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Beyond Belief Podcast

Beyond Belief Podcast

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

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  • Transgender
    Mon, Apr 16, 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 LeeSeries producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • The Good Friday Agreement
    Mon, Apr 09, 2018

    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 LeeSeries producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Sacred Gardens
    Mon, Apr 02, 2018

    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 LeeSeries Producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Time
    Mon, Jan 01, 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.

  • Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol
    Mon, Dec 25, 2017

    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.

  • Light
    Mon, Dec 18, 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.

  • The Good Samaritan
    Mon, Dec 11, 2017

    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.

  • Swearing an Oath
    Mon, Dec 04, 2017

    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.

  • Sacred Directions
    Mon, Nov 27, 2017

    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.

  • The Power of Chanting
    Mon, Nov 20, 2017

    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.

  • Death Rituals in the Absence of a Body
    Mon, Nov 13, 2017

    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.

  • Belief and Unbelief in Russia
    Mon, Sep 25, 2017

    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.

  • Religious Polls
    Mon, Sep 18, 2017

    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.

  • Khadijah
    Mon, Sep 11, 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.

  • William Blake's Jerusalem
    Mon, Sep 04, 2017

    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.

  • Begging
    Mon, Aug 28, 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.

  • Sermons
    Mon, Aug 21, 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.

  • Ambedkar
    Mon, Aug 14, 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.

  • Public Grief
    Mon, Jun 26, 2017

    Discussion programme in which guests from different faith and non-faith perspectives debate the challenges of today's world.

  • Religion and Hip Hop
    Mon, Jun 19, 2017

    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.

  • The Moon
    Mon, Jun 12, 2017

    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.

  • Jane Austen
    Mon, Jun 05, 2017

    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.

  • Ancestors
    Mon, May 29, 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.

  • Religion in Germany
    Mon, May 22, 2017

    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.

  • Truth
    Mon, Apr 03, 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 TierneySeries Producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Confession
    Mon, Mar 27, 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 TierneySeries producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Interfaith Worship
    Mon, Mar 20, 2017

    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 TierneySeries producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Science Fiction
    Mon, Mar 13, 2017

    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 clich?s, 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 TierneySeries producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Mental Health
    Mon, Mar 06, 2017

    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 TierneySeries producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Pakistan
    Mon, Feb 27, 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 TierneySeries producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Religion and numbers
    Mon, Jan 09, 2017

    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.

  • Martin Luther and the Reformation
    Mon, Jan 02, 2017

    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.

  • Religion and consumerism
    Mon, Dec 26, 2016

    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.

  • Virgin Birth
    Mon, Dec 19, 2016

    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.

  • Cryonics and immortality
    Mon, Dec 12, 2016

    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.

  • Immigration and the Church
    Mon, Dec 05, 2016

    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.

  • Zionism and Judaism
    Mon, Nov 28, 2016

    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.

  • 21/11/2016
    Mon, Nov 21, 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.

  • Children's Literature
    Mon, Oct 03, 2016

    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 TierneySeries Producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Turkey
    Mon, Sep 26, 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 TierneySeries producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Clergy during the Troubles
    Mon, Sep 19, 2016

    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 TierneySeries producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Trauma
    Mon, Sep 12, 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 TierneySeries producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Religious Education
    Mon, Sep 05, 2016

    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 WarwickProducer: Dan TierneySeries producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Hair
    Mon, Aug 29, 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 TierneySeries producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Sharia Councils
    Mon, Aug 22, 2016

    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 TierneySeries producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Cultural Revolution
    Mon, Aug 15, 2016

    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 TierneySeries producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Battle of the Somme
    Mon, Jun 27, 2016

    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 TierneySeries producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • US Republican Party
    Mon, Jun 20, 2016

    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 TierneySeries producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Freedom of Expression
    Mon, Jun 13, 2016

    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 TierneySeries producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Belgium
    Mon, Jun 06, 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 TierneySeries producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Rule of Benedict
    Mon, May 30, 2016

