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[en]Humphrys in Search of God - BBC
« Online: 27 de Setembro de 2008, 19:58:29 »
John Humphrys is a famous Welsh Radio and TV presenter, journalist and author at BBC and is an agnostic. In 2006 he promoted a series of interviews at BBC Radio 4 with religious leaders entitled "Humphrys in search of God" challenging religious leaders to convince him of God's existence. Check BBC's synopsis:

Citação de: BBC Radio 4
Humphrys in Search of God

John Humphrys as you've never heard him before - talking with religious leaders about his unfulfilled desire to believe in God.

How is faith possible in a world of suffering, much of it arguably caused by religion or religious extremism and to which God seems to turn a blind eye? Is there a place for religion in an age dominated by science?

In this series, voted Best New Programme in the 2006 VLV Awards for Excellence in Broadcasting, Humphrys' guests are the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams; Professor Tariq Ramadan, Muslim academic and author; and Sir Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi.

The audio files are available at their website: Humphrys in search of God
I haven't listened yet, but I'll do it pretty soon and post my comments. I invite you to enjoy too  :ok:

EDIT: By the way, BBC's website has a full page about atheism, maybe there are some more intersting broadcasts available:
« Última modificação: 27 de Setembro de 2008, 20:01:01 por uiliníli »

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Re: [en]Humphrys in Search of God - BBC
« Resposta #1 Online: 27 de Setembro de 2008, 20:19:49 »
Oh, God, it was better than I imagined: there are transcriptions of the debates! Here's the first one:

Humphrys in Search of God
Dr Rowan Williams - broadcast interview
31 October 2006

John Humphrys: Radio 4 interviewers don't have to observe many rules, but we are required to be impartial, not to express our own convictions. Well I'm breaking that rule for these interviews with leaders of the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths. Indeed that's the point of them, I personally am involved. I'm inviting them one at a time to convert me, to persuade me if you like that God does in fact exist. I believed that once, but for nearly fifty years I've been a journalist and I've seen perhaps too much suffering, too many children dying, too much wanton savagery to continue to believe it. A God of mercy, any God, seems out of the question. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams is my first interviewee. If anyone should be able to convince me, surely it should be he. First though I want to know if he believes there is a God or knows there is a God.

Rowan Williams: I don't know that there is God or a God in the simple sense that I can tick that off as an item I'm familiar with. Believing is a matter of being committed to the reality of God. The knowledge that comes, that grows if you like through a relationship. I believe I commit myself, I accept what God gives me, I try to accept what God gives me. Grow in that relationship and you grow in a kind of certainty or anchorage in the belief. Knowledge well yes of a certain kind yes, but not acquaintance with a particular fact or a particular state of affairs, it's the knowledge that comes from relation and takes time.

John Humphrys: But what do you say then to somebody like me, cos I've given it time if it's a matter of choice or a matter of giving is it happens. Um, I'm 63, I believed I had an unquestioning belief as a child, as children tend to do. I was brought up to believe and I was christened, I was confirmed, I remember that's one of the things one had to do, writing my own prayer book out, I prayed and I had an unquestioning belief. And over the years it was chipped away and now there's a gap where it previously existed. So I've given it time, and I think about it a great deal and have continued to think about it. Why has it not happened to me?

Rowan Williams: Well I'm not going to offer you a definitive answer to that but perhaps I could answer.

John Humphrys: I wish you would.

Rowan Williams: If I could, but I would like to ask what it was that chipped away, and what it was that was chipped away at. What did you think God was?

John Humphrys: Well I suppose originally I thought he was the old man with a beard, of course we all do. And eventually I suppose I thought God was a supreme being, the creator, supreme moral conscience, I toyed with conscience for a great deal of time and all the rest of it. And I suppose in the end what chipped away at it for me, what finally destroyed it for me indeed was the presence of so much suffering. It's the classic thing - this is hardly original, I'm very conscious of that, it's very clichéd, but none the less very real. And I could not any longer accept and we had a conversation about it, you and I, on the Today Programme, Beslan when Beslan happened. Although I'd seen lots of other things as bad… How do you make comparisons between these awful things? But none the less that was I suppose, if there were a final straw, that was probably it.

Rowan Williams: And you're obviously not very impressed by the free will defence here?

John Humphrys: I don't understand the free will defence. Heavens you're interviewing me now, what a nice, what a nice change, what a... there's a conversion. I'm not impressed by the free will, um, position no. Free will is fine for mature, reasonably intelligent or at least conscious adults, mature adults. Children have no free will, the murderer has the will, the victim doesn't.

