Newsman Sees Growing Interest in Religion Interview Bob Abernethy

Article excerpt

Veteran newsman Bob Abernethy, who continues his 35-year relationship with NBC as a contributing correspondent even as he undertakes hosting PBS's "Religion & Ethics Newsweekly," served as NBC's Moscow correspondent from 1989 to 1994. Returning to the United States after the cold war ended, he thought about what he would like to do.

"It was clear, even from 5,000 miles away, that more and more attention was being paid to the problem of inadequate coverage of religion in the national media," he said in a telephone interview. "I had done a lot of religion stories for NBC before I went to Russia, and I liked doing those stories. So it seemed to me if I could put together a half-hour weekly program, it would be interesting to me and, I think, interesting to an audience."

Gallup polls show that Americans are a religious people, says Mr. Abernethy, although, he adds, some critics will tell you that American religious interest is more broad than deep. "But I don't know.... Look what has happened with books and religion," he says, "how many new books and books on tape there are. An enormous market has developed for books on spirituality and religion." Asked why there appears to be a resurgence of interest in religion, Abernethy says, "I think the end of the cold war had an effect. For 40 years, we defined ourselves as a nation by our anticommunism. Then the cold war was over - OK who are we? What do we want to be? What do we want to do?" He refers to Phyllis Tickle's "God Talk in America," in which the author explains that one of the reasons for the renewed interest in spirituality has to do with a feeling that materialism, consumerism, science, and reason are all inadequate when it comes to answering the oldest and deepest questions about what it means to live and how to live. …