    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 TierneySeries producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Original Sin
    Mon, May 23, 2016

    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 TierneySeries producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Social Media
    Mon, May 16, 2016

    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 TierneySeries producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Apparitions of Mary
    Mon, Mar 28, 2016

    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 TierneySeries Producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Fixed Easter
    Mon, Mar 21, 2016

    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 TierneySeries producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Mercy
    Mon, Mar 14, 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 TierneySeries producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Storytelling in Christianity
    Mon, Mar 07, 2016

    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 TierneySeries Producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Saudi Arabia
    Mon, Feb 29, 2016

    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 TierneySeries producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • France
    Mon, Jan 11, 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 "La?cit?" 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 TierneySeries producer:Amanda Hancox.

  • Religion and Psychotherapy
    Mon, Jan 04, 2016

    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 TierneySeries producer:Amanda Hancox.

  • Heaven and the Afterlife
    Mon, Dec 28, 2015

    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.

  • Yule
    Mon, Dec 21, 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.

  • Childlessness
    Mon, Dec 14, 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 TierneySeries producer:Amanda Hancox.

  • 50 Years of Nostra Aetate
    Tue, Dec 08, 2015

    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.

  • Interfaith Marriage
    Mon, Nov 30, 2015

    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 TierneySeries producer:Amanda Hancox.

  • How Islamic is the So-Called Islamic State?
    Mon, Nov 23, 2015

    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 TierneySeries producer:Amanda Hancox.

  • The Family
    Mon, Oct 05, 2015

    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.

  • New Religious Communities
    Mon, Sep 28, 2015

    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.

  • Pacifism
    Tue, Sep 22, 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.

  • Betrayal
    Mon, Sep 14, 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.

  • Rumi
    Mon, Sep 07, 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 scholarProduced by Nija Dalal-Small.

  • Ghosts
    Mon, Aug 31, 2015

    Discussion programme in which guests from different faith and non-faith perspectives debate the challenges of today's world.

  • Tunisia
    Mon, Aug 24, 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.

  • Religion and Debt
    Mon, Aug 17, 2015

    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.

  • Hadith
    Mon, Jun 29, 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.

  • Compassion
    Mon, Jun 15, 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.

  • Greece
    Mon, Jun 08, 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.

  • Religion and Earthquakes
    Mon, Jun 01, 2015

    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.

  • Artificial Intelligence
    Mon, Apr 06, 2015

    Ernie Rea and guests discuss the promise and threats of developing artificial intelligence withAnders 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.

  • Scapegoat
    Mon, Mar 30, 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.

  • Confucianism
    Mon, Mar 23, 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 Chinadialogue.comProducer: Rosie Dawson.

  • Religious Literacy
    Mon, Mar 16, 2015

    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.

  • End Time Beliefs in Islam
    Mon, Mar 09, 2015

    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.

  • Purgatory
    Mon, Mar 02, 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.

  • Fundamentalism
    Mon, Jan 12, 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.

  • Moses
    Mon, Jan 05, 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.

  • The roots of English Catholicism
    Mon, Jan 05, 2015

    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.

  • Magna Carta
    Mon, Dec 29, 2014

    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.

  • TS Eliot's Religious Poetry
    Mon, Dec 22, 2014

    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.

  • Race Relations in the USA
    Mon, Dec 15, 2014

    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

  • Spiritualism
    Mon, Dec 08, 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.

  • Plague narratives and Ebola
    Mon, Dec 01, 2014

    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.

  • Avatars
    Mon, Nov 24, 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.

  • Catholic Synod on the family
    Mon, Oct 06, 2014

    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.

  • Karma
    Mon, Sep 29, 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.

  • Religion and PR
    Mon, Sep 22, 2014

    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.

  • Agnosticism
    Mon, Sep 15, 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.

  • Religious History of Iraq
    Mon, Sep 08, 2014

    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.

  • Holy Spirit
    Mon, Sep 01, 2014

    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.

  • Charity
    Mon, Aug 25, 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.

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