Rowan Williams: But isn't that the nature of the case, the free will of one person, of you or of me, affects others whatever we do. And I can't quite see how a universe could be constructed in which some people's free will was if you like guaranteed to be aborted at certain points, so that it wouldn't damage others. When people talk about free will in relation to moral evil, I think what they're saying is something like this. God has made a universe in which conscious people emerge, people with decisions to make, with thoughts that can form their decisions. And because we don't live as isolated units, in little bubbles around the place, my thought my action impinges on yours, we're interconnected, our freedom affects others. Now what would it be like if we said, okay, God makes that sort of world but there is some sort of cut off point where the effect that my freedom has on other people is guaranteed not to make their life too difficult. What's the cut off point? Now that's where I think there's a rather stark choice. I think either you say that's the kind of world it is and go on reflecting in the light of God about it, try to make sense of it.

John Humphrys: Which is what you do.

Rowan Williams: Which is what I do. Or, you know, what do you say, well you know the whole notion of a God making a world with freedom in it just doesn't wash.

John Humphrys: Ah, except that that's not quite what I'm saying. You've used the word love; God is 'a God of love' and 'a merciful God'. How do you reconcile a God of love and a God of mercy with what we see happening? How do you say to the mother whose child is dying of cancer that God is a God of love? Where is the love of God here?

Rowan Williams: In a way it's the same kind of question that arises, is there a point at which you know God has to intervene to clear his character? And how bad does it have to be? A child with cancer, an innocent in those circumstances, suffers and suffers appallingly because certain causes, certain processes have kicked in, we don't quite know why.

John Humphrys: But God created them.

Rowan Williams: God created the system in which they occur, just as God creates the system in which human freedom occurs.

John Humphrys: Indeed, but he created everything, according to your basis.

Rowan Williams: That's right, that's right. Which doesn't mean that you know every single thing that happened, God says oh, I'll make life difficult for them, I'll step in there. That's the system within which these things arise.

John Humphrys: Why? What was God getting at when he created this world in the certain knowledge, because God knows everything, in the certain knowledge that there would be enormous, intolerable, literally intolerable because many people go mad or kill themselves as a result of these awful things. I know of a family whose child has just died; they are now, their lives have been destroyed, they will never recover their life, ever, ever. Why did God create that world?

Rowan Williams: My faith tells me, and it's very hard to believe in these circumstances, but it tells me - and I trust this - that the world, yes, is such that suffering arises in these unspeakable ways. It also tells me that what God can do with those circumstances and those persons is not exhausted by the world, there's more.

John Humphrys: Sorry, more what?

Rowan Williams: God has more to give. God has more to do with the mother, the child, whatever the circumstances are. God has an eternity in which to heal or to lead forward the people involved in those circumstances. I don't mean make it up to them, but I mean that there's a future.

John Humphrys: But the child is dead, the parents' lives have been destroyed.

Rowan Williams: Humanly speaking that's the end of the story and that's the nightmare. Faith says that's not the end of the story.

John Humphrys: So we'll go to heaven.

Rowan Williams: God has eternity in which to go on working with those persons.

John Humphrys: So the best you can offer to the person whose child has died from cancer, the best you can offer those parents is - bear up, there's a reason. Forgive me for the clichéd language, but your reward will be in heaven.

Rowan Williams: No.

John Humphrys: Is that it?

Rowan Williams: No, that's not what I want to offer at all, because the conversation I'd have in those circumstances isn't the kind of conversation I'd have here. For one thing I think I'd need to say if someone says "where's God in that situation?", it would have to be answered partly in terms of - where are the people who should be alongside those who are suffering, offering what love and healing they can? Whether in the name of God or not, the act of God is there as well. I'm not saying there's a purpose in the sense that God has said, oh yes, for that goal, for that end I will devise this disaster, or even that there's a reward in heaven. I'd say there's hope.

John Humphrys: Hope of what?

Rowan Williams: Hope of healing.

John Humphrys: When?

Rowan Williams: In God's perspective, in God's time, maybe within this world and maybe not. And part of the difficulty of living with faith is the knowledge which you've underlined so powerfully, that for some people in our time frame in this world there is not that kind of healing. It's not there. And that's not easy to face or to live with.

John Humphrys: But you can live with it?

Rowan Williams: Just… just.

