Episode 17 The Big Questions

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Episode 17

Nicky Campbell presents from Oasis Academy MediaCityUK. Is it right to take more than 50% in tax? Do we have a right not to be offended? Is death easier if you believe in God?

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Today on The Big Questions: taxes and fair shares; taking


offence; and facing death with and without God.


Good morning, I'm Nicky Campbell, welcome to The Big Questions.


Today we're live from Oasis Academy MediaCityUK in Salford.


Welcome, everybody, to The Big Questions.


Promises about tax always play a big part in elections.


Pledges not to increase VAT, National Insurance or income taxes


in the Tories' 2015 manifesto came back to haunt the Chancellor,


Philip Hammond, when he tried to balance his recent budget.


We'll find out next week whether that pledge still stands.


Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, has warned all those earning ?80,000


a year or more that they may be paying more tax


And their leaked manifesto promises various rises in spending that


And the LibDems are saying everyone should pay 1% more tax to fund


But is there a limit to what is fair?


Is it right to take more than 50% in tax?


Pfizer Sheehan, would you do it, whether it is mixed, a little bit of


money, revenue neutral, people change their behaviour, would you do


it anyway on a point of moral principle? It should raise more


money, even where it wasn't, it's because people are avoiding tax and


that's another issue. I wouldn't give people lower tax because they


are avoiding tax, giving people a reward. I understand but it


behaviour changes and you can't change it, but Ulster be avoidance,


look at France, 75% tax on super-rich raising about 100 and six


-- 160 million euros, as far as I remember it the national deficit was


80 billion. The darling of the centre-left, Emmanuel Macron said it


was Kubot without the sunshine. The issue is, why are people changing


their behaviour and I think tax gets a bad rap. If we didn't have texts


-- taxes, public resources, schools hospitals and roads would suffer.


Places they don't have tax resources, it's scary, tax is the


price we pay personal life society and people avoiding it is an issue.


I think it's especially fared to give, charge people with higher


incomes higher,... Is it morally right? Yes, because we've seen


inequality grew somewhat, the top 1%, if we take together and it did


they take a bigger share of that, the top 10% per instance back in the


late 70s took about 1.9% more than the bottom 10% now it's nine times


as much, we know FTSE bosses get 108 times the average worker in the


company earns. They earn more. What's happened is we have seen a


shift towards income going, the top five and 1%, the rest of us get


more, we get less, so it stagnates. It's a correction to the levels of


the quality we have. Caroline... I don't think you're going to agree.


I'm not. But what about the moral issue? If you've done as well as


that in society it's not an attack on wealth, success, it's basically


saying PA little bit more, help us all be a community about it, more


for roads, social care, hospitals, schools... What really worries me.


We are all in this together. Absolutely. But what worries me as


the rate goes up the billionaires can do something about it but the


guys who earn a little bit more, workers and Sabres, they are the


ones who will be faced with 50% tax and I don't think that's fair. But


what I do think, we ought to stay start thinking about the existing


tax system which allows them, enables them to avoid the tax. At


the moment we have a very silly system in the UK for by if you are a


non-domicilliary you can put your money outside the UK, there are


incentives for keeping it abroad and in that situation, I think -- don't


think it's right. I think we should have a tax incentive that makes the


billions come to Britain and that's what we need to do. We July to load


the top rate of tax? I would. I'm not a policy maker but what I want


to see is lower the rate of tax for the simple reason that everyone will


feel richer and they will then spend more and if they spent more... I


would say around 35%. When they spend more they benefit Britain and


businesses in Britain. That's my plan B. Lydia, 35%, do you think


you'd get more money from that for the Exchequer? Remember if we can


get money to move we get it in taxation, we get it in VAT. Lydia.


Pfizer Sheehan hit the nail on the head, taxes this site shall,


inequality is the driver. Society is very unequal, having the rich pay


more tax equalises things. So when society is an equal... In Fort Wayne


doesn't equalise things that doesn't raise much revenue, which is the


argument on the other side and you would actually raise more revenue


for the reasons that Caroline alluded to, RUC in it's a point of


moral principle? No, I'm not. I'm considering evidence, I think there


is fairly strong evidence that more equal societies tent to do better.


