Sunday, 16 August 2009

Channel 4: Does God exist?

Channel 4 broadcast a thought provoking exploration of issues in faith and religion in its programme “Does God Exist” in which leaders or spokespersons for the various faiths answered some of the challenging questions that arise from their belief in a divine entity and purpose behind the universe.
Rowan Williams spoke of faith being, not so much knowledge that God exists as a trusting in something greater than the self, Jonathon Sacks spoke of seeing God in others and Tariq Ramadan of faith as a relationship between , “ my heart, my eyes and my understanding.” Interestingly, it was the Roman Catholic Archbishop, Vincent Nicholls who spoke most conventionally and “doctrinally” of a God with our fate in his hands to be approached through the crucified saviour.
It was on the tension between religious faith and social issues that some of the most telling observations arose. Jonathon Sacks spoke movingly of the problem that, “when religion dies” the “covenantal relationships” of love and mutual responsibility in society sometimes die or are diminished. One of the most striking images to me was of the “atheist bus” with its slogan, “There probably isn’t a God, now relax and enjoy your life.” The way that this slogan was juxtaposed against shots of drunken youths in city centres and newsreel reporting that , “teenage pregnancy rates are at their highest ever”, made the viewer question to what extent a secular society really is “enjoying” life and indeed whether enjoyment is any substitute for a sense of awe, wonder, place, purpose and love.
The programme was nothing if not even handed; indictments of the effects of religious belief were in plentiful supply. One of the saddest moments was the interview with a couple in Kenya. The man, who was HIV positive, had been told by the Catholic health centre that he must not use condoms, even though this might put the life of his uninfected wife at risk. The commentator spoke of the dogma that ignores the reality of the human condition and an awareness of the tendency of religious belief to bolster injustice or lead directly to cruelty and atrocity was uncomfortably present in much of the programme. The documentary concluded by asking whether the benefits of religion are attributable to, “God’s guiding hand or the human spirit at its best?”
Overall, the experience of watching “Does God exist?” led me to reflect that man without God loses the fullness of his humanity, but that, at the same time, in man’s hands, God is a dangerous thing.


  1. Very well written piece! I think the last sentence sums it up perfectly. Faith is a beautiful thing, but religion can be deadly in the wrong hands! Finding the delicate balance between atheism and fundamentalism is what we should all strive for I think.

  2. Thanks Cleo and thanks for commenting AND joining. I found your site via your Changing Attitude page comment and will add it to my blogs. If I can summon up the energy, I might blog on the equality legislation as I am quite exercised about the freedom of speech and conscience issues at the moment.

  3. Do, I would be very interested to read it! Freedom of speech and conscience are so important. But need to be responsibly exercised, of course! ;)

  4. Good to meet you in cyberspace, Sue, and put a face to the comments. Thank you for calling in at Re vis.e Re form and I am glad to discover that you blog too. I will keep up with you and add you to my blogroll.

    Every blessing

  5. Thanks Rachel and thanks for commenting and joining - I must do more of this looking for blogs covering similar issues.


  6. A good blog. I shall join your fan club. We normal people must unite against the fundamentalists!

  7. Hi Ivan,

    Thank you for commenting. I certainly do think we should speak up against injustice though I think you'll find I often have a fairly gentle approach:)