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Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize

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William Crawley | 10:08 UK time, Friday, 9 October 2009

2009-10-09-NobelPeacePrize2.JPG.jpegUS president Barack Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples". The chair of the Nobel committee gave examples of diplomatic interventions by Barack Obama, before and after he became president. These include "reaching out to the Muslim world", and working for "a world free of Nuclear arms".

At the press conference this morning, the chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee defended their choice in the face of some considerable scepticism from the gathered media. He was asked if the prize was being awarded as an encouragement for future peacebuilding work by the new president. No, he said, the prize is being given for past diplomatic efforts by Barack Obama. One journalist asked if it was odd to give the peace prize to a politician who has increase dtroop deployment in Afghanistan, but the chair didn't want to be drawn into current political debates. There were lots of other questions, but they were all variations on the same question: What's he done to deserve this honour so soon into his presidency? (That same question is echoed in the comments on the BBC's Have Your Say page.)

The official statement explains the decision:

barack_obama.jpg"Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened."

Perhaps the key question to ask is this: Is the world a safer, more peaceful place because of this Laureate's actions? Obama supporters will inevitably say the world is a less dangerous place because of President Obama's rhetoric and policy decisions, though even some strong Obama supporters say the Prize has been awarded too early. Critics argue that Nobel Prizes should not be awarded for promissory notes and this at-best-premature award is a gaffe by the Nobel Committee which could devalue the moral currency of the award itself. Among those critics is Lech Walesa, who won the Prize in 1983: "It's too soon. He has no contribution so far. He is still at an early stage. He is only beginning to act," he said.

Political opponents of Barack Obama back in the US will say that the Nobel Committee has simply fallen in love with Obama the Myth; they have romantized his record. We can even expect some to claim that Barack Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for not being George W. Bush. (Update: See the developing Fox News coverage for the case against the award.)

President Obama was chosen from a nomination list of 205 names -- apparently a record number of candidates -- which also included French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

kissinger.jpgIt is, of course, possible that President Obama may refuse to accept the Prize. It would take a superhuman measure of humility to do so, but he wouldn't be the first laureate to say "No, thank you." The Vietnamese politician Lê Ðức Tho was awarded the peace prize in 1971, jointly with Henry Kissinger (pictured), and declined because, he said, there was still no peace in his country. And Jean-Paul Sartre famously refused to accept all official prizes and honours, so the Swedish Academy can't have been too surprised when he declined the 1964 Nobel prize for Literature.

Some news reports suggest that Obama is the first serving US president to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Not so. That record belongs to Theodore Roosevelt, who won in 1906 for his treaty-making efforts. Woodrow Wilson was also awarded the Prize in 1919 for his efforts to create the League of Nations. But since Obama's energy secretary is also a Nobel Laureate, his government may be the first to include two Nobel prize winners at the same time.

mahatma_gandhi_111808.jpgThe Nobel Peace Prize has often, by its very nature, proven controversial. Sometimes the choice of a Laureate is at issue (Henry Kissinger is still a controversial winner), and sometimes the Prize's reputation has suffered because an individual has been passed over. There is no better example of that than Mohandas Gandhi, now described by the Nobel Prize committee as "the strongest symbol of non-violence in the 20th century". He was nominated several times for the Peace Prize, but never won. The Nobel Foundation has sought to explain this obvious error in a lengthy article on its website. Nobel prizes are never awarded posthumously (unless the winner was named while alive, then died before the award ceremony), and Gandhi was assassinated two days before the closing date for nominations in January 1948. In announcing that no prize was to be awarded in 1948, the committee explained that there was "no suitable living candidate" -- a clear tribute to his memory.

Last year's laureate, Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, said he believed "the Nobel committee wanted to encourage Obama on the issues he has been discussing on the world stage. I see this as an important encouragement."

Again, some critics will reject this. If the prize is to be awarded as an encouragement to those with a peace wish list, let's give it to Miss World next year, they will say. But Miss World, of course, doesn't sit in the Oval Office and doesn't have the power to effect the kind of change in the world that a US president has.

If the point of the Nobel Peace Prize is to actually increase peace across the world, and if awarding it to a US president helped to strengthen that president's moral authority to deliver his wish list, wouldn't that more than meet Alfred Nobel's ambition for the Prize? Whatever analysis you bring to this year's shock announcement, it's clear that the Nobel Peace Committee moves in mysterious ways, its wonders to perform. But perhaps even they will be concerned that their announcement has been widely greeted by cries of "Huh?"

This year's Prize -- and prize-money totalling £900,000 -- will be presented to President Obama at a ceremony in Oslo City Hall on 10 December.


