261 episodes

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

Beyond Belief BBC

    • Spirituality

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

    Religion and Soap Operas

    Religion and Soap Operas

    Since the nation was introduced to the likes of Elsie Tanner and Ken Barlow in the northern town of Weatherfield almost 60 years ago, television soap operas have gripped viewers across the networks. Some talk about it as an addiction as the weddings, funerals, rows, murders, love triangles, crashes, affairs and divorces are played out on our screens. As these epic stories draw on our emotions, some have argued that it's easy to see the biblical and other religious parallels in the story-lines. In this addition of Beyond Belief, Ernie Rea discusses the religious influences on the soaps and how they have portrayed religious characters over the years with Dr Katie Edwards, a freelance writer and broadcaster who has researched the Bible in popular culture; Mark Pinsky author of "The Gospel According to the Simpsons", the Right Reverend Dr John Saxbee, retired Bishop of Lincoln and June Brown who played Dot Cotton.

    Producer: Amanda Hancox

    • 27 min
    Prayer

    Prayer

    There is evidence that, since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, more people are turning to prayer. Is this a last desperate resort on our part to divert an existential threat? Do we really expect God to intervene? If not, what are we hoping to achieve? Prayer is a vital part of any religion. The ritualising of prayer is one of the things that makes each religion distinctive whilst private, personal prayer seems to sustain the spiritual life of the believer. How does prayer impact on us as individuals and on the world around us? To discuss the importance of prayer, Ernie is joined by Shaunaka Rishi Das, Director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies; Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic and Inter Religious Studies at the University of Edinburgh: and by Douglas Davies, Professor in the Study of Religion at Durham University.

    Producer: Helen Lee

    • 27 min
    Hong Kong

    Hong Kong

    In 1997 Britain handed sovereignty of Hong Kong to the Chinese and for the first few years, the Basic Law that came into effect at the handover meant that, the people of Hong Kong enjoyed religious freedom. But now religious freedom is under threat. Again this summer, pro-democracy demonstrators have taken to the streets to protest against a new National Security law and a number of Christian Churches have been involved in these demonstrations.

    Joining Ernie Rea from their homes to discuss religion in Hong Kong are Chris Patten, Lord Patten of Barnes who served as the Last Governor of Hong Kong; Professor Steve Tsang, the Director of the China Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London; and the Rev Dr Kim Kwong Chan, an Honorary Research Fellow at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

    Producer: Helen Lee

    • 26 min
    The US Presidential Election

    The US Presidential Election

    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 the National Catholic Reporter; and Anthea Butler, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

    Producer: Helen Lee

    • 27 min
    Rosh Hashanah

    Rosh Hashanah

    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

    • 27 min
    The Mayflower

    The Mayflower

    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

    • 27 min

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