Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

"Creation is a huge and rather splendid accident."

Despite closing the Revelations series by interviewing five high-profile religious thinkers on their views, this is one of the few entries that doesn't brag about having been granted rare access to a hidden world!

The Anglican, the Roman Catholic, the Jew, the Muslim and the Hindu are all very peaceful, respectful, friendly and approachable. However given the show's opening stat about how a whopping one in five Britons believes there is no god, I was disappointed not to find atheism represented. If atheism is Britain's commonest faith, then the question "How do you know God doesn't exist?" would surely have been pertinent.

But then, this doesn't pan-out as being about the differences between faiths, but about how much in agreement the five theistic interviewees are. This is a doco not really about the above listed religions, but more about the larger set of religion itself.

Antony Thomas packs quite a lot into these 48 minutes, and doesn't shy away from asking the big tough questions, apparently arranging them into order so that they become progressively bigger and tougher.

At one point there's a montage of recent news stories – a burning effigy of a banker, victims of knife crime, and Baby P – to load the question "Can people of faith really lead us to a better world?"

Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: "What I think people of faith offer is a sense of accountability."

Good answer. In fact, as the programme progressed, although everyone gave interesting answers, I found that it was this Jewish leader whose responses I increasingly found to be the most illuminating. E.g.:

"Religion is one of the most powerful forces in human life, and all powerful forces can be used for good, or for ill and for harm, and I do believe that God right now is setting us the most serious challenge we have ever been set.

He has given us many faiths, but only one world in which to live together, and unless we as religious individuals can meet that challenge, no shift of perception is even going to be relevant.

We must somehow find a way of seeing the trace of God in the face of a stranger."

Narrator, over clip of aeroplane hitting the World Trade Centre: "And if we fail, are we to expect more and more of this? Nineteen men on a mission of mass-murder in the name of their faith, and in the certainty of their reward in the life to come.

And out of the smoke and dust, a remarkable image: the New York fire brigade chaplain being carried out of the wreckage – dead in a chair."

Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols: "He was this man, he'd gone in this building with the men to whom he was the priest, he was their chaplain, and he'd given his life alongside of them as they fought against this terrible atrocity, committed in the name of religion."

Narrator: "So hard to fathom. Muslim and Christian sacrificing their lives that same morning, some to kill, others to save, and both equally certain that God was on their side, and that has been the pattern of religious conflict throughout history."

I may be quoting him out of context here, but what the Chief Rabbi has to later say about the Bible seems relevant to this extremist aspect of faith too...

"I don't believe that you can have a religion without that sense of interpretation. Fundamentalism is the attempt to move from text to application without interpretation, and that is something Orthodox Judaism regards as heresy. Simply to treat the Bible literally is, the Rabbis say, a form of heresy."

As the film's anchor, Thomas' closing narration is full of positive things too.

"For me, only one thing is certain – our five religious thinkers are among the most engaging, intelligent, honest and compassionate men it has ever been my privilege to meet. Perhaps that was to be expected. The surprise though was to discover how much closer they are to each other than to many of those who claim to share their beliefs. Whether this coming-together is evidence of God's guiding hand, or something we might call the human spirit at its best, remains a matter of faith."

Still available to view until 19th September here.

Review of Revelations: How To Find God here.
Review of Revelations: Muslim School here.
Review of Revelations: Commando Chaplains here.
Review of Revelations: The Exhumer here.
Review of Revelations: Muslim and Looking for Love here.
Review of Revelations: Divorce Jewish Style here.
Review of Revelations: Talking to the Dead here.


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