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Contributions to the 'God slot'
10:48am Monday 14th May 2012 in Thought for the week
IN the Daily Telegraph recently there was a call for secular contributions to Radio 4’s Thought for the Day, sometimes known as the ‘God Slot’.
Evan Davis, the co-host, said that it ‘might give space to what one might call serious and spiritually minded secularists’.
The newspaper editor, however, disagreed, and said that the BBC should leave well alone. Inherent in the editor’s criticism was the feeling that only people with an overtly religious affiliation were eligible to comment in the three-minute slot, there being a plethora of secular material throughout the rest of the three-hour broadcast.
This interested me as, a few weeks ago I went to the inaugural conference of the Nontheist Friends Network at Woodbrooke, the Quaker Study Centre in Birmingham. The network was set up mainly to provide a supportive framework for Quakers with an agnostic, atheist or similar view and those who experience religion as a wholly human creation.
I am not a Quaker but, as a humanist Unitarian, I have nontheist leanings and had signed up as a member of the network.
It proved to be a fascinating experience, with three keynote speakers describing their understanding of nontheist ideas, and celebrating different kinds of spirituality.
It was suggested that theism and nontheism need not be adversarial viewpoints but may be seen as different ways of seeking, finding and expressing meaning and purpose in our lives.
One American spoke of his problems with his community, who told him that without a belief in God you can’t be moral.
Yet humanists believe in the inherent goodness and value of human beings and the nurturing of love and compassion. In this increasingly secular world, it is easy to condemn non-believers but we should be tolerant, as many of the qualities regarded as ‘holy’ are those upheld by such people.
One phrase stayed in my mind: “Who we are is what we do, and what we do is who we are.” Defining ourselves by our actions rather than our beliefs is, I think, a good way to move forward and could prove instrumental in building bridges between our different faith communities.
Carolyn Jones, Altrincham Interfaith Group