  • Comment number 1.

    On this form when is the Nobel Peace Prize going to be handed to Miss World? They always go on about world peace etc.

  • Comment number 2.

    If we are to have such an award, I think it should have gone to someone who had actually achieved something. Its early days for the president, but at some point, someone, somewhere has to say - no more war.

  • Comment number 3.


    She does - every year: "No more war!"

    The next crazy thing they'll go and do is attempt to ban the Miss World Pageant. What an upside-down world we live in!

  • Comment number 4.

    The best thing that President Obama can do is to decline this award. That would restore his credibility. The Nobel Committee, alas, mislaid their credibility long ago.

  • Comment number 5.

    Outside of the science awards the Nobel’s have lost all relevance to the world most people live in. The literature prize seems to be awarded to the most obscure authors; the peace prize has become devalued over the years and so on.

    The peace prize would mean more if most years wasn’t awarded. I’d also rather it went to those that really embody what it stands for such as Doctors Without Frontiers, disaster relief workers, those that run hospices, field hospitals and the like.

    Obama may one day deserve it, but at this stage it seems premature to judge what his record may be.

  • Comment number 6.

    Scientists typically wait 20+ years for their Nobel prizes (sometimes a little quicker, as in the case of the Genome Project). This is rather unseemly haste - I would prefer it to be granted on the basis of *results* rather than *hopes*.

  • Comment number 7.

    Joining the rogues gallery which includes Yassir Arafat and Jimmy Who, accepting the prize should be grounds for impeachment. Not only is the responsibility of the President of the United States not to bring world peace, living up to a reputation that insists on peace at any price is a direct conflict of interest with his oath of office. He will not be following in the tradition of our greatest Presidents Washingto of whom it was said "First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his contrymen" of President Lincoln and of President Franklin Roosevelt. Well at least he has the war in Afghanistan to his credit. Now all he has to do is win it by fighting as forcefully as his highly esteemed predecessors.

  • Comment number 8.

    Did I miss something, what has he done ?

  • Comment number 9.

    Jesus Hippo;

    You missed nothing. Same ole, same ole. It's OK, you can go back to sleep now.

  • Comment number 10.

    What did Gore do for his?

  • Comment number 11.

    Besides after 'West Wing' every Democratic President has to have a Nobel prize. Or Hollywood stops believing.

  • Comment number 12.


    isnt there any merit in awarding someone the nobel peace prize to encourage peace, to keep pressure on him to pursue peace?

    I got a gold star when I made the worst balsa wood boat in primary 6, but you should have seen the boat I did in primary 7. That gold star encouraged me!!

    When your two esteemed leaders in NI were awarded it a few years back, I was delighted, even although I had little respect for one of them. I just assumed that the award was made to highlight the awfulness of what had been going on for so long and to encourage the people of NI to keep on that difficult road to peace.

    I thought it was a timely and highly appropriate award and I think this one just might be to.

  • Comment number 13.


    "I got a gold star when I made the worst balsa wood boat in primary 6, but you should have seen the boat I did in primary 7. That gold star encouraged me!!"

    Good for you. I'll give you another gold star if you prove you can sail it yourself around the world.

  • Comment number 14.

    U Musicalarse

    Whatever floats your boat.

  • Comment number 15.


    How original.

  • Comment number 16.

    The Peace Prize is a great gift to Barack and the USA.

    He has honest aspirations, and a shot in the arm of international approval is exactly what is needed at this time.

    President O is indeed upon a rocky road filled with many obstacles.

    Not only has Barack to convince the world of its new co-operative stance, and win their approval and friendship. He also has to bring about a sea change of opinion within the United States.

    Well done to the Nobel awards team for this timely gesture.

  • Comment number 17.


    I thought I might get a hard time for posting #12. I didnt - well apart from Marky - glad you feel the same.

  • Comment number 18.

    "Not only has Barack to convince the world of its new co-operative stance, and win their approval and friendship. He also has to bring about a sea change of opinion within the United States."

    I think he'll have an easier with the former than the latter. Have you seen what passes for political debate in the US lately?

  • Comment number 19.

    Let's see, what is President Obama's record so far in the way of the peace department.

    He hasn't budged to get out of Iraq any faster than President Bush did.

    He said he would close GITMO by the end of the year, he probably won't and has not publically announced what he'll do with the inmates.

    He's eager to ramp up the war in Afghanistan and as determined as ever to win it.

    He's made no progress with North Korea. In response to his "peace overtures" they detonated another atom bomb and launched their longest range missile.

    He's made no progress with Iran. In fact Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has virtually sneered at him and told him he's made "an error of history." Ever defiant, the regime stole an election and crushed the protest against what amounted to a coup but President Obama remained silent. No progress against Iranian supported terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah either.

