Bill Moyers on Faith & Reason Search
Faith & Reason Home Portraits Perspectives Take Part Watch & Listen

Below you'll find a wealth of perspectives on the issues covered in the series BILL MOYERS ON FAITH & REASON. They are drawn from some of Bill Moyers' signature series, WORLD OF IDEAS I AND II, JOSEPH CAMPBELL AND THE POWER OF MYTH, GENESIS, and NOW WITH BILL MOYERS. In each case you can listen to the streaming audio or read the full transcript. We hope these voices inspire you to take part in our online discussion forums or form your own discussion group — and, of course to send us your thoughts. (You need RealPlayer to listen to these clips.)



Faith and politics have long been allied — one need only look back at the Pharoh gods of Egypt or the establishment Church of England to see how closely. The melding of politics and religion has also been blamed for much historical strife — Edward Gibbon famously blamed the fall of the Roman Empire in part on the rise of Christianity. However, the relation between religion and politics is varied and fascinating, and the selections below suggest.

"The Peacemaker was a spiritual being. He was a messenger...He brought a message, the Great Peace, and it was a long process of how he changed the minds of all these men who, at that time, were leaders by strength and force. Then, he stepped in there and changed that whole process to deliberation and thought." Chief Oren Lyons on the origins of the Onondaga system of government.

Read the transcript (PDF)

"And my understanding of Christianity is that it underlies all progressive moves to implement more justice. Get higher degree of peace in the world, you know? And although people don't see it, that's what I mean by politically-committed spirituality." -- Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Protestant clergyman
listenHear more from William Sloane Coffin (23:30) or read the transcript (PDF)

"I certainly think that we need to reinvigorate our political life together. But I don't think we want to make an absolute dichotomy between religion and politics because the very nature of the way things work in America, is that political initiatives often come from religious communities." --Robert Bellah, sociologist, Read the transcript (PDF)

"Islam has a relation to politics which is different...Islam from day one begins with the Islamic polities, city-states basically established by the Prophet Mohammed in the City of Medina after he was expelled from Mecca. From then onwards, Islam lives always with political states." -- Kanan Makyia, professor of Middle East studies

listenHear more from Kanan Makiya and others from the ISLAM VS. ISLAM special (34:41) or read the transcript.

"It is sometimes said that some questions (stem cell research, reproductive issues, HIV confidentiality) are moral and religious questions and, therefore have no place in our political life. But political is always about moral questions. We're always trying to figure out what the better or just or right or decent thing to do it." -- Leon R. Kass, bioethicist

listenHear more from Leon Kass (49:27) or read the transcript.

(back to top)


It may seem the most person of questions: "Do you believe?" But to many people it is the most important of questions. The answers to the question are as varied as individuals themselves. The Web site BeliefNet even has several online diagnostic tools designed to place the curious on a scale from atheist to devout — devout Orthodox Jew to devout Buddhist to devout Quaker.

"We should look at these great historical spiritual traditions not as static structures, but as rivers of ideas, of rituals, of spirituality, flowering over the historical landscape for more than a millennium." --Tu Wei-ming, professor of Chinese history and philosophy and of Confucian studies

listenHear more from Tu Wei-ming (29:23) or read the transcript (PDF)

"I believe that all the great religions teach that the truth ultimately is realized in and through the quality of one's actions in relation to the world." --Steven Rockefeller, professor of religion

listenHear more from Steven Rockefeller (26:01) or read the transcript (PDF)

"We hear the stories of other nations, of how they came to be, when we hear how the Hopis talk about the Spider Woman, and coming from the Earth and the fourth world that they've experienced...We hear the walkabout songs of the Aboriginal people in Australia, when they talk about singing into existence these beings ...all the entities in the world, as far as they are concerned, has a song. And we say, "That's wonderful. We Agree. We say yes. Now hear our story, this is how we came." And they listen to us and they say, "That's wonderful. We believe that." -- Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation
Read the transcript (PDF)

(back to top)


The dialogue between faith and science runs from St. Anselm's ontological proof to David Hume's 1757 THE NATURAL HISTORY OF RELIGION to the current notion that a longing for God is genetically determined. Explore how scientist, believers and scientists who are believers reconcile their worlds below.

"But still the question — 'Why do humans beings have brains that have this kind of mental activity' — is one that can be traced down to the level of electricity and chemistry and further down to the level of elementary particle physics." --Murray Gell-Mann, Nobel Prize physicist

listenHear more from Murray Gell-Mann (25:51) or read the transcript (PDF)

"There were hundreds of scientists who did great scientific work and at the same time were religious. But they did not mix their religion and science." -- Isaac Asimov, writer

listenHear more from Isaac Asimov (48:40) or read the transcript (PDF)

"I just want to know one thing, which is why things are the way they are. We've already come a long way...If you ask any ordinary question about everyday things --"Why is the sky blue?" -- we actually know the answer." -- Steven Weinberg, Nobel Prize physicist

listenHear more from Steven Weinberg (26:42) or read the transcript (PDF)

(back to top)

FREEDOM & TOLERANCE As one of the thinkers featured here notes, the Golden Rule has been a staple of religious systems for ages — although often honored only in the breach. Read more about the quest and challenge of religious tolerance and the freedom of expression below.

"There's practically no religion that I know of that sees people in a way that affirms the others' choices. But in our century we're forced to think about a pluralistic world." -- Elaine Pagels, religious scholar

listenHear more from Elaine Pagels (48:12) or read the transcript (PDF)

"The question is: how in a democracy can we talk to each other about the shared public world given that we have different views about what matters most deeply in the universe? -- Kwame Anthony Appiah, professor of philosophy

listenHear more from Kwame Anthony Appiah, professor of philosophy and other from the NOW special ISLAM VS. ISLAM (34:41) or read the transcript.

"It's a moral imperative for the 20th century, and of course, the 21st century, that [religions] find a common ground for communication. It is a moral imperative that they share a common concern for the human condition." -- Tu Wei-ming, historian and Confucian scholar

listen Hear more from Tu Wei-ming (29:23) or read the transcript. (PDF)

"The mystical branch of Islam, the Sufi movement, insisted that when you had encountered God, you were neither a Jew, a Christian, a Muslim. You were at home equally in a synagogue, a mosque, a temple or a church, because all rightly guided religion comes from God, and a man of God, once he's glimpsed the divine, has left these man-made distinctions behind." -- Karen Armstrong, religious scholar

listenHear more from Karen Armstrong (16:01) or read the transcript.

"The Golden Rule exists in every culture. Confucius speaks of it. Buddhists speak of it. The Bhagavad-Gita speaks of it, and, of course, the Bible speaks of it...To the extent it's honored even a little more, there is an improvement." -- Sissela Bok, ethicist

listenHear more from Sissela Bok (17:17) or read the transcript. (PDF)

"You know, the impulse to love God and neighbor, that impulse is at the heart of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. No question about it. We have much more in common than we have in conflict." --William Sloane Coffin, Protestant clergyman

listenHear more from William Sloane Coffin (23:30) or read the transcript.

(back to top)

Find out more
  • About the separation of church and state

  • About the battle over evolution

  • About where Americans put their faith

  • About political satire in the U.S

  • Resources
    Learn more about the issues discussed on BILL MOYERS ON FAITH & REASON

    Join the dialogue
    Talk on the message boards, start a discussion group, tell a friend...and more!

    Newsletter     For Educators     About the Series     TV Schedule     Feedback     Resources     DVDs/VHS
    © Public Affairs Television 2006     Privacy Policy     Terms of Use