Daily Telegraph (England), Aug. 14, 2002 (Opinion)
Only one charitable conclusion can be drawn from yesterday’s protest by more than 100 distinguished atheists against the BBC’s “Thought for the Day” on Radio 4: they have never heard it.
In a letter to the corporation’s governors, Harold Pinter, Polly Toynbee and 108 others complain that the Today programme’s ban on contributions to the God-slot from non-believers is “discriminatory and unjustified”. If only they listened to “Thought for the Day”, they would know that there is hardly anything in it to which even the most hard-line atheist could object.
What “Thought for the Day” does, day after day, is to put a very slightly other-worldly gloss on whatever the pink orthodoxy happens to be on the topic under discussion. Almost everything said in those few minutes every morning is utterly predictable.
These opinions may or may not be good and true, but they have very little specifically to do with religion. Hardly ever will a contributor adopt a hard-line religious stance. Never will you hear a Muslim fundamentalist advocating holy war against the Jews, or a Protestant raging against the Catholic belief in transubstantiation.
With very few exceptions, what you get from rabbi, priest and mullah alike is Religion Lite: doctrine so watered down as to be inoffensive to all – or, rather, offensive only in its patronising banality.
If only Pinter, Toynbee and the rest listened more carefully to “Thought for the Day”, they would realise that no slot on the BBC does a better job of taking God out of religion. They would find it like listening to themselves.