    No progress on human rights in China, no relief from the civil strife in the Western province where many Moslems live. Not even an apparent effort from the Obama administration to help.

    He's genuflected to Russia by abandoning a plan to install missiles in Poland and radar in the Czech republic that probably would not have worked to intercept Iranian ICBMs headed for the US anyway. In return he got nothing and was all but snubbed in his visit to Russia. The Czech and Polish governments who supported him were humiliated.

    He's made no progress in bringing peace to the Middle East, merely angered Israel over his comments about settlements at the UN.

    His party just introduced a bill in Congress that threatened to withold aid to Pakistan unless it is satisfied they are making satisfactory progress on fighting the Taleban. This has angered the Pakistanis.

    He made no progress in restoring the deposed President of Honduras.

    Relations with Cuba have not improved but relations with Venezuela continue to deteriorate as the US and President Chavez are on opposite sides in the civil war being waged by Communist rebels funded by drugs and armed by Venezuela in Columbia.

    The transfer of nuclear technology to India in violation of the NPT which it did not sign continues undiscussed.

    There's been some friction with Mexico over the war on drugs. President Obama has made no progress in curtailing American demand for Cocaine which is destabalizing the government of Mexico.

    He made a "happy trip" to Kenya but I don't think there's been much news about any progress towards peace in any of the many African countries where there is strive that President Obama's administration can lay claim to.

    On the bright side, we haven't gone to war with Canada...yet. But he's only been in office less than nine months, there's still plenty of time.

    All in all, I'd say given his record, I understand perfectly why the Nobel Committee awarded him the peace prize. There's so much opportunity for improvement.

  • Comment number 20.

    As an American that once cared, I now read that Obama was awarded the Peace Prize. He's been on Letterman 5 or so times. He deserves it. Why not? We have a war at home with gangs and drugs and corrupt cops. Soilders all around the world? What the heck? Let's roll with this media farce. It's so much better than the truth. Obama is a politician out of corrupt Chicago. Ever look at the corporate backers for his campaign? (Also peacemakers?) He's a showman. (See SNL for the most accurate representation.) I'm not a Democrat or a Republication. Our two party system is a joke. Why bring the troops home? For more violence and jobs in meth labs? This is just unbelievable. All the World's a Stage. He's a player. I'm hoping he finds the strength to get real.

  • Comment number 21.

    Yeh, lets go back to George Bush!!

  • Comment number 22.

    Is it any wonder I am cynical. I have little confidence in any of the 'pillars' of society. Politicians can make as much sense, or not, than the Peter Seller's character, Chance the gardener, in Being There. Most religious leaders make even less sense than Chance. Maybe Chance inspired the Emergent church. Maybe the key to power is to sound as vague as possible in the way that Chance did. Sorry guys, im just thinking 'aloud'.

  • Comment number 23.

    Amazed it took to #19 before someone mentioned George Bush.

    Obama got this award for being half black and for not being George Bush. It's that simple, the same way the Iranians freed the hostages about half an hour after Jimmy C left office. Obama was nominated back in February for God's sake.

    More and more if one was a fundamentalist evangelical you would be looking at the signs and saying "End Times" and we've found the anti-Christ.

  • Comment number 24.

    We have heard a lot about actions, not words. But words too can be actions if they change people’s attitudes. Arguably, the committee tried a sly move. Instead of incessant talk about ‘the war on terror’, the award will hopefully inspire Obama to continue with the peace rhetoric and match his words with his actions, in so far as he is able. Let's start 'the war on war'. I think RJB’s star story has merit, though I still incline to the view that the award was premature. Anyhow, the onus is now clearly on Obama to deliver cheese-eating ‘peace in our time’.

    MA2 has provided a long list of things that, from a peacenik’s viewpoint if not his, require improvement. Perhaps some of them will. Then MA2 can attack Obama again for his successful pacification, Europeanisation and surrender monkeyification of the gun tottin’ USA and especially his abject failure to go to war with Canada.

  • Comment number 25.

    Dont forget folks, think back to what Israel did to the Palestinians five minutes before Obama was elected. They certainly thought that their freedom to behave murderously would be somewhat curtailed once Bush was out of office.

    Obama is also in a no win situation. Whatever he achieves on the world stage, the right wing in the US are going to say what they are saying right now, - he's President of America, not the world!

    He promised change and so far, he's trying to achieve that, up against unbelievably vicious opposition.

    And three important words which MAII conveniently left out of his long list, which I think give a measure of Obama are - HEALTH CARE REFORM.

