don’t have free will how can we be held responsible for our actions in this life and the next? A belief in free will is central to the religious concept of "sin". Our criminal justice system rests on it. Yet developments in neuroscience suggest free will could be an illusion – that you can reduce human behaviour to the firing of neurons in the brain. But how can we live a moral life if we don’t have free will? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss belief in free will are Rev Sharon Grenham-Thompson, an Anglican minister and former prison chaplain; Professor Rasjid Skinner a consultant clinical psychologist and Dr Richard Christian, Research Associate in Philosophy and Economics at the University of Manchester. Producer: Catherine Earlam Series Producer: Amanda Hancox
Jul 22, 2019
The Imagination
Creative expression has often accompanied internal religious experience. And religious experience, by its nature other-worldly, is deeply connected to the power of the mind to contemplate, visualise and to imagine that there is a God. In a special edition in front of a live audience at the Hay-on-Wye Literature Festival Ernie Rea explores the relationship between religion, creativity and the imagination with Professor Anna Abraham, Neuroscientist and Professor of Psychology at Leeds Beckett University, Mohammed Ali, a Street Artist and Curator, Barnabas Palfrey Lecturer in Christian Spirituality, at Sarum College in Salisbury and Manchester born poet and playwright, Louise Wallwein Producer: Catherine Earlam Series Producer: Amanda Hancox
Jul 15, 2019
The Ego
We hear a lot about ego today. Whether it's in association with Presidents or Chief Execs, in relation to social media or celebrity, ego appears to be everywhere. But is it a problem? Ego is Latin for “I” so clearly we can’t escape it. For Freud the Ego plays a moderating role. Yet today we refer to the Ego in a negative sense. “That’s your Ego talking" or “the Ego has landed.” So what is the Ego and can religion help us to understand our relationship to it? In the final episode of this series of Beyond Belief, Ernie Rea is joined by Ajmal Masroor, a Bangladeshi born British Imam, the Reverend Lucy Winkett, Rector of St James’ Church Piccadilly and Dav Panesar, a Sikh who has carried out pioneering work on mindfulness and contemplative based health interventions in the UK. Producer: Catherine Earlam Series Producer: Amanda Hancox
May 27, 2019
According to The Vegan Society, the number of vegans in the UK increased fourfold between 2014 and 2018. Once a ridiculed minority, nowadays barely a day goes by without an announcement of a new vegan restaurant or another celebrity endorsement of a plant based lifestyle. Motivations range from animal welfare, to health, to environmental concerns. For many vegans their diet is part of an entire ethical belief system. So can you eat your way to moral and spiritual purity? What role does religion play in this shifting picture? Is there a natural correlation between religious commitment and a vegan diet or are there contradictions? To discuss these questions Ernie Rea is joined by David Clough, Professor of Medical Ethics at the University of Chester, David Rosen, former Chief Rabbi of Ireland, Heena Modi, a Jain who coaches people on how to become vegan and Dr David Grumett, Senior Lecturer in Theology and Ethics at the School of Divinity, at the University of Edinburgh. Producer: Catherine Earlam
May 20, 2019
Sri Lanka
In light of the Easter Sunday attacks on Churches and hotels in Sri Lanka, Ernie Rea explores the religious landscape of Sri Lanka with Jonathan Spencer, Regius Professor of South Asian Language, Culture and Society at the University of Edinburgh; Dr Farah Mihlar, Lecturer in Conflict Studies at the University of Exeter and Mahinda Deegallee, Professor of the Study of Religions, Philosophies and Ethics at Bath Spa University, who is also a Buddhist monk. Producer: Catherine Earlam
May 13, 2019
It’s almost fifty years since Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon. It was a momentous moment in twentieth century history but our fascination with space is not new. For thousands of years people have looked up into the night sky and wondered who we are, why are we here and is there anyone else out there. The world's religions have tried to answer those questions with varying degrees of success. Joining Ernie Rea to discuss our understanding of space through religious beliefs and ideas are Rev Professor David Wilkinson, Principal of St John’s College in the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University; Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad Professor of Comparative Religion, Lancaster University; and Salman Hameed, Associate Professor of Integrated Science and Humanities at Hampshire College Massachusetts in the United States. Producer: Amanda Hancox
May 03, 2019
The dreadful fire in Notre Dame Cathedral produced an enormous emotional reaction. In secular Paris people knelt and sang the Ave Maria. Clearly Notre Dame holds a central place in people’s hearts. The impact on the French psyche was enormous, but no lives were lost. It seems almost certain that Notre Dame will be restored, despite the fact that France is a secular country and the Catholic Church is in decline. What is it about Cathedrals? Why do they play such an important role in national and civic life? And can it be morally right to spend such vast sums on restoration? In this programme Ernie Rea discusses the significance of Cathedrals in the lives of modern cities with Becky Clark, Director of the Cathedral and Church Buildings Division of the Church of England, John Laurenson, a Paris based BBC journalist and the Rev Michael Smith, Canon of York Minster. Producer: Catherine Earlam
Apr 29, 2019
Amritsar Massacre
A hundred years after the Amritsar Massacre, when troops under British command fired on a unarmed crowd of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims, this programme explores what led to the massacre and why it became a catalyst for the end of British colonial rule and the rise of Indian nationalism. Ernie Rae is joined by Dr Vinita Damodaran, Professor of South Asian History, University of Sussex, Amandeep Singh Madra, Co-author of “Eyewitness at Amritsar: A Visual History of the 1919 Jallianwalla Bagh Massacre" and author and historian William Dalrymple. Producer: Catherine Earlam
Apr 22, 2019
For Jews the Passover is a time to remember their liberation from slavery in Egypt under the leadership of Moses. That story, known as the Exodus is dramatic and powerful and has inspired books and films. It still speaks today to those fighting injustice. To discuss the religious and contemporary meaning of Passover both for Jews and Christians, Ernie Rea is joined by Robyn Ashworth-Steen, Rabbi at Manchester Reform Synagogue and a former human rights lawyer; Daniel Walker, Orthodox Rabbi at Heaton Park Hebrew Congregation; and the Rev Peter Scott, Samuel Ferguson Professor of Applied Theology & Director of the Lincoln Theological Institute at the University of Manchester. Producer: Catherine Earlam
Apr 15, 2019
Femininity and Religion
In 1965, Teen Magazine asked a number of well-known actresses what it means to be “Feminine.” Sandra Dee said: “You must be meticulous in your clothing, make-up, skin – to be clean, fresh and nice all the time.” How times change. This week Ernie Rea is joined by three women representing three faith traditions who give their own views on what it means to be feminine. Mrs Michelle Ciffer describes herself as a wife, mother and Senior Community Services Manager in Salford’s Orthodox Jewish Community; Dr Chetna Kang is a Vaishnava Hindu Priest and Consultant Psychiatrist; and Dr Holly Morse is a lecturer in Bible, Gender and Culture at the University of Manchester. Producer: Amanda Hancox
Apr 08, 2019
Masculinity and Religion
What it means to be a man in today’s world is confusing. There are lots of mixed messages. Men are often portrayed as needing to be the alpha male, remain strong under pressure, to get on and succeed in life but they are also supposed to be loving, caring, sensitive and talk about feelings. So what does it mean to be a man today? How should we define masculinity and what answers and tips can religion give to men today? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss these questions are Rabbi Neil Janes, Congregational Rabbi at the West London Synagogue; Dr Andrew Boakye, Lecturer in Religions and Theology at the University of Manchester and Assad Zaman, an Imam at several mosques in Manchester. Plus Citizen Khan actor Abdullah Afzal talks about how he juggles with competing pressures on how to be a modern Muslim man. Producer: Amanda Hancox
Apr 01, 2019
2019 looks set to be a huge year for superhero movies with eleven films due for release. From X-Men: Dark Phoenix to Captain Marvel, Marvel studios' first movie led by a female; the superhero movie craze looks set to continue long into the future. Yet the idea of heroes has religious and cultural roots that go way back. The Epic of Gilgamesh written in 2100 BC is thought to be the oldest hero story. “Hero cults” were one of the most distinctive features of ancient Greek religion. In the ancient Greek epic poem The Illiad “Homeric Heroes” are seen as exemplars of moral and physical action. Perhaps then it is not surprising that our modern day superheroes have such deep, on-going appeal. On this New Year’s eve edition of Beyond Belief, Ernie Rea discusses how the idea of heroes has developed, why those characters often have supernatural as well as superhuman dimensions and what religious and cultural meaning underlines their enduring appeal. He is joined by Angie Hobbs, Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at Sheffield University, Natalie Haynes, Classicist and Comedian and Ajinbayo "Siku" Akinsiku, British/Nigerian Artist and Writer and creator of the Manga Bible. Producer: Catherine Earlam Series Producer: Amanda Hancox
Dec 31, 2018
Angels are central to the Christmas story. The angel Gabriel first told Mary of the birth of her Son, an angelic choir greeted his entry into the world and an angel warned wise men not to go near Herod. All the monotheistic sacred texts include descriptions and stories of angels. But belief in angels goes beyond religion, as research shows as many as one in three people in the UK believe in angels while one in ten people claim to have seen or heard an angel. In this Christmas Eve edition of Beyond Belief, Ernie Rea discuss angels with Sally Vickers Author of Miss Garnet’s Angel, Rev Dr Arabella Milbank Robinson, Deacon and Theologian and Angel Expert and Rev Dr Stephen Burge, Lecturer at the Quranic Studies Unit at the Institute of Ismaeli Studies and author of “Angels in Islam.” Producer: Catherine Earlam
Dec 24, 2018
Associated since antiquity with nobility, luxury and power the colour purple is also deeply connected with mystery, magic and spiritual ideals. Originally created from the desiccated glands of sea snails, the process of making the dye was long, difficult and expensive and therefore purple was seen as exclusive, elitist and other worldly. Joining Ernie Rea in this edition of Beyond Belief to discuss the colour purple and how it is used in society and religion, are the Right Reverend Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, Bishop of Ripon; the artist and colour expert Nicola Green and British Classicist and art historian Professor Robin Cormac. Producer: Catherine Earlam Series Producer: Amanda Hancox
Dec 17, 2018
The story of Asia Bibi - the Christian woman who spent eight years on death row in Pakistan after allegedly insulting the Prophet Mohammed before being recently acquitted - has thrown the issue of blasphemy into public debate once more. While the UK abolished it's blasphemy law a decade ago, 43 countries still allow a prison term for blasphemy and it continues to be punishable by death in six countries: Afghanistan, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Somalia. In this edition of Beyond Belief, Ernie Rea and guests dig beneath the headlines to examine the religious roots and meaning of blasphemy and explore why it remains so serious an offence in so many countries.
Dec 10, 2018
The Far Right and Christianity
For many years Europe has been seen as increasingly secular but earlier this year Bavaria passed a law requiring public buildings to display a “clearly visible” crucifix near the entrance, the President of Hungary has vowed to preserve the country’s Christian culture and large crosses are seen in demonstrations by far right populist movements. Professor Robert Beckford discusses why some far right populist movements in Europe are using Christian symbols and wanting to defend Christian culture with Tobias Cremer, a Phd Student at the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge; Timothy Peace, Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Fellow of the School of Social and Political sciences at the University of Glasgow and Jasjit Singh a Research Fellow in the School of Philosophy, Religion and the History of Science at the University of Leeds. Producer: Amanda Hancox
Dec 03, 2018
Artificial Intelligence
The relationship between religion and science has always been complex. Some see it as a threat, whilst others are inspired by it. The development of Artificial Intelligence has thrown up a number of interesting questions. For instance, in Japan a robot called Pepper delivers Buddhist funeral rites because it’s cheaper and more practical than getting a real priest. In Germany, a robot priest called BlessU2 can deliver blessings in five different languages. But does the use of robots in the ritual and practice of religion change the nature of our relationship with it? Can AI help us to lead better lives? Joining Shelina Janmohamed to discuss the relationship between artificial intelligence and religion are Dr Paula Boddington, senior Research Fellow at the University of Cardiff; Rabbi Dr Raphael Zarum; Dean of the London School of Jewish Studies and Dr Scott Midson, Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Lincoln Theological Institute, University of Manchester. Producer: Helen Lee
Nov 26, 2018
For some people the sight of blood can make them feel rather queasy but it is a tangible life force with an agreed purpose – a bodily fluid which delivers nutrients and oxygen to our cells and transports waste products away from those same cells. Just as blood is an essential component of life, it seems it is also vital to our religious traditions. Ritual slaughter of animals is still widespread. At the heart of Christian faith is belief in the redeeming qualities of the blood of Jesus. Some traditions hold blood to be so sacred that they would be prepared to see a child die rather than permit a blood transfusion. Joining Ernie to discuss the Religious significance of blood are Douglas Davies - Professor of the Study of Religion at Durham University, Dr Mikel Burley - Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy at the University of Leeds and Dr Dawn Llewellyn - Senior Lecturer in Christian Studies and Deputy Director at the Institute of Gender Studies at the University of Chester. Producer: Helen Lee Series Producer: Amanda Hancox
Nov 19, 2018
Pope Francis has reached an historic agreement with the Chinese government which could restore diplomatic ties broken in 1951. Before September this year, Catholic bishops appointed by either the Vatican or the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association were not recognized by the other party. But now the Pope has agreed that in future, the Chinese can submit a list of suitable names from which Rome will make a selection. The Pope has also officially recognised seven Bishops appointed by the Chinese authorities in previous years. The Communists under Chairman Mao tried to kill off religion but it didn’t work and so Mao’s successors have had to compromise. The Chinese constitution says that citizens should be able to “enjoy freedom of religious belief" but in reality it does not guarantee the right to practice those religious beliefs. Buddhism is the most dominant religion and has been practiced in China for two millennia. The Chinese government recognises five faiths; Buddhism, Daoism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestantism but religions in China are subject to a certain level of state control. Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the place of Religion in Modern China are Dr Gregory Scott, Lecturer in Chinese Culture and History at the University of Manchester, Dr Caroline Fielder, Lecturer in Chinese Studies at the University of Leeds, and Dr Maria Jaschok, Director of the International Gender Studies centre at Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford. Producer: Helen Lee Series Producer: Amanda Hancox
Nov 12, 2018
On the 11th November at 11am it will be exactly 100 years since the end of the First World War. There will be the usual Ceremony of Remembrance at the Cenotaph on Whitehall when the nation honours those who lost their lives in two world wars and more recent military conflicts. Is this the best way for us to remember war? Do acts of Remembrance have any relevance today and should religion play a part in these ceremonies? To take a look at these questions, Mark Dowd is joined by a panel of experts and pupils from Loreto Sixth Form College in Manchester. Producer: Catherine Earlam Series Producer: Amanda Hancox
Nov 05, 2018
The issue of why a loving God would create a world full of suffering has exercised the minds of the world's greatest thinkers. How can you reconcile a loving God with dreadful illnesses for which there is no known cure? For millions who live with disability it is no mere academic question. If they are men and women of faith, they have to wrestle with this question on a daily basis. Developments in science now allow expectant parents to make informed choices based on scientific evidence about whether to allow a severely disabled baby to come to full term. Is this a good thing? Or are we heading down a morally slippery slope? How can religion and disability make sense of each other? Ernie Rea discusses these questions with three guests who all live with a disability: Amoghavajra, who is ordained in the Triratna Buddhist Order; Rev Zoe Heming, a Church of England priest and the broadcast journalist Ahmad Bostan. Producer: Helen Lee.
Sep 10, 2018
Religion in Mexico
When Pope Francis visited Mexico in 2016, he paid his respects to the Virgin of Guadalupe, a dark skinned Madonna who is said to have appeared to a peasant man in 1531. Then, standing at the Mexican border, he turned his attention to the migrant crisis, "No more death, no more exploitation," he declared. Mexicans have experienced a lot of death in recent years. Drug cartels operate freely in the urban areas. They have even appropriated their own folk Saint - called Santa Muerte or Our Lady of Death. 87% of Mexicans identify as Catholics. But what does their faith have to say about the desperate conditions under which so many live. Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the role of religion in Mexico are Alan Knight, Emeritus Professor of Latin American History at the University of Oxford; Amanda Hopkinson, Visiting Professor of Translation at City University, London; and Dr Elizabeth Baquedano, Senior Honorary Lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. Producer: Helen Lee.
Sep 03, 2018
Hay Festival Special: Religion and Humour
When it comes to religion, what is an acceptable target? God surely must enjoy a joke. Why else would he have created mankind? But are those who worship him fair game for comedians? Undoubtedly certain religions have been the source of much humour. Jewish comics such as Joan Rivers, Woody Allen and Groucho Marx have always been willing to make fun of their culture but should they also poke fun at their religion and how do you disentangle culture from religion? If you enjoy laughing at the culture and beliefs of your own community, is it acceptable to make jokes about a culture and religion to which you do not belong? Where should we draw the line between freedom of speech and the need to respect the beliefs of others? Taking a look at religion and humour a multi-faith panel of comedian discuss the question: How far can you go? The panel: Tez Ilyas Pippa Evans Bennett Arron Paul Kerensa Producer: Helen Lee.
Aug 27, 2018
The Romanovs
Early one morning in July 1918, the Russian Imperial Family was led into a basement and murdered. Nicholas the Second was only 26 when he became Tsar of All the Russians. He was ill equipped for the job and faced challenges which would have tested a more gifted man. But Nicolas was deeply religious and had a profound sense of his duty to God to uphold autocracy and defend the Church. Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the last of the Romanovs is Andrew Phillips, Archpriest of the Russian Orthodox Church; the historian Janet Ashton, and authors Helen Rappaport and Martin Sixsmith. Producer: Amanda Hancox.
Aug 20, 2018
Jane Eyre
Today's special edition of Beyond Belief comes from the library in the Bronte Parsonage Museum at Haworth on the edge of the Yorkshire moors. It was here that Charlotte Bronte conceived the plot of her best known work, 'Jane Eyre'. Religion features large in this novel - which isn't surprising as Charlotte was the daughter of Irish priest Patrick Bronte, the curate for many years of St Michael and All Angel's Church in Haworth. What is surprising though, is that some critics at the time described 'Jane Eyre' as an anti-religious work. Queen Victoria begged to differ and described it as "A really wonderful book with fine religious feeling." Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the religious content of Jane Eyre are Dinah Birch, Professor of English Literature at the University of Liverpool, John Bowen, Professor of Nineteenth Century Literature at the University of York and Rosemary Mitchell, Professor of Victorian Studies at Leeds Trinity University. Producer: Helen Lee Series Producer: Amanda Hancox.
May 14, 2018
The annual Met Gala - which takes place in New York tonight - is often described as "fashion's biggest night out". It is a fundraising event for the Metropolitan Museum of Art that welcomes celebrities from all walks of life and fashion industry paragons alike. It also signifies the opening of the NY Costume Institute's annual fashion exhibition which this year has the title 'Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination'. Religion has had an impact on the way we dress for many centuries. Clothing is mentioned in the Bible and some might argue that Eve's fig leaf was the earliest fashion statement. But the fashion world is not just influenced by the Catholic Church. Muslim fashion - and the popularity of the 'cool hijab' - is very important today as is a growing demand for modest fashion. Joining Professor Robert Beckford to discuss religion and fashion are Professor Reina Lewis from London School of Fashion UAL, the Rev Sally Hitchiner and New York based fashion journalist Michelle Honig who is a modern Orthodox Jew. Robert also talks to Simon Ward - former Chief Operating Officer for the British Fashion Council - about important ethical questions facing the fashion industry at the moment. Producer: Helen Lee Series Producer: Amanda Hancox.
May 07, 2018
There is a certain way of saying the word 'spinster' that gives it implications of disapproval or even pity; as if for a woman, not being married is an inferior state. Why does it sound so unpleasant? And why is it more acceptable to be a bachelor than a spinster? Could part of the blame lie in religious traditions with their stress on the centrality of the family? Today women are forging careers and putting off marriage and babies. Is there a positive role for single women in religious structures which lay great stress on producing children? Is spinsterhood a holy state? Is it better for a woman with strong religious convictions to remain unmarried rather than being, what St Paul called, "unequally yoked together." In an attempt to find answers to these questions, Ernie Rea is joined by Shelina Janmohamed - an author and commentator on Muslim social and religious trends - Jewish journalist Angela Epstein and former MP Ann Widdecombe, who is a Christian. Ernie also talks to Dr Fauzia Ahmad. She is an unmarried Muslim woman whose own experience has informed 25 years of research into why young Muslim women are finding it increasingly difficult to meet suitable Muslim husbands. Producer: Helen Lee Series Producer: Amanda Hancox.