Amber also evidence that more equal societies tend to do better whether


those societies are more equal of the gross income level or at the net


income level. So I think that's a really interesting point. Perhaps


tax is not really the issue. It's a collective psychological impact, in


a sense? Any thoughts, audience? Gentlemen in the pink shirt. I think


perhaps it depends on the circumstances. Right now, speaking


as a student many of my friends, I'm from Gibraltar, my tuition fees is


ordered but many of my friends and people of my generation, students


will be saddled with debt. We see across the road from here, the


homelessness in Greater Manchester and it's part of the mayoral debate,


40 million people looking for homes, public services are stretched to the


limit, if there is ever a time to raise taxes on the wealthiest in the


nation it's probably now. Anyone else? Are you worried it reaches a


rate for by its, this is the argument, it's so punitive you get


less money? This is a lack of care... We are beyond that. I would


say is the limit, around 70% maximum. But I think technically we


can go about 50 now. When you say 70% and I just have to say, Angelus


eyes nearly popped out of her head. What's wrong with 70% from people


who have the broadest shoulders? We have a big social care crisis. We


do, there is a novel lot of benevolence amongst the wealthiest


in society. Setting aside fiscal discussions about net benefits and


whether it's going to raise tax, wealth has become a Deidre word in


this country. -- dirty word. What we want to promote, as the mother of


students, and aspirational culture, they feel they work hard, hopefully


they will have a fulfilling life and contribute to society, hopefully


have a job that gives them enough solvency to enjoy life and make the


right moral choices with the money they earn but if they are


consistently browbeat -- browbeaten by the notion that it is wrong to


earn a decent amount of money and somehow, as you said before, you


pre-faced this by saying the largest amount of tax comes from those who


earn the most ready... More to come. I think it's a poor lesson to young


people. We want them to aspire, not just from a monetary position at


from an emotional and social welfare position. We are not ever telling


them wealth is a dirty word. 90% of tax comes from the top 50% in


society, various levels and statistics so what about that? The


object to the wealthy, people being wealthy? We don't want a society


that can be oppressive but at the same time levels of wealth


inequality that we have in this country, especially attached to


housing, a lot of young people can't afford to buy a house and they can't


get on the wealth ladder and so we have levels of inequality that hurt


aspiration, hurt social mobility. I think there's a right balance we can


reach and we are not there right now, we've gone from being one of


the most equal countries to being one of the most unequal high-income


countries. It was 60% under Mrs Thatcher. There are levels, I agree


that become punitive but 50% is not bad and I think given for we are in


terms of inequality in public services, young people aren't having


a chance and also the levels of them to generation inequality, people


above 40 plus have so much wealth income than those in younger


generations we should rebalance and the best thing is when you get


people on lower to middle income is more money and more ability to spend


they are more likely to spend it than the rich. You don't want to


give tax cuts to the rich because they say that. The poor spend it.


Alex from the taxpayers Alliance, that's a very potent point about


future generations. Our children and grandchildren, will does not have


the quality-of-life that so many of us were lucky to have had. We need


to invest in their future by paying more tax, don't we? There is a


number of points. The first is that if you think, should be taxed more


than 50% of peoples earnings, this is that because it happens, the 60p


rate of income tax, the personal allowance... What is the optimum


rate? Depends what you want. If you are talking strictly about revenue


raising, you probably are looking at some work between ?40.45, revenue


raising highest but I don't think the aim of the tax system should be


to raise as much revenue. If you want less of something tax it more,


if you want less wealthy tax and more, less wealthy rich people in


high income jobs to come to your country tax them more. It's better


to have lower rates to get more of these people here paying tax and


doing all these things in the first place. Is there proof that happens?


Plenty of proof, look at the 1970s... What sort of people come,


those who have expensive accountants... Get through a very


the kit system. Quite, the system is far too, Decatur but the reason why


people hire expensive accountants and try to avoid taxes because the


rates are so high, if that was 20% instead of 52%, there would be less


incentive for people to avoid it. Does it indicate a lack of


benevolence? There is less incentive, need to avoid it, the


rates are less punitive. The more that we tax, the more people will


try to avoid and the more we have anti avoidance measures and stuff


like that, more and more resentment comes into the system, more people


avoided, we are in a constant downward spiral, people constantly


resent the system. Let me ask Don Foster about this. It's a completely


backward argument, we have two children, one behaves well, one


misbehaves, we don't try and bribe the other child into behaving well


while ignoring the one who does behave well. I think rather than say


we have to teach aspiration, which is a big problem because we have a


rigid class system, we need to take responsibility so we have to ask,


how much money do people need? The top 1% have far more money than they


could ever use, they have ordered extensively and we have to crack


down on wealth avoidance and we have to raise revenue by raising taxes.


