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


  • The US Presidential Election

    The US Presidential Election

    21/09/2020 Duração: 27min

    There is no doubt that religion plays a large part in US Presidential Elections. Donald Trump is supported by the religious right which includes white evangelicals and conservative Catholics, whilst Joe Biden appeals to more liberal Catholics and Protestants and to the majority of black voters. Which raises two interesting questions. Why do white evangelical Christians vote for a man whose lifestyle is at odds with their moral principles? And how is Joe Biden going to persuade fellow Catholics to vote for him when his pro-choice views in the abortion debate clash with the teachings of his Church? To unpick the intricacies of the religious vote in the upcoming Presidential Election, Ernie Rea is joined by four experts: Sarah Posner, whose most recent book is ‘Unholy: Why White Evangelicals Worship at the Altar of Donald Trump’; Jane Little, a former Religious Affairs Correspondent for the BBC who now commentates on Religion and Politics in the United States; Christopher White; the National Correspondent for t

  • Rosh Hashanah

    Rosh Hashanah

    14/09/2020 Duração: 27min

    Later this week, from Friday to Sunday, Jews around the world will celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. It is a time for reflection and repentance and for coming together to share delicious food as well as special services at the synagogue. But it will be a different Rosh Hashanah in this Covid-19 year. How will the essence of the Festival be maintained? And, as this is a period of reflection, what specific issues have given British Jews cause for concern since the last Rosh Hashanah? To discuss these questions and to take a look at the festival itself, Ernie Rea is joined by Robyn Ashworth-Steen, Community Rabbi at the Manchester Reform Synagogue; Alby Chait, Orthodox Rabbi at the United Hebrew Congregation in Leeds; and by journalist Justin Cohen who is News Editor of the Jewish News. Producer: Helen Lee

  • The Mayflower

    The Mayflower

    07/09/2020 Duração: 27min

    Four hundred years ago, a group of 102 passengers and 30 crew set sail from Plymouth for the New World. Their journey on the Mayflower is one of the foundation stories of the United States and today, more than 30 million Americans claim descent from the Pilgrim Fathers. So how important were these Puritans? Why did they feel the need to go to America? And what is their lasting legacy? To answer these questions, Ernie Rea is joined by Dr Kathryn Gray, Associate Professor in Early American Literature at the University of Plymouth; Professor Peter Mancall who teaches history at the University of Southern California; and Paula Peters, a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe. Producer: Helen Lee

  • The Face

    The Face

    31/08/2020 Duração: 27min

    Because of Covid-19, we now have to cover our faces with masks which means that we are becoming more anonymous. In this edition of Beyond Belief, Ernie takes a look at the importance of the face to people of different faiths. Jews and Muslims don’t have images of God in their places of worship. However, if you go into a Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist Temple you will see many images or statues of their Gods. Christian art has long depicted the face of Christ, usually showing a blue eyed, blonde Jesus far removed from that of a Jew from the Middle East 2000 years ago. As for the human face, some Muslim women cover theirs in public; Hindus adorn their faces with colourful marks which signify their status; while many Christians have a cross of ash placed on their faces during Lent. Joining Ernie to discuss The Face are Dr Jessica Frazier, a Fellow at the Centre for Hindu studies and a Lecturer at the University of Oxford; Joanna Moorhead, a freelance writer and Arts Editor for The Tablet; and Rania Hafez, a Senior Lec

  • Bathing


    24/08/2020 Duração: 27min

    If you are a follower of one the main religions, it is more than likely that you will have undergone a bathing ritual. Cleansing with water is an integral part of Christian Baptism, Muslim Prayer and Jewish purification. Hindus aspire to bathe in the waters of the River Ganges. Why are rituals in water important to so many faiths? What do they mean? And how do they differ from religion to religion? Joining Ernie to discuss ritual bathing are Dr Diana Lipton (teaching fellow in the department of biblical studies at Tel Aviv University), Sudipta Sen (professor of history at the University of California, Davis and author of 'Ganges: the Many Pasts of an Indian River') and the Very Reverend Peter Robinson (Dean of Derby, whose doctoral thesis was on Christian Initiation focusing on Baptism). Producer: Helen Lee