Apr 30, 2018
Sacred Spaces
Most people have a sacred space, a place which is special to them. It could be a beach, a mountain top, a building, even a sports ground - but why have they become 'sacred'? Many of the grandest sacred spaces have been created by the world's religions but what were their creators trying to achieve? Are there certain characteristics which define a sacred space and if so, are they still valid today To discuss sacred spaces, Professor Robert Beckford is joined by Ben Quash (Professor of Christianity and the Arts at King's College London), Karsan Vaghani (a Hindu Chaplain at Cardiff University) and Jon Cannon (author of 'The Secret Language of Sacred Spaces'). Robert also interviews Simon Jenkins (author of 'England's Cathedrals' and 'England's Thousand Best Churches'). Producer: Amanda Hancox.
Apr 23, 2018
For many years, transgender people have remained silent. But today they are affirming publicly that they have a rightful place in society and religious groups are now grappling with transgender issues. The Church of England General Synod recently debated a motion to draw up a prayer to welcome people who have transitioned from one sex to another. The House of Bishops turned it down. The Bible asserts that God made mankind in his own image; so what's the problem? Presumably he made people whose gender does not sit comfortably with the sex they were assigned at birth? But debate still rages within the church because the Bible also says that "male and female, God created them" which suggests that there should be no ambiguity when it comes to a person's gender. The issues are complex and they can multiply if a trans person is living a religious life within a religious community. What is the attitude of religious traditions towards transgender people? Are the problems more cultural than religious? Joining Ernie Rea are Kamalanandi, and Philippa Whittaker, A Buddhist and a Christian who have both transitioned. With them in discussion is the academic Dr Susannah Cornwall whose work concentrates on contextual theologies, particularly those relating to sex gender and sexuality. Ernie also talks to Indian transgender activist Vyjayanti Vasanta Mogli about the role that the Hijra play within the Hindu community in India. The Hijra are transgender people who are invited to bless new born babies and married couples but they find themselves outcast within Indian society despite a change in the law in 2014 which recognises their right to be who they are. Producer: Helen Lee Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
Apr 16, 2018
The Good Friday Agreement
What role should the churches in Northern Ireland be playing now that peace has come to the Province? More than any other organisations, they should know the meaning of compassion, truth, mercy and forgiveness but are they providing enough leadership in these areas and what have they done to facilitate community cohesion since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement twenty years ago on the 10th April 1998? Joining Ernie Rea are the Rev Norman Hamilton, former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Northern Ireland and Father Martin Magill, the parish priest at St John's on the Falls Road. Also in the discussion is Dr Gladys Ganiel, Research Fellow of the George Mitchell for Global Peace at Queens University Belfast, an expert in conflict transformation. Ernie will also be talking to Alan McBride who lost his wife in the Shankill Road Bombing. Producer: Helen Lee Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
Apr 09, 2018
Sacred Gardens
Gardens have long been sacred spaces for many religions and at Easter, Christians reflect on the Garden of Gethsemane - the place of Jesus' arrest and betrayal. When Christians and Muslims imagine what Paradise might be like, they nearly always reflect on gardens. The Garden of Eden can be found in both the Bible and the Quran. Sacred Gardens are places of sanctuary and contemplation and for many they represent Paradise on earth. But what do they represent for religions which do not have a God? What is the spiritual significance of the Zen garden? To discuss Sacred Gardens, Ernie is joined by Hannah Genders - a passionate gardener whose designs have won prizes at the Chelsea Flower show, Emma Clark who is also a garden designer and the author of 'The Art of the Islamic Garden'; and by Yoko Kawaguchi, an expert in Japanese Gardens and the co-author of Japanese Zen Gardens. Ernie also talks to John Irvine who was working in a factory in Flixborough in the North East of England in June 1974 when a huge explosion took the lives of 28 of his friends and colleagues and left him totally blind. He was buried alive for 48 hours before being pulled from the rubble. He found sanctuary and peace and ultimately Christian faith through creating and maintaining his own garden. Producer: Helen Lee Series Producer: Amanda Hancox.
Apr 02, 2018
For the Christian world, January 1st is New Years' Day but for many religious communities it is not a particularly auspicious day because religious calendars differ and, consequently, different religions celebrate the beginning of their New Year on different dates. The difference in religious calendars is just one way in which religions disagree about the nature of time. Some, notably Christianity, Judaism and Islam think it is linear; that time began at the moment of creation and is leading us to the End. However, Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs believe that time is cyclical; that it goes round in an unceasing circle of birth, death and re-incarnation. Does it matter? And does what we believe about time affect the way we live our lives? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss differing concepts of Time in religious traditions are Eleanor Nesbitt, Professor Emeritus in the Religions and Education Research Unit at the University of Warwick; Shayk Soheeb Saeed, an Academic and Quran scholar at the University of Edinburgh where he is also the Muslim Chaplain; and Dr Andrew Crome, Lecturer in Early Modern History at Manchester Metropolitan University. Ernie also talks to Richard D Lewis - the author of 'When Cultures Collide' - who talks about the novel approach to time keeping held by the people of Madagascar. Producer: Helen Lee.
Jan 01, 2018
Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol
Tiny Tim's "God Bless Us, Every One!" is the rousing conclusion to Charles Dickens' festive fable A Christmas Carol. But what is the Christian message behind this enduring story? Joining Ernie to discuss Charles Dickens' faith and the religious themes in his work are three fans, all of whom have written books about him: actor Simon Callow, author Claire Tomalin and John Bowen - Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature at the University of York. Also interviewed is Rev Cheryl Kincaid, an American Presbyterian minister author of "Hearing the Gospel through A Christmas Carol". She has a deep affection for Dickens and the plight of Tiny Tim in particular. Producer: Helen Lee.
Dec 25, 2017
During Hanukkah - the Jewish Festival of Lights - Ernie Rea takes a look at the symbolism and use of light in Judaism and other religions. He is joined by Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism; Alan Williams, Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Religion at Manchester University; and by Denis Blackledge SJ, Parish priest of the of St Francis Xavier in Liverpool. Producer: Beena Khetani.
Dec 18, 2017
The Good Samaritan
Politicians these days are not much given to quoting the Bible; but the Good Samaritan is the exception. Mrs Thatcher pointed out that he was only in a position to help because he was rich. Gordon Brown touched on the parable in support of bailing out the banks. Hilary Benn used it to justify bombing Syria. How can one story be used to support such diverse political policies? Why is it so popular? What resonance does the Good Samaritan have today? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the political interpretations of the Good Samaritan are Nick Spencer Research Director of Theos, the religion and society Think Tank and author of 'The Political Samaritan'; the Rev Leslie Griffiths (Lord Griffiths of Burry Port) who sits as a Life Peer on the Labour benches; and Adrian Hilton, Director of Education at the Thatcher Centre. Producer: Helen Lee.
Dec 11, 2017
Swearing an Oath
We all know that lying in a court of law carries serious penalties so do we really need to place our hands on holy books and affirm our sincerity by swearing an oath? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss whether or not there is any place for God in a modern courtroom are Joshua Rosenberg, legal commentator and presenter of Radio 4's Law in Action; family law barrister Jasvir Singh, Chairman of City Sikhs; and Sarah Donaldson a Manchester based barrister and Quaker. Producer: Helen Lee.
Dec 04, 2017
Sacred Directions
When you stand in front of the altar in an Anglican or Catholic church, you are almost certainly facing East. The graveyard is very unlikely to be at the north side and if your church is called St Michael's, it will very likely be situated on the North side of your town or city. Cardinal points play an important role in sacred architecture. Is this simply a matter of history and culture or is there something deeper going on? To discuss sacred direction, Ernie Rea is joined by Martin Palmer, Secretary General of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation; Jon Cannon, Architectural Historian and Author of Sacred Spaces; and Vikram Lall, award winning Indian architect, educator and author. Producer: Helen Lee.
Nov 27, 2017
The Power of Chanting
Chanting has been practised for thousands of years by Hindus, Buddhists and Christians. It is said to have health benefits and today, practitioners suggest that it can combat the stresses of modern life. Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the power of chanting are Dr Sarah Shaw, Honorary Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies; Christopher Page, Professor of Medieval Music and Literature at the University of Cambridge and Gresham Professor of Music at Gresham College, London; and Michael Trimble Professor Emeritus and Consultant Physician to the Department of Psychological Medicine at the National Hospital London. Pop singer Belinda Carlisle talks about how chanting has helped her to combat her addictions. Producer: Beena Khetani.
Nov 20, 2017
Death Rituals in the Absence of a Body
The rituals of Remembrance Sunday still have power to move us. The thought of the millions who died, many of whom have no known grave; they are victims of war known only to God. For the many families who mourned loved ones killed in the World Wars, the fact that there were no bodies to bury, no tangible evidence of death, made the process of grieving and letting go all the more difficult. But does it pose a problem religiously? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss how we mourn our dead loved ones in the absence of a body are Professor Douglas Davies, Director of the Centre for Death and Life Studies at the University of Durham; Dr Miri Freud-Kandel, Fellow in Modern Judaism at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies; and Dr Chetna Kang, who is a Consultant Psychiatrist and Hindu Priest. Producer: Amanda Hancox.
Nov 13, 2017
Belief and Unbelief in Russia
A century after the October Revolution Ernie Rea and guests discuss the role of Belief and Unbelief in Russia. Ernie Rea's guests are Victoria Smolkin from Wesleyan University, Connecticut, Felix Corley from Forum 18 and Vera Tolz from the University of Manchester. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Sep 25, 2017
Religious Polls
The first Gallup national poll into religion was carried out in 1935. Ever since - but especially with the arrival of the internet - pollsters have fed a hungry media the latest statistics about belief in God and church attendance. How important is the polling industry to our understanding of religion? What can the polls not tell us? What is their relationship to academic social sciences? Professor Robert Wuthnow from Princeton University argues that polling on religion is a huge waste of money and creates rather than reflects categories of believers and non-believers. Also joining Ernie Rea to discuss the promise and pitfalls of religious polls are Professor David Voas from University College London, Katie Harrison from the Faith Unit at Comres and Andrew Graystone, founder and former director of the Church Media network. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Sep 18, 2017
It is said that behind every great man there is a great woman. The Prophet Muhammad was married many times; but for 25 formative years, he remained faithful to one woman, Khadijah. She is widely recognised as the First Muslim and her story may be surprising to many non-Muslims. She was a successful business woman. She was considerably older than Muhammad, and it was she who proposed to him. She must have been a formidable presence. There are many debates about the place of women in the Muslim world; could Khadijah be an appropriate role model for Muslim women today? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss Khadijah, are Fatima Barkatulla an Islamic scholar who has recently written a children's book about Khadijah; Rania Hafaz, Senior Lecturer in Education at Greenwich College and Fellow of the Muslim Institute; Asad Zaman, a Manchester based Imam; and Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic and Inter Religious Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Producer Amanda Hancox.
Sep 11, 2017
William Blake's Jerusalem
Will Ernie Rea and guests sing William Blake's "Jerusalem" at Last Night of the Proms? In Beyond Belief this week Ernie discusses how the poem of a fiery non-conformist has become the beloved anthem of such disparate groups of people - from union-jack-waving Promenaders to the English Defence League and the Women's Institute. Billy Bragg tells Ernie why he would like "Jerusalem" to be England's National Anthem. Ernie is also joined by the novelist Catherine Fox, poet Malcolm Guite and historian William Whyte. Producer, Rosie Dawson.
Sep 04, 2017
Is it a religious duty to give to beggars? If you go into the centre of a city like Yangon or Bangkok, you will also come across people begging. Among them will be fine robed Buddhist monks with their begging bowls. They're highly respected members of society, following the tradition of religious mendicancy. What differentiates them from what we know as street beggars? What should inform our decision on whether or not to give? Joining Ernie to discuss religious and moral attitudes to Begging are Jon Kuhrt, Chief Executive of the West London Mission; Eleanor Nesbitt, Professor Emerita from the University of Warwick and founder-member of the Punjab Research Group, and Dr Andrew Skilton, Senior Research Fellow in Buddhism at Kings College London. Producer, Rosie Dawson.
Aug 28, 2017
Is the sermon dead? In a digital age when the ten second soundbite is the favoured means of communication, it is too much to expect people to sit through a ten or twenty minute talk with no means of interaction? Joining me to discuss The Sermon are the Rev Dr Joe Aldred, Bishop in the Church of God of Prophecy: Reform Rabbi Barbara Borts,Newcastle; and Dr Bex Lewis, Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University. Producer. Rosie Dawson.
Aug 21, 2017
Ernie Rea and guests discuss B.R. Ambedkar's role in forming modern India. It's 70 years since the new country of Pakistan was born ; followed the next day by an independent India. There can be few who are unaware of the seminal role played by Mahtama Gandhi in the struggle for independence. Much less known is Dr B.R Ambedkar. Many would argue that his contribution was every bit as important. Ambedkar was the country's first Law Minister and he was the chief architect of the Indian Constitution. He was a Dalit - or Untouchable - and he had a major falling out with Gandhi on how the problem of Untouchability should be dealt with. Joining Ernie to discuss Ambedkar and his Legacy are Dr. Ananya Vajpeyi, Fellow and Associate Professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi; Santosh Dass, President of the Federation of Ambedkarite and Buddhist Organisations and Vice Chair of the Anti Caste Alliance; and William Gould, Professor of Indian History at Leeds University. Producer. Rosie Dawson.
Aug 14, 2017
Public Grief
Discussion programme in which guests from different faith and non-faith perspectives debate the challenges of today's world.
Jun 26, 2017
Religion and Hip Hop
What's the relationship between religion and hip hop? Since its emergence from the south Bronx in New York in the mid-1970s, hip hop culture has radically transformed music and the arts in America, and across the world. Hip hop is more than rap music; it is a style, a philosophy and a political worldview. In recent months, the artist, Stormzy has re-ignited discussion of the relationship between religion and hip hop. Is religion a superficial embellishment or is it fundamental to the origin and message of the artform? Robert Beckford is joined by Monica Miller, Associate Professor of Religion & Africana Studies at Lehigh University, Pennsylvania, Abdul-Rehman Malik - Music Journalist & Educator, and Dr Christopher Shannahan - Research fellow at the centre for trust, peace and social relations at Coventry University. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Jun 19, 2017
The Moon
The Moon has been venerated since the dawn of religion. Has Space exploration diminished its allure? Ernie Rea's guests are Professor Ronald Hutton from Bristol University, Professor Monica Grady from the Open University, Edgar Mark Williams, author of "The Moon, Nature and Culture" and the Associate Director of the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire, Tim O'Brien. Producer Rosie Dawson.
Jun 12, 2017
Jane Austen
In the 200th anniversary year of the death of one of Britain's finest novelists, Ernie Rea considers the religious world of Jane Austen and how it is reflected in her novels. Ernie is joined by novelist and priest Marie-Elsa Bragg, the social and architectural historian William Whyte, Oxford University lecturer Freya Johnston and Rev Paula Hollingsworth, author of "The Spirituality of Jane Austen." Producer Rosie Dawson.
Jun 05, 2017
Who do we think we are? Ernie Rea and guests discuss our fascination with our ancestors. Is there a contemporary spiritual need that finds an answer in tracing our roots? Ernie is joined by Else Churchill, from the Society of Genealogists: Julian Thomas, Professor of Archaeology at Manchester University; and Douglas Davies, Professor in the Department of Religion and Theology at the University of Durham. Producer Rosie Dawson.
May 29, 2017
Religion in Germany
As President Obama joins Angela Merkel to celebrate the Reformation 500 Anniversary, Ernie Rea and guests discuss the religious climate in Germany. The Reformation left Germany with a predominantly Catholic South and Protestant North; but today the scene is much more nuanced. The legacy of Communism means that religious affiliation in the former DDR is much lower than in the West; the number of Muslims in Germany now nudges five million, following the recent arrival of Syrian refugees, and debates around Islam and multi-culturalism are likely to play a prominent part in elections later this year. Ernie's guests are Nick Baines, the Anglican Bishop of Leeds, who as a multi linguist has had a close relationship with all things German for many years; James Hodkinson, Associate Professor in German at the University of Warwick; and Silke Horstkotte, a Lutheran living in Leipzig who is also a Research Fellow at Warwick. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
May 22, 2017
On Good Friday, next week, the story of Jesus' arrest, trial and crucifixion will be read in Churches across the country. In the Passion according to St John, Pontius Pilate famously asks: what is truth? An intriguing moment which resonates with modern times. We might well ask the same question today: an era of 'alternative facts' and 'fake news'; or so we are told. Religions claim they hold the 'truth', but religious belief cannot be proved like the sort of truth which is based on empirical evidence. What are some of the religious understandings of truth? And what role does religion have to play in a so-called 'post-truth' world? Producer: Dan Tierney Series Producer: Amanda Hancox.
Apr 03, 2017
The Seal of the Confessional is the absolute duty of Catholic priests not to disclose anything they learn from people who come to them for confession. But is there a moral imperative to do so if they discover a crime has been committed? For some, confessing your sins to a priest is a theological cop out rather than taking genuine responsibility for your actions; to others it's about trying to become a better person in the eyes of God. How is confession viewed within different religions? Why is confession with a mediator so important for some religious people and not for others? Is confession a medieval relic or does it still have something to offer the modern world? Ernie Rea discusses religious perspectives on confession with Catholic priest, Fr. Chris Hilton; Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain; Rory Singer, a former Buddhist Monk and Contemplative Psychotherapist; and Suzanne Hyde, Clinical Director at St Marylebone Centre for Healing and Counselling. Producer: Dan Tierney Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
Mar 27, 2017
Interfaith Worship
The reading of a passage from the Koran at Glasgow's St Mary's Cathedral during its Epiphany Mass earlier in the year caused an almighty row. The verses, which were read out by a local Muslim student, denied the divinity of Jesus and brought a wave of criticism and social media threats, which prompted a police investigation. Most people agree that interfaith dialogue is a good thing, but interfaith crossovers within a worship setting risk causing great offense. Why is interfaith worship so controversial, particularly if the intention is to deepen friendships between local faith communities? How can churches, mosques and temples steer a safe course? Robert Beckford discusses interfaith worship with Rev Anthea Ballam, an interfaith minister and priest; Rev Dr Gavin Ashenden, an Anglican priest and theologian; and Shayk Sohaib Sayeed, a Koranic scholar and a chaplain at the University of Edinburgh. Producer: Dan Tierney Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
Mar 20, 2017
Science Fiction
Science fiction has perhaps been unfairly dismissed by many critics and academics; seen by some as a niche genre, not befitting the elite group of literary works deemed to be 'high art'. While some examples of science fiction could be criticised for perpetuating fantasy clichés, others undoubtedly explore the biggest questions of life. Fans argue that the Sci-Fi universe allows the audience to suspend their disbelief about what is conventional, and opens up a space to explore philosophical, ethical and religious ideas in a relatable, absorbing and entertaining way. So how has religion been explored in the most influential works of science fiction? And what does science fiction have to tell us about faith and religion? Robert Beckford discusses the role of religion in science fiction with Aliette de Bodard, a writer with an interest in the interplay between science fiction and religion; Roz Kaveney, a writer, poet and critic; and Dr Sarah Dillon, author and Cambridge academic who explores science fiction in literature and film. Producer: Dan Tierney Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
Mar 13, 2017
Mental Health
One in four people has a mental disorder at some point in their life, according to government figures. In a speech earlier this year, the Prime Minister, Theresa May, said mental health had been "dangerously disregarded" as secondary to physical health and changing that would go "right to the heart of our humanity". Among the calls from experts for more funding to improve services is the complex question of how, as a society, we have got to the point where half of mental health problems start by the age of 14. What are the best strategies for prevention as well as treatment of mental illness? Does someone's personal religious and spiritual beliefs have a role to play? Or does religion do more harm than good? Ernie Rea explores religious perspectives on mental health with the Rev Will van der Hart, London vicar and a director the Mind and Soul Foundation, which explores Christianity and Mental Health; Professor Rasjid Skinner, consultant clinical psychologist and expert on Islamic approaches to psychology; and Dr Chetna Kang, consultant psychiatrist and a priest in the Hindu tradition of Bhakti Yoga. Producer: Dan Tierney Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
Mar 06, 2017
70 years ago Pakistan was born out of the partition of the Indian sub-continent, at the end of British colonial rule. It was created to meet the demands of Indian Muslims for their own homeland. The Constitution states that all laws are to conform with the rulings of Islam as laid down in the Quran and Sunnah. Religion is deeply woven into Pakistan; its culture, its laws and its justice system. It's been a turbulent 70 years politically, characterised by a civil war which resulted in the breakaway of Bangladesh; interchanging periods of military rule and transitional democracy. And Pakistan is frequently cited among the top 10 worst countries for human rights violations of religious minorities and women. How has religious faith shaped Pakistan? To what extent are the blasphemy laws, adultery punishments and honour killings religious? And how is the cultural and religious patriarchy of the country being challenged today? Ernie Rea explores religion in Pakistan with Iftikhar Malik, Professor of history at Bath Spa University; Humaira Masihuddin, an Islamabad-based lawyer and Islamic scholar, who trains the Pakistani police and judiciary; and Dr Saeeda Shah, reader in Education at the University of Leicester and an expert in Islam and Education in Pakistan. Producer: Dan Tierney Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
Feb 27, 2017
Religion and Numbers
Maths and religion are both ways of seeking order and understanding in the world. Numerologists who like to find significance in every number believe that 2016 was always going to be a bad year because of that combination of numbers - 2 0 1 6. Mainstream religious traditions have often set great store by numbers. Certain ones recur repeatedly in their scriptures, 3, 7, 40. What's that all about? Ernie Rea discusses religion's obsession with numbers with Marcus du Sautoy, Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford: Alex Bellos, science writer and journalist and author of the book, "Can you solve my problems?" and Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers a Community Educator at the Movement for Reform Judaism.
