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Poetry, the Language of Religion

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To celebrate its 500th edition, Beyond Belief has recorded a special programme at the Contains Strong Language poetry festival in Coventry. From the stage of the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry to discuss the theme of ‘Poetry as the Language of Religion’, Ernie Rea is joined by a distinguished panel: Michael Symmons Roberts is one of Britain’s leading poets whose work explores the connection between the things of the spirit and the things of the world, Canon Mark Oakley is the Dean and Fellow of St John’s College Cambridge and the author of 'The Splash of Words, Believing in Poetry', Muneera Pilgrim is a British born convert to Islam and a poet and cultural producer and Bel Mooney is an author with a regular column in the Daily Mail where she also reviews books of poetry. Each member of the panel has chosen (and recites) a poem to illustrate the idea that poetry can be the language of faith: 'Names' by Wendy Cope 'To men who use "Why are you single?" as a chat up line' by Muneera Pilgrim 'Belsen, Day of Liberation' by Robert Hayden 'Rehearsal for the Death Scene' by Michael Symmons Roberts Producer: Helen Lee

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  • Beyond Belief podcast

    Poetry, the Language of Religion

    39:57

    To celebrate its 500th edition, Beyond Belief has recorded a special programme at the Contains Strong Language poetry festival in Coventry. From the stage of the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry to discuss the theme of ‘Poetry as the Language of Religion’, Ernie Rea is joined by a distinguished panel: Michael Symmons Roberts is one of Britain’s leading poets whose work explores the connection between the things of the spirit and the things of the world, Canon Mark Oakley is the Dean and Fellow of St John’s College Cambridge and the author of 'The Splash of Words, Believing in Poetry', Muneera Pilgrim is a British born convert to Islam and a poet and cultural producer and Bel Mooney is an author with a regular column in the Daily Mail where she also reviews books of poetry. Each member of the panel has chosen (and recites) a poem to illustrate the idea that poetry can be the language of faith: 'Names' by Wendy Cope 'To men who use "Why are you single?" as a chat up line' by Muneera Pilgrim 'Belsen, Day of Liberation' by Robert Hayden 'Rehearsal for the Death Scene' by Michael Symmons Roberts Producer: Helen Lee
  • Beyond Belief podcast

    Ignatian Spirituality

    27:39

    If you have ever been so immersed in a book or film that you feel you're part of the story, you are doing something similar to the Gospel contemplations in the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius. As a soldier, Ignatius spent his early life chasing adventure, glory and pleasure. Whilst leading a doomed last stand at the Battle of Pamplona 500 years ago, he was struck by a cannonball that shattered his legs. This began a dramatic spiritual conversion through intense prayer, ascetism and visions. As the founder of the Jesuits, his lessons were published in a book called The Spiritual Exercises which are basis of Ignatian Spirituality. It's one of the world's most influential books of prayer, meditations and contemplations. It emphasises using all your senses to imagine Jesus, hell, and biblical scenes with the goal of discerning God's will for you. Ernie Rae meets three people to discover how it transformed their lives and asks: does it's focus on individual discernment mean 'anything goes'? What's it like conjuring up a visceral image of you at your absolute worst? And how has Ignatian Spirituality shaped the papacy of the first Jesuit Pope, Francis I? Plus, we meet Toy Story co-creator, Pete Docter. He tells us how another goal of Ignatian Spirituality of finding God in all things influenced him and his latest Oscar winning film, Soul. To discuss all this, Ernie is joined by: Father Jim Martin (a Jesuit Priest and author of ‘The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything’), Ruth Holgate (Director of St Beuno’s Jesuit Spirituality Centre in North Wales) and Sister Anne Arabome (a member of the Sisters of Social Service in Los Angeles and Associate Director of the Faber Centre for Ignatian Spirituality). Producer: Julian Paszkiewicz Editor: Helen Grady
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    Scotland and the Union

