Why 'Secular' Voices should be heard on BBC Radio 4's "Thought for the Day"

Radio 4 are thinking of allowing non-religious speakers to do slots on "Thought for the Day" (read about it here).

The Evangelical Alliance and other religious bodies are not over-happy. However, I think that there are good reasons for allowing 'non-religious' people to offer their thoughts for the day.

First off, many Christians have long-argued that there is no such thing as religious neutrality. So-called 'non-religious' people are only non-religious in the sense that they do not belong to a religious body with historic roots. But they are very religious in the sense that they affirm various metaphysical beliefs (even if only at a presuppositional level) with implications for life which are deeply religious. The belief that there is no God is a religious belief. The belief that we don't know whether there is a God but it does not much matter is another. The belief that we don't know whether there is a God but it is a shame because it does matter is a religious belief. The belief that the concept of God is unhelpful and we need some other vision of 'ultimate relaity' is a religious belief. Everyone is religious in this sense. Secular people are just as religious as Christians, Buddhists and Hindus.
It has always seemed to me odd to put secular humanists in one box (non-religious) and Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. in another box (religious). There are many ways of cutting up the cake here and this religious people/secular people one has a limited value.

Second, "Thought for the Day" is not currently a slot for offering Christian perspectives. It is a slot for 'religious perspectives'. So you will hear Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Sikhs, etc.. From a Christian perspective "Thought for the Day" is already offering insights that are coming from worldview perspectives that are fundamentally flawed in various ways. But we are OK with that because we live in a plural society in which people should be allowed freedom of speech. But if, as I believe, secular perspectives are also religious then why should we object to them being able to offer a blessed thought for the day? Sure, non-God-centred worldviews may be false in some fundamental ways (and I include Buddhism here along with secular humanism) but so too are many other religious worldviews and we don't mind them on this sacred Radio 4 slot.

Third, Christians have always acknowledged that there is real and inspiring truth to be learned from those who have mistaken worldviews. In fact, the writers of the Bible are quite happy to draw on insights from pagan cultures and reframe them within a monotheistic worldview. OT writers did it. NT writers did it. And the early Christian fathers drew discerninglyfrom pagan philosophy. So I know that I have a lot to learn from secular humanists and I don't mind them offering their thought for the day alongside everyone else.

In fact, I think such a change could mark a minor breakthrough. Secular humanists have always wanted to position themselves as non-religious. But by pushing for inclusion on the religious slot on Radio 4 they may inadvertly play a little role in helping people to see that we are all ultimately religious and that there is no neutrality in one's position viz-a-viz God-in-Christ.


Jonathan said…
Haven't non-religious people being doing it for ages?!!
Anonymous said…
Like Ann Atkins you mean?
Robin Parry said…
Jonathan - what does you mean by 'it'?
Anonymous - what is like Ann Atkins?


Anonymous said…
(I've got "mocken" as the word verification here, but I'll try not to mock)

I think Jonathan meant "doing thot for the week" -- non?

By "like" I meant that Ann Atkins is an example of a non-religious person. I chose her name as I suspected that, for Jonathan, she's the only true Christian among them.

For the removal of any doubt, by "them" I mean those presenting "Thot for the Day"!

Hope this helps.
Robin Parry said…

OK. Here is what I think is being said.

Jonathan is saying that there are various people on TFTD whose religion he disapproves of. So he (wrongly) refers to them as 'non-religious'.

Anonymous, being slightly annoyed by Jonathan's comment, then decides to play him at the same game and picks on an evangelical presenter on TFTD playfully suggesting that she may be one of the non-religious people Jonathan identified (knowing full well that Jonathan probably refers to the more liberal presenters).

OK though not really addressing the issue in my post. I guess people are free to go off at a tangent if they wish.
Jason Clark said…
Well argued and I'm with you on this Robin. And admission that secularism is a religious disposition would make for a nice change.

I do wonder if it could present thoughts for the day without attacking religious beliefs and trying to locate itself within it's mythical 'neutral' space.

You should start a petition online for secularists to be included, I'd sign it. Let's get 100,000 Christians to say 'we want secularists on thought for the day' :-)
Nick Page said…
Secularists on Thought For The Day? they'll be starting their own Children's Summer Camp next.

Oh, hang on...

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