Two fascinating programs on TV last night regarding religion (Video added)... (Main Forum)
In an unplanned sort of way we have just finished watching to fascinating programs on television offering two valuable insights into religion and the challenges it faces today.
China: True Believers...
The first one was Foreign Correspondent on the ABC which featured a journey exploring the rise again of religion in modern China. Given the way the ABC's China correspondent, Stephen McDonell, is shadowed by security agents on almost any report he files from China I wonder how the guy is still able to operate in the country. This program was exploring the underground churches in China and he and his crew appeared to be subjected to more surveillance than in any previous report I've seen.
Two things struck me about the program.
(i) Was the "big brother State" and the surveillance and this notion of the "thought police". The State trying to control what people believe and think. This is what George Orwell was exploring so long ago in his novels "Animal Farm" and "1984". But it's also the complaint many of us have today of behaviours in the Catholic Church — either the "temple- or thought-police" at the lay level of the institution trying to force what people must, or have to, believe in order to be a member of this "club" called the Catholic Church; or at the politburu-Curial level where they have been trying to constrict what bishops or priests are allowed to think or teach or even talk about.
(ii) Was the weird beliefs of an obviously sincere man who was interviewed and who headed one of the underground churches. He had been imprisoned for something like 14 years and forced to work in coal mine because of this religious beliefs. Today he is free and runs a large underground church in Beijing. He spoke English very well in the interview as well. But, his beliefs! No wonder the State security services are worried about him. All this apocaplyptic bullshit that we hear from so many other religious nutters and weirdos anywhere else in the world about the end of the world and the imminent return of Jesus. But then I got thinking: is Catholicism any different? Or don't we find a huge range of beliefs across Catholicism from the plain weird and irrational through to the very rational?
I recommend the program as useful general knowledge and as thought-provoking concerning the issues I've raised above. I'm sure it will be available on iView in due course or you can watch it now on the program website link below. It's a short program only running for 25 or 30 minutes.
The Story of Science : Who Are We?
Perhaps even more interesting was the last episode of the BBC documentary series on SBS, The Story of Science, presented by Michael Mosley. I mentioned last week's program and its relevance for any person also interested in religion or theology but this episode we have just watched I thought had even more relevance. I think it give great insight into why so many people have simply parted way with institutionalised religion right across the educated world. The language these people like Benedict, George Pell and the sort who have just put the boots into a guy like Bill Morris use is simply no longer anywhere remotely on the same page as revealed in the sort timeline of development in ideas, and our understanding of the human person, as has been explored in this series by Michael Mosley.
Here's the overview from the SBS website:
Who Are We? — In the final episode, we now know that the brain is one of the wonders of the universe, and yet until the 17th century it was barely studied. The twin sciences of brain anatomy and psychology have offered different visions of who we are. Now these sciences are coming together and in the process have revealed some surprising and uncomfortable truths about what really shapes our thoughts, feelings and desires.
You can watch the program online at:
I've noticed the series is also available on YouTube and I'll upload it immediately to the Catholica Video Channel. And now here is Episode 6:
An overview comment on both programs...
What fascinates me in some kind of overview of both programs is this: in a sense the kind of religion or Catholicism that Benedict and those who presently control the institutional agenda offers us is about as credible and believable as the beliefs of the gentleman interviewed in China who has convinced a lot of people that the world is about to end and Jesus will be make his return in the next couple of years. Ultimately it is irrational and just a whole cobbled together set of random beliefs in much the same way that different football codes have different sets of beliefs or rules as to how people ought play the game of football. The reality in football (albeit some might passionately disagree with this) is that there is nothing inherently superior to one football codes set of rules than any other codes set of rules. Religion seems to be something similar and in the end is reduced down to the sort of emotional competitions one often hears where some people proclaim Australian Rules is infinitely superior to NRL or Soccer or Gridiron and others are equally passionate for the other codes. Religion, in this view is not ultimately about "ultimate truth" it comes down to some "contest of the passions and the emotions".
Maybe I'm dumb or a terribly slow learner but I always believed that Catholicism also made some claim to the pursuit of ultimate or Divine truth. I'm beginning to seriously question that today. In contrast to what passes for modern Catholicism — and putting the boots into a man like Bill Morris and the views he represents of a large proportion of the thinking population — I think Michael Mosley's program is exploring the works of those in the mainstream of society today who are seriously interested in the pursuit of ultimate truth: who we are? what makes us tick? what makes us think? how do we reason and make sense of our world, and our existence? Again I highly recommend this series by Michael Mosley not only for its value in understanding science but I think it a massively valuable program in giving insight into why religion is becoming so irrelevant to so many, particularly amongst the young and better educated, right across the Western world.
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