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New York Times new President/CEO says Christianity is based on objective truth

Tomorrow, Mark Thompson takes over as the new President and CEO of The New York Times.

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Tomorrow, Mark Thompson takes over as the new President and CEO of The New York Times. Thompson is a practicing Catholic who believes "that the truths of the Christian faith are objective truths, rather than being entirely subjective."

The position is primarily focused on running the business aspects of the Times. Thompson turned the British Broadcasting Company into a global online media powerhouse, and the Times management feels that he could do the same here.

The New York Times Company announced on August 14th that Thompson would become its new President and CEO. Thompson left the position as director-general of the British Broadcasting Corporation on Friday, September 14th. Times Company's chairman, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., told analysts last month that Mr. Thompson "possesses high ethical standards, and is the ideal person to lead our company." However, questions about Thompson's ethics arose in October.

Soon after, Thompson left the BBC, a scandal broke out over how the British media enterprise had handled charges of pedophilia made against Jimmy Savile, one of its most famous show hosts in an earlier era. Thompson says that he did not know specifically how BBC news was handling the Savile scandal, though he was told that a program exposing Savile was shelved shortly before his media enterprise ran a celebratory program about Sevile. At the Times journalists say that they will ask Thompson if he did all he could to get to the bottom of the Savile affair. Did he live up to his Catholic ethics to protect the vulnerable? Or did he stick his head in the sand?

Thompson has also faced questions about his editorial sensibility in regard to religion reporting. In 2005 BBC aired a controversial program "Jerry "Springer: the Opera" which contains some satire against Christianity. Last spring, Thompson talked with Oxford University professor Timothy Garton Ash about the role of his Catholic faith in journalism. Below are some of the most interesting points and the full interview in the video provided by Ash's organization


Religious believers are realists.

“Almost all people who have religious belief are realists about the belief…They believe their faith refers to things that have an objective reality.”

Mark Thompson is in the realist camp.

“I am a practicing Catholic, and I would probably describe myself as a critical realist in religious matters but I’m a realist and I believe, as it were, that the truths of the Christian faith are objective truths, rather than being entirely subjective."

Secularism is on the decline.

“Around the world, it would appear that, if anything, secularism is rather in a decline actually.

Because secularists privilege their beliefs on the public square, they often don’t understand the deep offensiveness of their ridicule of religious belief.

“One of the mistakes of secularists is not to understand the character of what blasphemy feels to some one who is a realist in their religious beliefs…For a Muslim a comic or demeaning depiction of the Prophet Mohammed might have the force, be the emotional force, of a piece of grotesque child pornography…Religion as it is lived is not simply about a kind of interplay of propositions , two plus two equals four versus two plus two equals five. It is a felt experience with a big emotional charge.”

How does a publisher, producer or editor decide whether to run an offensive characterization of someone else’s religion?

The decision is based upon “whether the level of offense that it is likely to cause is justified by the intended artistic expression involved…”

Would you treat Christian beliefs and Muslim beliefs the same way? BBC broadcast "Jerry Springer: the Opera" which contained several sideswipes against Christianity.

Muslims in a majority Christian country "may already feel in other ways isolated, prejudiced against, and...they may well regard an attack on their religion as racism by other means". Thompson agreed with the statement that he "wouldn't dream of broadcasting something comparably satirical if it had been the Prophet Mohammed rather than Jesus."


Here is the whole interview which covers quite a bit more than we have summarized:


A version of this feature was also published on November 11, 2012 in A Journey through NYC religions.

  • Admiring your website

  • Helen:

    Did you hear about the 50,000,000 dead humans since 1973, in the US alone?


    They don't count.

    They are only potential humans.

    As well as in rationalizing the mass murdering freakshow which, having dehumanized the unborn, rolls onward to new domains.


    I believe the stakes are clear.

  • Helen I agree with you , I would add that wherever religion becomes entangled with politics, women suffer. This is because most religions are anti women . Women are treated as second class citizens , and terrible things happen to them . I believe in a level of intolerance towards religions with such attitudes. In Britain very young somalian girls are being circumcised for religious reasons . This mutilation is illegal but never prosecuted because of religious sensitivity. Countries like france have had convictions with prison sentences for the abusive parents and the person committing the mutilation . This is because France has a clear separation of church and state. America should have the same separation. It is in the constitution , so the guys that wrote that must have felt it to be an important point of principle for the development of a fair society . The Americans on here that want their religious policies to be written in law, and through politicians like Bush and Reagan have succeeded, are spitting on this great constitution. In my mind they show a level of contempt for their own constitution that can only be described as unpatriotic.
    Not all religions are anti women , Quakers for instance , but many are . Women have had to fight hard for their rights and these misogynists are trying to drag you back into the dark ages.