John Humphrys: Let me be clear then. Is God or is he not an interventionist? Does he look at things that are happening and say Enough already, or does he not? Cos in the Bible that is what he did, in if we're to believe our Old and New Testaments. God intervened, regular as clockwork.

Rowan Williams: What all that presupposes is, God is in one bit of the room and there's if you like chaos in the other end of the room. God looks at his watch and decides at what point he's got to step in to sort it out. At the same time I think although the Bible uses such language, talks about miracle, there's already in the Bible, in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, a level of puzzlement about that. People are already asking "well if he does it there why doesn't he do it there?" And Jesus goes to his home town and he doesn't heal anybody, why not?

John Humphrys: Picks the odd person here and there.

Rowan Williams: Picks the odd person here and there. And I think the only way of making full sense of this is to say one thing, and going back to the basic questions, God isn't a person alongside other persons, a reality alongside other realities. There's someone on the other side of the room watching. God is the agency that's at work in everything and has set up the world in such a way that not only is evil possible, but moments are also possible where something breaks through of healing, of miracle.. Why it breaks through here rather than there, we don't know the causes that make that possible.

John Humphrys: Something else we have to take on trust.

Rowan Williams: On faith, on faith. What I'm trying to outline, and I know it's not a simple thought, is that God set up the universe in such a way that when certain causes come together, certain circumstances come together, more is possible than those immediately involved imagine, as if there's something breaks through. Not because God decides that there and not there it'll happen, but because God has set up the conditions in which in this situation rather than that it happens. As I've sometimes put it, the membrane is thinner, his action is nearer the surface. And that may be because of human prayer, because of human holiness, something more comes through than you might otherwise expect.

John Humphrys: Let me put to you what John Fowles wrote, you'll be familiar with the quote I'm sure. ‘Freedom of will is the highest human good and it is impossible to have both that freedom and an intervening deity’. Isn't that the reality? It is either/or?

Rowan Williams: No it's not because if our freedom is the highest good, and if that freedom is - as the Bible says - the image of God in us, then the full exercise of our freedom in in holiness, in prayer, can allow something of God's action to come in with us. Not overriding our freedom but, if you like, working through it.

John Humphrys: But if we accept freedom of will, why do we pray? Why do you pray if you know that in the end God is not going to intervene, unless through a happy combination of circumstances, and that very rarely indeed. They prayed in Auschwitz.

Rowan Williams: They prayed in Auschwitz, and they prayed I imagine for two reasons. One is God is always to be praised, and the extraordinary thing is that they prayed in Auschwitz. That people felt that God's name was to be honoured even there.

John Humphrys: Or they were in total despair and they had no where else to go, that's the other explanation.

Rowan Williams: And I think there's something in both of them. But I don't think it's just about total despair and having nowhere else to go, they knew they were doomed, I think people who prayed in Auschwitz. I read about those especially, you know Hasidic Orthodox Jews, going into the chambers praising God. Now whatever that's about it's not easy solutions, it's not rewards and success, but they prayed because they had to do it, God's name had to be honoured. Now, that's one reason, the other reason that I think I pray is so that in my own attempt to be a loving focus on this person, this problem, I may somehow make a channel for God's action to come into the situation. To what degree and with what effect I won't know, but I've got to do it because I believe that's one of the factors that might make a difference.

John Humphrys: Lets get back to my search, which is what this programme's supposed to be about. I suppose. I can say to you, will say to you, I want to believe. I have opened my heart, if you like, I've gone down on my knees night after night and I have tried talking to God, and I have failed. Why can't I say, but hang on a minute, you have faith, lucky chap, I want it, and I want it perhaps just as sincerely as you do, but I am denied it.

Rowan Williams: What do you want to believe?

John Humphrys: I want to believe, I want to believe in the sort of vague God, if you'll forgive me, that you do.

Rowan Williams: Believe in, why?

John Humphrys: Because you clearly get great satisfaction from it, and because I want to make sense of the world - because I cannot understand why we're doing what we're doing to each other, because there seem to be many answers out there. Now, bizarrely, those people who profess faith don't seem to worry about being able to find the answers. You see the number of times you've said to me, actually I don't know, but that's what I believe. I'd like to be able to do that. That sounds more cynical than it's meant to be.

Rowan Williams: No, no, I hear you. I could say the basic question, the challenge if you like to you is, can you believe that you, John Humphrys, are the object of an unconditional eternal love which values you in such a way that your contribution to the world is uniquely precious to the one who made it.

