Magazine article The Spectator

It Takes Two

Magazine article The Spectator

It Takes Two

Article excerpt

It happened just before the eight o'clock pips on Radio Two on Good Morning Sunday. One of those rare moments when something clicks on air and you're suddenly so connected to what's being said that you feel you're in a private conversation.

It's just you and the voice on the other side of the microphone -- but in that same instant you're also keenly aware that you're actually in this conversation with lots of other listeners. You're alone but at one.

We'd just heard the Songs of Prophecy Gospel Choir live from the studio -- an amazing sound at seven in the morning, light beginning to break across the sky -- and now we were being led to think about what belief might mean to us by the presenter Roger Royle. His guests included Yvonne Ridley, who has converted to Islam, and Julian Baggini, brought up as a Christian but now an agnostic philosopher. This was the beginning of Radio Two's 'Faith in the World' week, which this year is focusing on why people believe -- in God 'or a higher spiritual power' -- and why they don't. Not in a combative, my way is better than yours spirit, or even in that annoyingly feelgood kind of way, but as an inquiry into what makes us tick as human beings. How we get by when things turn bad.

Yvonne Ridley told us how she had been captured by the Taleban while reporting from Afghanistan and was asked by her captors whether she was willing to convert to their religion. She promised them that if they set her free she would read the Koran and learn about Islam. They believed her and let her go. On her return to the UK she knew that she must fulfil her promise to her captors, but at first only undertook to read the Koran so that she could begin to understand what motivated the people she was writing about in her dispatches from the Middle East. Now, though, her Muslim faith has become the driving force of her life. Julian Baggini, on the other hand, was a believing teenager but gradually lost his Christian faith as he began to question its basic tenets.

Royle let their stories unfold without interruption or deviation. He then gave us (as this was Sunday and he is, after all, an Anglican priest) a reminder of the story in St Mark's gospel where the father of a boy with epilepsy who has asked for healing is in turn asked by Jesus whether he believes. …

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