Lord Sacks says he was ‘challenged’ by new series on morality

FORMER Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks said he was ‘challenged’ during the making of his new BBC Radio series Morality in the 21st Century.

Over the daily episodes which aired last week, Rabbi Sacks explored topics that include ideas around moral responsibility and who still has it; the impact of social media on young people; Artificial Intelligence and the future of humanity; the impact of individualism and multiculturalism on communities and who young people see as their moral role models.

James Purnell, Director of Radio and Education for the BBC, commented on the show:“I think as an institution, as the BBC, we think the questions of morality have never been more important; the question of how we live together, how in Rabbi Sack’s phrase, we dignify difference, are the most important questions we face today.

“Our religions are therefore something that we all need to understand, that we all need to be part of debating and shaping.

“In last year’s review of the BBC’s approach to religion and ethics, we therefore said that this is something the BBC wanted to recommit to, we wanted to help people understand the world around them through the lens of these different beliefs and religions.

“We obviously do that through programmes like Pause for Thought, but wanted to do much more than that,” he said.

“We are recruiting a new global religious news team, employed by the World Service, and on TV and radio we’re increasing our ambition, widening our range of what we do.”

Rabbi Sacks called the series ‘a very ambitious programme’. It took about a year in the planning.

“The thinking behind it is: Let’s take this moment when life is so fraught, individually and collectively, when society seems so divided, and see what’s gone wrong – have we lost this shared moral code and can we put it right?” he said.

During the series Rabbi Sacks was joined by contributors including American philanthropist Melinda Gates; Jordan Peterson, the Canadian clinical psychologist, and Steven Pinker, the cognitive psychologist, linguist and author, among others.

“My views totally changed during the making of the programmes, because we had a whole series of people who had totally different views from mine.

“I don’t think there is a single person who is coming at it from my sort of background, and I was continually challenged,” he told us.

“For example, Steven Pinker really says that the less religious we’ve got, the better the world has got. Now that’s very challenging for a Rabbi to hear. We agreed to disagree on this.

“I felt myself very challenged; if we have got better the more secular we’ve become, my whole life has to start reflecting on it,” he added.