Friday, 21 January 2011

"Grill a bishop" and you'll get undercooked answers

A revealing segment on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme yesterday seemed to confirm (anecdotally at least) that young people are by no means apathetic about the god question. Bishop Graham Kings has taken it upon himself to answer secondary school pupils' questions about God. From the BBC website:
A Church of England bishop has called on Anglican clergy to take the Church's message to young people by trying to address the fundamental questions of life and death

Dr Graham Kings, the Bishop of Sherborne, in Dorset, says a lack of religious knowledge is one of the causes of religious doubt. Robert Pigott reports
The four-minute audio stream is here:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9367000/9367602.stm

The questions and answers that the Today editors included in the segment are transcribed below:

Q: "Do you think God planned the creation of nuclear weapons? Because seeing as he's supposed to be loving, that doesn't seem like a very loving thing to do."

A: "Not everything that happens in the world is God's design, so I don't think rape and racism and apartheid and smashing people up is God's design. But he has given us free will, either to respond to him and to other people lovingly, or not."

Q: "You say that God doesn't command everything, yet in the Bible it does, so surely somehow he did command that person to create nuclear weapons. Because in the Bible it says that God commands everything."

A: "It doesn't say that in the Bible."

Bishop Kings apparently blames young people's estrangement from the church partly on declining knowledge of the Bible. You may detect a recurring theme here. When asked how he knows there's life after death, the bishop replies, "I give the illustration of someone who's come back from the dead. Someone's come back and said, yes there is life after death, and that's Jesus of Nazareth himself. So I just have to be honest and say, well I believe in the afterlife because someone's come back and reported back."

Q: "You said a moment ago that homosexual relationships fall short of the glory of God." 

A: "I think we are designed for the glory of God. Paul says that in Romans 3, but he also says that just everybody falls short of the glory of God." 

Q: "If people are accepted exactly how they are, then surely God will accept them if they are homosexual. Why is it wrong, in that respect?" 

A: "God accepts them exactly as they are. What sometimes happens, and it doesn't always happen, is that sometimes they think, is this right, do I continue in a sexual relationship, or do I become celibate?"

Bishop Kings clearly bases everything on the Bible, but we didn't hear his answer to the obvious question, "How do you know the Bible is true?" (The answer is likely to have involved some circularity.) Note that Bishop Kings' answer to the question about homosexuality did not reference the Bible's unequivocal condemnation. This is probably because such a response would expose the Bible as a repository of repugnant immorality.

As if to emphasize the desperate disconnectedness of religion, Robert Pigott's report was immediately followed by Thought for the Day, in which Rhidian Brook gave us his take on Blue Monday (also available as a transcript). I would hope Mr Brook knows that Blue Monday is entirely made up by a PR company to sell holiday bookings, but I suppose if you subscribe to a belief for which the only "evidence" is fictitious scripture, it's difficult to tell these things apart.
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