  • You are aware that "self aware, sentient" isn't the same as 'asleep' or 'unconscious' right?

    Rick, I know you are inching towards invoking Godwin's law, so let me just point something out to you; Hitler was anti-abortion for so called Ayran women. He was also pro forced abortion for people he disagreed with.

    I am against forced anything - it's why I can be for freely chosen abortion and against forced abortion.

    It's why i'm anti euthanasia, but pro assisted suicide for people who want it.

    It's why I think it's sick that female foetuses are routinely aborted in certain countries, and still be for the right to choose, because i'm smart enough to recognise that the issue isn't abortion, but hatred against women, which fuels *some* (by no means all) anti choice elements, who are anti-abortion, anti contraception, anti single mothers and anti welfare.

    And people - humans - are ALREADY dying due to people like you.

    Did you hear about the lady in Ireland? Thanks to so called pro-life laws, she was allowed to die while miscarrying, because the doctors refused to 'perform an abortion' - i.e. remove the dying foetus so she could be treated. As a DIRECT result, she caught septacemia and died, a situation that was utterly unnecessary and preventable.

  • Helen:

    Yes, this is exactly what you said, that you are human "Because you are self aware, sentient and fully grown."

    That is exaxctly what you said.

    I don't blame you for rolling your eyes at it.

    I am glad you do.

    I hope that more people point out the unsettling implications of defining certain of us as humans and certain of us as "potential humans".

    You correctly point to euthanasia as yet one more way in which the potentially human will, logically, end up being separated from the actually human.

    Unless your world view is very critically challenged.

    Because once we go down that road, rolling your eyes and channeling Alinsky's scorn just won't cut it.

    People- humans- will die.

  • >> Better hope so. If you are unconscious, asleep, or less-than-fully-grown, Helen has just informed you that you are not human. You might still have the potential to become human, though..........

    Yes. I am saying that being asleep is the same as being a foetus. *eyeroll*

    And yes, by saying that I regard a foetus as a potential human being (which it is), I am clearly into compulsory euthanasia.

    I really don't get this Obamacare hatred. At the moment millions of Americans simply go without essential healthcare because they can't afford it. Others get into lifelong debt due to health problems.

    Obama: "I want to create a healthcare system that is free at point of use, and will only require a modest tax contribution."

    Republicans: "You want to murder our babies / old people! Especially ones with disabilities!!!!!"

  • He’s just now leaving as the head of the Beeb? If it weren’t for the enforced tax subsidy of the Beeb, would it even survive? It has a reputation of inaccuracy as far as its news coverage is concerned. The BBC is primarily an entertainment company supported by government, how can he rescue a newspaper with his background?

  • Wow! Quite surprising, but didn't the BBC admit that they were biased against Christianity? Evidently his office doesn't effect the content or the angle.

  • I know for sure it's the end of the age! :)The employees will cut his tires...daily!

  • Because you are self aware, sentient and fully grown

    >> Better hope so. If you are unconscious, asleep, or less-than-fully-grown, Helen has just informed you that you are not human. You might still have the potential to become human, though..........

    (barring unlucky development problems).

    >> In which case, pray that you never need Helen to vouch for your humanity.

    Prior to that you are a developing / potential human being.

    >> Got that? A "potential" human being? Helen and her friends will be only too happy to examine you to see whether your have actualized your potentiality.....or not.

    Remember, it is the Helens of the world who voted for Obamacare and the Helens of the world will sit on the panels that determine your.........potential.

  • Namaste Everyone, Excellent choice, I'm convinced Mark will do an outstanding job. Congratulations Mark and welcome aboard. Namaste Timothy.

  • Ted I can take a cell from the inside of my cheek . It contains DNA and it is potentially possible to create a human being out of it . My cheek cell doesnt have rights , let alone equal human rights but I can tell you who does... Women. I BELIEVE that your religion is discriminatory towards women . It offends our hard won liberal values and it has no place in our society. It appears that this is also true in your country because you have just lost an election . Partly because of the large amount of women voters who dont like Mitts views on abortion.

  • Because you are self aware, sentient and fully grown (barring unlucky development problems). Prior to that you are a developing / potential human being.

  • Ted, you are the one making outlandish statements and chucking the word 'science' around - the burden of proof is on you.

