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Beyond Belief

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London, United Kingdom




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




Religious Polls

The first Gallup national poll into religion was carried out in 1935. Ever since - but especially with the arrival of the internet - pollsters have fed a hungry media the latest statistics about belief in God and church attendance. How important is the polling industry to our understanding of religion? What can the polls not tell us? What is their relationship to academic social sciences? Professor Robert Wuthnow from Princeton University argues that polling on religion is a huge waste of...

Duration: 00:27:25


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...

Duration: 00:28:11

William Blake's Jerusalem

Will Ernie Rea and guests sing William Blake's "Jerusalem" at Last Night of the Proms? In Beyond Belief this week Ernie discusses how the poem of a fiery non-conformist has become the beloved anthem of such disparate groups of people - from union-jack-waving Promenaders to the English Defence League and the Women's Institute. Billy Bragg tells Ernie why he would like "Jerusalem" to be England's National Anthem. Ernie is also joined by the novelist Catherine Fox, poet Malcolm Guite and...

Duration: 00:28:20


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...

Duration: 00:28:24


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.

Duration: 00:28:05


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...

Duration: 00:28:17

Public Grief

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

Duration: 00:27:44

Religion and Hip Hop

What's the relationship between religion and hip hop? Since its emergence from the south Bronx in New York in the mid-1970s, hip hop culture has radically transformed music and the arts in America, and across the world. Hip hop is more than rap music; it is a style, a philosophy and a political worldview. In recent months, the artist, Stormzy has re-ignited discussion of the relationship between religion and hip hop. Is religion a superficial embellishment or is it fundamental to the origin...

Duration: 00:27:59

The Moon

The Moon has been venerated since the dawn of religion. Has Space exploration diminished its allure? Ernie Rea's guests are Professor Ronald Hutton from Bristol University, Professor Monica Grady from the Open University, Edgar Mark Williams, author of "The Moon, Nature and Culture" and the Associate Director of the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire, Tim O'Brien. Producer Rosie Dawson.

Duration: 00:28:28

Jane Austen

In the 200th anniversary year of the death of one of Britain's finest novelists, Ernie Rea considers the religious world of Jane Austen and how it is reflected in her novels. Ernie is joined by novelist and priest Marie-Elsa Bragg, the social and architectural historian William Whyte, Oxford University lecturer Freya Johnston and Rev Paula Hollingsworth, author of "The Spirituality of Jane Austen." Producer Rosie Dawson.

Duration: 00:28:32


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.

Duration: 00:28:18

Religion in Germany

As President Obama joins Angela Merkel to celebrate the Reformation 500 Anniversary, Ernie Rea and guests discuss the religious climate in Germany. The Reformation left Germany with a predominantly Catholic South and Protestant North; but today the scene is much more nuanced. The legacy of Communism means that religious affiliation in the former DDR is much lower than in the West; the number of Muslims in Germany now nudges five million, following the recent arrival of Syrian refugees, and...

Duration: 00:28:17


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...

Duration: 00:28:18


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...

Duration: 00:28:13

Interfaith Worship

The reading of a passage from the Koran at Glasgow's St Mary's Cathedral during its Epiphany Mass earlier in the year caused an almighty row. The verses, which were read out by a local Muslim student, denied the divinity of Jesus and brought a wave of criticism and social media threats, which prompted a police investigation. Most people agree that interfaith dialogue is a good thing, but interfaith crossovers within a worship setting risk causing great offense. Why is interfaith worship so...

Duration: 00:28:12

Science Fiction

Science fiction has perhaps been unfairly dismissed by many critics and academics; seen by some as a niche genre, not befitting the elite group of literary works deemed to be 'high art'. While some examples of science fiction could be criticised for perpetuating fantasy clichés, others undoubtedly explore the biggest questions of life. Fans argue that the Sci-Fi universe allows the audience to suspend their disbelief about what is conventional, and opens up a space to explore philosophical,...

Duration: 00:28:11

Mental Health

One in four people has a mental disorder at some point in their life, according to government figures. In a speech earlier this year, the Prime Minister, Theresa May, said mental health had been "dangerously disregarded" as secondary to physical health and changing that would go "right to the heart of our humanity". Among the calls from experts for more funding to improve services is the complex question of how, as a society, we have got to the point where half of mental health problems...

Duration: 00:28:26


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...

Duration: 00:28:16

Religion and numbers

Maths and religion are both ways of seeking order and understanding in the world. Numerologists who like to find significance in every number believe that 2016 was always going to be a bad year because of that combination of numbers - 2 0 1 6. Mainstream religious traditions have often set great store by numbers. Certain ones recur repeatedly in their scriptures, 3, 7, 40. What's that all about? Ernie Rea discusses religion's obsession with numbers with Marcus du Sautoy, Professor for the...

Duration: 00:27:40

Martin Luther and the Reformation

This year sees the 500th anniversary of the moment when Martin Luther sparked the Reformation by - tradition has it - nailing his 95 theses to a church door in Wittenberg. Ernie Rea and guests discuss what led Luther to take this step, how his thought and personality affected the course of the Reformation and whether - were he to walk into the 21st century - he might actually find himself to be a good Catholic. Producer: Rosie Dawson.

Duration: 00:27:48

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