Jan 09, 2017
Martin Luther and the Reformation
This year sees the 500th anniversary of the moment when Martin Luther sparked the Reformation by - tradition has it - nailing his 95 theses to a church door in Wittenberg. Ernie Rea and guests discuss what led Luther to take this step, how his thought and personality affected the course of the Reformation and whether - were he to walk into the 21st century - he might actually find himself to be a good Catholic. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Jan 02, 2017
Religion and consumerism
Boxing Day sales in UK in 2015 amounted to 3.7billion pounds. In Beyond Belief today Ernie Rea and guests discuss religion and consumerism. Ernie is joined by Jeremy Sinclair, one of the founders of Saatchi and Saatchi, Keith Hebden director of the Urban Theology Unit in Sheffield and Eve Poole, author of "Capitalism's Toxic Assumptions." Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Dec 26, 2016
Virgin Birth
Thirty years ago a Bishop could still hit the headlines by saying that he didn't believe that Jesus was born of a virgin. While this doctrine is still strongly held in some parts of the church it is rarely discussed outside of theological circles. Some want to point to the "truth" behind the idea while others regard it as irrational, quaint or damaging to our understanding of God, women and paternity. Ernie Rea and guests discuss the genesis of the idea of the Virgin Birth and explores its contemporary validity and value. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Dec 19, 2016
Cryonics and immortality
The recent case of a terminally ill 14 year old who won the right to have her body cryonically frozen after death in the hope that science would eventually find a way of restoring her to healthy life raises all kinds of ethical questions about the sustainability of prolonging life indefinitely.But it also highlights age-old philosophical and religious preoccupations with what comes after death and the human desire to live forever. Ernie Rea discusses the quest for Immortality with Natalie Haynes, a Classicist writer and broadcaster; Douglas Davies, Professor in the Study of Religion at the University of Durham, and David Voas, Professor of Social Science at University College, London. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Dec 12, 2016
Immigration and the Church
Churchgoing in the UK is in steep decline, but between 2005 and 2012 attendance rose by 14% and that is down to immigration. One in seven church services in London are not conducted in English. Many of the new worshippers are Poles and other Eastern Europeans who took the opportunity which the enlargement of the European Union offered to come to Britain. Others are fleeing conflict in places like Somalia and Syria. What impact is immigration having on the Churches in Britain? What opportunities and challenges does it pose to them? Ernie Rea is joined by Francis Davies Professor of Religion, Communities and Public Policy at Birmingham University, Dr Fiona McCallum, Lecturer at the School of International Relations at the University of St Andrews, Pouya Heideri, an Iranian Christian who has been living in Britain for the last seven years and is training for ministry in the Church of England, and Rev Sally Smith from Stoke on Trent. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Dec 05, 2016
Zionism and Judaism
A new term of abuse has emerged on social media, Zio, a shortened form of Zionist. Meanwhile the evidence suggests that anti Semitism is on the rise in Britain. There have been high profile cases of politicians who have been disciplined for anti Semitic comments. There appears to be some confusion even within the Jewish community over what Zionism means, whether a distinction should be drawn between anti Semitism and anti Zionism and what the relationship is between Judaism and Zionism. Ernie Rea brings together three Jews to discuss these issues. Robert Cohen is a Jewish blogger and commentator on the British Jewish community and its relationship to the State of Israel: Dr Yaakov Wise is a Manchester based Orthodox Jewish historian and writer: and Jessica Elgot was formerly a journalist for the Jewish Chronicle and is now writing for the Guardian. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Nov 28, 2016
A newborn prefers the face of its mother to that of other people within a day of being born; the experience of being in love involves gazing at the face of the beloved. Face to face encounters are at the heart of human intimacy for most people so its understandable that many religions choose to speak of the individuals relationship with God as a facial encounter. What are the advantages and dangers in giving God a face? Ernie Rea's guests are Dr Chetna Kang, consultation psychiatrist and Hindu priest in the Bhakti Yoga tradition, Aaron Rosen. Professor of Religious Thought & Director of Cultural Projects, Rocky Mountain College, Montana U.S.A and Ben Quash, Professor of Christianity and the Arts, Kings College, London. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Nov 21, 2016
Children's Literature
C.S. Lewis is thought of as one of the most influential children's authors of the 20th century. The Chronicles of Narnia series has inspired generation after generation of children. The story is gripping; and the magical land of Narnia excites the imagination. But just how much do children today know about the overt parallels to the Christian story contained within the books? And does it matter as long as it's a great story? Is C.S. Lewis one of a kind when it comes to the incorporation of religion into mainstream children's fiction? Do religious language, ideas and imagery have anything to offer children's literature in today's increasingly secular society? Ernie Rea discusses the role of religion in children's literature with the novelist Geraldine McCaughrean, whose work includes the retelling of classic stories for children, including The Canterbury Tales, The Pilgrim's Progress and Moby Dick; Frank Cotterell Boyce, screenwriter, novelist and author of 'Millions' which won the 2004 Carnegie Medal for children's literature; and Nicholas Tucker, an educational psychologist and academic who has written widely on children's literature. Producer: Dan Tierney Series Producer: Amanda Hancox.
Oct 03, 2016
Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed July's failed military coup on the exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen and his followers. Since a 3-month state of emergency was declared, more than 50,000 people have been rounded up, sacked or suspended from their jobs in the military, educational institutions, the judiciary and the media. Gulen has denied involvement in the attempted coup. Turkey is around 97% Muslim. However, there have been growing concerns among many who see the conservative religious reforms of Erdogan's Islamist-rooted AK Party as being in opposition to the modern secular republic established in the 1920s by nationalist leader Kemal Ataturk. What do recent events say about the place of religion in Turkey? How strong is the tension between secularism and Islamism? What does the future hold for religious freedom in Turkey? Ernie Rea discusses religion in Turkey with Bill Park, senior lecturer at King's College London and policy advisor for the Centre for Turkey Studies; Ozcan Keles, Muslim chairperson of the Gulen-inspired UK charity, the Dialogue Society; and Hakan Camuz; Muslim international legal consultant and supporter of the Turkish government. Producer: Dan Tierney Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
Sep 26, 2016
Clergy during the Troubles
Bishop Edward Daly, who died last month, led the Catholic Diocese of Derry through some of the worst years of the Northern Ireland Troubles. His was the iconic image of Bloody Sunday; photographed waving a white blood-stained handkerchief while a dying boy, Jackie Duddy, is being carried away. The Good Friday Agreement in 1998 marked the end of three decades of bitter sectarian violence. At least 3,600 people died and tens of thousands were injured. This was a territorial conflict, not a religious one. Yet, at its heart lay two mutually exclusive visions of national identity and national belonging, with a dividing line drawn between Protestant Unionists and Catholic Republicans. When Bishop Daly recently died, he was praised by all sides for his work, despite being critical of all sides. How significant was the role of Catholic and Protestant clergy more widely during the Troubles and throughout the peace process? How did they measure success? How big a say do they have in the debate about the legacy of the Troubles? Ernie Rea discusses the role of the clergy during the Northern Ireland Troubles with John Dunlop, former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland; Fr Gary Donegan, rector of Holy Cross Catholic Church in Ardoyne, North Belfast; and John Brewer, sociologist and Professor of Post Conflict Studies at Queen's University Belfast. Producer: Dan Tierney Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
Sep 19, 2016
The recent terrorist atrocities in France, Belgium and Germany have resulted in many communities, families and individuals having to deal with acute stress and trauma. Trauma takes many forms. Whether it is following an act of terror, a natural disaster or the loss of a loved one to illness or an accident, the question of how a loving God can allow such things to happen is a common response to suffering. While some find comfort through faith; for others, it can make things worse. What role does religion play in times of collective and personal trauma? Ernie Rea explores the religious response to trauma with Fr Aidan Troy, Parish priest of St Joseph's Catholic Church in Paris; Dr Elisabeth Harris, Associate Professor in Religious Studies at Liverpool Hope University; and Dr Kenneth Pargament, clinical psychologist and author of "The Psychology of Religion and Coping". Producer: Dan Tierney Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
Sep 12, 2016
Religious Education
What should be the purpose and scope of Religious Education in an increasingly pluralist and multi-faith society? An independent commission has been set up by the Religious Education Council of England and Wales to make "wide-ranging recommendations for change" within religious education in schools. It follows a report last year from Goldsmiths, University of London, which argued that RE in England's schools needs a total overhaul to keep pace with the changing religious landscape of the country. While many within Religious Education are calling for sweeping changes to the subject, they don't always agree on what those changes should be. Ernie Rea discusses the role of religious education with Dr Adam Dinham, Professor of Faith & Public Policy at Goldsmiths, University of London; Dr Adrian Hilton, theologian, educationalist and advisor to the former Education Secretary, Michael Gove; and Dr Abdullah Sahin, reader in Islamic Education at the University of Warwick Producer: Dan Tierney Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
Sep 05, 2016
A person's hair is one of the few visible indicators we might have about their religion. A long beard, for example, can be a powerful symbol of devotion for many Muslims, Jews and Christians. In Orthodox Jewish communities, married women wear a wig or hat rather than expose their hair in public. Sikhs consider hair to be so special that it can't ever be cut. Some of these practices are based on rules written in texts from long ago. So what is their relevance today? Why do some communities continue to hold on these rituals? Are they on the increase or in decline in British society? Ernie Rea discusses the connection between hair and religious belief with Dr Christopher Oldstone-Moore, author of "Of Beards and Men: The Revealing History of Facial Hair"' Dr Jasjit Singh, an expert in religious and cultural identity from the University of Leeds; and Rabbi Dr Barbara Borts, a Reform Rabbi and expert on women and Judaism. Producer: Dan Tierney Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
Aug 29, 2016
Sharia Councils
The government has launched an inquiry into the role of sharia councils in the UK. The councils are able to provide advice to Muslims who voluntarily choose to use them to resolve civil and family disputes. But human rights campaigners have become increasingly concerned about the rights of women who access the councils. The Home Office said it would examine claims that sharia councils may be working in a "discriminatory and unacceptable way", issuing divorces that are unfair to women, contrary to the teachings of Islam. However, it will also seek out examples of best practice among sharia councils. So what is the real picture? How can we separate the facts from the misconceptions? Ernie Rea explores the role of sharia councils in the UK with Dr Amra Bone, who is on the panel for the Sharia Council based in Birmingham Central Mosque; Dr Samia Bano, an expert in Muslim family law in the UK at SOAS, University of London; and Maryam Namazie, a human rights activist from the campaign group 'One Law for All'. Producer: Dan Tierney Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
Aug 22, 2016
Cultural Revolution
50 years ago, Mao Zedong launched the Cultural Revolution to rid the Communist Party of his rivals. He ended up destroying much of China's social fabric, calling on young, radical "Red Guards" to take party leaders to task for their embrace of bourgeois values and lack of revolutionary spirit. He ordered them to destroy the "four olds" - old ideas, customs, habits and culture. Religion was a prime target. Temples were ransacked and churches were destroyed. Religious leaders were sent to factories and farms for re-education through forced labour. Many of them died. Visibly, religion was all but wiped out. In recent years, however, there has been a strong religious revival. Some experts believe that by 2025 there will be more Christians in China than anywhere else in the world, despite the fact that religious freedom is still curtailed. Ernie Rea explores the impact and legacy of the Cultural Revolution on religion in China with Martin Palmer, author and China expert; Isabel Hilton, Editor of the 'China Dialogue' website; and Laureen Leung, a Chinese Christian who was born in China in 1966 at the start of the Cultural Revolution and who now lives in the UK. Producer: Dan Tierney Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
Aug 15, 2016
Battle of the Somme
The Battle of the Somme, fought in northern France between 1st July and 18th November 1916, was one of the bloodiest of World War One. The British and French armies engaged the Germans in a brutal battle of attrition on a 15-mile front. In total, there were over one million dead and wounded on all sides. The slaughter was on an unprecedented scale. How did individuals and society grieve? How did faith institutions respond to the traumatic loss of life? What was its effect on the spiritual psyche of Britain in the immediate aftermath and in subsequent decades? Ernie Rea and guests discuss the religious response to the Battle of the Somme. Producer: Dan Tierney Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
Jun 27, 2016
US Republican Party
Despite the constitutional barrier between church and state in America, politicians hardly ever give a major speech without invoking religion. In particular, the political relationship between Christian evangelicals and the Republican Party has existed for decades. But is the expected announcement of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee next month about to shake things up? He is very different to the usual candidate that would appeal to the religious right. If he gets the evangelical vote, he'd be the first nominee to do so without really talking about God or the Bible. How has he proved so successful? Ernie Rea and guests discuss religion and the US Republican Party. Producer: Dan Tierney Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
Jun 20, 2016
Freedom of Expression
50 years ago this week, the Vatican's list of banned books was finally abolished by Pope Paul VI. The aim of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum was to protect the faith and morals of Catholics by preventing the reading of what the Church deemed to be heretical and immoral books. The final list reads as a who's who of some the greatest writers, philosophers and thinkers in Western culture. But religious censorship is not just part of the Christian story; it has been practiced in many societies and by many religions. Ernie Rea explores the relationship between religion and freedom of expression with Ed Condon, a canon lawyer and a writer for the Catholic Herald; Barry Kleinberg, a lecturer at the London School of Jewish Studies and an Orthodox Jew; and Khola Hassan, an Islamic scholar who sits on the Islamic Sharia Council for London. Producer: Dan Tierney Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
Jun 13, 2016
Belgium is steeped in Catholic history, having been part of the French Empire until 1815 and eventually gaining independence from the largely Protestant Netherlands in 1830. The State subsidises all officially-recognised religions, paying the salaries of teachers of religion in state schools, stipends and pensions for Catholic clergy and for the renovation of church buildings. Yet it's thought Belgians practice their faith less than in most other European countries, and over many decades, there has been a fierce political debate about how much funding should go towards religious institutions. Muslim immigration in the 1960s changed the country's religious landscape. Following the recent Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, the Brussels district of Molenbeek has been accused of being a breeding ground for violent Jihadists. Ernie Rea and guests discuss how religion has shaped Belgium and the role it has to play in its future. Producer: Dan Tierney Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
Jun 06, 2016
Rule of Benedict
Saint Benedict is often regarded as the founder of Western monasticism. He wrote his Rule for monks in the 6th century, which is still followed by monks and nuns of the Benedictine order today. It sets out the spiritual and practical code for life in a religious community. Compared with earlier monastic writers, Benedict is much more moderate in the demands he makes on people. He was also aware that his Rule would need to be adapted to different times and circumstances. Ernie Rea and guests discuss the Rule of Benedict and what it has to offer the modern world. Producer: Dan Tierney Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
May 30, 2016
Original Sin
The Catholic Church still affirms the doctrine of original sin. For more than 1,500 years the Church has maintained that the sin of Adam in the Garden of Eden was passed on to every subsequent human being. This meant that every baby was born bad, with its inherent human nature corrupted and attracted to sin. This was not a marginal teaching; it has underpinned Christianity. Ernie Rea and guests discuss the religious, social and cultural legacy of the doctrine of original sin. Producer: Dan Tierney Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
May 23, 2016
Social Media
In the virtual world of social media, religious communities are now global. But is this at the expense of local relationships? Does lively discussion on social media translate into to social action? And does social media genuinely have the power to reform religious institutions, challenge extreme views or change someone's personal religious experience? Ernie Rea discusses the relationship between religion and social media with Michael O'Loughlin, journalist and author of "The Tweetable Pope"; Dr Bex Lewis, a Christian and Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University; and Shelina Janmohammed, a Muslim writer and blogger. Producer: Dan Tierney Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
May 16, 2016
Apparitions of Mary
Since 2010 a Vatican commission has been investigating the alleged apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina. An announcement is expected soon, amid concerns that the supernatural claims of six visionaries are getting out of the Vatican's control. Beginning in 1981, the apparitions purportedly continue daily, and thousands of pilgrims from all over the world travel to the small town each month to meet the alleged seers. What exactly are Marian apparitions and how have they been explained? What are some of the stories associated with them? Why have they become such a powerful tool for conversion over recent decades? Are they always an aid to religious devotion or can they lead to unhealthy superstition? Producer: Dan Tierney Series Producer: Amanda Hancox.
Mar 28, 2016
Fixed Easter
The Archbishop of Canterbury is working with other Christian churches to agree on a fixed date for Easter, which he hopes would happen "in between five and 10 years time". The first attempt to make such a change was in the 10th Century. The date, which is different in the Eastern and Western Christian traditions, is also intrinsically linked to the Jewish celebration of Passover and Christian church liturgy is steeped in its Jewish origins. Why historically has the date been different among Christians? What would it take to agree on a fixed date? Why does it matter? What could a change to a fixed date mean for Christians and Jews? Producer: Dan Tierney Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
Mar 21, 2016
Pope Francis has declared 2016 a "Holy Year of Mercy" and described it as "a privileged moment, so that the church may learn to choose only that which pleases God most"; that is forgiveness and mercy. What exactly do we mean by mercy? Why has the Pope singled it out as the virtue we need the most to build a better society? If it is a central theme in the great religious traditions, how are we to apply it in everyday life? Ernie Rea and guests discuss the nature of mercy. Producer: Dan Tierney Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
Mar 14, 2016
Storytelling in Christianity
In a special programme recorded at the the Bloxham Literary Festival, William Crawley and guests explore the rich history of Judeo-Christian storytelling. How old are some of the most popular and familiar biblical stories and where did they come from? How important has the telling, re-telling and adaptation of stories been throughout the history of Christianity? What challenges do they pose to people of faith? Producer: Dan Tierney Series Producer: Amanda Hancox.
Mar 07, 2016
Saudi Arabia
The UK's ties with Saudi Arabia have come under growing strain in recent months over how to balance human rights concerns with the government's desire to promote a crucial trade and investment relationship. The Arab state sits on more than a quarter of the world's known oil reserves, making it one of the richest countries in the Middle East and a vital strategic partner to many Western nations. It is also home to the birthplace of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad and the cradle of Islam. Its rulers espouse a strict version of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism. The Wahhabi interpretation of Islamic law includes harsh punishments such as public beheadings and restrictions on women. How did Wahhabism gain so much influence in the country? What, in turn, has been its effect on the stability of the region and the wider world? Producer: Dan Tierney Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
Feb 29, 2016
From the Charlie Hebdo shootings a year ago to the November terrorist atrocities in Paris, a string of Islamist attacks has left French society reeling in the face of home-grown terror. The events raise many issues, including the nature of religious and cultural integration in France. Secularism is a defining principle of the State. Faith is practiced in private and not in public. However, the way the French government is applying the concept of "Laïcité" has come under increasing criticism. Ernie Rea discusses religion in secular France with Kay Chadwick, Reader in French Historical Studies at Liverpool University; Mona Siddiqui, professor of Islamic and Inter-religious Studies at the University of Edinburgh; and Natasha Lehrer, writer and literary editor of the Jewish Quarterly. Producer: Dan Tierney Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
Jan 11, 2016
Religion and Psychotherapy
There is a long Christian history of exploring the self. Some of the greatest Christian theologians wrote about the importance of the inner life; and in times of distress and suffering it was the Church people turned to for both confession and counsel. Things began to change in the 20th century with the emergence of psychoanalysis and the writings of Sigmund Freud. No longer were ideas about the inner life the preserve of the Church. Psychotherapy was seen as a threat by the Institution; and religion, conversely, was viewed with suspicion among many psychotherapists. Are religion and psychotherapy at war with one another? Or are they more compatible than we might think? Can they be reconciled? Ernie Rea discusses whether Christianity or psychotherapy provides the more reliable guide to the inner life with Mark Vernon, a psychotherapist and writer; psychoanalyst Anouchka Grose; and Reverend Dr Andrew Walker, Director of the St Marylebone Healing and Counselling Centre. Producer: Dan Tierney Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
Jan 04, 2016
Heaven and the Afterlife
The question of what happens after we die is central to the world's faith traditions. How has the belief in an afterlife developed across the religions? And what does Heaven mean to people of faith today? Ernie Rea discusses the concept of the afterlife with Shaunaka Rishi Das, Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies; Dr Shuruq Naguib, lecturer in Islamic Studies at Lancaster University; and the writer and broadcaster Peter Stanford. Producer: Amanda Hancox.
