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The Moral Authority of Organised Religion

Combative, provocative and engaging live debate chaired by Michael Buerk. With Andrew Doyle, Giles Fraser, Melanie Phillips and Mona Siddiqui. #moralmaze

A damning report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse describes a culture of deference in the Church of England which meant that perpetrators were allowed to hide and, when exposed, were often given more support than their victims. This was a scandal in which the “moral authority of clergy was widely perceived as beyond reproach”. This pattern of behaviour and cover-up is shocking but depressingly familiar. Following decades of such revelations, there is a growing belief that Britain’s churches have lost all moral credibility as a result of their repeated inability to practice what they preach and get their house in order. Others point out that, while reparations are needed, all institutions – whether religious or secular – are made up of human beings who are capable of terrible crimes, and that the good done by organised religion in tackling poverty, comforting the bereaved and showing strong leadership on some of the key moral issues of the day, should not be overlooked. Whether or not such institutions still command moral authority, formal religious affiliation is nevertheless in decline. Is this to be welcomed or lamented? For many people, rules-based religion has had its day. They see the churches as being out of step on many progressive issues like gender equality and same-sex marriage; they look elsewhere for sources of morality, or they see morality, faith and spirituality as subjective and personal. Others, meanwhile, still see religious institutions as the bedrock of a cohesive society; an inherited, shared source or moral and spiritual guidance, spanning centuries. They caution against the jettisoning of absolute moral rules and view the belief that we all have our own ‘truths’ and ways of knowing as deeply unhealthy. With Dr Ed Condon, Rt Rev Philip North, Prof Francesca Stavrokopoulou and Rev Stephen Trott.

Producer: Dan Tierney.

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43 minutes

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