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Beyond Belief


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

Series exploring the place and nature of faith in today's world
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London, United Kingdom




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





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...

Duration: 00:27:12

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol

Tiny Tim's "God Bless Us, Every One!" is the rousing conclusion to Charles Dickens' festive fable A Christmas Carol. But what is the Christian message behind this enduring story? Joining Ernie to discuss Charles Dickens' faith and the religious themes in his work are three fans, all of whom have written books about him: actor Simon Callow, author Claire Tomalin and John Bowen - Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature at the University of York. Also interviewed is Rev Cheryl Kincaid, an...

Duration: 00:26:57


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.

Duration: 00:27:44

The Good Samaritan

Politicians these days are not much given to quoting the Bible; but the Good Samaritan is the exception. Mrs Thatcher pointed out that he was only in a position to help because he was rich. Gordon Brown touched on the parable in support of bailing out the banks. Hilary Benn used it to justify bombing Syria. How can one story be used to support such diverse political policies? Why is it so popular? What resonance does the Good Samaritan have today? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the political...

Duration: 00:27:12

Swearing an Oath

We all know that lying in a court of law carries serious penalties so do we really need to place our hands on holy books and affirm our sincerity by swearing an oath? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss whether or not there is any place for God in a modern courtroom are Joshua Rosenberg, legal commentator and presenter of Radio 4's Law in Action; family law barrister Jasvir Singh, Chairman of City Sikhs; and Sarah Donaldson a Manchester based barrister and Quaker. Producer: Helen Lee.

Duration: 00:27:27

Sacred Directions

When you stand in front of the altar in an Anglican or Catholic church, you are almost certainly facing East. The graveyard is very unlikely to be at the north side and if your church is called St Michael's, it will very likely be situated on the North side of your town or city. Cardinal points play an important role in sacred architecture. Is this simply a matter of history and culture or is there something deeper going on? To discuss sacred direction, Ernie Rea is joined by Martin Palmer,...

Duration: 00:27:28

The Power of Chanting

Chanting has been practised for thousands of years by Hindus, Buddhists and Christians. It is said to have health benefits and today, practitioners suggest that it can combat the stresses of modern life. Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the power of chanting are Dr Sarah Shaw, Honorary Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies; Christopher Page, Professor of Medieval Music and Literature at the University of Cambridge and Gresham Professor of Music at Gresham College, London; and Michael...

Duration: 00:27:18

Death Rituals in the Absence of a Body

The rituals of Remembrance Sunday still have power to move us. The thought of the millions who died, many of whom have no known grave; they are victims of war known only to God. For the many families who mourned loved ones killed in the World Wars, the fact that there were no bodies to bury, no tangible evidence of death, made the process of grieving and letting go all the more difficult. But does it pose a problem religiously? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss how we mourn our dead loved ones in...

Duration: 00:27:24

Belief and Unbelief in Russia

A century after the October Revolution Ernie Rea and guests discuss the role of Belief and Unbelief in Russia. Ernie Rea's guests are Victoria Smolkin from Wesleyan University, Connecticut, Felix Corley from Forum 18 and Vera Tolz from the University of Manchester. Producer: Rosie Dawson.

Duration: 00:27:41

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...

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...

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

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