Monday, September 10, 2012

RE:THINK BBC religion and ethics conference: can God be slotted?

The BBC are hosting a religion and ethics conference later this week, featuring Richard Dawkins, Jonathan Sacks, and a range of seminars and talks on ethical and religious topics. Looks fascinating, and there's a good interview with the new(ish) head of Religon and Ethics here. Aquil Ahmed will be debating the 'God slot' on Wednesday, and had this to say in the interview:

He will make it clear that he wants the corporation’s religious programmes to appeal to as broad an audience as possible, including atheists.

While he will retain traditional religious programmes such as Songs of Praise, he will increasingly commission shows that deal with faith in broader contexts, such as Dead Good Job, an observational series starting this week about the work of undertakers across different religious communities and people no faith.

He said: “When we say 'rethinking the God slot’, it is to say there’s probably a lot more religion on television than people realise, it’s just not classed in the old-fashioned sense as, 'it is at this time, therefore it’s a God slot kind of programme’.

“The old fashioned concept of, 'it’s Sunday, it’s this time of day, every channel has got some kind of programme about Christianity’...those days are gone.

“People are fascinated by religion and you don’t have to know that you’re watching a specific programme about religion.”

The whole idea of a God slot is nonsense anyway, God doesn't fit into a slot, everything else slots into God. To confine spiritual content to Songs of Praise and Thought for the Day has an implicit dualism. I guess Christians have wanted to protect these 'slots' because they feared that, without them, God would disappear completely from the airwaves.

Far from it: when things have calmed down a bit there's probably a dissertation to be written on religious symbolism and content in the Olympic ceremonies, from the hymns in the Olympic opening event, to the overt pagan symbolism in the closing ceremony yesterday. The BBC conference itself suggest that, the less religious we get as a nation, the more we want to think about religion. It's a time of flux, it's not just the goalposts that are moving but all the pitch markings too. So we can expect plenty more debate about where the lines should eventually fall.

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