Dec 28, 2015
December 21st - the shortest day in the year - is the day pagans across Europe are marking the Winter Solstice; an ancient festival, connected to the lowest position of the sun in the sky. It has been celebrated for millennia, and yet, its relationship to the relatively recent Christian celebration of Christmas is inseparable. It is no coincidence that a festival marking the 'rebirth' of the new sun in the sky comes just days before the celebration of the birth of Jesus, seen by Christians as the Son of God. How did this relationship develop? Where did many of the familiar customs we associate with Christmas come from? Ernie Rea explores the pagan origins of Christmas with Ronald Hutton, professor of History at Bristol University; JJ Middleway, a celebrant and ritualist based in the Druid tradition; and the reverend Steve Hollinghurst, a Church of England vicar and author of 'New Age Paganism and Christian Mission'. Producer: Amanda Hancox.
Dec 21, 2015
Birth rates in Western Europe have been dropping steadily. In the 1970s, one in ten British women reached the menopause without having children. Today it is one in five. Earlier this year Pope Francis told an audience in St Peter's Square that, "The choice not to have children is selfish. Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies; it is enriched, not impoverished." Is he right? Does the biblical injunction to "Go forth and multiply" still hold true? To what extent does the stigma of infertility still exist within society? Ernie Rea discusses issues around childlessness with Khola Hasan, an Islamic scholar, writer and broadcaster who sits on the Islamic Shariah Council; Dovid Lewis, who is the Rabbi of South Manchester Synagogue; and Dr Dawn Llewellyn, Senior Lecturer in Christian Studies at the University of Chester who has carried out research into voluntary childlessness among Christian women in Britain. Producer: Dan Tierney Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
Dec 14, 2015
50 Years of Nostra Aetate
It is 50 years since the publication of the Vatican document 'Nostra Aetate' which transformed relations between the Roman Catholic Church and other religions, most notably Judaism. At only a few paragraphs in length, this short text has been widely seen as one of the most remarkable moments in the turbulent history of interfaith relations. How did it come about? What can we say it has really achieved? And how does it fit into the world in which we now live? Ernie Rea explores the impact of 'Nostra Aetate' with Archbishop Kevin McDonald, Emeritus Catholic Archbishop of Southwark and chair of the Bishops' Conference Committee for Other Faiths and of the Committee for Catholic-Jewish Relations; Dr Ed Kessler, Founder-Director of the interfaith organisation, the Woolf Institute; and Oliver McTernan, Director of the conflict-resolution charity 'Forward Thinking', which works among communities in the UK and the Middle East. Producer: Amanda Hancox.
Dec 08, 2015
Interfaith Marriage
There are big challenges faced by interfaith couples today; where to get married, how to bring up the children and where to be laid to rest. They are the concern of all faiths. As British society becomes more multicultural, are these challenges becoming greater for those who chose to marry someone of a different faith? Ernie Rea discusses the pros and cons of interfaith marriage with Asad Zaman, an Imam for over 20 years who leads the Friday prayers at several mosques across Manchester; Dr Jonathan Romain, a Reform Rabbi who has written extensively on interfaith marriage; and Rosalind Birtwistle, Co-Founder of the Interfaith Marriage Network, who is a Christian married to a Jew. Producer: Dan Tierney Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
Nov 30, 2015
How Islamic is the So-Called Islamic State?
In claiming responsibility for the Paris atrocities, the so-called Islamic State described the attacks as "a blessed battle whose causes of success were enabled by Allah". Last year, when the group's self-imposed Caliphate was declared, hundreds of Muslim leaders and scholars from across the world wrote an open letter to the self-professed Caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, accusing him of heinous war crimes and a violation of the fundamental principles of Islam. So how Islamic is 'Islamic State'? Why have mainstream interpretations of Islam so far failed to provide an effective counter-narrative? What needs to happen for the group to be defeated? William Crawley discusses the beliefs which underpin the so-called Islamic State in the light of the Paris terrorist attacks with Sheikh Dr Salah Al Ansari, an Imam, theologian and academic; Haras Rafiq, Managing Director of the anti-extremism think tank, the Quilliam Foundation; and Dr Katherine Brown, an expert in Islamic Studies at King's College London. Producer: Dan Tierney Series producer: Amanda Hancox.
Nov 23, 2015
The Family
This week the Catholic Church began its second Synod on the Family. After a year of reflection and discussion, there has been much speculation as to what might emerge. The model for what constitutes a family has posed difficulties for Christianity down through the centuries. The greatly increased divorce rate, the movement for gay and lesbian equality; the possibility for surrogate children, all pose challenges for churches of all denominations which have longstanding theological ideas about what a family is and what it is for. Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the family is Dr Clare Watkins, Lecturer in Ministerial Theology at the University of Roehamption in London; the Rt Rev Alan Wilson, Anglican Bishop of Buckingham; and the Rev Dr Paul Middleton, Senior Lecturer in New Testament and Early Christianity at Chester University and a minister of the Church of Scotland. Producer: Amanda Hancox.
Oct 05, 2015
New Religious Communities
Of all the career choices open to young people, entering a religious community must come fairly near the bottom of the list. Yet the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has set up a new community based at Lambeth Palace for young Christian people from all over the world. About 500 started the application and 16 have been chosen. They will have the opportunity to live in the Palace for a year, experiencing a daily round of prayer, silence and work. They will be supported by another 20 who will share some of the community life while continuing with their jobs. Religious orders have been in steep numerical decline since the 1960s, but in recent years new communities like the Archbishop's, have emerged. So what is this new movement all about? Could it be bucking a cultural trend? Will it bring new life to the church? Ernie Rea is joined by Mark Berry, a member of "Safespace," a new monastic community in Telford; Sister Dr Gemma Simmonds, Director of the Religious Life Institute, Heythrop College, London and a Trustee of the new St Anselm's Community at Lambeth Palace; and Dr Abby Day Senior Research Fellow in the Anthropology of Sociology and Religion at The University of Kent. Producer: Nija Dalal-Small.
Sep 28, 2015
A hundred years ago the trenches had been dug and British and German soldiers were engaged in bloody combat in Flanders and Gallipoli. Faced by the scale of the slaughter, many people turned to pacifism, the idea that all resistance to evil should be non-violent. It was not a new idea; some Eastern religions adopt it as their default position. But the deadly potency of weapons of mass destruction have reopened the debate in the West. Is pacifism a viable option in a world of nuclear weapons and drone aircraft? Ernie Rea is joined by Pat Gaffney from the Catholic peace organisation Pax Christi; Jonathan Romain, Rabbi of Maidenhead Synagogue in Berkshire; and Major General Tim Cross who has seen active service in Northern Ireland, in Bosnia, and in Kuwait and Iraq during the First Gulf War and is now Chairman of the Christian Think Tank, Theos. Produced by Nija Dalal-Small.
Sep 22, 2015
What do Muhammad Ali, Helen Shapiro and John Travolta have in common? They all changed their religion. They abandoned the traditions in which they had been brought up in favour of something different. In some cases, it produced a great sense of betrayal. Some religious groups will cut off friends and family who renounce their religion. Life for the so-called betrayer can be very difficult indeed. The idea of betrayal runs very deep in many religions. Why? And what does it actually signify? Ernie Rea is joined by Prakash Shah, Director of the Centre for Culture and Law at Queen Mary, University of London; Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawar, Chief Executive of the Spiritual Capital Foundation Think Tank; and Douglas Davies, Professor in the Study of Religion at Durham University. Produced by Nija Dalal-Small.
Sep 14, 2015
You may be surprised to learn that one of the best-selling poets in America today is a man who lived and died 800 years ago. The Persian-born Rumi, Jalal ad-Din Muhammed Rumi, to give him his full name, was a Sufi master who wrote ecstatic poems about joy and love and separation and pain. One respected scholar compares Rumi's work to Shakespeare's for "its resonance and beauty." Contemporary artists as diverse as Madonna and Philip Glass acknowledge their debt to him. But the popular editions of his work, much edited, contain little evidence of his Muslim origins. Has he been sanitised for a sensitive modern reader? Has his religion been removed from his poetry to help him become a more universal figure? Ernie Rea is joined by Fatemah Keshavarz, Director of the Roshan Institute for Persian Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park; Alan Williams, Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Religion at the University of Manchester; and Shahram Shiva, a Rumi Translator and scholar Produced by Nija Dalal-Small.
Sep 07, 2015
Discussion programme in which guests from different faith and non-faith perspectives debate the challenges of today's world.
Aug 31, 2015
The luxury hotels in the beach resorts of Tunisia which were once packed with tourists now lie nearly empty. The slaughter on the beach at Sousse on June 26th has added Tunisia to a growing list of no-go areas for Western tourists. Tunisia is 99% Muslim but was considered an oasis of secularism in the Arab World. Its revolution in 2011 marked the beginning of The Arab Spring, bringing democratic government in place of a dictatorship. But all those hopes now appear to have turned to dust. Tunisia sends more fighters to Syria than any other Arab country, perhaps as many as 3000. Tunisia is now ruled by a coalition that includes an overtly Islamist party, called Ennahda. So what does the future hold for the country? Is it going down a radical route? Ernie Rea is joined by Zoe Petkanas, working on a Ph.D on Gender, Law and Social Change in North Africa at Cambridge University; Dr Radwan Masmoudi, President of the Centre of the Study of Islam and Democracy in Washington D.C.; and Berny Sebe, Senior Lecturer in colonial and post colonial studies at Birmingham University. Produced by Nija Dalal-Small.
Aug 24, 2015
Religion and Debt
The Greek Debt Crisis has highlighted in the most dramatic way just how much our economic systems depend on borrowed money. The figures of international debt are mind boggling. In the economies of wealthy countries like the United States and the UK, around 97-98% of the money is debt. It is money whose value rests not on something that exists in the present but on something that might exist in the future. We are all living with debt. People in the UK owed £1.436 trillion at the end of May 2015, according to The Money Charity, up from £1.407 trillion at the end of May 2014. That's an extra £584 per adult. We have learnt to live with credit, whether it be a mortgage or a loan for a car or just a credit card account which spirals out of control. It seems that debt has become an essential part of personal finance. But is that healthy? Or ethical? And do our religious traditions have anything to say about our reliance on debt? Ernie Rea is joined by Habib Ahmed, Sharjah Chair in Islamic Law and Finance at Durham University Business School; Paul Francois Tremlett, Lecturer in the Religious Studies Department at the Open University; and Michelle Swallow, Debt Advisor at the organisation Christians Against Poverty. Produced by Nija Dalal-Small.
Aug 17, 2015
To Muslims, Muhammed is the most important person who ever lived. He is the Seal or the last of all the prophets, the one chosen by God to receive his final revelation. To insult the memory of the Prophet is a blasphemy and a body blow to the Muslim believer. It can carry terrible consequences as the staff of Charlie Hebdo discovered when they published cartoons which were thought by Muslims to be demeaning their Prophet. The Qur'an tells us very little about Muhammed. What we do know comes from the stories and traditions about the Prophet, known as the Hadiths, which were compiled after his death. Those stories provide moral examples of how to behave; but they also impact all of Islamic history. Ernie Rea is joined by Jonathan Brown, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Chair of Islamic Civilisation at Georgetown University; Sahib Bleher, Imam and author on the Qur'an; and Tom Holland, a Classicist and author of several best selling books including In The Shadow of the Sword, on the origins of Islam. Produced by Nija Dalal-Small.
Jun 29, 2015
The very public failures of the Mid Staffordshire National Health Service Foundation Trust raised serious questions about the standard of care in some hospitals. Two Enquiries agreed that there had been "appalling" emergency care with deficiencies at "virtually every stage." What would have prevented such a humanitarian failure? Some said that an obsession with targets and bureaucracy had been allowed to obscure the needs of patients. Others suggested that nurses in particular had lost the capacity to care. Again and again we heard the word "Compassion". Good old fashioned Compassion - a concept central to the world's religious tradition - just wasn't fashionable in an individualistic and competitive society. Ernie Rea is joined by Paul Gilbert, Professor of Psychology at the University of Derby: Anna Smajdor lecturer in Medical Ethics at the University of East Anglia; and Joshua Hordern Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at the University of Oxford. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Jun 15, 2015
In January Alexis Tsipras became Prime Minister of Greece and formed a coalition government with the nationalist Independent Greek Party. Tsipras is a radical, committed to ending austerity. He is also an atheist who publicly declared that he wants to move Greece in a secular direction. That would be a radical move, for Greek Orthodoxy is the only legally recognised religion and may command the loyalty of up to 97% of the Greek people. Tsipras did not take a religious oath on taking office. But since then he has been seen attending Orthodox Services; and has been making friendly overtures to Orthodox Clergy. Church attendance in Greece is low; but Orthodoxy appears to be deeply embedded in the identity of the Greek people. It is almost part of their DNA. Why is that? And how does it impact on the lives of ordinary people? Joining Ernie to discuss the influence of the Orthodox Church within modern Greece are the Rev Vasileios Papathanasiou, priest at the Grreek Orthodox Cathedra; of the Holy Cross and St Michael in Golders Green; Stavroula Pipyrou Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at the University of St Andrews; and Daphne Halikiopoulou, Associate Professor in Comparative Politics at the University of Reading. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Jun 08, 2015
Religion and Earthquakes
Kathmandu was a city of temples. Now it is a city of tents." That was the comment of one observer after the two recent earthquakes which struck Nepal. Thousands have died; many more made homeless in one of the world's poorest countries. Nepal is overwhelmingly Hindu; central to the Hindu belief is karma, the conviction that every action produces an equal reaction; that suffering in this life is a consequence of your actions in a previous life. How do such beliefs sit alongside an understanding of plate tectonics? After the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755 which killed an estimated 60,000 people, many theologians abandoned the attempt to explain such disasters in terms of God. What might be the effect of this disaster on the religious beliefs of people in Nepal? Joining Ernie to discuss how religious responses to earthquakes and other Natural Disasters are Edward Simpson, Professor of Social Anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, author of "the Political biography on an earthquake" about the aftermath of earthquakes in Western India: Atreyee Sen, Lecturer in Contemporary Religion and Conflict at the University of Manchester; and The Rev David Chester, Professor of Environmental Sciences at Liverpool Hope University.
Jun 01, 2015
Artificial Intelligence
Ernie Rea and guests discuss the promise and threats of developing artificial intelligence with Anders Sandberg, a philosopher from the Future of Humanity Institute in Oxford, Elaine Graham, Grosvenor Professor of practical Theology at Chester University, and Professor Lionel Tarassenko, Chair of electrical engineering at Oxford University. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Apr 06, 2015
This is the Holy Week; the time when Christians remember the events leading up to the trial and execution of Jesus of Nazareth. It came to a climax on a Cross on a hillside outside Jerusalem, when Jesus laid down his life, according to Christian belief, as an atonement for the sins of the world. He was a scapegoat, an innocent man who suffered the punishment which by rights should have been ours. The scapegoat motif has resounded throughout history. Jews, held responsible for Christ's death, have been made scapegoats right up to the present day. The scapegoat is nearly always "the other;" the stranger who can be made to bear the responsibility for the problems the rest of us don't want to own. Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the Scapegoat are Rabbi Dan Cohn Sherbok, Professor Emeritus of Judaism at the University of Wales: Sharon Dirix, Tutor at the Centre for Christian Apologetics at Oxford; and Peter Stanford, writer and broadcaster whose latest book on Judas came out last week. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Mar 30, 2015
Ernie Rea and guests discuss the revival of Confucianism in China. In 1966 the Red Guard in China sent a telegram to Mao tse Tung. "Dearest Chairman Mao," it read. "We have rebelled. We have torn down the plaque extolling "The teacher of ten thousand generations;" we have levelled Confucius' grave; and we have obliterated the statues in the Confucius Temple." By the time the Cultural Revolution had done its work, Confucianism which had dominated the religious and cultural life of China for over a millennium, seemed almost obliterated. But today it is making a comeback. The Chinese government is encouraging its study. What is going on? How can it be that a philosophy which was thought to be the embodiment of reaction is being hailed as a force of progress, Joining Ernie to discuss the New Confucianism are Dr Joachim Gentz, Chair of Chinese Philosophy and Religion at Edinburgh University: Thomas Chan, a member of ASHA, a group which focuses on inter faith dialogue: and Isobel Hilton, a journalist and editor of Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Mar 23, 2015
Religious Literacy
In Britain we're sometimes nervous about talking about religion, lacking the tools to talk about it in a society of many faiths and none. But how can we begin to understand one another if we cannot talk about those things which form the bedrock of so many peoples' lives. Joining Ernie to discuss Religious Literacy are Dr James Conroy, Vice Principal of the University of Glasgow and lead author of the publication, "Does Religious Education Work?"; Dr Adam Dinham, Professor of Faith and Public Policy at Goldsmith's, University of London; and Dr Abby Day, Reader of Race, Faith and Culture at Goldsmiths, and author of "Believing and Belonging." Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Mar 16, 2015
End Time Beliefs in Islam
According to Islamic teaching, there will a be a Day of Judgement when all of humanity will be judged by Allah. It will be preceded by divisions within the body of Islam and battles throughout the Middle East, particularly in Syria. Little wonder that some Muslims are speculating that the End Times are upon them. The leader of Islamic State, Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, uses the language of End Times to underpin his organisation's legitimacy. So are we really experiencing the signs of the End Time? Why are the end time beliefs in Islam similar to those in Christianity? Does Islamic State believe they are hastening the Last Judgement? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the end of time is Ibrahim Mogra, an Imam working in Leicester and Assistant Secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain; Dr Shuruq Nagruib, Lectuere in Islamic Studies at Lancaster University and Dr Rebecca Masterton, Islamic scholar and Director of Online Shia Studies. Producer: Amanda Hancox.
Mar 09, 2015
Is Purgatory a religious place or a psychological concept? Even in this so-called secular age, people with little or no religious belief often revert to religious terminology to describe their experience. After a difficult time, someone will say, "I've been to Hell and back." And after a time of testing or of waiting, they might say they've been through Purgatory. The word Purgatory comes from the Latin word meaning to "Purge," and refers in Catholic teaching to a place or state between heaven and hell. It has no place in Protestant or Orthodox teaching. How did the idea develop? What was its purpose? Does it have any contemporary meaning? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the concept of Purgatory are Miri Rubin, Professor of Medieval and Early Modern History at Queen Mary University, London: Father Paul Keane, Vice Rector of Oscott Catholic Seminary in Birmingham: and the historian of religions, Martin Palmer. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Mar 02, 2015
Is it correct to describe the killers of Charlie Hebdo staff in Paris as fundamentalists? When this programme was recorded, the operation to detain the suspects is continuing. The initial murders were carried out in the name of Allah in retaliation for the publication of cartoons deemed to be lampooning the prophet Mohammed. How do you describe people who carry out such atrocities? A quick glance through the papers revealed a wide diversity of terms, from the simple "terrorists," to "Muslim hardliners and "Islamic fundamentalist." Which terms are appropriate? What does it mean to describe someone in religious terms as "A Fundamentalist? What problems do we cause problems when we don't consider carefully the meaning of terms before applying them to a particular situation? The use of the term Fundamentalism has changed over the decades. Joining Ernie Rea to discuss its usage today are Haras Raffiq, Managing Director of the Quilliam Foundation, which exists to counter Islamic extremism, Julie Scott Jones, Associate Head of the Sociology Department at Manchester Metropolitan University; and Salman Sayyid, Reader in Islam and Politics at the University of Leeds. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Jan 12, 2015
Moses has always been good box office even before Ridley Scott's blockbuster movie hit the cinema screens on Boxing Day. There was Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments; the cartoon Prince of Egypt. It's a great story - Ancient Egyptian pharaohs and pyramids, babies in baskets, plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, and a great chase. The story of Moses is the seminal one for Jews; without him they would never have become a people. But he's important for Muslims and Christians too. And the story of a people being rescued from slavery and journeying to the Promised Land has been claimed by countless groups down through the ages. Ernie Rea is joined by Maureen Kendler, teaching fellow at the London School of Jewish studies, Shuruq Naguib, lecturer in Islamic Studies at Lancaster University, and the Rev Keith Hebden, Anglican Priest in Nottingham and author of "Seeking Justice: The Radical Compassion of Jesus. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Jan 05, 2015
The roots of English Catholicism
In Beyond Belief, Ernie Rea and his guests explore the place of faith in our complex world. Ernie is joined by three guests who discuss how their own religious tradition affects their values and outlook on the world, often revealing hidden and contradictory truths. In this programme, ahead of Pope Benedict XVI's state visit to England and Scotland, Ernie and his guests ask what is distinctive about English Catholicism. How did the ban on Catholics taking public office, only lifted in 1829 with the Catholic Relief Act, alter the treatment and perception of Catholics in England? What were the key moments and factors which restored Catholicism to a place in society and how have those created a distinctive form of Catholicism, unique to England and different to traditional Catholic countries. How does this play out today in public life, in relationship to the Pope and in acceptance of Vatican authority? Producer: Karen Maurice.