  • Comment number 26.

    I believe the award was intended as a not-all-that subtle poke in the eye to the Neo-cons, and a (probably meaningless) commendation to the American people for choosing someone sensible for president for a change. They might have underestimated the viciousness of party politics in the US in that case. But I'm still glad Obama won.

  • Comment number 27.

    This award shows just how much the myth of obamaism has taken root in the minds of the liberal west. What's next? Is he going to be declared a new addition to the Blessed Trinity?

    Let us not forget also that Obama has shown by his voting record to have declared war and has prosecuted that war against the most helpless, which is the Unborn. It shows how quick the message of the greatest Nobel Laurate, Bl. Theresa of Calcutta, said in the acceptence speech of Dec. 1979, that until abortion is seen as another assault upon peace, then there can be no real peace.

    Let us hope that the syrup which will be uttered by Obama in December will be likewise quickly forgotten.

  • Comment number 28.

    Here we go Imagoregis

    The real Catholic Right have arrived. Its all about abortion folks! Forget right to life when it comes to the death penalty. Forget about voting for rights for children 'after' they are born. Forget about supporting legislation which will help single mothers educate, feed and give medical care to these kids when they are born.

    Wait til they're old enough to go to Iraq and then start bothering about them again.

    Try attacking poverty with the same venom that you attack Obama and the abortion 'problem' might be eased. (Ya might like to say a few words now and again about the gun lobby too.)

  • Comment number 29.

    RJB - Obama supports the death penalty - and not just for the unborn. People are allowed to have issues they care deeply about without always being attacked for not mentioning the ones you want. And here is the fact. Pro-life, anti abortion Christians, particularly the Catholic Church, do more for the poor, the deprived, the oppressed, the homeless than any other group in society. They give more to charity. They work more with Aids victims. So take your weazly liberal rubbish and preach it to the Nobel committee. If they'd any sense they'd be giving this award to Pope Benedict XVI.

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 31.


    Dont make me laugh.
    They are and have always been, in general, amongst the most unsavoury "Christians" I have ever met. They gave unquestioning assent and adulation to Thatcher, Reagan and the Bushes, completely ignoring the effect these people were having on, for example, apartheid.

    In my experience, in my parishes, they were always posted missing when it came to working for the poor, the deprived, the oppressed and the homeless - never, ever saw even one of them helping out in the soup kitchens.

    They had a tendency to be aloof, self-righteous and holier than thou. They were the parish gossips, picking on divorcees - god forbid if you were gay!! - single parents, alcoholics and people with drug problems.

    Help people with Aids? They were far more likely to stigmatize them.

    And when the clergy sexual abuse cases came to light, did they take the logical step and back the abused children? Nope, they sided with the clergy, "Isnt it terrible what they're saying about poor Father."

    Omnipotent, moral busy-bodies about sums them up.

    "Weazly liberal rubbish" says more about you than anything else and your final sentence, well, LOL!!

  • Comment number 32.

    It seems that romejellybean forgets that what abortion is the very symptom of that poverty with which he and I can agree upon. If you agree that abortion is a right, then you are in fact upholding that very act of poverty-the denial of life and therefore you cannot argue that the "war on terror" or the death penalty are somehow exempt from this shopping list of wrongs. Likewise, would you please tell me why was mother teresa honoured? Or was she just another omnipotent, moral busy body too?

  • Comment number 33.


    Nowhere will I argue that abortion is a 'right.' It is a complex subject involving, as you say, issues like poverty.

    You will not hear me referring to the "war on terror" either, except critically. Who are the real terrorists? 1.2 million deaths in Iraq so far and we have the gall to call other people "terrorists."

    I am not arguing that the death penalty etc.. are exempt from the shopping list of wrongs, quite the opposite in fact.

    I am arguing that if you are going to be pro-life then you have to be pro-life in all its aspects, not just anti-abortion, and all too often pro-lifers have been anti-abortion full stop. They are inconsistent.

    I met Mother Teresa, a wonderful woman. She was honoured, not for her anti-abortion stance, but for being truly pro-life, for working for the poorest of the poor, regardless of age.

  • Comment number 34.

    McC and Imag:

    If you want to bring abortion into the Nobel Peace Prize, then it would be a travesty to award it to Ratzinger, the man who demands the criminalisation of abortion even for women who have been raped or are very sick. It is this man who has also declared war on gays (‘an intrinsic moral evil’), while colluding in the protection of paedophile priests. And it is this man who has declared war on Africans through a no condoms policy.

    Faced with the above madness, thank ‘heavens’ for ‘weazly liberal rubbish’.

  • Comment number 35.


