Religion

Does the BBC have a pro-Christianity agenda?

Stop me if I wander into the realm of conspiracy theory here, but I’ve noticed of late a subtle pro-Christianity leaning in the BBC’s news coverage. Stories about Muslims regularly dominate the headlines, and yet Muslims are a very small minority in the UK, so perhaps this is just an attempt to strike a balance, or even placate the growing tide of anti-Islam sentiment in the country. In addition, former Prime Minister Tony Blair has come out of the closet as some sort of near-fundamentalist Catholic, and one has to speculate if the BBC is being influenced from on high (that’s Government, not Heaven).

Or maybe I’m totally off-base. I’m not sure. But this pro-religion story claiming a link between belief and happiness, for example, is simply not news. The BBC doesn’t generally cover science research which has nothing new to say, so I can’t figure out why they went with this. I follow the reader comments quite closely whenever there’s a story about religion, particularly Islam…(continues after the jump)

…and there’s always a smattering of “Britain is a Christian nation, let’s act like one!” rhetoric, but just as much non-Christian comment. Perhaps the BBC is just responding to the small but vocal active Christian minority, for example with their recent decision to commission a large-budget TV drama series of Bible stories (remember, folks, that this is paid for by the public).

And take this story about the claims made by the Bishop of Lichfield, who recently said that “devout worshippers of other prominent faiths in modern Britain has encouraged Christians to “dust down our own Christian faith”.”

What I find baffling is that the BBC chose to report on his comments as news. It’s not news. It’s waffle. A bishop is about as in touch with what the largely secular British population wants as my grandmother. My personal opinion (just as valid than that of the Bish) is that the country will defend Christianity if they think it is threatened, but that by large people don’t give a hoot about actual belief. Your average Brit just wants to maintain the status quo, and the status quo, for nearly everyone, doesn’t involve going to church, praying, or watching Bible stories on TV. And nearly every household in the country pays £139 ($280) a year to fund the BBC to invent news about Christianity where there isn’t actually any. Maybe it’s just one over-funded, overbloated, outdated organisation desperately supporting another. “Let’s stick together and we’ll both survive the decade!”

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11 Comments

  1. Perhaps you’re on to something…
    Although maybe it isn’t anything deliberate on the part of the BBC.
    Horizon is very good sometimes, though. But it doesn’t seem to be on very often and I rarely notice anything else in the schedule that has much to do with anything science-based.
    There was a program on about Stephen Hawking a couple of months ago, which was very good. But that was Channel 4…
    Hmmm, interesting.

  2. I am inclined to agree that there is a bias toward the established religions.

    Despite a poll from the BBC itself which found that only 31% of the population thinks theirs is ‘the one true god’, and 25% are effectively non-believers, the BBC has so far resisted attempts to get Radio 4’s ‘Thought For The Day’ slot opened to secular contributors. There is currently a website, ThoughtForTheWorld, which is offering samples of secular wisdom asan alternative.

  3. I’ve been thinking along the same lines, although initially I just put it down to Easter programming. Of course, whenever some religious bigwig opens his mouth the BBC regard as Important News whatever claptrap emerges – and let’s face it, it is always claptrap. The recent hoo-ha concerning Dr. Rowan Atkinson – er, Williams is a case in point.

    It’s interesting to look at the views of the general public in the Have Your Say pages whenever these “news” stories break – there’s almost always a strong anti-religion bias. The top recommended comment on Blair’s recent outburst about mixing faith with politics was a corker: “I see Tony Blair and Osama Bin Laden have found some common ground”!

  4. Religion has an agenda that they have superior right to comment on ‘moral’ issues.

    The media in general (as well as a majority of the public) has bought into the idea that if you dispute this you are being offensive.

    You just have to speak out about this being wrong.

    Email the media outlet responsible. Blogs are good for consciousness raising but direct contact is needed for specific issues.

  5. Nah, I think you are a little of base with this, the BBC is extremely balanced overall I would say, and whilst some institutional religious programming still kicks around out of tradition (like Thought for the Day) is genuinely quite balanced.

    Any bias you see now you can find an opposite example after the unashamed broadcast and defence of Jerry Springer the Opera* and Marcus Brigstockes rants on religion on the Now Show** and who else would fund Jonathan Millers brilliant a brief history of disbelief?***

    One of the ways the BBC can be seen to be so fair is the fact that every corner of society (left, right, rich, poor, religous or atheist) can feel their group is the persecuted group.

    That and I would argue that iPlayer makes the BBC the most forward thinking media giant in the world at the minute.

    * a good summary of which you can see here: http://stewartlee.co.uk/youtube/youtubedontgetmestarted.htm

    ** An example can be found here (sorry to site whore) http://skeptobot.blogspot.com/2008/02/marcus-brigstocke-on-religion.html

    *** Which can be seen here: http://video.google.co.uk/videosearch?q=A+brief+history+of+disbelief&sitesearch=

  6. It seems we have the usual problem of conflating a sense of spirituality with religion. Spirituality is a philosophical orientation that involves reflection and curiosity and a stance about what is believed to be true. A Religion is an institutionalised and ritualised expression of the philosophy, in which a usually uncritcial dogmatic stance is taken.

    Ignorance on both matters prevails in secular celebophile society. An informed view can be found in the writings of Huston Smith where he points out the commonalties across all ‘religions’ see – for e.g. Forgotten Truth: The Common Vision of the World’s ReligionsThis is good news for secular society too because it means that you can subscribe to a set of values without having to join a religious club, and where the badge and uniform.

  7. The British public funds a hell of a lot of religion. You’re funding an entire religion in the form of an established church. It is hard to defend separation of church and state since there is none to defend…not even the pretense of any.

    The BBC has been accused by others of bending over backwards to avoid offending Muslim sensibilities.

    At one point, it was noted that while on the BBC web site, material on Christianity was qualified with “Christians believe” and other such statements, the sections on Islam were not qualified in a similar manner and included the “(pbuh)” honorific after each mention of Muhammed’s name. I believe this has since been changed.

  8. I think we need to think about Britain as a country first.
    There is no separation of church and state there. To the contrary, they intimately intertwined. Elizabeth II is the head of the Church of England and the church is the religion of the realm.
    It does not seem extraordinary to me that the BBC would cover the comments of one of the church’s bishops. Unlike the vast acreage here in the U.S., England is much smaller and has fewer people in that at that level of church hierarchy, making his comments bit more significant than we here in the states might suppose.
    Those comments weren’t that religious other than noting that with during the present economic troubles, people are coming back to church – which is more of an observation than anything and not surprising in the least.
    Nor is the proposed bible television series and necessarily a sharp indicator of a religious bias of the BBC. Heck, the National Geographic channel regularly has shows on biblical topics. It gets good ratings.
    Lastly, the correlation between participating in an organized and religion was recently discussed by Michael Shermer and Swoopy during a Skepticality podcast, #69 from January if memory serves. The thought is that the sense of belonging to a community, having regular social contact and the support system that goes along with it does lend to a better sense of well-being. So the happiness derived most likely has to do with the social aspects, not the religious ones.
    In short, it doesn’t seem alarming to me.
    It’s all relative.

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