  • Animal Farm

    Animal Farm

    17/08/2020 Duração: 27min

    George Orwell’s allegorical novel ‘Animal Farm’ was first published on 17th August 1945 and has never been out of print. It tells the story of a group of exploited animals who take over their farm and attempt to create an ideal society. On the face of it, ‘Animal Farm’ is not a religious book – it is a criticism of Stalin and his totalitarian regime - and Orwell is often described as an atheist. However in this edition of Beyond Belief, Ernie Rea discusses the influence of religion on Orwell and his writing. He is joined by Jean Seaton (Director of the Orwell Foundation and Professor of Media History at the University of Westminster), Michael Brennan (author of the book ‘George Orwell and Religion’ and Professor of Renaissance Studies at the University of Leeds) and the priest and author the Rev Marie-Elsa Bragg. Producer: Helen Lee

  • Marriage


    18/05/2020 Duração: 26min

    There are growing reports of couples opting for private wedding ceremonies or even resorting to marrying online during lockdown. On a less celebratory note, the divorce rates in China are said to have rocketed after their lockdown ended. There are concerns that the same will happen in the UK after weeks of couples living in isolation together. Is it time to accept that marriage has had its day? Or has marriage simply acquired a different meaning in the 21st century? Dr Katie Edwards discusses marriage with Imam Ajmal Masroor, who's also a marriage counsellor, Hannah Brock Womack, a Quaker and civil justice campaigner and the Rt Rev Dr Christopher Cocksworth, Bishop of Coventry. Producer: Rajeev Gupta

  • Dieting


    11/05/2020 Duração: 27min

    During the lockdown, with gyms shut and exercise outdoors restricted, social media is littered with anecdotes of people putting on weight or turning to diet plans. Most religious traditions have some kind of rules when it comes to what we eat. From Lent to Yom Kippur, from Karva Chauth, to Ramadan many religious followers observe days of abstinence. So why is the relationship between food, fasting and faith so meaningful for so many? Dr Katie Edwards discusses faith, food and fasting with Dr Hannah Bacon, Associate Professor in Feminist Theology and Acting head of Theology and Religious studies at the University of Chester, Dr Hina Shahid, General Practitioner and Chairperson of the Muslim Doctors Association and Geeta Vara, Ayurvedic Practioner and author of Ayurveda: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Wellbeing Producer: Rajeev Gupta Series Producer: Amanda Hancox

  • Wordsworth


    04/05/2020 Duração: 27min

    2020 marks 250 years since the birth of William Wordsworth, one of England's most celebrated poets. Wordsworth and his friend and colleague Samuel Taylor Coleridge were pioneers of English Romanticism and they produced works including The Excursion, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and The Prelude. Religion and nature were great sources of inspiration and debate for both men. Wordsworth's childhood home, The English Lake District, was alive with different and often 'dissenting' ideas about Christianity but what influence did these ideas have on his work? Did Wordsworth and Coleridge share a common idea of the nature of God and what resonance does their work have today? Joining Dr Katie Edwards to discuss the influence of faith on the life of Wordsworth, is Rev Marie-Elsa Bragg, priest and writer; Seamus Perry, Professor of English Literature at The University of Oxford and Heidi Snow, Professor of English Literature and holder of the Edith and Lewis White Distinguished Professorship at Principia College, Il

