245 episodes

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

Beyond Belief BBC Radio 4

    • Religion & Spirituality

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

    Religion and Smell

    Religion and Smell

    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

    • 27 min
    Miracles

    Miracles

    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

    • 26 min
    The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

    The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

    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

    • 27 min
    Saudi Arabia and Iran

    Saudi Arabia and Iran

    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

    • 27 min
    Friendship

    Friendship

    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

    • 27 min
    Rumi

    Rumi

    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 translating the six volumes of the Masnavi;
    Shaykh Paul Salahuddin Armstrong – Managing Director of the Association of British Muslims and member of the Naqshbandi Sufi order;
    Jamal Mehmood - writer and poet.

    Producer: Dan Tierney

    • 27 min

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