    The two most athletic uses of the word "war" I've ever seen in my life.


  • Comment number 36.

    I might be a fan of Obama but this prize award is devaluing his credibility.

    I mean the man presides over a war at the moment - even though he didn't start it - he continues it and is probably going to expand it into Pakistan too soon.

    Maybe he's winning the prize for 'not starting a war' - in which case why wasn't I nominated for the prize because despite being tempted to invade Scotland last year - I resisted and therefore must be an 'ambassador for peace'.

    Any future and past winners are also devalued no matter what their contribution was - it's become a joke prize - or more accurately it's now fallen into the award category that music and films' go in for (Oscars, Emmys, Mobo etc) where the industry votes for itself in a demonstration of arrogance and self-gratification.

  • Comment number 37.


    'War' can mean a struggle between competing entities, as in 'a war of wits' or a campaign to end something that is considered harmful, as in 'war on poverty', 'war on crime', 'war on terror' etc.

    Ratzinger is waging a war on homosexuality and a war on condoms, both of which he considers evil. He is, of course, wrong on both counts.

  • Comment number 38.

    Still think it's a bit strong.

    For something to be a "war" it generally involves quite forceful action.

    I'm not sure a war on terror or crime would consist entirely of some strongly-worded sermons, and a plea to people to stop committing crime, because it's evil. There is generally some type of forceful or affirmative action.

    I'm not sure the pope has, or could force people not to wear condoms, or have gay sex. He can't make it illegal, or put people in prison, or put police on the streets to prevent it.

    If the war on terror was conducted in the way the pope conducts his "wars" I suspect quite a few people would still be alive today.

  • Comment number 39.

    William, as a fellow Tuesday nighter from the '90s just watched your very sad programme on BBC 1. 'How is it that ye have no faith?' Mark 4:40, I pray that you will once again find the faith you once had, talk to God about it. Have you discussed these things with Derick?

  • Comment number 40.

    Brian, your "I follow reason and stand above all these religious fanatics" mask is slipping. Good old fashioned anti-Catholicism. Scratch an Ulster Humanist and that's what you find. Pathetic and predictable.

    RJB - you may say Blessed Teresa of Calcutta wasn't honoured for her pro-life views but for her it was all the one, caring for the poor, speaking for the unborn, praying before the Eucharist. And when she went to get her Nobel prize she didn't miss and hit the wall.

  • Comment number 41.

    Forgot to say, William, watched your programme tonight. Did you have to find such a wet example of the Catholic priesthood? You know there are priests who could tell you why they believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Wasn't a bad programme but terribly smug - I've grown up and moved on, I no longer need certainties and community while you lot haven't changed at all.

  • Comment number 42.


    We really do need a dedicated thread about your programme!

    Actually mccamleyc I didn't find William's attitude smug, and I can do cynical, believe me. I do agree though there are better 'answers' than some of those given, and I think the intensely personal nature of a lot of the explanations for Christianity does leave some people uneasy/uncertain/unconvinced; unfortunately it sends out the message that Christianity is only about me and my needs or my ability to believe.

    To be honest I wasn't surprised at most of what I saw; William gave us pretty much the picture of the Christianity I've been familiar with and one most people will recognise, one which focused on 'form'. The church seems happy communicating that idea that Christianity is how each of us interacts with the tradition whatever the particular 'tradition' might be (I called them 'trappings' on another thread). The only thing which disappointed me was William leaving his 'questions' unspoken, I'd be really interested to know what the questions are.

  • Comment number 43.

    I'll put it another way mccamleyc.

    Loosing your faith in God, and loosing you faith in church, or indeed, loosing your religion, are not necessarily the same thing.

  • Comment number 44.


    Too near the knuckle, again? Well, I will continue to criticise the Catholic Church, the Presbyterian church, the Methodist Church, Islam, Hinduism or any other religious sect where I think it appropriate, and you can pigeon-hole me as much as you like. There is nothing wrong with some good old-fashioned anti-Catholicism or anti-Protestantism, especially in a place like Ireland, which is definitely up for it. As for the present Pope, he is the most reactionary for decades.

    As for the programme, I thought it was misnamed. Apart from William's own journey (I had no problem with that - from teenage convert to a questioning freethinker) and the 5-6 minutes of Humanism/atheism (well done, Myrtle and Terry), the rest comprised religious people talking about their religion! Former lawyer turned priest (gaining religion), atheist bouncer finding God on a Portstewart beach (gaining religion), Catherine Moustafa (losing one religion and gaining another, one where everything is questioned (!). Oh dear, that exclamation mark possibly denotes some good old-fashioned anti-Muslim Ulster Humanism.