    28:17

    There has been a ‘Great Britain’ for over 300 years but the union is now under threat. Part of what has held Scotland and England together is the fact that they have shared a monarch since 1603. But whilst the Queen holds the title 'Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England', she not not the Supreme Governor of the Church of Scotland. The two nations have different ecclesiastical arrangements. Anglicanism in Scotland is not very prominent whilst - until recently - the Presbyterian Church of Scotland dominated the religious landscape. Numbers in the Scottish Catholic Church have been maintained by immigration from Ireland and, more recently, from Eastern Europe but it too is in decline; whilst black, Asian and minority ethnic communities are growing in size and influence. Has the change in the religious landscape in Scotland had any influence on the move for political independence? And why do the religious bodies appear so reluctant to take a public stance in the debate about Scotland and the union? Ernie Rea is joined by a panel which is split equally between pro and anti-union sentiments. Murdo Fraser is a Conservative Member of the Scottish Parliament and a Patron of the Conservative Christian Fellowship; the Rev Scott Rennie is a Church of Scotland Minister in Aberdeen and a member of the Lib Dems; both are pro union. Angela Haggerty is a Catholic journalist and commentator and shares a pro independence position with Graham Campbell an SNP councillor on Glasgow City Council and a Rastafarian.
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    What do the Taliban believe?

    27:32

    It’s a month since Afghanistan entered a new era under the 'Taliban 2.0'. Foreign forces have gone and the eyes of the world are fixed on how they will govern their ‘Islamic Emirate’. Many of those who remember life under the Taliban the first time around in the 1990s are not hopeful. They describe an oppressive regime, justified Islamically through an extremely narrow interpretation of sharia law. Women couldn’t work, girls couldn’t go to school; there was a strict dress code for men and women; music, TV and cinema were banned. There were brutal punishments for those who stepped out of line. Ethnic and religious minorities were targeted and killed. Mobeen Azhar and guests explore what the Taliban believe, how they have justified their actions theologically and whether any of those core beliefs are likely to change. Contributors: Dr Sayed Hassan Akhlaq - Afghan-Iranian philosopher at Coppin State University in Baltimore, who has specialised in Islamic theology; Dr Haroun Rahimi - Assistant Professor of Law at the American University of Afghanistan; John Mohammed Butt - Islamic scholar and graduate of Darul Uloom Deoband in India; Dr Weeda Mehran - lecturer at the Department of Politics at the University of Exeter, who grew up in Afghanistan in the 1990s. Producer: Dan Tierney Editor: Helen Grady.
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    Ganesha

    27:26

    Ganesh or Ganesha - also known as Ganpati - is one of the best known Hindu Gods. Easily identified by his elephant head, pot belly and four arms, Ganesha has many fine attributes and is revered as the remover of obstacles and the god of beginnings. As Hindus prepare to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi (the birth of Lord Ganesha), Mobeen Azhar is joined by Hindu monk Swamini Supriyananda, Dr David Frawley (Founder of the American Institute of Vedic Studies) and by Dr Raj Balkaran (Teacher and Consultant at the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies). They discuss why Ganesha is so important and the appeal he has outside the Hindu faith. Mobeen also talks to Game of Thrones actor Lena Headey about why she has a tattoo of Ganesha on her right shoulder. Producer: Helen Lee Editor: Helen Grady This episode of Beyond Belief contains a short audio excerpt from an episode of The Simpsons entitled 'The Two Mrs Nahasapeemapetilons' (Season 9, Episode 7). It was written by Richard Appel and broadcast by the Fox Broadcasting Company.
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    The College of Cardinals