Jan 05, 2015
Magna Carta
What was the Church's role in the creation of Magna Carta? We all know about "Bad King John" and his barons, but this was a religiously charged document. The very first and the very last clause declare that "The Church must be free," and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, almost certainly drafted it. Ernie Rea is joined by the Very Rev June Osborne, Dean of Salisbury , whose Cathedral houses one of the four original copies of Magna Carta; Simon Barrow Co Director of Ekklesia, a Christian think tank; and David Carpenter, Professor of Medieval History at Kings College London and one of the investigators involved in the Magna Carta Project which is researching the context, production and reception of Magna Carta.
Dec 29, 2014
TS Eliot's Religious Poetry
Ernie Rea and guests discuss the enduring appeal of TS Eliot's religious poetry. It's 50 years since TS Eliot died. His later work, most notably the Four Quartets, is informed by a Christian Faith which became one of the pillars which sustained his life. How religious is his poetry? And what does it have to say to a society which many feel has lost its Christian moorings? Ernie is joined by Lyndall Gordon, author of The Imperfect Life of T S Eliot; the Rt Rev the Lord Harris, former Bishop of Oxford; and Roz Kaveney, poet, and critic and author of a series on Eliot for the Guardian newspaper. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Dec 22, 2014
Race Relations in the USA
In recent months some major American cities have experienced racial tension which has erupted into violence. In August Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Sections of the community reacted with violence, looting and protest and when, at the end of November, a Grand Jury decided not to indict the policeman there was further violence. Then in New York another Grand Jury decided against indicting a policeman who was caught on video in Staten Island putting a choke hold on a black man. Eric Garner was heard screaming "I can't breathe" and he subsequently died. The cases have raised questions about how much progress has been made in America towards creating a truly equal society. Joining Ernie Rea to discuss church and race relations in the United States of America is the Rev Cheryl Sanders, Professor of Christian Ethics at the Howard University School of Divinity and Pastor at the Third Street Church of God in Washington DC; Bishop Larry Jones, Founder and Pastor of Greater Grace Church in St Louis Missouri; and Alexander Smith, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Warwick University and at Kansas University. Producer: Beatrice Pickup
Dec 15, 2014
The sale of Ouija Boards has soared recently due to a new horror film Ouija. The desire to make or maintain contact with the dead has been a feature of societies down the ages, but for one modern religion, Spiritualism, it continues to play a central role. Spiritualism is on the rise in Britain, increasing by 17 per cent between the 2001 and 2011 censuses. Ernie Rea discusses the appeal of Spiritualism with David Bruton, President of the Spiritualists' National Union, the Rev Dr Steve Jeffrey, and Dr Nadia Bartolini from the Open University. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Dec 08, 2014
Plague narratives and Ebola
How are religious plague narratives affecting the responses to the Ebola outbreak? Throughout history, people have sought explanations for such deadly epidemics. Pre scientific societies thought that plagues were a punishment from the gods who were displeased with human behaviour. We have a better understanding of the causes and effects of disease today, but such ideas persist in many quarters and can still have a subconscious influence on contemporary attitudes to illness. Ernie Rea is joined by Dr Jane Stevens Crawshaw, Leverhulme early careers research fellow in History at Oxford Brookes University; the Rev Monsignor Robert J Vitillo, special Advisor on Health and HIV at the Catholic organisation Caritas International; and Joel Baden, Professor of Hebrew Bible at Yale University. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Dec 01, 2014
The word "Avatar" was not conceived by a Hollywood film producer but comes from the Sanskrit word for "descent". It relates to when a deity manifests in an earthly embodiment. In Christianity "incarnation" describes the coming of the divine in bodily form to the world in which we inhabit. Does this make Jesus an "Avatar"? Some Hindu's believe so. In this programme Ernie Rea explores the parallels and distinctions between the two and, as new technologies offer the prospect of digital "Avatars" able to simulate our personalities in the online world after death, discusses what such developments tell us about contemporary attitudes to life-after-death and immortality. Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the theology and digital reinvention of "Avatars" are Dr Chetna Kang, Hindu priest and psychiatrist, David Law Professor of Christian Thought and Philosophical Theology, and Dr John Troyer, Deputy Director of the Centre of Death and Society at the University of Bath. Producer: Catherine Earlam.
Nov 24, 2014
Catholic Synod on the family
This week the extraordinary Synod on the family called by Pope Francis takes place in Rome. It is a crucial moment for the church because the notion of what constitutes family and attitudes towards things like contraception, marriage, abortion and divorce have changed, putting church teaching out of step with wider society and indeed many Catholics. The question is what should the Church do about it? Pope Francis has hinted he wants change, but of what kind? To what extent is current Church teaching based on scripture and indissoluble, or based on rules that can be reinterpreted and more openly applied? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the extraordinary Synod on the family are Madeline Teahan, Associate Editor at the Catholic Herald, Paul Vallely author of 'Pope Francis: Untying the Knots' and David Willey the BBC's Vatican Correspondent. Producer: Catherine Earlam.
Oct 06, 2014
The belief in Karma is central to many of the religions of the east - the idea that every action has consequences, that what we did in a previous life affects who and what we are in this life. The concept may have originated in the east but it has seeped into Western thinking. When someone is seen to get their 'just deserts', we often remark that what goes around comes around. But is that a simplistic understanding of Karma? What does Karma really mean? Is it a fatalistic belief in a system of cause and effect, is it any different from the Christian belief that what your reap you sow? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss Karma are Ani Rinchern Khandro, an ordained nun in the Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism; Shaunaka Rishi Das, Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies; and Martin Palmer Secretary General of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation. Producer: Catherine Earlam.
Sep 29, 2014
Religion and PR
Should religions have a public relations strategy? Every organisation needs good communicators and religious bodies are no exception. They were once very good at it. Messages that had their origins in fairly obscure corners of the globe changed the lives of hundreds of millions. So what has gone wrong? Nowadays events can quickly unfold into PR disasters for religions. Is religion just another brand that needs to be sold and packaged? To what extent can organisations who prioritise truth afford to engage in spin? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss religion and PR are the Rev. George Pitcher, former Religious Editor at the Daily Telegraph and Public Affairs Secretary to Rowan Williams when he was Archbishop of Canterbury; Dr Yasmin Ibrahim, Reader in International Business and Communications at Queen Mary University; and Jack Valero, former Press Officer for Opus Dei and one of the founding fathers of Catholic Voices set up to provide a positive Catholic response to issues in the public arena. Producer: Catherine Earlam.
Sep 22, 2014
When it comes to belief how tenable a position is "I don't know"? According to a 2013 You Gov poll, 18% of young people when asked about belief in some "spiritual greater power" answered exactly that. The noisy debate between atheists and religionists has drowned out those that fit into neither camp - the Agnostics. But beyond "I don't know" what does it mean to be an Agnostic and is it a viable theological and philosophical position when it comes to the biggest questions of life? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss Agnosticism are Mark Vernon, former Church of England priest and author of "How To Be An Agnostic;" Alister McGrath Professor of Science and Religions at Oxford University and President of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics; and Dr Arif Ahmed Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Cambridge University. Producer: Catherine Earlam.
Sep 15, 2014
Religious History of Iraq
Today life for religious minorities in Northern Iraq is perilous as the militant Islamist group, Islamic State, continues to attack a range of diverse groups across the country in its pursuit of establishing a new Caliphate. But in this programme Ernie Rea and guests explore how up until the 20th century Iraq was known as a harmonious melting pot of religious and ethnic diversity. How true is that assessment? What has happened to change that? Is there any way for Iraq to step back from the brink? And could a Caliphate ever be part of the solution? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the current situation in Iraq from a religious perspective are Gerard Russell, former British and United Nations diplomat and author of "Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East"; Dr Erica Hunter, Senior Lecturer in Eastern Christianity in the Department of Religions at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London: and Dr Reza Pankhurst author of The Inevitable Caliphate. Producer: Catherine Earlam.
Sep 08, 2014
Holy Spirit
The blessing "In the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit" is much used in Christianity. But what do we mean by the term Holy Spirit? Belief in the Holy Spirit is a cardinal tenet of the Christian faith, while Muslims and Jews talk of the "Spirit of God." Whilst there is some common ground between the faiths, the differences in the interpretation of the Holy Spirit go to the heart of what marks the Abrahamic faiths apart. Ernie Rae explores the Holy Spirit with Loveday Alexander, Professor Emeritus in New Testament Studies at Sheffield University, Sajjad Rizvi, Associate Professor of Islamic Intellectual History at the University of Exeter and Laura Janner Klausner, from the Movement for Reform Judaism. Producer: Catherine Earlam.
Sep 01, 2014
The current crisis' in Iraq, Gaza and Syria means there is much work for humanitarian relief agencies working to pick up the pieces of these terrible conflicts. Many of these groups are faith based bodies - organisations motivated by a religious conviction to help those in need. But what does it mean to be a faith based charity? Is it a strength to have a religious dimension or a weakness? And how do you ensure that charity does not become exercise in proselytization? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the pros and cons of faith based charity are Andrew Hogg, Head of Media at Christian Aid; Jehangir Malik, Director of Islamic Relief; and Dr Michael Jennings, Lecturer in the Department for Development Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. Producer: Catherine Earlam.
Aug 25, 2014
Seven Deadly Sins
Envy, Pride, Anger, Gluttony and Lust are some of the misdemeanours considered so serious by the Church that they could have a fatal effect on an individual's spiritual health. Early British wall paintings stressed the connection between committing these so called "deadly sins" and ending up in Hell. But who decided what the seven deadly sins should be? Why was sadness replaced by sloth? Ernie Rea discussed the Seven Deadly Sins, their history and relevance today with John Cornwall, Catholic writer and Visiting Professor for Advanced Religious and Theological Studies at the University of Cambridge; Akhandadi Das, Vishnau Hindu teacher and theologian; and Father Andrew Louth, Archpriest of the Russian Orthodox Church and Emeritus Professor of Patristic Studies at Durham University. Producer: Amanda Hancox.
Aug 18, 2014
Shakespeare and Religion
Was William Shakespeare a closet Catholic? This year sees the 450th anniversary of his birth. He lived through a time of great turmoil, when Elizabeth the First tried to impose uniformity on the country's religious practice. How much is that reflected in his plays? How much did religion matter to Shakespeare? Did he have a particular religious agenda? And does he have a message for our contemporary religious - or irreligious - culture? Ernie Rea discusses Shakespeare and Religion with Clare Asquith, author of Shadowplay: The Hidden Beliefs and Coded Practice of William Shakespeare; Eric Mallin author of a book called "Godless Shakespeare:" and Helen Wilcox, Head of the School of English at Bangor University. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Jun 30, 2014
Christianity and Gender Identity
Ernie Rea and guests discuss Christian perspectives on Gender identity. Within the last 40 years it has been possible for people to undergo sex reassignment surgery. British law was changed ten years ago to enable them to change the sex given on their birth certificates. What challenges do these developments throw up for Christian thought and practice? Ernie is joined by Rev Rachel Mann, a transgender priest in the Church of England, Dr Vicky Gunn who teaches practical theology at Glasgow University and Dr Don Horrocks, head of public affairs at the Evangelical Alliance and Research Associate at the London School of Theology.
Jun 23, 2014
Islam and education
What is the purpose of an Islamic education? Faith Schools are popular with parents, but there is also considerable public disquiet about them - particularly when such schools are Islamic. The Al Madinah Free School in Derby has been forced to close its secondary wing on the grounds that it is "Chaotic, dysfunctional and inadequate." Now there are so called Trojan Horse allegations about five schools in Birmingham - none of them Faith Schools - which have been put into special measures because it is said not enough is being done to protect children from the potential risks of radicalisation and extremism. Ernie's guests are are Rania Hafez, Senior Lecturer in Education Studies at the University of Greenwich, Professor Dennis Hayes, Head of the Centre for Educational research at the University of Derby and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, columnist for the Independent newspaper and co-founder of British Muslims for Secular Democracy.
Jun 16, 2014
Ernie Rea and guests discuss the meaning of Apostasy within Islam. The case of Meriam Ibrahim, sentenced to death by a Sudanese court for abandoning Islam, has attracted world wide attention. In the West, the court decision has been almost universally condemned as a violation of a basic human right, that of religious freedom. About 20 Muslim countries in the world have laws against apostasy; What purpose do they fulfil and what is historical and theological reasoning that lies behind them?
Jun 10, 2014
Last Rites
Ernie Rea and guests discuss Last Rites in some of the world's major faiths. The one reality of which everyone can be sure is that they will die. Most people say they want to die at home surrounded by their loved ones, but dying in hospital is the norm. Religious communities have traditional rituals around dying - do these transfer easily to a clinical setting? And what might the idea of Last Rites mean to those without a religious faith? Ernie is joined by Maryam Riaz, Muslim Chaplain with Bradford Teaching Hospitals, NHS Trust; the Rev Anne Edwards, Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care Manager at Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust; and Christina Welch, Senior Lecturer in Theology and Religious Studies at Winchester University where she runs an MA course in Death, Religion and Culture. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Jun 02, 2014
Ernie Rea and guests discuss mindfulness meditation. It has its roots in religious practice, but can it be adapted to a secular environment?
May 26, 2014
Ernie Rea and guests discuss the heady mix of football and religion in Brazil in the first of a new series of Beyond Belief. For a month from the 12th June there will be a football match on television just about every evening during the World Cup. The host nation, Brazil, are among the favourites to win. Many of their players will be looking to a higher power to help their efforts on the field, because Brazil is an intensely religious country and some of its finest footballers are signed up "Ambassadors for Jesus." Brazil has the largest population of Catholics in the world, but things have been changing as Brazilians migrate from rural areas to the cities and the country becomes a major player on the world economic stage. Joining Ernie to discuss the Changing Face of Religion in Brazil are Daniel Clark, a Baptist minister and citizen of Brazil as well as Britain; Bettina Schmidt, Senior Lecturer in the Study of Religions at the University of Wales, Trinity St David ; and Andrew Dawson, Senior Lecturer at Lancaster University who has been researching Religion in Brazil since the early 1990s. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
May 20, 2014
Indian Elections
India is about to go to the polls. 788 million people are eligible to vote in the world's largest democracy. The role of regional, local and caste-based parties is important in Indian politics where Governments tend to rule by coalition, but this election is being represented as an epic struggle between the Indian National Congress party and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by the controversial figure of Narendra Modi, a Hindu Nationalist. Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the role of religious nationalism in Indian politics are William Gould, Professor of Indian History at the University of Leeds, Atreyee Sen, lecturer in Contemporary Religion and Conflict at the University of Manchester, and Zoya Hasan formerly Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University and currently National Fellow of the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR). Producer: Amanda Hancox, Rosie Dawson.
Mar 31, 2014
The Environment
A new word has entered into our common vocabulary recently. Fracking is the process whereby shale gas can be released from beneath the earth's surface. On the one hand, it's argued that fracking could give us enough gas to meet our short to medium term energy needs; on the other hand, there are those who fear it will do lasting environmental damage. How do you balance short term needs with long term environmental priorities? Western Christianity has been accused of promoting an exploitative relationship with the environment. Has Religion anything to contribute to the debate? Joining Ernie Rea are the Rev Michael Roberts, who trained as a geologist; Martin Palmer, Founder of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation: and the Rev Chris Halliwell, Rural and Environment Officer for the Diocese of Blackburn. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Mar 24, 2014
The Spring equinox falls on 20th March. A few dozen pagans and Druids will mark it with ceremonies inside the famous circle at Stonehenge. The summer solstice in June, on the other hand, will see thousands of people converge on the site. Why do they come? To connect with the ancestors? Celebrate nature? Rave? Does what they do bear any relationship to what happened at Stonehenge thousands of years ago, and can we ever know? Ernie Rea is joined by Ronald Hutton, Professor of History at the University of Bristol, Julian Thomas,. Professor of archaeology at Manchester University and Frank Somers from the Amesbury and Stonehenge Druids.
Mar 17, 2014
The Christian season of Lent is a time for recalling the forty days and nights spent by Jesus in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry. In other faiths too the wilderness is a place of refuge, self- discovery, temptation and joy. Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the idea and experience of the wilderness are the Anglican Bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell, the Buddhist writer Vishvapani, and Laura Feldt, associate Professor in the Study of Religion at the University of Odense in Denmark.
Mar 10, 2014
Pope Francis
Ernie Rea discusses the impact of Pope Francis' first year in the Vatican with journalist Paul Vallely, academic Tina Beattie and parish priest Marcus Holden. The Pope is still enjoying a media honeymoon but what is his programme for change? Can he do more than change the atmosphere in the Church? He has appointed eight Cardinals from outside the Curia as his key advisers - what fresh perspectives might they bring to the Vatican? And he's been consulting priests and laity ahead of a Synod on the family in October, but will the Church's position on matters such as contraception change as a result? Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Mar 03, 2014
Are Institutions in Decline?
The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, recently suggested that the Church of England may be extinct within a generation unless it learns to connect with young people. The Church of England is the most obvious example of a religious institution in serious decline, but it's certainly not the only one. Why is this happening? If our major religious institutions die, who will notice? And what might take their place? Joining Ernie to discuss the future of religious institutions are the Rev Sam Wells, Vicar of St Martin in the Fields in London and a visiting Professor in Christian Ethics at Kings College London; Linda Woodhead, Professor in the Sociology of Religion at Lancaster University; and Jasjit Singh, Doctoral Researcher in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Leeds. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Feb 24, 2014
Religion in Russia
As the Sochi Games enter their final week, William Crawley discusses the role of religion in Putin's Russia with Xenia Dennen, chairman of the Keston institute for the study of religion in the former Communist bloc, Vera Tolz, Professor of Russian Studies at the University of Manchester and Fr Andrew Phillips, a priest with the Russian Orthodox Church abroad.
Feb 17, 2014
Yoga is big business. Its worth $10bn a year in America alone. Does the growth in yoga's popularity, particularly in the West, mean that its spiritual content and religious roots are being neglected? Can yoga be practised aside from these roots? Are there even dangers in doing so? Ernie Rea is joined by Jim Mallinson from SOAS, University of London, Suzanne Newcombe from the charity Inform and Ramesh Pattni from the Hindu Forum of Britain.
Feb 10, 2014
The Ahmedi Community
Officially anyone who declares that "There is one God and Muhammed is his prophet" is a Muslim. But many Muslims argue that the beliefs of the Ahmedi community mean they cannot be part of the faith. There are about 12 million Ahmedi worldwide and their headquarters, originally in Pakistan, are now in London. Their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, claimed to be a prophet, although a lesser one than Mohammed, and it is this claim that critics say put his followers outside the fold of Islam. Joining Ernie to discuss the Ahmedi are Imam Ataul Rashed from the Ahmedi London Mosque, Dr Sahib Bleher founder of the Islamic Party of Britain, and Dr Simon Valentine, author of "Islam and the Ahmaddiya Jama'at.".
