2019 looks set to be a huge year for superhero movies with eleven films due for release. From X-Men: Dark Phoenix to Captain Marvel, Marvel studios' first movie led by a female; the superhero movie craze looks set to continue long into the future. Yet the idea of heroes has religious and cultural roots that go way back. The Epic of Gilgamesh written in 2100 BC is thought to be the oldest hero story. “Hero cults” were one of the most distinctive features of ancient Greek religion. In the ancient Greek epic poem The Illiad “Homeric Heroes” are seen as exemplars of moral and physical action. Perhaps then it is not surprising that our modern day superheroes have such deep, on-going appeal.
On this New Year’s eve edition of Beyond Belief, Ernie Rea discusses how the idea of heroes has developed, why those characters often have supernatural as well as superhuman dimensions and what religious and cultural meaning underlines their enduring appeal. He is joined by Angie Hobbs, Professor of the Public Understanding of Philosophy at Sheffield University, Natalie Haynes, Classicist and Comedian and Ajinbayo "Siku" Akinsiku, British/Nigerian Artist and Writer and creator of the Manga Bible.
Angels are central to the Christmas story. The angel Gabriel first told Mary of the birth of her Son, an angelic choir greeted his entry into the world and an angel warned wise men not to go near Herod. All the monotheistic sacred texts include descriptions and stories of angels. But belief in angels goes beyond religion, as research shows as many as one in three people in the UK believe in angels while one in ten people claim to have seen or heard an angel.
In this Christmas Eve edition of Beyond Belief, Ernie Rea discuss angels with Sally Vickers Author of Miss Garnet’s Angel, Rev Dr Arabella Milbank Robinson, Deacon and Theologian and Angel Expert and Rev Dr Stephen Burge, Lecturer at the Quranic Studies Unit at the Institute of Ismaeli Studies and author of “Angels in Islam.”
Associated since antiquity with nobility, luxury and power the colour purple is also deeply connected with mystery, magic and spiritual ideals. Originally created from the desiccated glands of sea snails, the process of making the dye was long, difficult and expensive and therefore purple was seen as exclusive, elitist and other worldly.
Joining Ernie Rea in this edition of Beyond Belief to discuss the colour purple and how it is used in society and religion, are the Right Reverend Dr Helen-Ann Hartley, Bishop of Ripon; the artist and colour expert Nicola Green and British Classicist and art historian Professor Robin Cormac.
Producer: Catherine Earlam
Series Producer: Amanda Hancox
The story of Asia Bibi - the Christian woman who spent eight years on death row in Pakistan after allegedly insulting the Prophet Mohammed before being recently acquitted - has thrown the issue of blasphemy into public debate once more. While the UK abolished it's blasphemy law a decade ago, 43 countries still allow a prison term for blasphemy and it continues to be punishable by death in six countries: Afghanistan, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Somalia.
In this edition of Beyond Belief, Ernie Rea and guests dig beneath the headlines to examine the religious roots and meaning of blasphemy and explore why it remains so serious an offence in so many countries.
The Far Right and Christianity
For many years Europe has been seen as increasingly secular but earlier this year Bavaria passed a law requiring public buildings to display a “clearly visible” crucifix near the entrance, the President of Hungary has vowed to preserve the country’s Christian culture and large crosses are seen in demonstrations by far right populist movements.
Professor Robert Beckford discusses why some far right populist movements in Europe are using Christian symbols and wanting to defend Christian culture with Tobias Cremer, a Phd Student at the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge; Timothy Peace, Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Fellow of the School of Social and Political sciences at the University of Glasgow and Jasjit Singh a Research Fellow in the School of Philosophy, Religion and the History of Science at the University of Leeds.
Producer: Amanda Hancox