John Humphrys: No, I can't, because I don't believe that there is one who made it, so I'm stuck.

Rowan Williams: Does it help at all to give the time not just to talking to God but to the silent waiting on the truth which for some people is the beginning of things? I mean pure sitting and breathing in the presence of 'the question mark', because...

John Humphrys: Presence of what? You've got to remove the question mark.

Rowan Williams: Well I can remove it for you theoretically, I can't remove it for you personally. Thinking of people I've known who've found their way to faith, sometimes it's been in the context of that silence - and the question mark very very gradually, very slowly, disappears as something of love comes through.

John Humphrys: I've a six-year-old child. He asked me the other day whether Africa was bigger than England, and we had a little conversation about that. And I tried to explain the difference between continents and gave up - it was three o'clock in the morning, it wasn't an easy conversation, and ...

Rowan Williams: I know these conversations.

John Humphrys: ...and then I said but yes Africa is indeed bigger than England, and his next question was "why did God allow that to happen?" What do you say to a child who if you yourself do not believe? Apart from the blindingly obvious – that there are some people who believe in God, some people who don't believe in God, you will decide for yourself. You can't quite do that to a six year old, so what do you say?

Rowan Williams: Putting myself in that position, it's a very difficult question, actually. I think I might say maybe you should ask somebody who does believe in God, and see what it sounds like. Not, I think, entirely irrelevant, as belief in God appears to come more naturally to children than to adults. And you can take that in one of two ways, can't you? You can take it as saying belief in God is one of those things like belief in Santa Claus that every sensible person...

John Humphrys: Just what I was about to say.

Rowan Williams: Indeed. Or you can say there's something instinctive about belief in God which life educates out of some of us in ways that are not always positive or constructive. There's something about the instinctive response to the world that is religious, which it takes quite a lot of doing to squeeze out of people. Remembering that, you know, that the modern 20th century North Atlantic mindset is a bit of a minority, both in history and in contemporary terms. And we ought at times I think to pause and say well, is it so obvious that that's a set of responses and instincts that need to be squeezed out. Some would say, yes, I suppose because they'd say look at the results of not having it squeezed out. Look at barbarism and bigotry and religious violence - and yet it is I think quite difficult to write it all off in those terms. And although I wouldn't rest an argument of the existence of God on this, I would say it is something worth pondering, that as far back as you could trace a distinctive humanity, there's some sort of awareness of, or relation to, something more than just the pragmatic, the daily, the earthly. Just as in the life of most children, something of this seems to be going on.

John Humphrys: Given that you clearly believe that this is the truth, why do you, you know, try to convert others? You're trying to convert me, if convert is the right word, during the course of this conversation. But why don't you go after the Jews, go after the Muslims and say "come on you guys", because you don't do that, do you?

Rowan Williams: No - and I don't exactly do it with you either.

John Humphrys: No no, you didn't assault me in the street, that's perfectly true.

Rowan Williams: No, no, um, I'll think about it. No, when you're talking about the truth of the Christian faith with anyone, whether it's a a non-believer, whether it's a Muslim, a Buddhist or a Hindu or whatever, you don't I think simply begin by saying okay this is the truth, why don't you believe it, come on, you know, give me a quick answer, why don't you believe it?

John Humphrys: I’m suggesting you're saying to them...

Rowan Williams: No.

John Humphrys: "you must believe it".

Rowan Williams: I could only ever get to that point I think by a long process of trying to understand the language they were speaking, what made sense to them. Again it's what happened at the very beginning of the church's life. The church didn't simply blaze out into the Graeco-Roman world saying "here's the truth, you must believe it". They said "look this is what you say and that's very interesting as it echoes with what we say, and if we talk this through you might find that what you're saying is a much fuller expression of what we're saying". So, "here's the truth, you must believe"... that has never been exactly what Christians have said.

John Humphrys: Well, they did go around slaughtering in the most ghastly way an awful lot of people a few centuries ago because they didn't believe.

Rowan Williams: Who did?

John Humphrys: Christians.

Rowan Williams: Example.

John Humphrys: Crusaders.

Rowan Williams: It's a bad episode, it's a really bad episode because religion and geopolitics always mix in a rather explosive way as we've reason to believe, and to know.

John Humphrys: Which is why it mightn't be a bad idea to take religion out of...

Rowan Williams: Out of geopolitics?

John Humphrys: Out of geopolitics, out of everything else. If we had no religion, we would, if we had no religions at all, over the last many centuries, we'd have had much less strife in the world, wouldn't we?