Feb 03, 2014
Christianity and the Law
Last year Sir James Munby, president of the Family Division, gave a speech in which he said the law of this country is secular, and that Christianity no longer informs its morality or values." Happily for us," he went on, "the days are past when the business of judges was the enforcement of morals or religious beliefs." Ernie Rea is joined by Sir Mark Hedley, Joshua Rozenberg and David McIlroy to discuss the relationship between Christianity and the Law. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Jan 27, 2014
In the trailer for the final run of Desperate Housewives, viewers are seduced into watching the series with a variety of tantalising images. Four beautiful women in provocative poses, attracting the longing gazes of their easily led men. Snake like belts draped sinuously around their waists are provocatively removed or loosened. And there's an apple, red and luscious, newly plucked from a tree. A 21st century television hit makes its appeal by drawing on an ancient biblical character which it assumes will resonate with the viewer. Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the Biblical figure Eve, and what has been made of her down the centuries are Katie Edwards, lecturer in Biblical Studies at Sheffield University; Amy Orr Ewing, Director of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics; and Maureen Kendler, head of Educational Programming at the London School of Jewish Studies. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Jan 20, 2014
Archaeology and Religion
Late last year a team of archaeologists who had been working on a site in Nepal announced that they had uncovered the earliest known Buddhist shrine, a discovery which leads them to place the date of the Buddha's birth three centuries earlier than previously thought. In the first of a new series of Beyond Belief, Ernie Rea and guests discuss the impact that archaeological discoveries have on the study of religion and on the faith of believers. What added dimensions does archaeology bring to religions of the book? What light does it shed on the worlds of the founders of the faiths? And can archaeology ever be used to prove or disprove the beliefs of the billions that have followed them? Ernie Rea's guests are Professor Robin Coningham, Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou and Professor Tim Insoll. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Jan 13, 2014
JRR Tolkien
40 years since the death of J.R.R. Tolkien many people remain as spell bound as ever by the richly detailed world he created in his epic works of fantasy fiction. The books are among the nations most loved and 150 million copies have been sold worldwide. The Peter Jackson films, first 'The Lord of the Ring' series and now 'The Hobbit', have been among the highest-grossing films of all time. What underlies this enduring appeal? Tolkien, a devout Catholic, described 'The Lord of the Ring' in a letter as "a fundamentally religious and Catholic work". How are we to interpret the theology of Tolkien's world of 'Elves' and 'Orcs', 'Froddo' and 'Gollum', darkness and light? How do we reconcile Catholic symbolism with the magic and mysticism that lean to a more pagan reading of his stories? And what do these epic battles of good versus evil tell us about Tolkien's own faith and world view? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the religious and philosophical nature of J.R.R. Tolkien's literary works are Joseph Pearce, writer in Residence and Fellow at Thomas More College and author of 'Tolkien: Man or Myth'. Ronald Hutton, Professor of History at Bristol University, specialising in ancient and medieval paganism and magic. And Rev Dr Alison Milbank, Associate Professor, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, Nottingham University and author of 'Chesterton and Tolkien as Theologians'. Producer: Catherine Earlam.
Sep 30, 2013
Why Religions Change
What causes religions to change beliefs or traditions which have been in place for hundreds of years? For centuries the Jewish people offered animal sacrifices daily in the Temple in Jerusalem. The Catholic Church condemned Galileo for teaching that the sun, rather than the earth, is the centre of our universe. Soon we may have female Bishops in the Church of England and some churches in the UK may be prepared to marry gay couples. Is it inevitable that religions which emerged two or three millennia ago will adapt and shift with ever increasing social, cultural and scientific change? How do you distinguish between eternal truth and the culturally conditioned? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the way in which religions change are Dr Linda Woodhead, Professor in the Sociology of Religion in the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion at Lancaster University; Dr Yaakov Wise, Research Fellow in the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester; and Dr Gavin Flood, Professor of Hindu Studies and Comparative Religion at the University of Oxford.
Sep 23, 2013
Sunni and Shia in Islam
At times in history religion can appear to be a destructive force. Today the current conflict in the middle-east is increasingly defined along sectarian lines. From Iraq where a thousand people were killed in sectarian violence in July, the highest monthly death toll for five years according the UN; to Pakistan, where the minority Shia community has experienced repeated attacks by hard-line Sunni militant groups; to Syria where the ruling Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam, is embroiled in an increasing bloody civil war with the largely Sunni rebel forces. A fault line has emerged throughout the middle-east dividing the region along Sunni and Shia lines. Where did this division within Islam occur and is it really the cause of these conflicts or merely being exploited for political gain? Ernie Rea is joined by Murtaza Hussain, a Sunni Muslim, writer and journalist specialising in foreign policy and the Middle East. Dr Ali Al-Hilli is an Iraqi activist, lecturer and a Shia Muslim and Dr Carool Kersten, Senior Lecturer in the Study of Islam and the Muslim World, King's College London. Producer: Catherine Earlam.
Sep 16, 2013
Near-Death Experiences
Beyond Belief debates the place of religion and faith in today's complex world. Ernie Rea is joined by a panel to discuss how religious beliefs and traditions affect our values and perspectives. Near-Death Experiences often seem to include bright lights, the presence of benevolent spirits and a sense of peace - in other words a very positive experience. However, more unusually, there are others whose experience is very different, some cite overwhelming fear and visions of being chased by demons. Do these have a rational scientific explanation or are they indications of a life beyond this one? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the nature of Near-Death Experiences are Dr Penny Sartori of the University of Swansea, whose book 'The Wisdom of Near-Death Experiences' is due to be published in 2014; the Very Reverend Professor Gordon McPhate, the Dean of Chester Cathedral who is also a trained Pathologist and a member of the Royal College of Physicians and Chris French, Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths College, the University of London. Producer: Liz Leonard.
Sep 09, 2013
Comedy and Religion
Beyond Belief debates the place of religion and faith in today's complex world. Ernie Rea is joined by a panel to discuss how religious beliefs and traditions affect our values and perspectives. The late Christopher Hitchins wrote that "The mockery of religion is one of the most essential things". Certainly if you go to any Comedy Club today, you can expect to find that religious belief is an open target. But are there any limits to what is acceptable? Are there any parallels between the role of the priest and his congregation & the comedian with his audience? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the relationship between comedy and religion are the Muslim stand-up comedian, Imran Yusuf, the Jewish stand-up, Josh Howie and Patrick McKearney, a Doctoral Researcher in Theology & Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge.
Sep 02, 2013
Martin Luther King
Beyond Belief debates the place of religion and faith in today's complex world. Ernie Rea is joined by a panel to discuss how religious beliefs and traditions affect our values and perspectives. Its fifty years since Martin Luther King addressed an immense crowd in Washington and told the world that "I have a dream." His words galvanised black people across America and paved the way for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Out of deep Christian conviction King wanted to fight against ingrained injustice using exclusively non-violent means. In this programme Ernie Rea explores the religious influences and ideas of Martin Luther King and asks, half a century on, whether we have sanitised the tough message of that speech. To discuss the life and work of Martin Luther King Ernie Rea is joined by Rev Dr Cheryl Sanders, Professor of Christian Ethics at the Howard University School of Divinity in Washington D.C.; Israel Dresner, Emeritus Rabbi of Temple Beth Tikvah synagogue in New Jersey who worked closely with King and was present when he delivered the "I have a dream" speech and Richard Reddie, author of the book Martin Luther King Junior, History Maker. Producer: Catherine Earlam.
Aug 26, 2013
Buddhism and Violence
Beyond Belief debates the place of religion and faith in today's complex world. Ernie Rea is joined by a panel to discuss how religious beliefs and traditions affect our values and perspectives. Buddhism is generally portrayed in the West as a religion of peace and non-violence. The first of Buddhism's 'Five Moral Precepts' states that it is wrong to take the lives of others. But recent clashes between native Buddhists and minority Muslims in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) have left over 200 people dead, and more than 150,000 people homeless. So what is Buddhism's teaching about the use of violence? Is it permitted or prohibited? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss Buddhism and violence are Michael Jerryson, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Youngstown State University, Ohio, who co-edited the book 'Buddhist Warfare'; Rupert Gethin, Professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Bristol, and Soe Win Than, a journalist who was born in Myanmar and who works for the BBC's Burmese Service.
Aug 19, 2013
Organ Donation
Beyond Belief debates the place of religion and faith in today's complex world. Ernie Rea is joined by a panel to discuss how religious beliefs and traditions affect our values and perspectives. Three people die every day in need of an organ transplant while only 31% of people in the UK have joined the Organ Donor Register. Technological advancements mean there are ever more advanced ways of successfully transplanting organs but society remains divided over solutions along ethical and religious lines. Last month the Welsh Assembly became the first UK country to introduce a system where individuals will be presumed to have consented for their organs to be donated unless they opt out. Should the state take our organs or should it be the ultimate altruistic gift? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss organ donation are Reverend George Pitcher, Anglican Priest at St Bride's, Fleet Street, Janet Radcliffe-Richards, Professor of Practical Philosophy at the University of Oxford. And Mohammed Zubair Butt, Islamic scholar and hospital chaplain. Producer: Catherine Earlam.
Aug 12, 2013
Faith and Doubt
Beyond Belief debates the place of religion and faith in today's complex world. Ernie Rea is joined by a panel to discuss how religious beliefs and traditions affect our values and perspectives. We live in an age of doubt. We have been taught to question everything. But it is the religious traditions which major in certainty which are on the increase. Fundamentalism is gaining pace, even in an age of science. In the first of a new series, Ernie Rea discusses the role of doubt within religion with Richard Holloway, the former Bishop of Edinburgh and author of "Leaving Alexandria - a memoir of faith and doubt", Shaykh Shams Ad-duha, Principal of Ebrahim College, London, which trains British Imams, and the theologian and astro-physicist, the Rev Professor David Wilkinson, Principal of St John's College, Durham.
Aug 05, 2013
Religion and Mrs Thatcher's Politics
Margaret Thatcher's funeral in St Paul's Cathedral was attended by thousands of world leaders and watched by millions more around the world. In death, as in life, Margaret Thatcher shaped the occasion: she dictated the order of service and chose the hymns and readings. She was probably the most overtly Christian Prime Minister of the twentieth century up to the time of her leaving office. So where did those Christian influences come from? How did her religious conviction shape her politics? And what is her legacy in terms of the relationship between religion and politics in a multi cultural Britain? Joining Ernie Rea are Dr Eliza Filby, Lecturer in Modern British History at King's College London, whose book, "God and Mrs Thatcher: The Battle for Britain's Soul", is published later this year; Edwina Currie, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health under Margaret Thatcher and MP for South Derbyshire between 1983 and 1997 and Canon Dr Alan Billings, Deputy Leader of Sheffield City Council under David Blunkett when Margaret Thatcher came to power, and former Director of the Centre for Ethics and Religion at Lancaster University.
Jun 17, 2013
Beyond Belief debates the place of religion and faith in today's complex world. Ernie Rea is joined by a panel to discuss how religious beliefs and traditions affect our values and perspectives. The role of celibacy differs cross-culturally among religious traditions, with some insisting on it and others prohibiting it. Obligatory celibacy for Catholic priests in the West was introduced in 1130, yet in other traditions, such as Islam, marriage for their spiritual leaders is positively encouraged and celibacy, whilst not forbidden, is seen as second class. Is celibacy an essential requirement for real closeness to God or not? And given that it's basis is essentially cultural rather than theological, should celibacy be optional across religions? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss celibacy across religions are Professor Carl Olsen, Prof of Religious Studies at Allegheny College, Pennsylvania, and Editor of the book, Celibacy and Religious Traditions; Dr Helen Costigane SHCJ, member of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, who teaches Canon Law and Christian Ethics at Heythrop College, University of London, and Sheikh Michael Mumisa, Islamic scholar at the University of Cambridge.
Jun 10, 2013
Livingstone's Legacy
Beyond Belief debates the place of religion and faith in today's complex world. Ernie Rea is joined by a panel to discuss how religious beliefs and traditions affect our values and perspectives. It's 200 years since the birth of the Scottish missionary, David Livingstone. His legacy was to shape missionary work in Africa and elsewhere, right through to the present day. His supporters point to the medical and educational advances Christian missions have brought whilst his detractors talk about the oppression of colonialism. Today African missionaries are being sent to the UK. Joining Ernie Rea to discuss Livingstone's legacy are Paul Lloyd, Senior Pastor of the Victory Outreach Church; Cyprian Yobera, an Anglican Minister in Salford and Dr Jack Thompson, Honorary Fellow at the School of Divinity, the University of Edinburgh.
Jun 03, 2013
Religion & the Coronation
Beyond Belief debates the place of religion and faith in today's complex world. Ernie Rea is joined by a panel to discuss how religious beliefs and traditions affect our values and perspectives. The Queen is preparing to celebrate the 60th anniversary of her Coronation on 2nd June 1953. The Coronation is an occasion for pageantry and celebration, but it is also a solemn religious ceremony. The form and wording have varied over the centuries. Today, the Sovereign undertakes to rule according to law, to exercise justice with mercy, and to maintain the Church of England. Ernie and his guests will be considering the spiritual elements of the ceremony, asking whether both the wording and the solely Christian emphasis are appropriate in today's multi-faith society. Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the role of religion in the Coronation ceremony are Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin who is both a chaplain to the Queen and Speaker's Chaplain in the House of Commons, as well as vicar to two inner city parishes in Hackney; Martin Palmer, Church Historian and Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education & Culture and Symon Hill, an Associate of Ekklesia, a Christian thinktank which explores the role of religion in public life.
May 27, 2013
Fire in Religion
Beyond Belief debates the place of religion and faith in today's complex world. Ernie Rea is joined by a panel to discuss how religious beliefs and traditions affect our values and perspectives. In Edinburgh a modern festival has grown up around the ancient pagan festival of Beltane, traditionally marked on May 1st, where fires are lit. But does fire have both negative and positive connotations across all religions? Is it always viewed as potentially transforming as well as destructive? In today's programme, Ernie Rea is joined by Alan Williams, Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Religion at the University of Manchester; Ronald Hutton, Professor of History at Bristol University and Canon Loveday Alexander, Emeritus Professor of Biblical Studies at the University of Sheffield, to discuss the role of fire within religion and its symbolism today.
May 20, 2013
The Jesuits
Beyond Belief debates the place of religion and faith in today's complex world. Ernie Rea is joined by a panel to discuss how religious beliefs and traditions affect our values and perspectives. Pope Francis is the first Pope from a religious order for 200 years. Many were surprised by his appointment. But what will his Jesuit formation give him as he grapples with the many complex issues facing the Catholic Church, including child abuse and infighting, including what some view as corruption, within the Vatican itself? In the first of a new series, Ernie Rea discusses the Jesuits, with panellists Brendan Callaghan SJ, Master of Campion Hall, Oxford; Michael Barnes SJ, Professor of Interreligious Relations at Heythrop College, University of London and Catherine Pepinster, Editor of The Tablet.
May 13, 2013
When Justin Welby was appointed as Archbishop of Canterbury there were two things we quickly learned about him. The first was that he has a business head on him and used to work in the oil industry - that's significant for a country grappling with issues of financial morality. The second was that he is an Evangelical - that's important for the wider Anglican church which is battling splits between evangelicals and liberals over the issue of homosexuality - and for the church of England where there's an internal debate among Evangelicals about the very meaning of that term. Joining Ernie to discuss Evangelicals, especially within an Anglican context are the Rev Dr Rob Munroe, who is a member of the Anglican evangelical group, Reform: Vicky Beeching, a Theologian and Visiting Research Fellow at Durham University ; and Jonathan Bartley, co-director of the think tank Ekklesia.
Mar 25, 2013
Religion and Addiction
Addiction to alcohol costs the UK around £22 billion per annum in health, welfare, social care and prison costs. The expectation is that more than 200,000 people will die prematurely in this country of alcohol related liver disease in the next 20 years. Is addiction a disease or does it signify an absence of will power? Alcoholics Anonymous famously claims that the cycle of addiction can only be broken by surrendering to a higher power. So is a spiritual approach to the problem effective? Joining Ernie to discuss the spiritual dimension to alcohol addiction and its treatment are Mike Williams, General Director of Stauros Foundation, a Christian Charity which offers fellowship to people suffering or recovering from addiction; Maia Szalavitz a neuro-science journalist with; and Dr Wendy Dossett Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at Chester University who has just completed a Research Project on Spirituality and Addiction.
Mar 18, 2013
Restorative Justice
Restorative Justice schemes are increasingly playing a role within the Criminal Justice System. They are designed to confront the criminal with the consequences of his or her actions. Sometimes they involve a meeting between the victim and the offenders, where victims can give their perspective on what has happened and offenders can seek forgiveness. Many religious groups believe that Restorative Justice principles resonate with their traditions. Joining Ernie to discuss Restorative Justice are Pavan Dhilowal, Head of Public Affairs at the British Humanist Society and former policy head at a think tank specialising in criminal justice; Khola Hassan, Media Representative at the Islamic Sharia Council; and Tim Newell former Governor of Grendon, a therapeutic prison.
Mar 11, 2013
The revelation that horse meat has found its way into supermarket products, and that Muslim prisoners have been fed meals containing pork has highlighted again the way food is produced and animals treated. Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the place of animals in the religions of East and West are Shimon Cohen, Director of Shechita UK, an organisation which defends the Jewish method of slaughtering animals for food; Barbara Gardner, a trustee of the RSPCA and author of The Compassionate Animal; and Shaunaka Rishi Das a Vaisnav priest from the Oxford Centre of Hindu Studies.
Mar 04, 2013
Islam and Homosexuality
As the bill to allow same sex marriage makes its way through Parliament, Ernie Rea and guests discuss whether homosexuality is compatible with Islam. The Muslim Council of Britain has voiced its opposition, but what does the Koran say about homosexuality - is the prohibition unequivocal and absolute? Ernie's guests are Ibrahim Mogra, one of Britain's leading Imams; Pav Akhtar, Muslim politician and the director of UK Black Pride and Islamic scholar and Secretary of the Charity "Scriptural Reasoning" Sheikh Dr Muhammed al-Hussaini,.
Feb 25, 2013
To most people the word Rastafarian conjures up images of dreadlocks, the smoking of ganja, and Bob Marley. But Rastafari, as it's more correctly known, is a movement with a complex belief system. It has its origins in Jamaican society in the early 20th century, when black people rose up in protest at oppressive systems imposed by white rulers. But is it just a passing phenomenon? Has it continuing relevance in a fairer, more open society? How does it need to evolve? Joining Ernie to discuss Rastafari are Tony Tafari, who is a member of the Rastafari Council of Britain; Dr Ellis Cashmore, Professor of Culture, Media and Sport at Staffordshire University; and Marzia Coltri, visiting Lecturer at the University of Wolverhampton.
Feb 18, 2013
"No-one expects the Spanish Inquisition!" The brilliant Monty Python sketch was able to use an historical reference because the very mention of the Inquisition conjured up images of dark dungeons; cruel monks wielding instruments of torture and consigning thousands of alleged heretics to the flames. The Inquisition has had a bad press. But in fact there were several Inquisitions, some more cruel than others. And it is still active. Nowadays it goes under the name of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and in the 1990s it was run by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. So what does it do? How does its present structure relate to its medieval origins? Does it deserve its sinister reputation? Joining Ernie to discuss the Inquisition are Dr Gemma Simmons, Lecturer in Pastoral and Social Studies at Heythrop College London and a member of the Congregation of Jesus; Dr Christopher Black, Honorary Professor of Italian History at the School of Humanities, at the University of Glasgow; and Cullen Murphy, Editor at Large of Vanity Fair and author of God's Jury, The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World.
Feb 11, 2013
The history of Islam in Mali is a long one. The faith, brought by traders, was adopted slowly over the centuries until the French colonisers arrived, after which its spread was accelerated. The recent conflict in Mali has been portrayed as a struggle between a home-grown "tolerant" Islam and an aggressive Wahabi influence from outside. How accurate is this picture? Ernie Rea is joined by journalist Celeste Hicks, academic Marie Rodet and the South African Sheik and academic Michael Mumisa.
Feb 04, 2013
Anti-Semitism In Europe
Ernie Rea and guests discuss the reasons behind rising anti-semitism in Europe. A survey published last year revealed that 24% of the French population holds anti semitic views. The figure for Hungary is 63%. In Spain 72% of the people are willing to admit that they are anti Jew. Just 70 years after Hitler tried to wipe out European Jewry, attacks on Jews are on the increase. What is the cause of this resurgence? What can be done to stop it? Joining Ernie to discuss anti Semitism in Europe today are Dr Ed Kessler, Director of the Woolf Institute for the Study of Abrahamic Faiths; Social and political commentator Mohammed Ansar who is a Social and Political Commentator and Dr Yaakov Wise from the Centre for Jewish Studies, at the University of Manchester.
Jan 28, 2013
Development of Mecca
It may surprise you to know that the world's tallest hotel is in Makkah. The Clock Tower which is part of the same complex is the world's largest clock tower. None of this would be all that important were it not for the fact that these building are metres away from the Grand Mosque which, for Muslims, is the world's holiest place. In order to create the space for this expansion, large residential districts have been demolished and the residents evicted; many examples of traditional urban architecture have been destroyed. What is behind this programme? Is it cultural vandalism? Or rampant capitalism? Or does it reflect a legitimate theological concern on the part of the Saudi authorities to prevent idolatry? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the potential destruction of some of Islam's Holy Sites are Yaqub Zaki, Visiting Professor at the Aga Khan Foundation at Harvard University; Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic and Religious Studies at the University of Glasgow; and Irfan Al Alawi, Executive Director of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation. Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Jan 21, 2013
Women in Sikhism
The fundamental message of Sikhism appears to be simple; God is one and all people are equal. But are some more equal than others? If the Sikh scriptures are consistent with a feminist agenda, why do some Sikh women feel that they are second class citizens? Joining Ernie to discuss the position of women within the Sikh tradition are Navtej Purewal, Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences at Manchester University; Eleanor Nesbitt, Professor Emeritus at the Institute of Education in the University of Warwick; and Nicky Guninder Kaur Singh, Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Colby College Waterville Maine in the USA.
