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Smashing the Idols

Writer Andrew Brown explores the controversial cultural and theological legacy of Calvinism. Perhaps nobody has ever looked at death, hell, human nature and God quite so uncompromisingly as the lawyer born in Noyon in 1509, who gave his name to one of the fiercest and most influential forms of Protestantism.

John Calvin believed in a world where God controlled all, and who went to heaven and who went to hell was predestined - Christ died for only a select few. Nothing except the Bible was tolerated in church which led to Calvinism's terrible reputation as a destroyer of art.

It is argued that Calvinism influenced many aspects of our modern society - science, economics, philosophy, democracy - but such claims are considered by historians to be overblown. They instead highlight the strangely paradoxical qualities of a faith which fuelled both the religious wars of the 17th century and the enlightenment which followed.

Moving from Geneva to Scotland, and talking to historians Diarmaid MacCulloch and Bill Naphy, as well as novelists Marilynne Robinson and James Robertson, Andrew explores the sometimes unexpected legacies of this extraordinarily polarising system of belief. With works by Calvin read by John Sessions and music by Cappella Nova.

Release date:

45 minutes

Last on

Sun 30 Aug 2009 21:45



Seven images inspired by the grid

World Music collector, Sir David Attenborough

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The field recordings Attenborough of music performances around the world.

Attenborough's field recordings

Attenborough's field recordings

The unlikely music performances captured while searching for exotic animals to film.