What does morality mean in the 21st century? In a new podcast series for BBC4, 2016 Templeton Prize laureate Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks explores this question with some of the world’s leading thinkers as well as British high school students, offering a diverse set of perspectives on what morality means today.
The series features one three-minute introductory episode and five 45-minute episodes, with topics ranging from artificial intelligence and collective belonging to responsibility and selfies. In the most recent episode titled “Moral Heroes,” Rabbi Sacks considers who young people currently see as their moral role models. In the past, religion was used as the “moral compass” that held society together. However, as Western societies continue to become increasingly secular, many young people are not identifying with a religion – and are therefore not turning to religion for role models.
Heather Templeton Dill, president of the John Templeton Foundation, speaks with Rabbi Sacks in this episode to offer her perspective on this societal transformation. “There’s a lot to be understood about this growing group of people called the ‘religious nones’ and what it is that they really think and believe,” she says. “It doesn’t often mean that they don’t believe in God or that they don’t believe in some kind of divine reality. I think they’re just trying to live in the midst of a world where religious traditions have left them wanting in some respects and where there might be other sources of morality.”
Other guests such as Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, philanthropist Melinda Gates, and political and social commentator David Brooks also present their thoughts on the impact of religious and moral values on society and what that means for young people today.
“Morality binds us together; lose it and we find ourselves vulnerable and alone,” says Rabbi Sacks. But as far as achieving a more ethical and more responsible world, he adds, “there are powerful reasons for hope.”
“Moral Heroes” and the entire “Morality in the 21st Century” series is available online from BBC4.