Humphrys: let atheists on Thought for the Day

John Humphrys, the senior host of Radio 4’s Today Programme, favours allowing atheist guests to take part in the show’s three-minute religious slot.

Mr Humphrys told The Times: “As a non-believer, I’ve always thought there’s an argument for a secular Thought for the Day — but not because of discrimination. I think we’d get some interesting views.”

He rejected the suggestion of an alternative slot for atheists. He said: “The obvious problem with that is that the whole nature of the beast changes and then it becomes just another signed essay.”

Last year Mr Humphrys used his position as host of BBC quiz show Mastermind to ridicule a Christian contestant for believing in the Gospels.

“Now, the Gospels, a tricky subject in a way,” he said, “because if you want to find out about the life of Jesus and you read all four gospels you’ll get different versions won’t you. Which are we meant to believe?”

He then went on to say – wrongly – that none of the Gospels were eyewitness accounts.

Mr Humphrys has also written in the past that he supports changing the law on assisted suicide.

In October last year he was accused of bias when he hosted a ‘debate’ on the Today Programme between two pro-euthanasia campaigners.

The result was effectively a seven-minute advert for the euthanasia cause with the two sides arguing about the best way to help people end their lives.

This week the BBC’s governing body rejected complaints from atheists that Thought for the Day breaches the corporation’s rules on impartiality.

But it left the door open for future changes to be a “matter of discretion” for the corporation’s Director General Mark Thompson and his executives.

Supporters of the three-minute religious slot said the rest of the Today Programme is already dominated by a secular viewpoint.

They also said allowing atheists to join a religious slot was like allowing hockey matches to be screened during a football programme.

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