Over ten years ago the BBC approached me to do a special Thought for the Day on the significance of the Large Hadron Collider and in particular whether there were any religious implications of the discovery of the God particle. Since then I’ve had the privilege of presenting Thought for the Day on subjects ranging from Artificial Intelligence to Harry Potter, and from the meltdown of South Sudan to the retirement of Usain Bolt.
During this time I have been impressed with the professionalism of the Today presenters, the BBC Religion producers and fellow contributors from a range of religious perspectives. All seem to me to be committed to excellence.
I meet a number of people who complain about a Thought for the Day that they’ve heard and tell me so to my face, or at least via email! Interestingly sometimes from my own religious faith where they have a different theology.
At the same time, I am surprised that many others who appreciate Thought for the Day are not members of a faith community at all but welcome the attempt to connect the news with bigger questions of ethics, meaning and the religious traditions which continue to shape our communal dialogue.
Religion continues to be a major influence within the UK and certainly around the world. I meet computer scientists who want to engage with religion on what it means to be human, I read Harry Potter and am fascinated to find elements of the Christian narrative entwined with magic and other ancient stories, I see the way that faith is used to justify violence in South Sudan but also the way it gives hope, and I am struck by Bolt crossing himself before his races.
I would be the first to admit that some of my thoughts have been better than others but I hope I have never been sermonic. For me, Thought for the Day, uniquely in the world, allows religion to be examined as well as to contribute in the public arena in an interdisciplinary and respectful way. And I remain grateful that this is what the BBC can do.
David Wilkinson is Professor and Principal of St John’s College, Durham University. He holds PhDs in theoretical physics and systematic theology