Rowan Williams: I don't see how you can know that, you know, we'd have had strife of other kinds.

John Humphrys: We might.

Rowan Williams: Racial, class, tribal strife.

John Humphrys: Okay, but religions added to it.

Rowan Williams: Religion is a very convenient peg on which to hang some of those other tensions. It's a short cut to say religion has always made it worse. I think there are times when religion has made it less bad than it might otherwise have been.

John Humphrys: But we don't need to go back centuries to see it, do we? We can see it now. Extreme Islam is threatening, some would say, civilization as we understand it.

Rowan Williams: So is the answer to say religion is the problem, or to say bad religion is the problem, good religion is the solution.

John Humphrys: What if you had...

Rowan Williams: Which is certainly what a lot of Muslims would say.

John Humphrys: If you had no religion you would not have the problem for which you had to find a solution.

Rowan Williams: Aas I say, I think that's illusory. I think that you're simply then saying there would not be enough other reasons to give grounds for genocide or slaughter. It's another very familiar trope but the biggest slaughter of the 20th century...

John Humphrys: … Mao Tse Tung, Stalin.

Rowan Williams: Right, not religious. The biggest slaughters of the 20th century have not been religious. And to say that conflict and butchery are so dependant on religious passions….

John Humphrys: Oh no I didn't say that, I said it added to it, it added to an explosive mix and without it we'd be better off.

Rowan Williams: So would people have been better off in Stalin's Soviet Union without religion?

John Humphrys: Didn't do them much good, did it?

Rowan Williams: Would they have been better off?

John Humphrys: They still died.

Rowan Williams: They still died, but would they have been better off without it?

John Humphrys: It's vanishingly unlikely that I've said anything during this conversation that set you back on your heels and rocked your faith. Equally I suppose I'd have to say you've said nothing that...

Rowan Williams: Rocked you back on your own faith…

John Humphrys: Quite. The greatest puzzle to me remains why it is that faith - which is a gift, yes? - has not been given to people like me.

Rowan Williams: The gift of God is there for you and my longing would have to be that somehow or other that sense of being the object of God's loving concern comes alive. That's all I can pray for, all I can hope for. I don't believe that you're predestined as it were to unfaith - that God says it's not much use wasting my time on Humphrys. God, as the Bible says, stands at the door and knocks.

John Humphrys: What happens to me ultimately if I don't open that door?

Rowan Williams: If you don't open the door you're not fully in the company of God. And it's your choice.

John Humphrys: And after death?

Rowan Williams: What I'd love to think of course is that after death a possibly rather unusual experience might happen in which you'd say Good god, I got it all wrong.

John Humphrys: Too late then.

Rowan Williams: No.

John Humphrys: After death?

Rowan Williams: I think we continually have the choice of saying yes or no.

John Humphrys: So that death is not the end of us?

Rowan Williams: Death is not the end of us. I think that's rather axiomatic for a religious believer.

John Humphrys: Quite so.. but I said ‘us’ meaning 'us non- believers'.

Rowan Williams: Non-believers?

John Humphrys: Yes.

Rowan Williams: God alone can judge how much of your resistance to God is culpable, to do with selfishness, laziness of spirit, bloody-mindedness, and how much is just due to whatever it is that gets in the way. God alone can judge that. The willingness, the openness of the heart, even the wish to believe, God can work on that.

John Humphrys: Isn't the reality that ultimately you simply don't know, you can't by definition know?

Rowan Williams: About your eternal destiny or about God?

John Humphrys: About any of it.

Rowan Williams: I can be confident enough to say this is where my life must be, this is what I hope I want to take risks for. This is as clear, as certain, as it gets, and the relationship that I hope and trust I develop day by day in prayer deepens that confidence. I can't either by argument or by magic just transfer that history and that confidence into another person's mind. In other words I can't make someone else know that.

John Humphrys: But there's hope for me.

Rowan Williams: Oh yes, there's that. There's even love for you.

John Humphrys: Archbishop Rowan Williams many thanks.

© British Broadcasting Corporation
For more information on copyright please refer to:

BBC Religion & Ethics

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Re: [en]Humphrys in Search of God - BBC
« Resposta #2 Online: 06 de Outubro de 2008, 22:13:19 »
LOL. That Williams dude forgot something:

"Shut up and believe, infidel, or go to the hell. God loves you."
Latebra optima insania est.


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