Well the BBC Americana show premiered today, and my fellow interviewees and I got a whopping minute of air time. A brief clip of myself and two of my fellow students was used as an aside/counter-balance to the overarching interview with Robert Putnam (a Harvard prof). The main interview was in regards to Mr. Putnam's new book, Faith in America
. Having not read the book I do not feel as if I can comment on it, but from his comments on the interview I doubt my comments would be favorable. Mr. Putnam would appear to believe that religion is what makes for better citizens and that religious beliefs are what drove the American revolution and the Civil Rights movement.
I disagree profoundly with this idea, especially since I get the sense that he defines religion in the narrower sense-referring to organized religion and disregarding secular humanism, deism, paganism, agnosticism, etc. Most of the founding fathers were deist, and secular humanists, which negates the theory that religion was the driving force behind the American Revolution. I doubt that they would have argued so adamantly for the separation of church and state if they truly felt that religion was so essential to being a good citizen. Again I am responding to Mr. Putnam's interview, not the book. I know from personal experience how interviews can be slanted in many ways, so I will keep that in mind.
Case in point, of the likely 13 minutes of tape I personally provided, less than 30 seconds was actually used. I'm slightly surprised any was, as I felt my colleagues had equally valid and interesting responses. What was used was basically to point out that America has some way to go in religious tolerance, and, gee, atheism is alive and well in the U.S.. It was funny that my self-identification of paganism was cut, but I can see why it was in the context of a half hour show. Truthfully the minute of air time we got was more than we might have gotten in many American broadcasts, and the edits didn't vilify us in any way. It would have been nice to hear some of what we said about improving religious tolerance, and how secularists have as much civic mindedness and community spirit as anyone else, but I will settle (for now) with being acknowledged and not being vilified. I also get the feeling that the our view was not discussed as much because it is more of the norm in European society, whereas the bizarre dichotomy between conservative religious beliefs and our secular founding is much more interesting and dramatic.
The show itself was a fascinating listen. It is always interesting to get an "outside looking in" perspective on your own culture. I enjoyed the interview with Alice Walker, of The Color Purple
fame, in the latter part of the show. I shall have to look for her new poetry book and the excerpt she read was gorgeous. I also loved that she considers herself pagan, and discusses her reasons for this self-identification. It balanced out my frustration with the first part of the show.
If you are interested you can listen here:BBC Americana