  • Let us hope...cautiously. Remember, we have self proclaimed practicing catholics named Pelosi, Biden, and Michael Moore. People whose moral compass is 180 degrees out from catholic teaching and doctrines. Let us hope this individual abides by the teaching and doctrine.

  • God surely does work in mysterious ways, as the saying goes. An anti-Christian newspaper like the Times gets a Catholic president. That is surely the handiwork of the Creator of the universe, better known as God.

  • I also wanted to mention, Vishal Mangalwadi, who has some excellent material that is relevant to our conversation. Coming from the nation of India, he argues that it is through the revelation of Scripture and not natural revelation, that we determine such truths as the dignity of man and the sanctity of life. You can get some of his material free online. I think you would enjoy it. He and Nancy Pearcey are both linked to Francis Schaeffer's L'Abri ministry.

  • You're thinking pretty deep this early in the morning, Robby. I had to really chew on this before offering a reply. I think that for him to say that they are objective, that is a deeper sense of conviction than to just say that he "believes" they are objective. But, the way you are stating it is different. You are questioning man's ability and probably his objectivity. That, my friend, has become the argument of our modern day. I think that Nancy would agree with you right on. To tell you the truth, I haven't come to a conclusion on this debate. There are several different kinds of Christian apologetic. Nancy could probably help out on this if I don't get it right. Thompson is a Roman Catholic and probably leans toward evidentialism (which views man as capable enough to examine objective evidence and come to a proper conclusion, despite man's corrupted nature). Thomas Aquinas was a great Christian thinker and apologist who has probably had more influence over Catholic thinking than anyone else. If I understand him correctly, he was an evidentialist. I use to rely heavily upon that in discussions. In recent years, I've gravitated more toward what I consider an existential argument of Francis Schaeffer, as well as Alvin Plantinga's work.

  • Who do you have to prove the facts to? Is Christian faith based on the religion of it's Namesake, or a generalized idea put together in the mind of the created? If you have complete faith in the Word of God, and take the instruction in it at face value, then the truths contained are absolute and in no way objective from man's point of view at all.

  • Well it's kind of a problem, I feel, because while Christians do see its truths as objective, they aren't observable or verifiable in the way that most of the things that journalist reports on are. The behaviors of Christians are, but the teachings of Christianity are not. That's the thing about metaphysics.

  • Hey Jim, how ya been. I couldn't help but stop and read this thread because it so caught my interest. I think though, that from a Chrisian standpoint his statement should have read a little more like this. "I believe that the truths of the Christian faith are absolute truths and not based on subjective truths". I left out objective because, although one's perspective could be entirely objective, if you get the facts from the wrong sources it then becomes merely subjective, correct? The only source for absolute truth is not in the mind of man, but in the pages of the inspired Word given to us by the Creator God(2 Timothy3:16-17).

  • peeps, do we really believe that we are like the prophet Isaiah, the "only ones"? Are we skeptical and shocked if we discover one of the others who have not submitted to Ahab, hiding in a cave? Do we then disdain them just because he is not walking with us politically? Is political affiliation that unifies Christians? or am I missing something...

  • It seems to me that to base my life on a purely subjective belief would be a losing proposition. If it's only subjective, I don't want to waste my time on it. However, kudos to the CEO who was willing to admit publicly that he believes Christianity is based on objective truth! So many people who claim to believe are so apologetic about their "belief".

  • you're performing a bit of a bait-and-switch there keith. your prior statements ridiculed adherence to subjectivism now you are trotting out the canard of "pure" subjectivism.

  • Great retort Tony!

  • From the article:
    “Around the world, it would appear that, if anything, secularism is rather in a decline actually."

    Well, if he means that a false spirituality has crept in to take over secularism's place, then I can agree. But it's no victory. Secularism is a coat of many colors.

  • God is the cause of causes: the reason why there are causes in the world at all. Nothing we see about us bears the stamp of necessity, a thing that even the reductive materialists admit when they imagine other universes, whereof by definition there can be no observations. But contingency cannot hang upon contingency in any hierarchy of causes (as opposed to a flat series, which is quite different). I am a realist too.

  • well Brian, feel free to expose my folly. I'm anxious to be instructed as to the coherence and reasonableness of purely "subjective" religious beliefs.

  • Nice false dichotomy you posit, Mike Cara. So devoid of facts of yourself, so I'm calling a tu quoque on you.

  • I know I am a hopeless reactionary, but I can't for the life of me even make sense of a religious believer who believes the truths of his religion are "subjective."

  • Has he been fired yet?

  • So long as he doesnt bring faith into the world of facts that is fine. As far as objective reality...really?

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