BBC rebuffs humanists’ grab for Thought for the Day

An attempt to include secular humanists and atheists on BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day has been rejected.

A letter from patrons of Humanists UK had urged BBC Director-General Tony Hall to air non-religious beliefs during the religious slot.

Opponents of the move said that BBC output was already overwhelmingly secular and humanist.

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No need for change

In the letter, Humanists UK complained that excluding secular humanist beliefs sent the signal that the BBC believes they have less to contribute than religious people on ethical matters.

But the BBC opted to maintain current practice on the three-minute slot, which has formed part of the Today programme for nearly 50 years.

It said: “Thought for the Day features speakers from the world’s major faith traditions reflecting on topical events and issues.

“We considered its remit as part of last year’s religion review and concluded that in the context of the BBC’s overall output it serves a distinct purpose and does not need changing.”

Secular programme

Regular contributor the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, backed the BBC’s stance.

He said: “Given the secular humanist assumptions that underlie the Today programme, Thought for the Day is an opportunity to look at the world through a religious lens.

“It opens up perspectives on why the world is the way it is and shines a different light on world events that the rest of the programme might otherwise miss.”


The Christian Institute’s Ciarán Kelly agreed, saying: “There is precious little religious content on the BBC as it is.

“The overwhelming majority of content, whether news, features or comedy, is secular humanist by design. It’s not atheism that’s being marginalised by the BBC, it’s Christianity.”