Many young Jewish people living in Israel feel religion has too big an influence over their private lives. Numerous aspects of life are governed by a council made up of orthodox rabbis called the Rabbinate. They decide who is and isn't Jewish and by extension who can and can't marry.
Supporters of the organisation say this helps preserve Jewish identity. Critics say it means thousands of people who are not deemed 'Jewish enough' can't marry each other, forcing couples to leave the country to have a ceremony that will be recognised by the authorities when they return home.
The religious monopoly on marriage also means Jews cannot marry non-Jews and as the council of orthodox rabbis rule on divorce for every married couple in Israel, many say this disadvantages women.
Tim Franks is with a live audience and a panel of guests to discuss whether the Rabbinate should be stripped of its monopoly, or whether the current rules protect the identity and values of the Jewish faith.
This special Heart and Soul Gathering from the BBC World Service is the third programme in a series of faith-based community discussions.
Produced by Louise Clarke-Rowbotham.
Photo credit: Jewish Wedding Ring - Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Divorce, Communion and Catholic Confusion
The laws around divorced Catholics receiving communion are both clear and strict. But recently Pope Francis has clouded the issue with a number of pronouncements, giving millions of divorced Catholics hope that they will be able to receive the sacrament at mass.
Catholics who divorce in civil law are still married according to the law of the church, and any relationship they enter into is adulterous. And as that's a mortal sin, they cannot take communion.
Adrian Chiles hasn’t married again after he divorced, but hasn’t ruled it out. He knows, though, that once that happens, he won’t be able to receive the most important element of his faith, and that bothers him.
Adrian begins by meeting Cristina Odone, a Catholic journalist who tells him how she cannot receive communion because she is married to a divorcee and how much this upsets her. He also meets two divorcees who face having to get an annulment of difficult marriages.
There are many Catholics who want the law upheld, and many others who have been given hope by the Pope. Adrian uses his own situation to explore this thorny subject which is causing division in his church.
Presenter: Adrian Chiles
Producer: Henrietta Harrison
Photo: A priest handing out communion during mass Credit: Getty Images.
Durga Puja with Amit Chaudhuri
Imagine being swept along the streets of Calcutta by a crowd of over three hundred thousand people all visiting fantastical temporary pandals which are built from clay, silt, wicker, and papier-mache by local artisans every year to celebrate the festival of Durga Puja.
Acclaimed writer and local resident Amit Chaudhuri, along with family members and friends, go pandal-hopping across the neighbourhoods of the city to tell the story of how the Hindu goddess Durga leaves her spiritual realm for five days every autumn and visits her mortal devotees to allow them to be seen by her.
This devotional reassurance takes place inside the pandals which all contain an effigy, a murti, of Durga and curiously, displays reflecting particular current issues, from the overtly political to the blatantly commercial. Each neighbourhood has spent the previous year raising funds for the structures and over the years, the building of the pandals and their murti has become increasingly competitive, with each district vying to outdo the others in an carnival-like celebration of spirituality that is as much about Disney as it is about deity.
The festival concludes when Durga returns to her spiritual home and the pandals no longer have purpose. They are dismantled and, followed by vast crowds, taken to the Ganges and immersed in the fast-flowing water where they dissolve and return as the silt which will be used to make new pandals for next year’s Durga Puja.
Additional writing, editing and post production by John Wakefield.
Location recording by Shuva Chakraborti.
Producer: Roger James Elsgood
(Photo: The street and houses leading up to the brothel pandal with dummies of sex workers. Credit: Amit Chaudhuri)
Once in Royal David's City
No carol encapsulates the beginning of Christmas like ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ which every Christmas Eve opens the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, in the candlelit Chapel of King's College, Cambridge. Around the globe, listeners to the BBC World Service tune into the service every year.
This is a story of last minute anticipation, as three or four boys are traditionally put on standby, and at the last moment one is chosen to sing the famous carol.
Its opening bars are part of Christmas for millions of people wherever they are in the world, who won't know that the chorister singing, unaccompanied, this famous carol was chosen for the role just minutes before
Programme Introduced by Richard Gowers
Producer: Helen Lee
To Be a Jedi
At the last UK Census in 2011 some 170,000 people registered their faith as Jedi. Easily outstripping any other kind of fictional religious faith. It’s a similar situation in many other countries. But what does this all mean? Clearly many are not serious but for thousands the light and the dark and the all powerful Force have real meaning. The Star Wars universe has been around so long it almost feels like an old religion, like The Force, everywhere and nowhere. For some it can be a path towards a better way of thinking or living.
In this world there are Jediists and Jedi Realists and members of the Church of the Jedi. Many online and sharing ideas and beliefs which owe their origins to the world of Star Wars. George Lucas’s original stories where themselves a wholesale borrowing of Eastern and Western philosophies and beliefs made magical by the whirring, shining light sabres wielded by the ancient order of the Jedi Knights.
Will Bond, a young musician and podcaster, himself in possession of Jedi Robes and a light sabre, goes in search of those who have taken the philosophy and spirituality of the Star Wars universe to heart and asks what it means to be a Jedi?