Sunday, 21 February 2010

Good Morning Humberside

I have been invited back on to the BBC Radio Humberside equivalent of the BBC Radio Four Thought for the Day, on Andy Comfort’s breakfast show which is a 2 minute slot called Pause for Thought at a quarter to eight each morning (for a week in April). Yes, I know, I have a face for Radio. I am the first Humanist to be involved with this in our region, though other local stations have Humanists doing the same. Hopefully I will be the first of many. I did the week before Christmas – which was a bit of a surprise and took the opportunity to refute the old chestnut about atheists trying to ban Christmas. I pre-recorded all five sessions the week before, the day after our office Christmas party and was feeling a bit hung-over. Hopefully that didn’t come across in the recording. A friend suggested that I was a bit didactic, but being a bit platitudinous goes with the territory. It’s hard to sound natural when you are reading from a script but at least you can re-record if you mess up, which is not an option if you are going out live. A work colleague suggested I try a more light hearted approach, but that’s not really me. I am quite a serious person when it comes to my Humanist beliefs and I want to at least try to say something pensive without sounding as if I am stood in a pulpit. The British Humanist Association has been running a long campaign to have Humanists included in the rota of speakers on the national Thought for the Day slot on Radio Four. They allowed Richard Dawkins and Ariane Sherine (of Atheist Bus Campaign fame, above) to do a one off each but they have yet to agree to regular Humanist speakers. I had the pleasure of meeting the glamorous and intelligent Ariane Sherine the same day my first broadcast went out as she was giving a very funny talk at the North Yorkshire Humanist Group in York, which was excellent. I explained to Ariane that I was so impressed by her Thought for the day that I typed out what she had said and tried to pass it off as my own work to my wife, who proceeded to tell me that I had definitely not written it “... because you’ve got no feelings”. A bit harsh I thought. What I eventually came up with owed more to the popular Humanist philosopher A.C. Grayling. I now have to come up with another five ideas, any suggestions anyone?

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Godless Vicars?

It is 30 years since the classic British situational comedy “Yes Minister” first aired. This much loved show ran for 3 seasons of 7 episodes followed by the sequel, “Yes, Prime Minister” between 1986-88. One of my favourite episodes was “Bishop’s Gambit” in which the now Prime Minister Jim Hacker had to choose one of the candidates put up by the Crown Appointments Commission for a vacant Bishopric in the Church of England. This episode parodies the realities of our state church which to this day is split between conservative evangelicals and catholics who are very religious in the sense usually understood, with conservative views on abortion, euthanasia, drug use, gay rights, etc, and who take the Bible and orthodox Christianity very seriously, and on the other hand liberal, left of centre, “modernists” who seem to come rather close to being atheists. It was often said that this was Margaret Thatcher’s favourite TV show and it was around this time in the 1980s that she vetoed the appointment of James Lawton Thompson as Bishop of Birmingham for his liberal or leftish views. Also around the time of “Yes, Prime Minister”, David Jenkins controversially became the Bishop of Durham and was hounded for his alleged disbelief if not for his left wing political views. Around this time I was a confirmed member of the Church of England and I could perhaps have cynically stayed the course as a non-believing Anglican as some others seem to have done. However, I would have found it impossible to square my own views with what I know to be the faith once delivered to the saints. I am a believer of sorts, just not in Christianity (or at least what I take to be Christianity) and so I have chosen to pursue what I perceive to be the right path, that of Humanism.