Jan 14, 2013
The Unification Church
The 1960s and 70s saw a proliferation of New Religious Movements in this country. Perhaps the best known is the Unification Church founded by the Rev Sun Myung Moon which attracted world wide attention because of mass weddings where couples who had often never met were paired together. The Rev Moon died last September and the movement is struggling to come to terms with his departure. So what will happen now? How do New Religious Movements survive when their founder dies? Joining Ernie to discuss the Unification Church are Professor Eileen Barker, Director of Inform, an Information Network focusing on New Religious Movements, George Chryssides, Honorary Research Fellow in Contemporary Religion at the University of Birmingham and Jack Corley, Director of the UK branch of the Unification Church.
Jan 07, 2013
If you get to listen to this programme, it's because the Domesday scenario - according to which the world would end on December 21st - did not happen. The interpretation of the Mayan calendar that arrived at this date was derided by most Mayan scholars, but this hasn't stopped the media camping out in the French village of Bugarach, identified as the only village on earth which was to be spared destruction. Apocalyptic ideas about the end of the world, as we in the West understand them, have their roots in the Jewish and Christian traditions. The popular imagery - the Mark of the Beast, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the Whore of Babylon - feed the imagination of film makers and writers, who draw upon Biblical imagery. Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the nature and role of apocalyptic ideas on western religion and culture are Dr Philip Alexander, Professor of Post Biblical Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester; Dr Stefan Skrimshire, lecturer in Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Leeds; and Rev Dr Steve Jeffrey minister of Emmanuel Evangelical Church in North London.
Dec 31, 2012
The recent jailing of three young women for staging a political protest in a cathedral in Moscow has highlighted the relationship between the Government and the Russian Orthodox Church. Ernie Rea's guests today are Canon Michael Bordeaux from the Keston Institute for the Study of Religion and Communism, Father Andrew Phillips,a Russian Orthodox priest, and the BBC's former Moscow correspondent, Martin Sixsmith.
Sep 24, 2012
Treatment of civilians in armed conflict
In a special edition of Beyond Belief Ernie Rea discusses the morality of the battlefield and the treatment of civilians in armed conflict. Increasingly news reports detail the casualties of civilians caught up in fighting in many countries around the world. Are we witnessing something new as civilians are targeted or used as shields by rebel forces and opposing armies or has this always happened? Will the use of unmanned drones make life safer or worse for civilians? Is it time to rethink the Just War Theory in the light of modern warfare? These are some of the moral and ethical issues Ernie Rea will be debating with Lord Dannatt, former Commander in Chief of the General Staff of the British Army, Canon Dr Alan Billings, former Director of the Centre for Ethics and Religion at Lancaster University, Imam Ajmal Masroor and Dr George Wilkes, Director of the Religion and Ethics in the Making of War and Peace Project at Edinburgh University. The programme was recorded in front of an audience at the Imperial War Museum North for the BBC's RE:Think Festival in Salford.
Sep 17, 2012
Women in Hinduism
The story of Ram and Sita - told in the Hindu epic, the Ramayan - is known to every Hindu and - more indirectly - to the millions who have seen the film Slumdog Millionaire. The hero of the film, like Ram, takes control and conquers in adversity. The heroine - the love interest - is a passive figure , in need of rescue. There are around a million Hindus living in Britain and they take many of their values from the story of Ram. But are some of those values demeaning to women? There are many gods and goddesses in Hinduism but do they provide good role models for modern women? What does Hinduism teach about how women are supposed to live their lives? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss a woman's place in Hindu society are Atreyee Sen, Lecturer in Contemporary Religion and Conflict at Manchester University; Shaunaka Rishi Das, Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies; and Padma Anagol, Senior Lecturer in History at Cardiff University.
Sep 10, 2012
Ernie Rea and guests discuss religious responses to economic inequality.
Sep 03, 2012
Ernie Rea is joined by three prominent Baptists: Dianne Tidball, Ruth Gouldbourne and Peter Morden to discuss the history of the Baptist Church and its significance today. This year marks the 400th anniversary of the first Baptist congregation in England and Baptists form the biggest Protestant denomination in the world but what do they stand for? Ernie's guests discuss the often bloody history of the Baptists from their origins as a persecuted dissenting movement in the seventeenth century. And they consider what Baptists contribute to Britain today. Are they still a voice of protest, speaking out for justice and for religious freedom?
Aug 27, 2012
Witchcraft & Child Abuse
Ernie Rea explores the relationship between African churches, witchcraft & child abuse with expert guests: Pastor Mahele Tangata, pastor of a Congolese Church in North West London; Romain Matondo, Co-ordinator for the Congolese Family Centre; and Dr Richard Hoskins, an expert on witchcraft-based child abuse cases. The Metropolitan police reports that it has investigated 83 'faith based' child abuse cases involving witchcraft in the last ten years. A belief in witchcraft is common to some traditional African religions and to some elements of Christianity; but accusing children of witchcraft seems a comparatively modern phenomenon. Where does it come from? What can be done to prevent it? And are the churches concerned doing enough? Producer: Charlotte Simpson.
Aug 20, 2012
With escalating conflict in Syria and increasing concerns about the role of Muslim fundamentalism in the future of the country; Ernie Rea is joined by Syrian businessman Ammar Waqqaf, historian Emma Loosely and Lecturer in Islamic Studies Mustafa Baig to discuss the role of religion in Syria. Whilst the majority of the country's population are Sunni Muslims, President Bashar al-Assad's regime is Alawite, a secretive branch of Shi'a Islam. So what has it meant for Syria to be governed by an elite religious minority? How are Syria's other minorities religions such as Christians, Druze and Sufis treated? How will religion affect the current crisis in Syria and what kind of society might Syria be once it is over? Producer: Rosie Dawson.
Aug 13, 2012
Ernie Rea is joined by sociologist Frank Furedi and theologians David Thomas and Simon Podmore to discuss the significance of fear in religious traditions. The programme will consider the theology of fear and explore how religions have made use of fear and responded to it throughout the ages. It will also look at how our fears have changed in the modern world and whether religions have played down their teachings about hell and damnation in recent years. And how does fear affect morality? Are we responsible for crimes committed under the threat of reprisals? And are we to be congratulated for good deeds performed only as a response to the fear of negative consequences for ourselves if we don't behave?
Aug 06, 2012
Ernie Rea explores the relationship between religion and depression with expert guests: Sabnum Dharamsi, a Muslim; Dr John Swinton, a Christian; and Ed Halliwell, a Buddhist. They look at what different religious traditions teach us about the experience of sadness and despair; how having a religious faith can be a source of support for some people suffering from depression; but they also consider how religious communities don't always get it right.
Jul 30, 2012
When asked to defend their belief in a Creator God, people of faith often turn to the argument that there must be a First Cause - you can't create something out of nothing they say, therefore right at the beginning, someone must have been responsible for the first element from which sprang life. A new book, "A Universe from Nothing", by the American theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, turns this argument on its head. Not only can something arise out of nothing, but something will always arise out of nothing because physics tells us that nothingness is inherently unstable. The book has made an enormous impact in the States, making the New York Times' best sellers list, and it prompted Richards Dawkins to observe that it was "Potentially the most important scientific book with implications for atheism since Darwin". So does it knock the argument for God on the head? Are physics and God irreconcilable? Joining Ernie to discuss whether modern physics leaves any room for God are Dr John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, Dr Usama Hasan, Senior Lecturer at Middlesex University and a part time Imam, and Dr Mark Vernon, Honorary Research Fellow at Birkbeck College, London who has degrees in physics, theology and philosophy.
Apr 23, 2012
In today's "Beyond Belief" Ernie Rea and guests discuss the religious foundations and functions of monarchy. Can monarchy be divorced from its religious underpinnings and, if not, what place does it have in a secular society? Is it a symbol of unity or division in multi cultural Britain? Joining Ernie to discuss the Monarchy are Philip Blond, Director of Res Publica; Symon Hill, Associate Director of the Think Tank, Ekklesia; and the Rev Dr Judith Maltby, Reader in Church History at the University of Oxford.
Apr 16, 2012
Ernie Rea in conversation with guests about the place of faith in today's complex world.
Apr 09, 2012
The Cross
This is the most important week in the Christian Year when Christians commemorate what they regard as the central event in human history, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus died on the cross, an excruciating form of torture carried out by the Romans. Today the cross is commonly used as a fashion item - not a symbol of death, but of consumerism. It can still cause offence; some Christians have been told they cannot wear one at work. Ernie Rea considers the different uses and symbolism of the cross with Dr Sophie Lunn Rockcliffe, Lecturer in Roman History at Kings College London; Dr Anna Robbins, Lecturer in Theology and Contemporary Culture at the London School of Theology: and Dr Ed Kessler, Director of the Woolf Institute of Abrahamic religions in Cambridge.
Apr 02, 2012
The Government is seeking to speed up the adoption process for the growing number of children being taken into care in the UK. Social workers responsible for the difficult job of matching children with adoptive parents are often criticised for focusing too much on questions of ethnicity or lifestyle. So how far should religion play a factor in the process which links children and parents? Ernie Rea discusses the issue with Raffia Arshad, a family lawyer, Ruby Clay, an author who has adopted three children with her lesbian partner, and Fiona Bowie a social anthropologist and also an adoptive mother.
Mar 26, 2012
Nigeria is in crisis. Thousands of Nigerians have fled their homes following a spate of Islamist killings. The attacks have been carried out by a group calling itself Boko Haram which has demanded that Christians leave the North of the country where the majority population is Muslim. Christians have taken revenge by attacking mosques and Muslims living in the South. Nigeria is said to be one of the most religious countries in the world. Its also Africa's biggest producer of oil so it is wealthy. But more than half of its people live in poverty. Corruption and mismanagement is endemic. So is this conflict really about religion at all, or is religion simply a presenting issue? Joining Ernie to discuss the role of religion in the conflict in Nigeria are Dr Jameel Yusha, senior lecturer in media and politics at Northumbria university, Dr Steven Pierce, lecturer in the history of sub Saharan Africa at the university of Manchester and Dr Leena Hoffman who has just completed her PhD on democracy and patronage politics in Nigeria at the University of Birmingham.
Mar 19, 2012
There are many communities of travelling people in Britain and there have been for generations. While most people accept their lifestyles, some in the settled communities regard them with a degree of suspicion, even as a people apart. Many travellers have a strong religious faith. Those of Irish origin tend to be Catholic; but an increasing number of travellers of Romany origin are joining Pentecostal churches. How does their religious practice differ from the mainstream? Are there common features that relate to their way of life? How has the experience of travelling and of exclusion impacted on their faith? In religion, as in life, must they always be outsiders? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the religious beliefs of travelling people are Dr Adrian Marsh, Senior Programme Manager at the Open Society Foundation, Cathleen McDonagh, from Exchange House, a National Traveller Organisation in Dublin; and Jackie Boyd, a pastor with the Light and Life Gypsy Church.
Mar 12, 2012
For the last few years a group dubbed the New Atheists have been waging a verbal war against religion. The language they employ is unrestrained. The late Christopher Hitchens was fairly typical when he wrote in his book "God is not Great," "Religion comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species and is a babyish attempt to meet our insatiable demand for knowledge." Richard Dawkins has declared that his aim is " To convert religious believers to atheism by helping them to overcome their childhood indoctrination in order to break free of the vice of religion altogether." Where has this new militancy come from? How does it differ from the Atheism that went before? Is New Atheism a movement and where is it heading? Joining Ernie to discuss Atheism today are Professor Simon Blackburn, Vice President of the British Humanist Association; Mark Embleton, a psychologist and President of Atheism UK; and Lois Lee, founder of the Non-Religion and secularity research network.
Mar 05, 2012
The death in December of Kim Jong Il, North Korea's "Dear Leader" has focused the spotlight on the affairs of one of the world's most secretive states. Kim Jong Il - and his father before him - had assumed the status of demi-gods. To follow any other religion risked imprisonment or worse. In today's "Beyond Belief" Ernie Rea asks what the implications of Kim Jong Il's death might be for religious freedom. By contrast, South Korea has some of the world's largest Christian congregations. And for centuries millions of Koreans, North and South, have followed Confucian, Buddhist and Shaman traditions. Joining Ernie for the discussion are James Grayson, Emeritus Professor of Modern Korean Studies at the University of Sheffield; Professor Sebastian Kim who holds the Chair in Theology and Public Life at York St John University; and Dr Jiyoung Song Associate Fellow at Chatham House and Lecturer at the National University of Singapore.
Feb 27, 2012
Baha'i faith
The Baha'i faith, though numerically small, claims to have a geographical reach second only to Christianity. It was founded in the nineteenth century in Iran, where its followers are now severely persecuted, and preaches the Unity of God, humanity and religion. Fidelma Meehan tells Ernie Rea how she was introduced to the faith by the comedian Omid Djalili. Ernie is joined by two Baha'i writers Moojan Momen and Lil Osborne, and by Denis MacEoin who used to be a Baha'i but left after he became disillusioned with what he saw as its authoritarian structures.
Feb 20, 2012
The Role of Bishops in the House of Lords
The government's recent proposal to cap welfare benefits at £26000 a year received a setback when an amendment to exclude child benefit from the cap was passed in the House of Lords. The amendment was proposed by the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds and supported by four other Bishops. The Bishops' action has added fuel to the debate about whether Anglican Bishops should still have a statutory right to seats in the Upper Chamber. When less than 2% of the population attends an Anglican Church on a Sunday, why should 26 of its clergy exercise any influence on the deliberations of the Upper House of Parliament? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the arguments for and against having Bishops sitting in the House of Lords are the Rt Rev Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester, Jonathan Bartley, Director of the Think Tank Ekklesia, and Dr Meg Russell, Deputy Director of the Constitution Unit at University College London.
Feb 13, 2012
Republican Nomination
What role does religion play in the race for the Republican nomination for the White House? Ernie Rea is joined by Bob Vander Plaats, head of "The Family Leader" pressure group, Boo Tyson from "Coalition Mainstream" and Dr Alexander Smith from Huddersfield University. Together they assess the influence of the Religious Right on Republican politics, and whether Americans might be ready for a Mormon president.
Feb 06, 2012
Every year more than 100 million people around the world go on pilgrimage, the biggest mass migration of people on the planet. Two and a half million Muslims visited Mecca for last year's Hajj and over 600,000 visited Graceland to worship at the shrine of Elvis Presley. Tourist companies specialising in pilgrimage tours are expanding - it's big business. Ernie & his guests discuss whether there is something in the human psyche which seeks fulfilment from a physical journey, but one that has a spiritual motive, and also consider the growing phenomenon of cyber pilgrimage. Can a "virtual" journey in any way be seen as comparable? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss pilgrimage are Dr Marion Bowman, Head of the Department of Religious Studies at the Open University; Martin Palmer, Secretary General of the Alliance of Religions & Conservation, and Connie Hill-Smith who is writing her doctoral thesis on cyber pilgrimage at the University of Wales, Trinity & St. David's.
Jan 30, 2012
Same Sex Marriage
This week's Beyond Belief comes from Scotland, where the Scottish government is considering legalising same sex marriage. A period of public consultation has provoked a huge response from many religious groups who are opposed, yet the opinion polls are generally in favour. Civil partnership ceremonies have been legal in Scotland since 2005 and include the possibility of a religious blessing afterwards. So why is there a need for this further step? What is marriage? Is it a human or a divine institution? And would such a law, if passed, lead to moral anarchy, as some have claimed? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss same sex marriage are John Haldane, Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrew's, the Reverend John Bell, a Church of Scotland minister and Bashir Maan, Former Convenor of the Muslim Council of Scotland.
Jan 23, 2012
Protestant Work Ethic
Today's crisis in the global financial markets has produced much soul searching about the culture of greed which seems to permeate our society. At the beginning of the last century the German sociologist, Max Weber, proposed that there was a direct link between the Protestant Reformation and the rise in capitalism. And specifically, that hard work, combined with a moral attitude towards wealth, was directly linked to salvation. So is the loss of religious faith across the West linked to the current crisis in capitalism? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the Protestant Work Ethic are Lord Andrew Mawson, social entrepreneur, cross bench peer & minister in the United Reformed Church; Professor Sam Whimster, Fellow in the Centre for Advanced Study at the University of Bonn, and Jonathan Wittenberg, Rabbi of New North London Synagogue.
Jan 16, 2012
Mystical Experiences
Shamanic cultures have been using substances for thousands of years to induce altered states of consciousness. X ray vision is said to be a key feature of the shamanic experience. This has been observed in Aboriginal rock art where the skeletons of animals are depicted. Cannabis is sacred to the Hindu God Shiva and even ancient Buddhists were known to use drugs. In India there was a substance called Soma, which is mentioned in the ancient Hindu scriptures, the Vedas, which probably used hallucinogenic mushrooms. There's now a strong working hypothesis amongst academics that traditional religious practices such as meditation can activate chemicals in the brain which produce the same effects as LSD. But Robert Zaehner, an early 20th century British academic argued that only theistic mysticism was sacred and that all other mystical states were profane or immoral. Joining Ernie Rea to discuss mystical experiences are Dr David Luke, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Greenwich and President of the Parapsychological Association, Shamanic Practitioner, Dr Zoe Bran and Shaunaka Rishi Das, Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies.
Jan 09, 2012
Islam and the Veil
In the first of a new series, Ernie Rea and his three guests discuss Islam & the Veil. France, Belgium & Italy have already banned the full face veil. Other countries are considering it. In Britain a Private Member's Bill on the subject was thrown out 18 months ago. But the subject prompts fierce debate amongst Muslims and non-Muslims alike. In a country like the UK, which prizes individual freedom, is it a basic human right? Or is it essentially divisive in promoting community cohesion? The Qur'an contains very few relevant verses and the word "hijab" literally means "curtain" but many new converts to Islam believe that the full veil is a religious obligation, but is it? Ernie and his guests get to the heart of what the Qur'an actually says and, more, importantly, how that has been interpreted. Joining Ernie for a lively debate on Islam & the Veil are Fatima Barkatullah, writer and lecturer for the Islamic Education & Research Academy, Dr Shuruq Naguib, Lecturer in Islam at Lancaster University and Khola Hasan, Lecturer on Women's Rights under Islamic law & member of the Islamic Sharia Council.
Jan 02, 2012
Earlier this year the Irish Prime Minister launched an unprecedented attack on the Vatican, after an inquiry into the handling of allegations of child abuse found that the church had ignored its own child protection guidelines. Enda Kenny said a culture of "dysfunction, disconnection, elitism and narcissism" dominated the Vatican, criticisms which were rejected by the Vatican as "unfounded". Kenny's speech signalled beyond doubt an end to the symbiotic relationship between church and state which many say has dominated the Republic ever since it was founded. So what is the future for Catholicism in Ireland? Joining Ernie Rea for the discussion is Dublin priest Father Joe Murphy, David Quinn, a columnist for the Irish Catholic and Irish Times, and the theologian and lecturer in medical ethics, Gina Menzies.
Oct 03, 2011
Around 60% of the people who attend church in London on a Sunday are of African or Caribbean origin. Some of their churches are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. Many argue that they have the capacity to breathe fresh life into mainline British churches, and offer a version of Christianity uncorrupted by western liberalism. Ernie Rea and his guests discuss the history of these churches; they analyse the breadth of their appeal, and they ask how comfortably some of their theological and cultural beliefs sit with Western culture?
Sep 26, 2011
In the film "The Rite," released earlier this year, Anthony Hopkins plays the part of an American priest who travels to Italy to study at an exorcism school. The film is based on one of the Vatican's Chief Exorcists, Father Gary Thomas, who says his work brings him into daily contact with demons. The idea that human beings can be possessed by evil spirits clashes with scientific and medical explanations of mental disturbance, but the belief persists in many Christian and other religious circles. Exorcism is widely practised in charismatic and Afro Caribbean churches and even the Church of England has official exorcists or deliverance ministers. Joining Ernie to discuss Exorcism are the Rt Rev Graham Dow former Bishop of Carlisle; Dr Simon Dein, a Psychiatrist with an interest in the Anthropology of Religion; and the Rev Elizabeth Baxter, Executive Director of Holy Rood House Therapeutic Centre.