    I'd say that the gainers definitely outnumbered the losers on this show. Where on earth did the title come from?

  • Comment number 45.

    Peter #43 well when the Church identifies with God, which is the case with Christianity - Christ is God, the Church is the Body of Christ - you lose one you lose the other.

    Brian - yes, but you sense you enjoy the anti-Catholicism more than your makey uppy rants about other religions. And describing the Holy Father as "the most reactionary Pope in decades" - that would one of two, the other being John Paul II, that well known pinko liberal Pope.

    As for the programme - it was about William - the others were just bit players to allow him to wander round marvelling at a chair in Lisnaskea and the fact that a hundred year old church building hadn't changed since he'd abandoned it - fancy that. Or that teenage girls at the beach were somehow more, well like teenage girls than a crowd of presbyterians who'd been up since four o'clock. Insightful stuff.

  • Comment number 46.

    Loved the documentary... it was quite beautiful in places, and of course it didn't come off as 'smug', not even slightly. I've known Crawley a long time and it was fascinating to see this portrayal of how his journey thus far mirrors my own.

  • Comment number 47.


    I agree about the bit players, but only two had actually lost religion – all the others were religious! 'Losing MY Religion' might have been a more accurate title. Certainly, the 'our' was a misnomer if ever there was one.

    It was brave of William to lay his cards on the table, even though they were full of question marks. Do the
    I particuIarly liked the word 'freethinker' - it means he is pretty close to being a Humanist. The question is: why was his scepticism balanced by having so many believers in a programme about 'our' (Ulster society's) 'loss of religion'?

    As for Wojtyla, yes, he was also reactionary and of course was advised by Ratzinger. The last 'libeal' pope was probably John 23  – nearly 50 years ago!

  • Comment number 48.

    MCC # 40

    I didnt say Mother Teresa was honoured for her pro-life views. Actually, I stated that she was honoured for the work she did for the poor, regardless of what age they were. She did this work consistently, in season and out and for most of her life. That was why she was honoured.

    And kneeling before the blessed sacrament is no indication of a person's sanctity. A few years ago, we had a priest who went around the parishes promoting adoration. He was one of the most obnoxious human beings I ever met, clearly full of himself.

    After our housekeeper came in on a Sunday afternoon specially to make him a meal, he shoved the dinner back at her telling her it was "tasteless." She went home in tears. Luckily for his taste buds and the rest of the contents of his head, I wasnt in.

    A few weeks and a few parishes later, he ran off with the 19 year old church organist of one parish, (devastating her family) and married her in an Episcopal Church. A few months later, he walked out on her.

    I grew to realise that such people, use religion for position, self aggrandizement and to attain some sort of perceived position of privilege.

    (Why do you think Jesus pointed out the sin of the Pharisee, standing in the Temple proclaiming "I thank you Lord that I am not greedy and grasping like that Tax Collector over there...?") Jesus was never fooled by the outwardly pious. Neither is he fooled today by those prostrate themselves before his presence, but whose hearts are stone.

    I mentioned earlier that so many of the anti-abortionists I experienced, were amomgst the most vile human beings I ever met, judgemental, gossipy, snobbish and arrogant.

    It was clear to me by the way they treated their brothers and sisters that they had no intention of actually taking steps in their own lives to actually become 'more Christian.' They took the easy option, pick a 'moral' issue, then oppress everyone with it for ever more. Then they could stand back and say, "Look what a good Christian I am!"

    I have followed your posts in the past and Brian McClinton's. I have found your posts triumphalist, morally superior, defensive, anti-Protestant and down right anti-Christian. You are the bigot, sir, not Brian.

  • Comment number 49.

    We don't receive a TV Signal, so I didn't see the programme. Otherwise I'd say very nice things about it. If Brian and Peter and John all face the same direction on an issue, it's a wise bet they're on the right track. The female staff who watch Will's programmes think he's "lovely". There you are Will: you're on your way to having groupies.

    Will's career and education might make his reasons for leaving the Church slightly different than the norm (obviously he'd be better informed than most). But there is a perceived 'problem' in Evangelicalism - too many in their late twenties and thirties are leaving the Church. Is there anything beyond anecdotal evidence for this? What are the causes? Should they have been part of the Church in the first place? Were they attracted for the wrong reasons? Or is the crisis a 'myth'?
    Perhaps a new thread could discuss the issues Will has raised?


  • Comment number 50.

    "Were they attracted for the wrong reasons?"

    Or were some not naturally attracted to it themselves at all, but did their parents think it proper to decide for their children that that is what they should believe too?

  • Comment number 51.

