The Religion Report and the Archbishop’s unnecessary persecution complex

22 10 2008

Most of what Archbishop Phillip Wilson of the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference has to say in his statement about the axing of The Religion Report is sensible. He points out that according to the 2006 census, 70% of Australians identify themselves with a religion, which doesn’t imply that 70% of Australians are ululating fundies, but does suggest “in theory at least, seven in 10 people will have a nominal interest in seeing, hearing or reading about matters of religion.” He notes the following that The Religion Report appeared to have garnered among atheists and agnostics, judging by the online response to the axing of the programme. Religion is socially relevant, he argues, because it “calls for engagement with one’s neighbour, and in the Christian tradition from which I come, this has meant that for more than 2000 years, religion has been at the forefront of public discussion.”

I would add at this point that “engagement with one’s neighbour” hasn’t always taken on benign manifestations, as many an apostate, backslider or outgrouper who has lived to tell the tale can attest. Still, the Archbishop’s point stands. Religion is relevant to theists and non-theists alike, albeit (at least in some cases) for different reasons, and therefore it is newsworthy.

Therefore it merits the professional, journalistic treatment that Crittenden’s programme provided (well, most of the time). Read the rest of this entry »

They should have axed The Spirit of Things

16 10 2008

Stephen Crittenden is justifiably incensed at the axing of his Wednesday morning Religion Report, but in all fairness, religion had a fairly big slice of the cake on the Radio National schedule with four weekly programs (The Religion Report, The Ark, Encounter and The Spirit of Things). His suggestion that the axing of his program and the religious history program The Ark will spell “the death of religion at the ABC” is a touch overblown in my view; but it is disappointing that ABC management chose to discard the two religion-themed shows that at least endeavoured to be informative, relevant and educational. Encounter‘s usually not that bad either, but Ark presenter Rachael Kohn’s The Spririt of Things is a syrupy paean to belief in belief and religious pandering that has been dumbing down the Radio National brand for a long time.

Of course, the shows mentioned here aren’t the only ones to go, and former RN presenter Andrew Dodd gives his take on the programming reshuffle at (“The dumbing down of Radio National“).

The good news is that The Philosopher’s Zone—perhaps the best philosophy radio show/podcast available anywhere—has been retained. They would have had to pry it from my cold, dead hands.

The Internet Squadristi start young

20 01 2008

(Image source: Wall Street Journal)

Today’s episode of Radio National’s Street Stories (audio available here) deals with the issue of cyberbullying among Australian schoolgirls, featuring the perspectives of victims and perpetrators, their families and their teachers.

It’s particularly insidious because often tormentors can disguise or hide their identity – allowing them extra licence to wreak emotional havoc on their victim. (“We’re Watching You”)

At least schoolgirl cyberbullies have the (albeit poor) excuse of cognitive immaturity*.

*Cognitive maturity: “the disposition to be judicious in one’s decision-making” (Facione et al. 1995). The conservative pro-abstinence/anti-condom think-tank the Medical Institute offers a potentially-useful neurological account of cognitive maturity–notwithstanding the dubious conclusions drawn in the article in order to bolster the think-tank’s pro-chastity agenda.

Kohn-descending: The Spirit of Things on secularism

16 12 2007

It strikes me that the most strident reaction to the recent work of atheism’s “Big Four” (Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens) has come from so-called moderate or liberal theists. For example, Terry Eagleton produced a scathing critique of The God Delusion soon after its release, in the blog Stanley Fish writes for the New York Times he disparagingly refers to Harris, Dawkins and Hitchens as “The Three Atheists,” and earlier this year Archbishop Rowan Williams himself got stuck into Dawkins. Sean has already posted on Tom Frame’s attack on secularism in <i>The Australian</i>.

Closer to home, ABC Radio National’s Religion Report and Rachael Kohn of The Ark and The Spirit of Things have been quite hostile to atheism. Kohn demonstrates this admirably on a recent episode of The Spirit of Things, “Secular Alternative?,” which in spite of its title–yes, Rachael, “secular” and “atheist” have different meanings–turns out to be another vehicle for Kohn to bag (her strawman definition of) atheism, either directly or via those she interviews. Read the rest of this entry »


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