Monday, March 14, 2005

Religion in the UK

I have to confess first of all that I am an atheist. I should clarify that by stating that I do not deny the possibility that some force or power outside of our knowledge created the universe. I accept this is a possibility. What I mean when I say I am an atheist is that I do not believe that a God exists who takes an interest in the lives of the human beings on our planet. The recent tsunami is a case in point; I cannot see how such a seemingly random event can be explained in a way which encompasses a God who cares about the people he has created. I don't base my opinions on complete ignorance; up to the age of 15 I attended an evangelical Christian church every Sunday (sometimes 3 times per day). I admit that I know only a little about Islam, Hinduism, and other religions. I have recently been reading the teachings of Bhudda which I find very interesting.

I do not claim to be in possession of the truth and I accept that others have different opinions which might be equally, or indeed more, valid than mine. I am happy to discuss religion with anyone and prepared to have my own beliefs challenged as long as I can question the beliefs of those who want to challenge mine. Now that you know what my outlook is I can go on to mention a couple of items of news I came across today.

In the News Today
First up, I see that the Guardian today is reporting Faith the issue as Blair courts Christians
Who said that where America goes the UK will follow? This makes me very uneasy. I don't think that religious beliefs and politics go well together. I was going to write that I didn't think this was appropriate in a secular society but I have genuinely started to doubt whether the UK is a secular society. If it isn't then I think it ought to be, especially given the multicultural nature of our population.

The other story, also from the Guardian, but also widely reported elsewhere is Christians take legal action against BBC
This is, of course, a story about BBC 2's broadcast of Jerry Springer: the Opera. I haven't seen it myself because:
a) I don't like Jerry Springer type programmes.
b) I don't like opera (yes, I am a cultural barbarian).
c) It didn't actually sound very interesting to me.
d) I don't watch that much TV anyway.

The organisation behind the legal action is called The Christian Institute and on their website is a Press Release called BBC to face the High Court following Jerry Springer opera
Even though the programme is not one I watched and I probably wouldn't have liked it if I had I can't help but defend the BBC. The members of The Christian Institute had the same option as I had. If you don't like it switch it off.

"The BBC has a duty to respect the religious beliefs of its viewers. The BBC has special privileges as a result of how it is funded." says Director of the institute, Colin Hart.
Is Mr Hart joking?
Look at this BBC page: Religion and Ethics prorammes on the BBC
As an atheist I find the amount of my money that the BBC spends on religious programming to be offensive to my beliefs (I'm serious, I really don't want kids seeing this stuff). I don't complain about it because I realise that other people hold different opinions and accept that they are entitled to them. When Songs of Praise is on every Sunday for example, I just have to switch it off.

If The Christian Institute is going to persist with it's campaign then I am going to start my own campaign to have all religious programming removed from the BBC schedules. Almost everyone I have asked agrees that such programmes are a waste of the license fee. I don't want to do this. I think the BBC should provide programmes of all types for all people. A tolerance of the beliefs of others is the key to a peaceful society. Mr Hart ought to try to remember that.

Please don't judge me a bad person just because I'm an atheist. I don't judge anyone a bad person just because they have strong religious beliefs.

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