Beyond BeliefAuthor: BBC Radio 4
20 Aug 2018

Beyond Belief

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

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    Jane Eyre

    Today's special edition of Beyond Belief comes from the library in the Bronte Parsonage Museum at Haworth on the edge of the Yorkshire moors. It was here that Charlotte Bronte conceived the plot of her best known work, 'Jane Eyre'. Religion features large in this novel - which isn't surprising as Charlotte was the daughter of Irish priest Patrick Bronte, the curate for many years of St Michael and All Angel's Church in Haworth. What is surprising though, is that some critics at the time described 'Jane Eyre' as an anti-religious work. Queen Victoria begged to differ and described it as "A really wonderful book with fine religious feeling." Joining Ernie Rea to discuss the religious content of Jane Eyre are Dinah Birch, Professor of English Literature at the University of Liverpool, John Bowen, Professor of Nineteenth Century Literature at the University of York and Rosemary Mitchell, Professor of Victorian Studies at Leeds Trinity University. Producer: Helen Lee Series Producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Posted on 14 May 2018

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    Fashion

    The annual Met Gala - which takes place in New York tonight - is often described as "fashion's biggest night out". It is a fundraising event for the Metropolitan Museum of Art that welcomes celebrities from all walks of life and fashion industry paragons alike. It also signifies the opening of the NY Costume Institute's annual fashion exhibition which this year has the title 'Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination'. Religion has had an impact on the way we dress for many centuries. Clothing is mentioned in the Bible and some might argue that Eve's fig leaf was the earliest fashion statement. But the fashion world is not just influenced by the Catholic Church. Muslim fashion - and the popularity of the 'cool hijab' - is very important today as is a growing demand for modest fashion. Joining Professor Robert Beckford to discuss religion and fashion are Professor Reina Lewis from London School of Fashion UAL, the Rev Sally Hitchiner and New York based fashion journalist Michelle Honig who is a modern Orthodox Jew. Robert also talks to Simon Ward - former Chief Operating Officer for the British Fashion Council - about important ethical questions facing the fashion industry at the moment. Producer: Helen Lee Series Producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Posted on 07 May 2018

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    Spinsterhood

    There is a certain way of saying the word 'spinster' that gives it implications of disapproval or even pity; as if for a woman, not being married is an inferior state. Why does it sound so unpleasant? And why is it more acceptable to be a bachelor than a spinster? Could part of the blame lie in religious traditions with their stress on the centrality of the family? Today women are forging careers and putting off marriage and babies. Is there a positive role for single women in religious structures which lay great stress on producing children? Is spinsterhood a holy state? Is it better for a woman with strong religious convictions to remain unmarried rather than being, what St Paul called, "unequally yoked together." In an attempt to find answers to these questions, Ernie Rea is joined by Shelina Janmohamed - an author and commentator on Muslim social and religious trends - Jewish journalist Angela Epstein and former MP Ann Widdecombe, who is a Christian. Ernie also talks to Dr Fauzia Ahmad. She is an unmarried Muslim woman whose own experience has informed 25 years of research into why young Muslim women are finding it increasingly difficult to meet suitable Muslim husbands. Producer: Helen Lee Series Producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Posted on 30 Apr 2018

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    Sacred Spaces

    Most people have a sacred space, a place which is special to them. It could be a beach, a mountain top, a building, even a sports ground - but why have they become 'sacred'? Many of the grandest sacred spaces have been created by the world's religions but what were their creators trying to achieve? Are there certain characteristics which define a sacred space and if so, are they still valid today To discuss sacred spaces, Professor Robert Beckford is joined by Ben Quash (Professor of Christianity and the Arts at King's College London), Karsan Vaghani (a Hindu Chaplain at Cardiff University) and Jon Cannon (author of 'The Secret Language of Sacred Spaces'). Robert also interviews Simon Jenkins (author of 'England's Cathedrals' and 'England's Thousand Best Churches'). Producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Posted on 23 Apr 2018

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    Transgender

    For many years, transgender people have remained silent. But today they are affirming publicly that they have a rightful place in society and religious groups are now grappling with transgender issues. The Church of England General Synod recently debated a motion to draw up a prayer to welcome people who have transitioned from one sex to another. The House of Bishops turned it down. The Bible asserts that God made mankind in his own image; so what's the problem? Presumably he made people whose gender does not sit comfortably with the sex they were assigned at birth? But debate still rages within the church because the Bible also says that "male and female, God created them" which suggests that there should be no ambiguity when it comes to a person's gender. The issues are complex and they can multiply if a trans person is living a religious life within a religious community. What is the attitude of religious traditions towards transgender people? Are the problems more cultural than religious? Joining Ernie Rea are Kamalanandi, and Philippa Whittaker, A Buddhist and a Christian who have both transitioned. With them in discussion is the academic Dr Susannah Cornwall whose work concentrates on contextual theologies, particularly those relating to sex gender and sexuality. Ernie also talks to Indian transgender activist Vyjayanti Vasanta Mogli about the role that the Hijra play within the Hindu community in India. The Hijra are transgender people who are invited to bless new born babies and married couples but they find themselves outcast within Indian society despite a change in the law in 2014 which recognises their right to be who they are. Producer: Helen Lee Series producer: Amanda Hancox.

  • Posted on 16 Apr 2018

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