The BBC’s Thought for the Day: will secularists get their foot in the door?

The BBC’s Radio 4 morning broadcast includes a daily slot entitled Thought for the Day, in which religious figures are allowed to pontificate away to their hearts’ content for a few minutes.  In classic religious style, they generally begin with reference to some current news story or topic, then gradually veer off to indulge themselves in a bit of religious posturing.

As a habitually early riser, I catch this slot each morning as part of Radio 4’s flagship news show, Today.  You can see the usual contents of the slot, and indeed listen to some at the Thought for the Day web page.  However, I advise reading the excellent Platitude of the Day website, which offers an atheist’s transcript of each Thought for the Day broadcast.

For quite a long time now, there have been rumblings that Thought for the Day is somewhat outdated, and indeed my view is that excluding a secular voice is rather discriminatory, and suggests that atheists and agnostics don’t have a worthwhile opinion on ethical issues (though I believe Richard Dawkins was given a brief slot immediately following Thought for the Day a few years ago).  Now, according the The Times Online (BBC ponders Thought for the Day: should secularists be allowed?).  So, should the “God slot” be preserved as it is, or should secularists be given a voice?

The three-minute section of the Today programme on Radio 4, which has been derided by one former editor as a “reservoir of pointlessness and boredom”, would be opened up to humanists and secularists under plans being considered by the BBC Trust, the corporation’s governing body.

Amusingly, Mark Damazer (Controller of Radio 4) refers to the issue as a “finely balanced argument”.  Of course the mere suggestion that the various religious groups might have to give way upsets the respective groups, used to getting preferential treatment:

A Church of England spokesman said: “We would strongly resist moves to add non-religious voices to one of the few protected spots in the schedule where religious views on issues of the day can be expressed openly. Thought for the Day is highly valued by people of all faiths and none.”

I suppose that’s true in a way – I value it as a regular comedy slot, fuelled by my reading of Platitude of the Day.  Hanne Stinson of the British Humanist Association, said:

“If it’s right to have a slot within the programme for people to have an ethical perspective on issues, then it should be open to all kinds of people.”

Quite.  But on the other hand, I’d quite miss the daily idiocy offered by a multitude of mutually imcompatible faiths – I wonder whether a rational speaker could really match the absurdity that’s usually served up as a “spiritual view”!

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