    "But there is a perceived 'problem' in Evangelicalism - too many in their late twenties and thirties are leaving the Church. Is there anything beyond anecdotal evidence for this? What are the causes? Should they have been part of the Church in the first place? Were they attracted for the wrong reasons? Or is the crisis a 'myth'?"

    I think it's absolutely real, and these are good questions. Why are they leaving? I think largely because the reasons they would have gone to church in the first place are no longer there. It used to be that you'd go to church for social reasons, to avoid the stigma of not going, to uphold family traditions, and maybe a small minority of the time because God offered answers. Now there is no stigma associated with not going, upholding tradition is not as important, the idea of the Christian God is merely one potential answer among many, and the fewer people who go mean the social reasons are removed as well.

    'Being relevant' comes AFTER all of the above. And while I don't think this is fatal for the church, I think it's going to make the church a niche thing. Bars are the new church; ubiquitous, social, no 'negative stigma' on going, and offering answers in community that, while not an overarching theory of everything, are useful and relevant and supportive as the ones offered by church.

    Is a part of me sad about this? Yes, because like William I'm at home in church.... it's where I came from. As a toddler I ran around the isles of church, and it was home all the way through my teens and early twenties. I have a great fondness for evangelical culture, and for mocking it, critiquing it, lamenting it.

    Nostalgia is a powerful drug.

  • Comment number 52.

    This is off topic to be honest but just found out that William conducted an interview with Sir Jonathan Miller. Does anybody have any information on that? I have a ticket to the evening with Miller at Elmwood next week and would be interested in finding out more about this.

    PS- I thought the documentary was very interesting. It would have been nice to see the issues being explored in more depth perhaps in a series of programmes.

  • Comment number 53.


    "Christ is God, the Church is the Body of Christ - you lose one you lose the other."

    Well I'm not going to disagree with that, but when the body of Christ behaves more like a business corporation or franchise then perhaps we do have to ask questions about what's going on. Or when the activity of the organization actually clouds the call of Christ on our lives, be it to personal holiness or collective justice, mercy and love then maybe the the church needs to be renewed.

    For example, I'm a Presbyterian, and although I know a little about the 'preaching circuit' William's (perhaps personally influenced) presentation of what 3 to 4 services on a Sunday 'looked like' would be enough to kick the faith out of anyone. I know if I'd been driving those distances at 21 or even now 20 years later I'd have been thinking, "So, what's this all about?" "How many times am I going to sing this hymn today?!" The question which hit me was, what support, what opportunity to talk issues through, was, or is, given to someone like William, because that kind of life could be a long lonely road. William said at the end of the programme something about no longer needing the community, well, again, I know if it'd been me that inner steel would have been the direct result of mile after mile on my own. PCI seriously, I mean seriously needs to consider the way in which it's ministers are viewed by it's members. The term 'teaching elder' or 'first among equals' is all very well in theory but in practice the role is more like CEO, and at the very least that's not fair on ministers.

    Now I'm not trying to second guess William or read into what he said, but that's how I would have responded. Where's the 'body of Christ' in that kind of 'journey', be it literally on the road, or metaphorical?

    Perhaps it was more insightful than you think.


    On the use of the word 'our'. One that's how Christians speak of their community, we are of it, perhaps William used the word this way. Perhaps too, he was, in interviewing and in opening a window on the church world, encouraging those of us who watched to ask the question, "What's this all about?" "What's really going on here?" "What is religion?", and in doing so was asking, "are you loosing your religion too?" Maybe I heard this because I, like John, have experienced a similar 'journey', although I suppose I've ended up in a different place. I do though, absolutely, understand the questions.

    And can I ask one thing? Genuine question. What is the ceremonial aspect of Humanist all about?

    All in all William's programme was brave, honest, open and I felt a good deal of empathy with him.

  • Comment number 54.

    Hi, I've been following the blog for a while, but never commented before. I was quite interested in the documentary last night and wanted to ask a question or two of Dr Crawley (or do you prefer William?), so given that there isn't a dedicated story for it yet (not sure if there will be), I'll just throw them out here.

    I was actually at the dawn service shown at the start of the documentary, but my recollection seems to differ somewhat and I find myself somewhat confused about some of the comments made. Dr Crawley, you mentioned that the preaching seemed to be all about death, judgement, sin and fear, yet I recall a sermon on the hope and confidence a Christian has because of the assurances that death and evil cannot return after Christ returns. I am most curious as to what aspect of that you found fearful?