  • Religion Online

    Religion Online

    27/04/2020 Duração: 26min

    Covid-19 has had us all scrambling to adapt to life in lockdown. But the period of lockdown also coincided with a number of key religious festivals from Easter to Passover, Vaisakhi to Ramadan. This in turn has led to a flourishing of new and inventive ways for religious communities to mark their holy days. But religion online is not a new phenomenon and virtual spaces, live streaming and words of wisdom have been available on the internet for many years. So what should our relationship be with religion on the internet and where does its future lie post lockdown? Joining Dr Katie Edwards to discuss this is Dr Beth Singler, Junior Research Fellow in Artificial Intelligence at Homerton College, University of Cambridge; Swami Ambikananda, a Hindu monastic and founder of the Traditional Yoga Association; Adrian Harris, Head of Digital at the Church of England and Abid Khan, Imam at Cheadle Mosque in Manchester. Producer: Amanda Hancox

  • Reincarnation


    20/04/2020 Duração: 27min

    At some point in our lives, most of us will have wondered about what happens after death: is there an afterlife or is there nothingness? For many religions in the East the answer is found in reincarnation. Reincarnation is the belief that the human spirit inhabits new lives over and over, each time a person dies. Reincarnation is supported by Buddhism, Hinduism and Sikhism. But all these traditions have different views on how and why reincarnation takes places. Today we want to have a deep dive into what reincarnation really means within these faith traditions. Joining Ernie Rea to discuss reincarnation is Dr Chakravarti Ram-Prasad, Distinguished Professor of Comparative Religion at Lancaster University; Dr Saeko Yazaki, Lecturer in Religious Studies at the University of Glasgow and Dr Douglas Davies, Professor in Theology and Religion at the University of Durham Producer: Rajeev Gupta Series Producer: Amanda Hancox

  • Ethical Investing

    Ethical Investing

    13/04/2020 Duração: 26min

    It is estimated that religious institutions own trillions of dollars' worth of investments but some have acknowledged that their financial choices have not always reflected their principles. Can faith values help people to choose how to invest their money in ways that align with their ethics? Can new technologies like blockchain provide greater transparency and control, and where are the potential pitfalls for people looking to invest their money? Joining Ernie Rea to discuss ethical investing are Rabbi Mark Goldsmith of the Edgware & Hendon Reform Synagogue and member of the International Interfaith Investment Group; Devie Mohan, an expert in the relationship between finance and technology; Martin Palmer President of Faith Invest and Umer Suleman a member of the UK Islamic Finance Council and a Sharia Finance Consultant. Producer: Dan Jackson Series Producer: Amanda Hancox

  • Sin


    06/04/2020 Duração: 27min

    Easter is the most important time in the life of the Church. It’s the time when Christians retell the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. Christians believe that Jesus died to atone for the sins of the world. But what does that actually mean and how do we define what a sin is? Ernie Rea is joined in the studio to discuss what we mean by sin by Dr Gemma Simmonds, Director of the Religious Life Institute in Cambridge; Robyn Ashworth-Steen, Rabbi at Manchester Reform Synagogue and a former human rights lawyer; and Davinder Panesar, transpersonal psychologist and author. Producer: Amanda Hancox

  • Religion and Smell

    Religion and Smell

    06/01/2020 Duração: 27min

    No school nativity play is complete without the Three Wise Men ‘traversing afar’ bearing gifts for the baby Jesus. One of these gifts is frankincense, which for centuries has played a powerful role in many religious rituals. As an important ingredient in incense, its perfumed smoke has been a part of much religious worship since the time of the pharaohs in ancient Egypt. So why has smell become an important part of many faiths and how does it enhance religious observance? To discuss these questions, Ernie Rea is joined by Tim Jacob (Emeritus Professor at the School of Biosciences at the University of Cardiff), Kim Lahiri (Director at the International Federation of Aroma Therapists) and Dr Nicky Nielson (Lecturer in Egyptology at the University of Manchester). Producer: Helen Lee

  • Miracles


    30/12/2019 Duração: 26min

    This year, the Catholic Church declared John Henry Newman a saint following a lengthy investigation which concluded that two miraculous cures had resulted from the Cardinal’s intercession. It’s not only the Christian Church that believes in miracles. But what actually are they and should we find a new and broader definition for the 21st century? Nuclear scientist Professor Ian Hutchinson; John Thavis, former Rome Bureau Chief for the Catholic News Service and Dr Sarah Shaw, a Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, join Ernie to discuss. Producer: Helen Lee

