Reading Our Times

Reading Our Times

Can liberalism ever ‘get’ religion?

Download it: MP3 | AAC | OGG | OPUS

Liberalism and religion have had an intimate and sometimes tempestuous relationship over the years. In recent decades, a number of people have claimed that liberal political theory doesn’t really understand religion, and that religion in liberal societies suffers as a consequence.

'Liberalism’s Religion', an award winning book by Cécile Laborde, Nuffield Chair of Political Theory at the University of Oxford, explores the way in which liberalism conceives of and deals with religion, and argues that the dominant ‘liberal–egalitarian’ approach toward religion is misguided and in need of revision.

Is the law damaging our politics?

Download it: MP3 | AAC | OGG | OPUS

We live in an age of ever expanding law and of rampant political cynicism. Perhaps the two are connected?

Nick Spencer talks to former BBC Reith lecturer and the Supreme Court Justice Jonathan Sumption about his book 'Trials of the State: Law and the Decline of Politics' which argues that our growing inclination to turn to the law to resolve our problems may, in fact, be making our public life worse.

Unfortunately we were hampered by the tech in this episode, and despite the sterling work of our expert producer Phil in post–production, Jonathan’s voice remains accompanied by tiny electronic crickets. If you are finding it difficult to listen, you can read the transcript of the conversation here:

How has the divided brain shaped the modern world?

Download it: MP3 | AAC | OGG | OPUS

Humans see and understand the world in different ways, ways that appear to map onto the brain’s function and in particular its hemispheric nature. But how has that ‘attention’ shaped the world we live in today?

Nick Spencer talks to the former Consultant Psychiatrist and author of 'The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World' about brains, minds, cultures, and God.

What's wrong with rights?

Download it: MP3 | AAC | OGG | OPUS

The concept of ‘rights’ tends to provoke a strong response from people today: some hold them in quasi–religious esteem, while others consider them responsible for selfish individualism and social fragmentation.

Nick Spencer talks to Nigel Biggar, Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology at the University of Oxford, about his new book 'What’s wrong with rights?', which takes a critical look at the language, logic and implementation of rights today.

Why is the West becoming so unequal and what can we do about it?

Download it: MP3 | AAC | OGG | OPUS

Levels of inequality, particularly in the West, have been growing steadily over the last 50 years, and they seem likely to accelerate in the wake of Covid–19. Why is this? Why was the 20th century so good as equalising wealth and income, why is the 21st century different, and what should we do about it?

Nick Spencer talks to the economist, Thomas Piketty – whose books Capital in the 21st century and Capital and Ideology have changed the debate on the subject – about inequality, solidarity, and the dangers of treating property as if it were sacred.

What can dementia teach us about being human?

Download it: MP3 | AAC | OGG | OPUS

Approximately 850,000 people in the UK today are living with dementia – and that number is just set to grow. But what actually is dementia? What does it do to us? And what does it say about us, and in particular about our humanity?

In the third episode of Reading Our Times, Nick Spencer talks to novelist and journalist Nicci Gerrard about her experience of her father’s dementia and the moving and poignant book she wrote about it, 'What Dementia Teaches Us About Love'.

What does it mean to live in a secular age?

Download it: MP3 | AAC | OGG | OPUS

We live in “a secular age”, but what does that actually mean? How does secularism relate to religion? And how should it?

Nick Spencer talks to the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor, about his famous book 'A Secular Age', which has done more to bring sophistication and nuance to the debates about secularism than any other published in a generation.

About this podcast

Reading Our Times is the podcast that explores the books and the ideas that are shaping us today. It is hosted by Nick Spencer, Senior Fellow at the think tank, Theos.

We’re going to be talking to some of the world’s leading authors about issues like meritocracy, justice, populism, human rights, the brain, liberalism, and religion.

Above all, we'll be exploring what these books have to say about the times we live in and about the people we are.

So listen with us, and we’ll introduce you to authors, books and ideas that illuminate ourselves and our world today.

For more information about the people and ideas behind the podcast, visit or follow us on Twitter @theosthinktank and @theosnick.

by Theos Think Tank


Follow us