    28:11

    For over 1000 years, the College of Cardinals has been responsible for electing the Pope. The Papal Conclave is always conducted in private and very little was known about how its members actually make their final choice for the role of Pontiff. But in recent years, the secrets of the Conclave have begun to leak out and public interest in its inner workings has been piqued by bestselling authors Dan Brown and Robert Harris who have featured the College of Cardinals in novels read by millions. Ernie Rea takes a look at the College of Cardinals. How influential are they outside the Vatican, what do they do in Conclave and how can a Pope influence the choice of his successor by deciding who should become a cardinal. Producer: Helen Lee Assistant Producer: Julian Paszkiewicz
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    Harry Potter

    27:33

    Some Christian voices have suggested that the Harry Potter stories about witchcraft, magic and mythical beasts provide a gateway into satanic practices. But JK Rowling completely disagrees and she was glad that readers were unaware of her Christian faith at the time the books were first published because they might then have guessed the ending of the final book. To discuss the Christian allegory and religious themes in the Harry Potter books, Ernie Rea is joined by Dr Beatrice Groves (Research Fellow and Tutor in English at Trinity College, Oxford), Vanessa Zoltan (co-host of the podcast 'Harry Potter and the Sacred Text') and by author and lecturer John Granger who has been described by Time Magazine as “The Dean of Harry Potter Scholars”. Producer: Helen Lee Assistant Producer: Barnaby Gordon Editor: Helen Grady
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    The Monarch as Defender of the Faith

    27:31

    The Queen holds two titles that date right back to Henry VIII: 'Defender of the Faith’ and ‘Supreme Governor of the Church of England'. The coronation is always held within the context of a religious service and there is no doubt that the Queen has a deep Christian faith but how relevant is her role as Defender of the Faith in a Britain where membership of the Church of England is in decline and minority ethnic religious groups are growing? To discuss these issues, Ernie Rea is joined by Martin Palmer who was Prince Philip’s Religious Advisor on the environment; Rabbi Julia Neuberger - a Crossbench Peer in the House of Lords; Dr Jasjit Singh - an Associate Professor in the School of Philosophy, Religion and the History of Science at the University of Leeds; and Dr Daniel Loss from Harvard University - an historian of modern Britain. Producer: Helen Lee Assistant Producer: Barnaby Gordon Editor: Helen Grady
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    Scottish Independence

    27:25

    In the new Scottish Parliament, a majority of MSPs want independence for Scotland but recent opinion polls suggest that only half the population is in favour. In all the debates, the religious voice has been very muted. That may be because, religious observance in Scotland has plummeted. Over half of people surveyed recently, said that they had no religion. The rise of the independence movement has coincided with a decline in the social significance of religion. So, is nationalism filling the vacuum? To discuss the religious dimensions in the Scottish independence debate, Ernie Rea is joined by the Rev Doug Gay, who is a minister of the Church of Scotland and lectures in Practical Theology at the University of Glasgow; Peter Kearney is Spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland; the Very Rev Kevin Holdsworth is Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow and as such, a senior figure in the Scottish Episcopal Church; and the Rev Kathy Galloway is a Church of Scotland minister and former Leader of the Iona Community. Producer: Helen Lee
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    Vodou

    27:43

    Ernie Rea takes a look at a religion that emerged on the Caribbean island of Haiti about 500 years ago when the traditional religions of enslaved West Africans merged with the Catholicism of the French colonialists. Here in the West we call it Voodoo; but the correct term is Vodou. 60 million people worldwide practice Vodou. It is thought to have originated in the West African country of Benin where the word ‘Vodou’ means “Spirit” in one of the indigenous languages and the ‘Lwa’ (the Vodou name for Spirits) are central to the religion's belief and practice. Ernie is joined by Her Majesty Queen Mother Dr Dowoti Desir (a Mambo Asogwe - Vodou High Priestess) from her Royal Palace in the city of Ouidah in Benin. Also taking part in the discussion are Dr Louise Fenton (a Senior Lecturer in Contextual Studies at the University of Wolverhampton) and Dr Kyrah Malika Daniels (Assistant Professor of Art History, Africana Studies and Theology at Boston College in the United States). Producer: Helen Lee

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