  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

    The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

    23/12/2019 Duração: 27min

    Although it was written nearly seventy years ago, ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ still appears in the top ten favourite children’s books and has sold over 100 million copies in 47 different languages. It's set in the magical Land of Narnia where the White Witch has cast a spell to make sure that it is always winter and Christmas never comes. This changes when four siblings – Lucy, Peter, Susan and Edmund – stumble into Narnia through the back of a wardrobe and defeat the evil that has engulfed Narnia with the help of the mighty lion Aslan. For some readers, ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ is an allegory of the story of Jesus. Many others view it simply as a good yarn. To discuss the religious message behind the book – and whether or not it really matters – Ernie is joined by three authors: Lucy Mangan, Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Francis Spufford. Extracts are read by Julie Hesmondhalgh. Producer: Helen Lee

  • Saudi Arabia and Iran

    Saudi Arabia and Iran

    16/12/2019 Duração: 27min

    Saudi Arabia and Iran have been rivals for many years but recently this rivalry has become more intense. As the two countries struggle for regional dominance, what is the impact of this new ‘Cold War’ on the whole of the Middle East? And why is the tension between the two more complicated than simply a disagreement between Sunni and Shia Muslims? Joining Ernie to discuss this conflict are Iranian academic Dr Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi (Goldsmiths, University of London), Dr Simon Mabon (Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Lancaster University) and Saudi Arabian academic Professor Madawi Al-Rasheed (London School of Economics). Producer: Helen Lee

  • Friendship


    09/12/2019 Duração: 27min

    As we come to the end of an acrimonious General Election campaign, Beyond Belief attempts to soothe the fractious public mood with a discussion on Friendship. The dictionary defines Friendship as “a state of mutual trust between friends but can friendship survive a deep division of opinion? Can we be friends with someone who holds radically different religious and ethical principles to ours? Can we really describe someone whom we have only met online as a Friend? To discuss these questions are the Reverend David Butterworth, a Methodist Minister; Julie Siddiqi, a leading Muslim feminist and activist with a focus on gender equality and inter faith relations; and Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism. Producer: Helen Lee

  • Rumi


    02/12/2019 Duração: 27min

    Who could have predicted that the 13th century Persian poet Rumi would have such a huge presence on the Instagram feeds of post-Millennials? Jalal ad-Din Muhammed Rumi, to give him his full name, was a Sufi master who wrote ecstatic mystical poems about joy and love and the search for divine truth. His poetry would literally move people to dance, which is where the notion of the ‘whirling dervish’ comes from. 800 years on, what is it about the poetry of Rumi that continues to strike a chord with so many today, including artists like Madonna and Coldplay’s Chris Martin? For some, Rumi has been sanitised for a secular Western audience, but not everyone can read Persian. Ernie Rea chairs a special discussion about Rumi's appeal, recorded at the BBC's Contains Strong Language Festival in Hull. Contributors: Narguess Farzad – Senior Lecturer in Persian Studies at SOAS University of London; Alan Williams – Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Religion at the University of Manchester, who is currently

  • Frankenstein


    09/09/2019 Duração: 27min

    Frankenstein, the tale of a scientist who creates a creature that ultimately destroyed him, has been a popular subject for films for many years. But the religious content of the original novel written by Mary Shelley is lost on the big screen. Her story centres on the scientist Victor Frankenstein, who plays God. His creation identifies first with Adam and then with Satan in Paradise Lost. He has admirable human qualities but is deprived of love and affection and becomes brutalised. Joining Ernie Rea to discuss Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein are Andrew Smith, Professor of Nineteenth Century English Literature at the University of Sheffield; Marie Mulvey-Roberts, Professor of English Literature at the University of the West of England; and Dr James Castell, Lecturer in English Literature at Cardiff University. Producer: Helen Lee

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