Wednesday, 19 August 2009

The Atheist and the Bishop

I've been listening to the start of a new Radio 4 series The Atheist and the Bishop. The participants being atheist philosopher Miranda Fricker from Birkbeck College, University of London, and the former Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries.

The first person interviewed, apparently outside the BHA HQ, was someone calling himself an Agnostic Christian! His mother, having attended the assisted dying clinic in Switzerland, and who had requested a humanist funeral, was given instead a mixed humanist and christian funeral. Far from being a betrayal, this was described as admirably open-minded!

The next interview was of the mother of a man kiled in the 7/7 London bombings who said she forgave his killers, and had set up a peace foundation in his name. The atheist philosopher thought forgiveness a necessary part of an ethical life, but nothing was said about what this means in practice other than being an emotional form of words. If the killer still lived would this "forgiveness" extend to letting him go free?

Then they met a couple who had decided to have their child baptised. The philosopher, apparently an unmarried mother, had not felt the need of any ceremony but thought perhaps a secular one should be developed for those who might want them. Baby-naming ceremonies do exist, but apparently no BHA celebrant was consulted.

In short it was all a bit flabby, and I don't expect it to get much better. It goes on for seven episodes. Did I miss the good points?


  1. The quality of debate and journalism on Radio 4 had become decidedly poor over the last couple of years, I listened to the trailer for that program and made the choice give it a miss - I'm glad I did.

    The Moral Maze in particular is now a parody of itself, I can't listen to anything with Anne Atkins involved anyway.

    The 5pm news today was a shambles - what could have been really interesting coverage of the release of the Lockerbie Bomber descended into farce as Eddie Mair tried repeatedly to push the question of what "a higher power" meant, it was embarrassing.

  2. I think Eddie Mair is getting delusions of being the next Paxman, instead of the cheerful chappie he used to be.

    The release of Magrahi is an example of compassion, though not going as far as forgiveness, and seems sensible so long as the Libyans don't make too much propaganda from it.