The Sacred

The Sacred

A podcast about the things we hold sacred, and how to talk to people different from ourselves.

Vanessa Zoltan on radical hospitality, atheist chaplaincy and treating texts as sacred

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Vanessa worked in education and nonprofits before attending Harvard Divinity School to become a non–denominational atheist chaplain. Whilst at Harvard she and Casper Ter Kuile who was also a guest on the podcast, launched a class and then a very successful podcast based around the idea of reading Harry Potter as a sacred text. She is now CEO and founder of Not Sorry Productions, which produces the podcasts ‘Harry Potter and the Sacred Text’, ‘Twilight in Quarantine’, and ‘Hot and Bothered’, which is about treating romance novels as sacred. Her first book is called ‘Praying with Jane Eyre.’

In this episode she speaks about her childhood raised in an atheist but practising Jewish home as the granddaughter of four Holocaust survivors, what she means by reading other texts as sacred and what we might all learn from it.

You can read a full transcript here: https://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/comment/2022/01/26/vanessa-zoltan-on-radical-hospitality-atheist-chaplaincy-and-treating-texts-as-sacred

Rupert Read on nonviolence, the climate crisis and the power of emotions

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Rupert is an associate professor of Philosophy at the University of East Anglia. He is author of over a dozen books on philosophy and the climate crisis, and he was previously a spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion. As part of that movement, he took part in many mass protests, and he was arrested while protesting climate change denying think tanks.

He speaks about his sacred value of nonviolence, which has inspired many of those actions, the role of philosophy in public conversations, and how he navigates the emotional fallout of thinking a lot about the climate emergency.

You can read a full transcript here: https://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/comment/2022/01/19/rupert-read-on-nonviolence-the-climate-crisis-and-the-power-of-emotions

Minna Salami on feminism, racism and ‘sensuous knowledge’

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Minna is a social critic, feminist theorist and poet, and she’s founder of the blog, MsAfropolitan. She’s the author most recently of ‘Sensuous knowledge: a black feminist approach for everyone’.

She speaks about her childhood in Nigeria and Finland, her experiences with racism, her deep feminist identity, and what a more holistic approach to knowledge might look like.

You can read a full transcript here: https://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/comment/2022/01/12/minna-salami-on-feminism-racism-and-sensuous-knowledge

Stuart Ritchie on scepticism, and the role and reliability of science

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Stuart is a lecturer at the Social, Genetic, and Developmental Psychiatry Centre at King’s College London. He's been a researcher in human cognitive abilities, and his most recent book is 'Science Fictions', a popular science book that presents an insider's view on how fraud, bias, negligence and hype affect scientific research.

In this episode he talks about being an overconfident frontman in a band in his teenage years, having a similar rhetorical style to Boris Johnson, the role science plays in public, and how scientists could use a little bit more ethics training.

You can read a full transcript here: https://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/comment/2022/01/05/stuart-ritchie-on-scepticism-and-the-role-and-reliability-of-science

Eli Pariser on curiosity, the value of democracy and why we need shared public digital spaces

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Eli Pariser has had a long and distinguished career in tech entrepreneurship and is currently running the organisation New Public, which is trying to help thinkers, designers and technologists build the digital public spaces of the future. He helped set up MoveOn and Avaaz, which were pioneers in the digital organising space in the early days of the internet. He coined the term 'filter bubble', and wrote the New York Times best-selling book of the same name.

In this episode Eli speaks about some of the trends that have led to our current situation in terms of division, his sacred value of curiosity, his love for democracy, and why we need to build shared public digital spaces in the same way that we have public parks.
Read the full transcript here: https://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/comment/2021/12/22/eli-pariser-on-curiosity-the-value-of-democracy-and-why-we-need-public-digital-spaces

We are taking a break next week for Christmas but our next episode will be released on Wednesday 5th January.

Louise Perry on motherhood, consent and the case against the sexual revolution

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Louise is a writer and campaigner. She has a weekly column in the New Statesman and is press officer for the campaign group 'We can’t consent to this', which documents cases in which UK women have been killed and the defendants have claimed in court that they died as a result of consensual rough sex. She has a book out next year on the case against the sexual revolution.

In this episode Louise speaks about motherhood, sex, consent and the outworking of the sexual revolution. Please be aware that the conversation features criticism of the surrogacy industry and references to sexual violence.

Louise’s six-month-old was in a sling during the interview, so you might hear some very charming baby noises.

You can read a full transcript here: https://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/comment/2021/12/15/louise-perry-on-motherhood-consent-and-the-sexual-revolution

David Brooks on his conversion, vulnerability and the challenges of talking about morality

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David is an op ed columnist for the New York Times, a radio and television host, author of multiple bestselling books, and Chair of Weave the social fabric project at the Aspen Institute, among many other things.

He speaks about the distancing effects of fame, his midlife crisis and subsequent conversion to Christianity, and the challenges of talking about morality in public life at the immense difficulty of dying to ourselves.

You can find a full transcript here: https://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/comment/2021/12/08/david-brooks-on-his-conversion-vulnerability-and-the-challenges-of-talking-about-morality

Ryan North on kindness, comics and the appeal of superheroes

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Ryan North is a writer for television, video games, and especially comic books. Some of his most recent projects include 'How To Invent Everything: A Survival Guide for the Stranded Time Traveller', a graphic novel adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's 'Slaughterhouse-Five', and the 'Unbeatable Squirrel Girl', which he wrote for Marvel Comics for five years. He also writes, as he has done since his early 20s, Dinosaur Comics, which is a daily webcomic using the same images with different words every day.

Ryan speaks about his childhood as a nerdy kid in rural Canada, his route to becoming a professional comic writer even though he can't draw, navigating gender in comics and graphic novels, and why human beings are so drawn to this idea of superheroes.

You can read a full transcript of the conversation here: https://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/comment/2021/12/01/ryan-north-on-kindness-comics-and-the-appeal-of-superheroes

Follow us on Twitter @sacred_podcast

Sarah Eberle on what gardening teaches us and why nature is good for the soul

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In the final episode of this series, Elizabeth speaks to Sarah Eberle, the most-decorated RHS garden designer. She has made RHS Chelsea Flower Show history by winning a Gold Medal in every category there is to enter. This year, Sarah turns her hand to the Psalm 23 Garden in the Urban Garden section for the Bible Society.

In this episode she speaks about why nature is sacred to her, what gardening teaches us about compassion and humility, the legacy of her unconventional schooling and her free-range childhood, and why gardening can bring people together across divides.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @sacred_podcast

Jillian Richardson on the normality of loneliness and finding belonging outside religion

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Jillian is a loneliness expert, facilitator and events host. She is the author of ‘Un-Lonely Planet’.

She speaks about the drivenness of her East Coast American childhood, how she balances vulnerability in her public profile, the shame and rawness of talking about loneliness, and how her adventures in finding belonging in secular congregations eventually led her to join a church.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram @sacred_podcast

About this podcast

The Sacred is a podcast about our deepest values, the stories that shape us and how we can build empathy and understanding between people who are very different.

Each episode features a conversation with someone who has a public voice, from academics to journalists, playwrights and politicians. We ask them where they have come from, what they are trying to do and what might help heal our very divided public conversations.

The Sacred is hosted by Elizabeth Oldfield, former director of Theos think tank.

For more information about the people and ideas behind the podcast, visit https://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/about/who-we-are or follow us on Twitter @theosthinktank, @sacred_podcast and @ESOldfield.

by Theos think tank

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