Paxman: The Shallowness of Celebrity Atheism

English: Jeremy Paxman (born 11 May 1950), a B...

English: Jeremy Paxman (born 11 May 1950), a British BBC journalist, news and TV presenter and author from England. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman’s use of the term “religious hogwash” to introduce the Biblical book of Genesis was “offensive”, a report by the BBC has acknowledged.

Mr Paxman also referred to those who hold to a literal belief in the Old Testament as “stupid people”.

The presenter, known for his robust interviewing style, made the comments during an interview with atheist Professor Richard Dawkins last September.


Now the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee has acknowledged that the comments were “offensive”.

The Committee maintains that Mr Paxman’s use of the terms “religious hogwash” and “stupid people” was not intended to deliberately cause offence.

But it acknowledges “that they were offensive to some of the audience and that there was no clear editorial purpose for their use in the context of this Newsnight item”.


The Trust’s report added: “The committee therefore concluded that the item breached the editorial guidelines on harm and offence. It added that it regretted the offence caused to some viewers by the use of the terms ‘religious hogwash’ and ‘stupid people’ on this occasion.”

However, the Trust rejected suggestions that the show had breached guidelines on impartiality.

Mr Paxman’s comments prompted one viewer to complain that the piece was offensive and biased.


The complaint was initially rejected prompting the viewer to write to the Corporation’s Editorial Complaints Unit which again ruled against it.

But following an appeal the complaint was partly upheld by the BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee.

A BBC spokeswoman said: “Newsnight notes the trust’s finding that viewers may have found some of the comments offensive, but also welcomes the finding that the piece achieved due impartiality.”


In June one of the broadcaster’s former newsmen said that institutionally, the BBC doesn’t much care for evangelical Christians.

Dennis Sewell worked for more than 20 years at BBC News and said the Corporation views “religious faith” as “a hangover from a bygone age”.

A report produced by him accused the BBC of being over-considerate towards Islam — in marked contrast to its treatment of Christianity.

But don’t blame Jeremy too much. Paxman simply used invective to cover up his own deep ignorance. Anyone who just waves a term like “hogwash” at the Bible is clearly playing to some perceived gallery for a couple of thin laughs and knowing jeers. Why not -now here’s a bizarre idea- why not read it fresh for yourself, Jeremy?

To complain that it’s not a science textbook (and nor does it purport to be one) is like complaining that your wife’s shopping list doesn’t rhyme.

This entry was posted in Celebrity, Contemporism, Faith, God, Is it me?, Media and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Paxman: The Shallowness of Celebrity Atheism

  1. jamespetticrew says:

    The sad thing is that when the BBC programme helped Paxmann research his family tree he discovered that his family lived in absolute poverty in the East of Glasgow, just near Parkhead and it was only after they came into contact with the Salvation Army which met their physical and spiritual needs that the family’s life was turned around paving the way for Paxmann to get the education and career he now uses to belittle that same faith and bible of which he is a product.

    sad. And I certainly don’t think he would have called the Qu’ran “hogwash” I don’t want Christianity to have a privileged place but it should have an equal place in culture with other religions

  2. kenbaker says:

    Hi James,
    Thanks for that. Literally biting the hand that fed you, then!
    I have no desire to defend a mind-narrowing fundamentalism (be it Christian or another variety!) but it beggars belief that someone of Paxman’s obvious intelligence could display such blanket ignorance.
    By the way, I love the BBC’s apology: “The Committee maintains that Mr Paxman’s use of the terms “religious hogwash” and “stupid people” was not intended to deliberately cause offence.”
    I mean you’d have to be stupid to be offended by someone calling you stupid, wouldn’t you?

  3. jamespetticrew says:

    His grandmother Mabel was actually a Salvation Army officer, I wonder if he is ashamed of his poor Scottish Christian roots, it doesn’t fit with the pillar of the English intellectual establishment he tries to be

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s