    The comments about the joy of the assembled worshippers also seemed at odds with my recollection. I saw and experienced much joy during the praise and if that seemed diminished during times of prayer and preaching, surely the weariness that accompanies an early rise makes any attempt at commentary on joy somewhat difficult to accurately make? Comparisons with recently arrived tourists seem particularly unfair when some of the worshippers had spent the night walking from Ballymoney. After an overnight walk, a lack of effusive, expressive joy is surely understandable, but such actions most surely be motivated by an inner joy?

  • Comment number 55.

    The nobel peace prize just got rascist - I thought we where supposed to award people regardless of their colour.


  • Comment number 56.

    Peter (53):
    I am busy at the moment, so I shall answer your question only once. I shall assume that you are asking in a spirit of genuine inquiry and not in order to inform me that it is really religious.

    A ceremony is an act on a special occasion. It usually has elements of ritual, which may be religious or traditional (changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace) A humanist ceremony is based on what humans have in common - our humanity and human values.

    A baby-naming ceremony such as the one in the programme is performed to welcome a new life into the world, to enable those closest to the baby to express their love and commitment formally, in the presence of family and friends and, of course, to name the baby. Here in NI where former Catholics and Protestants marry (as the couple in the programme) a non-religious ceremony solves many problems.

    Now it's back to typing other stuff (with one eye on the Champions League T20 and one ear on Harsha Bhogle's great commentary.

  • Comment number 57.


    Oddly enough in Catholicism the tendency is for individuals to leave in their teens (or lapse, or whatever) then to return - *after* parental pressure diminishes. So parental pressure is actually couterproductive in the teenage years. No surprises there. What's surprising is the number that return to the fold.

    In evangelicalism the tendency I'm highlighting is different. A religious experience in the teenage years, (nothing surprising to anyone who's read William James) followed by rejection in the twenties and thirties. Derren Brown and Ian Hislop are two famous examples of this life pattern. I think you're right - the attraction is for the 'wrong' reason. Christianity at the very least needs to be about convictions. That goes beyond experience.

    But I think evangelicals are so caught up in enthusiasm and tallying up professions of faith that they don't notice.

    However you are correct to point out that many remain in Evangelical Churches (and preach and lead worship etc.) due to family pressure. It's a serious problem in traditional churches that have avoided the "happy clappy" tendency of recent years. It's just not the problem I'm addressing at the moment.

  • Comment number 58.


    On the use of the word 'our', do we know who chose the title and why? The Radio Times states that William 'talks to the increasing numbers of people who do not follow a faith at all'.

    I still maintain that the title was totally misleading. It gave an entirely wrong impression of the position of the majority of people to whom William spoke. The Clonard priest hadn't lost; he found it; the two Muslims hadn't lost it; they found it (albeit in a different faith); the people on Portstewart strand hadn't lost it; they all found it (one after he had temporarily lost it); the ministers he spoke to hadn't lost it. In fact, the two Humanists stood alone in the programme, along with William!

  • Comment number 59.

    Brian- You have a point. I guess if you were expecting something different I can see why you'd be disappointed (particularly as a humanist hoping that the doc would focus on those who have rejected religion). Since I knew what the documentary was about, it just seemed like an odd title.

  • Comment number 60.

    Brain #56

    Thanks for your answer. I can see how such a ceremony makes sense and provides a focal point for someone's life.

  • Comment number 61.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 62.

    #57 gveale - lot of the Catholic "returns" aren't real returns - just people coming back to get married, then kids Christened, catholic school, first communions etc and all without any hint of genuine belief. There was lots of talk a while back about how in the western world people believed (spirituality) but didn't belong (religion and church). We've the opposite in this country - lots of belongers and fewer believers.

    As for the title of the programme - don't think it was anything deeper than a line from a song they thought would be "cool".

    At least we didn't have to see William with eyes closed and arms raised swaying in a charismatic fashion (and probably with a pair of Rosie Barnes)

  • Comment number 63.

    McC (62):

    The song by REM is entitled "losing MY Religion", which would have been a more honest title for the programme. "Losing our Religion" implies that William isn't alone. Actually, as I have already, he was alone, apart from two Humanists (who may never have had religion in the first place).

    Not calling it "Losing My Religion" was presumably to avoid the implication that it was all about William.

  • Comment number 64.


    No, I'm talking about weekly attendance at Mass. The effect is referenced in Michael Argyles 'Psychology and Religion'.


  • Comment number 65.

    I'd personally have preferred Balthasar Garzon getting the Nobel. He tried to bring war criminals to justice- and got his hands tied.
    I need to see the film, though, from your reviews, you gave a fair portrayal.
    Finally, the REM song wasn't about religion (despite the video). In the Southern USA, to "lose one's religion" means the equivalent of being at the end of your tether or something similar. (My grandmother on my dad's side used it- and she's not an REM fan...)


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