There is an excellent article by Ed Stourton in today's Sunday Telegraph about the importance of good media understanding of religion (and a strong reference to the Sandford St Martin Awards which I chair).
As I keep saying (I know, I know…), the need for journalists to understand religion has nothing to do with whether they believe any of it, but because you can't understand the world without it. This is a matter of intellectual wisdom, not of evangelism. If you don't take religion seriously, you are not taking the world seriously – its politics, economics, traditions or people.
And, if you want to see just how unintelligent we have become, look at the comment thread under Ed's article.
I noted recently how the BBC was getting a new Religion Correspondent at the same time as the Times was losing theirs. And look what happens…
I went to St Paul's Cathedral in London on Saturday to see the new Bill Viola video installation, Martyrs. Later I caught up with the newspaper coverage of the launch and was pleased to see how positive most of it was. But, then I got to the Times, from whom one expects.
The article hails the victory of the powers of culture over the reactionary forces of church after ten years of wrangling to get Viola's video piece into the cathedral. Typical – the church has to be dragged kicking and screaming into a brighter cultural age. Other non-specific references are made, but unattributed and without evidence.
The heavy hitters of Britain’s art world have been deployed in a decade-long battle to persuade St Paul’s Cathedral to accept a permanent video installation in its hallowed interior, it can be revealed.
The artist and his supporters, including the directors of Britain’s most prominent galleries, almost gave up their fight to persuade elements within the Church of England to allow the first ever moving image artwork to be permanently displayed in a British cathedral or church.
See that? “Battle”. “To accept”. “Revealed”. “Fight”.
Really? So how does the reviewer David Sanderson cope with the fact that the work was commissioned by the Cathedral in the first place?
The video is superb: powerfully moving and commanding. Just go and see it.
But, remember the story.