Sep 19, 2011
When the hijackers directed their planes into the Twin Towers in New York, it was religion as well as terrorism which hit the headlines. The hijackers had the name of their God on their lips. For many it was a sign that the Clash of Civilisations, the conflict between the Muslim and Christian worlds, had become a dreadful reality. But the events led to an upsurge of interest in Islam and in the question of how religious zealots could justify the wholesale destruction of civilians by reference to its God? What sort of God could that be? Is the God that Muslims worship the same as the Christian God? Wherein lie the differences.? 10 years on the questions remain. Joining Ernie to discuss these questions are Miroslav Wolf, Henry B Q Wright Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School; Mona Siddiqi Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Glasgow; and Father Damien Howard, lecturer in Muslim-Christian Relations at Heythrop College in the University of London.
Sep 12, 2011
A controversial High Court ruling on the admission policy of the Jewish Free School in London two years ago has led to heated and ongoing discussion among Jews in this country about what constitutes Jewishness. With the number of Jews in Britain declining, the question of how to preserve and pass on Judaism is a major preoccupation of members the community, be they Orthodox, Reform or secular. So what should be the test for determining who is and isnt Jewish? How important is religious practice, observing a kosher table or male circumcision? And how important is it for the preservation of Jewishness that a Jew should marry another Jew? Joining Ernie to discuss Jewish identity are Laura Janner Klausner, Rabbi of the Alyth Reform Synagogue in London; Natan Levy, the Orthodox Rabbi of Shenley United Jewish Congregation; and Dr Brian Klug Senior Research Fellow in Philosophy at St Benet's Hall, University of Oxford, and author of "Being Jewish and Doing Justice.".
Sep 05, 2011
Religious symbols can cause offence these days, it seems - whether it's a Christian cross over a work uniform or a Muslim woman's headcovering. But people seem to have no problem with statues of the Buddha in shops and garden centres. Secularists who are quick to pour scorn on Christianity and Islam often have a soft spot for his teachings. But is Buddhism as we experience it in the West, the genuine article? It may be one of the fastest growing religions in the West, but can it thrive apart from the cultural soil in which it took root? Ernie Rea is joined in discussion by Nagapriya from the Buddhist Triratna Order, AniRinchen Khandro, a nun in the Tibetan tradition, and Will Buckingham, a lecturer at deMontfort University, Leicester who know describes himself as "Buddhish" rather than "Buddhist.".
Aug 29, 2011
The Scottish Premier League season is well underway with memories of the sectarian attacks on the Celtic manager earlier in the year still fresh in the mind. What do these incidents tell us about the nature and extent of sectarianism in Scotland today? Is it confined mainly to football or is it endemic within wider society? With church attendance in rapid decline, is religion still a potent force in reinforcing sectarian attitudes? And - even given their diminished influence - what role do the churches have in countering such attitudes? Joining Ernie to discuss sectarianism in contemporary Scotland are Peter Kearney, a spokesperson for the Catholic Church in Scotland, Michael Rosie, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Edinburgh University and Harry Reid, former editor of The Herald and member of the Church of Scotland.
Aug 22, 2011
We were told that Globalisation would kill off religion. In fact, the vast majority of the world's population continues to maintain religious beliefs and practice. So how does Globalisation affect Religion? Does the spread of religion across national boundaries mean that its universal elements will develop at the expense of the national and particular? Is there a danger that faith and culture might become separated from one another? And can faith communities help to mitigate the worst effects of globalisation? Ernie Rea is joined by Martin Palmer from the Alliance of Religion, Conservation and the Environment, Dr Sara Silvestri from City University, London, and Adrian Wooldridge a columnist with The Economist and the co-author of the book "God is Back.".
Aug 15, 2011
The idea of the Sabbath, a communal day off every week, has been all but taken over by Sunday opening and the 24/7 society. In "Beyond Belief" Ernie Rea asks what society has gained and lost as a result of this change. Sports Commentator Dan Walker tells him why he refuses to work on a Sunday, and he is joined by Rabbi Naftali Brawer, Sam Barker of the Relationships Foundation and Keep Sunday Special Campaign, and Philip Booth from the Institute of Economic Affairs.
Aug 08, 2011
According to recent research, a Christian couple in Britain has only a 50 percent chance of transmitting their beliefs and practice to their children. If a child has just one Christian parent the chance is 25 per cent. Why is it so difficult for parents to pass on their faith? And do grandparents and parents in minority faith communities face the same problems when it comes to transmitting their religious beliefs and values across the Generational Divide? Ernie Rea's guests in Beyond Belief today are Professor David Voas from Manchester University, Sadek Hamid a researcher into Muslim youth, and the Rabbi and Baroness, Julia Neuberger.
Aug 01, 2011
If there is one idea on which David Cameron has staked the reputation of his government it is the Big Society, and he has stressed the role he believes faith groups have to play in it. Their reaction has, however, been mixed with the Archbishop of Canterbury describing it as a "stale slogan" in danger of being seen as an opportunistic cover for spending cuts. So what is the Big Society, and are its values consistent with religious values? Ernie is joined by Phillip Blond, Director of the Think Tank Respublica and widely credited as being the originator of the government's Big Society idea, Maleiha Malik, Professor in Law at King's College, London: and Antony Lerman, former founding director of the Institute of Jewish Policy Research.
Jul 25, 2011
Christianity is a Middle Eastern Religion. Its early expansion was Eastwards and it quickly became the dominant religion of the region. That changed with the arrival of Islam but Christians have always had a significant presence. But during the last century Christians began leaving the Middle East in large numbers. Sometimes it was because they were more able to take up the opportunities the West offered; sometimes it was because they felt less able to express their faith under growing political Islam. In this programme Ernie Rea asks how the events of the Arab Spring will affect the fortunes of Christians in the Middle East. He is joined by Nadim Nassar, a Syrian and Anglican priest, Professor Madawi al-Rasheed from Kings College London, and Ziya Meral, fellow of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. Producer Rosie Dawson.
Jul 18, 2011
In the first of a new series, Ernie Rea and guests discuss the Christian understanding of Hell. Hell appears in several mythologies and religions as a place of suffering and punishment after death, but it is Christianity which has lent it its most vivid imagery. The Christian understanding of hell grew out of the Jewish concept of Sheol, a shadowy abode of the dead. Jesus used graphic images to describe hell which were further elaborated by the early church wrestling under persecution with the question of how a Just God could permit such suffering. That the Evil will be eternally punished was one answer to this dilemma, although there has always been a minority strain within Christianity arguing that eternal hell is incompatible with the workings of a loving God. Joining Ernie to discuss hell are the Catholic writer and commentator, Peter Stanford, lecturer in patristic theology at Exeter University, Morwenna Ludlow, and lecturer at Oakhill theological college Daniel Strange.
Jul 11, 2011
In the last in the current series, Ernie Rea invites guests from different faith and non-faith perspectives to debate the challenges of today's world. Each week a panel is assembled to represent a diversity of views and opinions, which often reveal hidden, complex and sometimes contradictory understandings of the world around us. In this programme Ernie and guests discuss ways in which individuals have sought immortality either through belief in eternal life with God or through ever ingenious scientific methods. Why do human beings appear to want to believe in some sort of life after death? How is the meaning of this life shaped by a belief in the hereafter or a knowledge of endless existence? Are we ultimately creatures shaped by the destiny of our own death? Joining Ernie to discuss immortality are the philosopher, John Gray, author of The Immortalisation Commission: science and the strange quest to cheat death; the theologian, Alister McGrath, professor of theology, ministry and education, and head of the centre for theology, religion and culture at King's College, London and the psychologist, Les Lancaster, professor of transpersonal psychology at Liverpool John Moores University. Producer: Karen Maurice.
Mar 07, 2011
Men and Spirituality
Ernie Rea invites guests from different faith and non-faith perspectives to debate the challenges of today's world. Each week a panel is assembled to represent a diversity of views and opinions, which often reveal hidden, complex and sometimes contradictory understandings of the world around us. In this programme Ernie Rea and guests discuss male spirituality and ask if men and women respond differently to religious convictions. Do the leaders and prophets of the Hebrew scriptures offer role models for men going to church or synagogue today? Are the characters of Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon suitable and appropriate role models? For Christians, does Jesus and his selection of 12 male apostles offer an image for brotherhood today? Is the church focusing too much on love and nurture rather than courage, risk, adventure and sacrifice? Why are Jewish communities seemingly more successful at retaining men compared with their Christian counterparts? Joining Ernie to discuss men and spirituality are the Reverend Andy Drake, director of evangelism at Christian Vision for Men; Dr Janet Eccles, a sociologist of religion attached to the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion at the University of Lancaster; and Rabbi Dr Dan Cohn Sherbok, Emeritus Professor of Judaism at the University of Wales, Lampeter. Producer: Karen Maurice.
Feb 28, 2011
Ernie Rea chairs Radio 4's discussion programme in which guests from different faith and non-faith perspectives debate the challenges of today's world. Each week a panel is assembled to represent a diversity of views and opinions, which often reveal hidden, complex and sometimes contradictory understandings of the world around us. In this programme, Ernie discusses the role and place of nuns in religious communities. How have they changed in recent years and how have they coped with a serious decline in vocations? Is there a similar decline within other faith communities? Joining Ernie to discuss nuns are Myra Poole, a Sister of Notre Dame who is very involved with the movement for Catholic Women's Ordination; Rosanne Reddy, Sister of the Gospel of Life, a comparatively new order which she founded along with Cardinal Thomas Winning in 2000: and Lama Zangmo, a Buddhist nun and Director of the Kagyu Samya Dzong Buddhist Centre in London. Producer: Karen Maurice.
Feb 21, 2011
Faith Schools
Ernie Rea chairs Radio 4's discussion programme in which guests from different faith and non-faith perspectives debate the challenges of today's world. Each week a panel is assembled to represent a diversity of views and opinions, which often reveal hidden, complex and sometimes contradictory understandings of the world around us. Producer: Karen Maurice.
Feb 14, 2011
Sunni and Shia Islam
Ernie Rea chairs Radio 4's discussion programme in which guests from different faith and non-faith perspectives debate the challenges of today's world. Each week a panel is assembled to represent a diversity of views and opinions, which often reveal hidden, complex and sometimes contradictory understandings of the world around us. Producer: Karen Maurice.
Feb 08, 2011
Celebrity Culture
Ernie Rea chairs Radio 4's discussion programme in which guests from different faith and non-faith perspectives debate the challenges of today's world. Each week a panel is assembled to represent a diversity of views and opinions, which often reveal hidden, complex and sometimes contradictory understandings of the world around us. In this programme, Ernie asks his guests whether the values of celebrity culture are at odds with their own religious values. Why are we fascinated by the rich and famous and have we always been? Why do we care about the personal antics of footballers, pop stars, TV personalities and actors? Has celebrity replaced religion in society? Joining Ernie to discuss celebrity culture is Dr Kristin Aune, senior lecturer in Sociology at the University of Derby and co-author of "Reclaiming the F World: The New Feminist Movement; Vicki Mackenzie, journalist and Buddhist and author of Cave in the Snow; and Miriam Berger, Rabbi from the Finchley Reform Synagogue. Producer: Karen Maurice.
Jan 31, 2011
Ernie Rea chairs Radio 4's religious discussion programme in which guests from different faith and non-faith perspectives debate the challenges of today's world. Each week a panel is assembled to represent a diversity of views and opinions, which often reveal hidden, complex and sometimes, contradictory understandings of the world around us. In the programme, Ernie and his guests discuss the disputed site of Ayodhya in India. Hindus and Muslims have been in conflict for more than a century over the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, a town in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. Hindus claim the site was the birthplace of one of their most revered deities, Lord Ram, and that a mosque was built after the destruction of a Hindu temple by a Muslim, Babur, in the sixteenth century. After decades of legislation, an Indian court ruled last year that the site should be split three ways between Hindus, Muslims and the Nirmohi Akhara Hindu sect. Beyond Belief examines why this site is important to both Hindus and Muslims and asks whether the legal judgement is workable in modern secular India. Ernie is joined by Dr Raj Pandit Sharma, President of the Hindu Priest Association and Executive Officer of the Hindu Council UK; Kashif ul Huda, editor of, an Indian Muslim news website; and Dr John Zavos, Lecturer in South Asian Studies at the University of Manchester and editor of the journal, Contemporary South Asia.
Jan 24, 2011
Ernie Rea chairs Radio 4's discussion programme in which guests from different faith and non-faith perspectives debate the challenges of today's world. Each week a panel is assembled to represent a diversity of views and opinions, which often reveal hidden, complex and sometimes contradictory understandings of the world around us. In this programme, Ernie Rea and guests discuss the religious history and make-up of Egypt: what is Coptic Christianity? How do Christians, who make up about ten per cent of the population, live alongside their fellow Egyptian Muslims? What is distinctive about Egyptian Islam? How have the two faiths co-existed for 1,400 years and how do we make sense of recent tensions between the two communities? Producer: Karen Maurice.
Jan 17, 2011
Ernie Rea chairs Radio 4's discussion programme in which guests from different faith and non-faith perspectives debate the challenges of today's world. Each week a panel is assembled to represent a diversity of views and opinions, which often reveal hidden, complex and sometimes contradictory understandings of the world around us. In this programme, Ernie and guests discuss how suicide is understood in Christian, Muslim and Hindu communities. Why do people want to take their own lives? What do the faiths say about suicide? And why does having a faith make you less vulnerable to suicide, as the evidence suggests it does? Joining Ernie to discuss suicide is the Rev Dr Mike Parsons, principal of the West of England Ministerial Training Course and author of "Suicide and the Church"; Raana Bokhari, doctoral student in the Department of Religious Studies at Lancaster University; and Dr Chetna Kang, a consultant psychiatrist and Hindu pastor. The panel hear from the Reverend Alan Smith, an Anglican priest, whose daughter, Sarah, took her own life in January 2007. Producer: Karen Maurice.
Jan 10, 2011
Translating sacred texts
Ernie Rea chairs Radio 4's discussion programme in which guests from different faith and non-faith perspectives debate the challenges of today's world. Each week a panel is assembled to represent a diversity of views and opinions, which often reveal hidden, complex and sometimes contradictory understandings of the world around us. As 2011 marks the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, Ernie Rea and guests discuss how sacred texts, such as the Bible, Koran or Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh Holy book, should be translated. Are translations given equal consideration by followers as the original text? Does it matter whether you understand the language of your Holy book? Is there a place for contemporary interpretations such as the comic book Bible? Joining Ernie to discuss translating holy books is Jasjit Singh, a doctoral researcher from the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Leeds; Dr Sahib Bleher, a professional translator who is currently working on a translation of the Qur'an into English; and the Rev Dr Maggi Dawn Fellow at Robinson College Cambridge and author of "The Writing on the Wall: High Art, Popular Culture and the Bible." Producer: Karen Maurice.
Jan 03, 2011
The three wise-men
Ernie Rea chairs Radio 4's theological discussion programme in which guests from different faith and non-faith perspectives debate the challenges of today's world. Each week a panel is assembled to represent a diversity of views and opinions, which often reveal hidden, complex and sometimes contradictory understandings of the world around us. In this programme, Ernie Rea and guests discuss the story of the visit of the Magi, or Wise-men to the infant Jesus told in St Matthew's account of the Nativity. Who could the Magi have been? From where did they travel, having seen a star in the east and why would they have recognised it as a significant sign? Is there more to this story than a colourful image on a Christmas card and the inspiration for a well known carol? Producer: Karen Maurice.
Dec 27, 2010
Ernie Rea chairs Radio 4's discussion programme in which guests from different faith and non-faith perspectives debate the challenges of today's world. Each week a panel is assembled to represent a diversity of views and opinions, which often reveal hidden, complex and sometimes contradictory understandings of the world around us. In this programme, Ernie Rea and guests discuss whether faith inspires philanthropy and asks if greater personal wealth comes with greater responsibility to help others, less fortunate. Producer: Karen Maurice.
Dec 20, 2010
The Supernatural
Ernie Rea returns with a new series of Radio 4's discussion programme in which guests from different faith and non-faith perspectives debate the challenges of today's world. Each week a panel is assembled to represent a diversity of views and opinions, which often reveal hidden, complex and sometimes contradictory understandings of the world around us. In this programme, the first in a new series, Ernie and guests discuss the supernatural and ask whether there are always rational explanations for the apparently inexplicable. Why does belief in the supernatural appear to have increased in recent years? Can it be explained by an increase in visibility in books, television and the internet or could our fascination with ghosts, spirits and the hereafter be filling a void left by organised religion. The panellists hear from a medium and paranormal investigator who claims to have daily visions and has helped police forces solve murder cases. Joining Ernie to discuss the supernatural are Gordon Smith, one of Britain's best known psychic mediums, the Reverend Anthony Delaney, pastor of Ivy Church in Manchester and Professor Christopher French, head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit in the Department of Psychology at Goldsmiths College, London. Producer: Karen Maurice.
Dec 13, 2010
Islam in America
Ernie Rea is joined by three guests who discuss how their own religious tradition affects their values and outlook on the world, often revealing hidden and contradictory truths. In this programme Ernie Rea and his guests explore the history and place of Islam in America, following recent tensions over plans to build an Islamic cultural centre close to Ground Zero in New York. Confusion over whether the building will be a mosque or a community centre have fuelled suspicions over the motivation of those behind the plans and given rise to a wave of Islamophobia across the USA. In the countdown to the mid-term elections in November, is such anti-Muslim rhetoric politically motivated or are Americans having a long overdue conversation about the place of Islam in their society? Joining Ernie to discuss this are Robert Salaam a former US Marine who converted to Islam and is now the editor of The American Muslim: Dr Hussein Rashid, Lecturer at Hofstra University in New York and associate editor of Religion Dispatches; and Daniel Pipes Director of the Middle East Forum in Philadelphia. The middle interview comes from Pamela Geller, editor of the blog, and author of "The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration's War on America." Producer: Karen Maurice.
Oct 04, 2010
Religion in prison
Ernie Rea is joined by three guests who discuss how their own religious tradition affects their values and outlook on the world, often revealing hidden and contradictory truths. In this programme, Ernie Rea and his guests discuss the statutory provision of religion in prison. What is the history and role of prison chaplains? Should the state make provision for prisoners to worship and practice their own faith inside prison. Is radical Islam being propagated within the prison system and what is being done to combat extremist views. Discussing religion in prison is the Rev Christopher Jones, a former prison chaplain and now Home Affairs Policy Adviser for the Church of England's, Archbishop's Council; Rashad Ali from Centri, a counter extremist organisation; and Frances Crook, the director of the Howard League for Penal Reform. Producer: Karen Maurice.
Sep 27, 2010
The Charedi (ultra orthodox) Jewish communities
In Beyond Belief, Ernie Rea and his guests explore the place of faith in our complex world. Ernie is joined by three guests who discuss how their own religious tradition affects their values and outlook on the world, often revealing hidden and contradictory truths. In this programme, Ernie and his guests explore the beliefs, practices and lifestyles of the fastest growing group within Britain's Jewish community - Ultra Orthodox or Charedi Jews. Much of its rapid growth is down to a high birth rate - they average around seven children per family - but they are also attracting members from other Jewish communities. In Israel they play a key role in electoral politics. But what is their impact in this country? What do they believe? How do they practice? And how do they interact with those who sit outside their community? Joining Ernie to discuss Charedi Jewry is Rabbi Avraham Printer, Principal of the Yesodey Hatorah Senior School for Girls, Mrs Henya Myer, a member of the Hasidic Congregation in Manchester, and Rabbi Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Professor of Judaism at the University of Wales, Lampeter who belongs to the Reform Movement of Judaism. The middle interview is with Hillel Athias Robias, now a Liberal Rabbi in London but once Rabbi to a Haredi Congregation. Producer: Karen Maurice.
Sep 20, 2010
Cardinal Newman
In Beyond Belief, Ernie Rea and his guests explore the place of faith in our complex world. Ernie is joined by three guests who discuss how their own religious tradition affects their values and outlook on the world, often revealing hidden and contradictory truths. In this edition, Ernie and guests discuss the life, beliefs and enduring legacy of Cardinal Newman, who will be beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in the Archdiocese of Birmingham during his state visit. John Henry Newman converted from Anglicanism to Catholicism and went on to become a Cardinal in 1879. He was the founder of the Oratories of St Philip Neri, in Birmingham (where he lived until his death on August 11 1890) and in London. Newman's aim was to describe and inspire the Christian mind. His vocation was to help modern people realise the demands of thinking and acting with the mind of Christ and his Church. And it is this legacy which endures today. Newman will become the first non-martyr saint in England since the Reformation, and de facto the patron saint of converts. Producer: Karen Maurice.
Sep 13, 2010