And we have to do that until we have a better social care system, that


NHS and we have to teach people to be democratic... Inheritance tax?


Wealth tax? Top rate of income tax up? They all have to go up, we have


to address intergenerational inequality which comes down to


housing, assets and the passing of love from generation to generation.


It's a small number of people hit by inheritance tax and they aren't hit


to the extent that my claim to be so I think we need to properly address


wealth inequality, doing that by revenue raising. You are taxing


people twice, and you? With inheritance tax. You are taxing


people twice. You are, because it's wealth that they've earned. Is it


fair? Yes, yes it is. Tax them twice, tax them again, tax them


again... I was just going to say, you're a really good writer, if you


wrote a book that were to be a massive JK Rowling bestseller and


made zillions you'd be quite happy to give more than 50% of it away? I


would, I have a small number of friends who are enough to put them


in the top 1% and they are happy to pay the full amount of tax and I


think we need to... JK Rowling is happy to pay her full amount, we


need to look at these people as role models... You haven't asked... I'm


sorry, did I call you Naomi? This is all very taxing, if I may say so.


The problem is we not talking about giving it away, were talking about


it being taken of people and countries with lower tax rate is,


the United States, in some states tax is about as high as it is in the


UK but generally speaking they are lower, about twice as philanthropic,


three times as people in the UK, the average American giving $15 a week


to charity. The poorest gives more than the wealthiest. What you're


doing by taxing and redistributing like this, you are effectively


raising the morale of the state above that of the individual and I


find that quite offensive and it's not as if the state is completely


benevolent. Politicians have their client groups and they have key


voters and they have key constituencies, it's not as if all


this money is going on lovely things that we can all agree with, but


that's trusting politicians. They are going to spend it on things that


we wanted to be spent on, I put the kid Spender done, but don't spend it


on that, even more, Decatur. More thoughts from the audience?


Just going back to the issue of inheritance tax, I have been


fortunate, I have been able to retire early from the public sector


and help my children. I am hoping that either for the next seven years


so they do not end up the charge on that inheritance tax. You have to be


careful, there is a lot of direct taxation and a lot of indirect


taxation. If you pass the house onto them no... I have been able to


assist them in buying houses themselves, I am doing my to give


them their inheritances early without the worry of not seeing them


able to achieve what they want to achieve. The lady beside our friend


from Gibraltar? With me, I can understand as a student and also I


graduated 18 months ago, I am setting up my own business... How


much debt do you have at the moment? It is quite substantial. With me,


what I want to do is have the ability to earn that money back from


my own business. I am of the opinion that if... As I say, I can


understand why people think it should be increased but at the same


time we should reward people who earn money, their own money their


own way, rather than taxing excessively above 50%. That is just


my opinion. APPLAUSE


Faiza, how do you have a tax system that encourages entrepreneurialism


and encourages people... Lots of us work hard, if they are lucky enough


to work hard and to make a lot of money and create a lot of jobs and


wealth, what is your incentive? Weedy progressive systems and we do


not want extreme levels, being 70, 75, 80%, they become a disincentive.


But for the most part we have a progressive system. Even in the US,


Bill Gates set up Microsoft when tax rates were double what they are now.


Questions about Microsoft, globally. Questions asked. There is something


important about the deal you make is a government, if you tax people


more, what you do. We have seen the top 1% in top 5% give more is that


we have seen the fall in middle-income jobs, we should be


investing back into the economy so that others can pay more tax. We


keep hearing that employment has gone up but the tax rate has gone


down because so many people are on low incomes. So what you do to plug


the gap in the economy should be the question. Some people pay 90% of


tax. But if you boost the economy you have more jobs. If you cap it


too high, you drain the people... We have not seen that. At extreme


levels you would see that, not at 50%. We have had 50% tax, there is a


quirk in the system now and people are leaving. Businesses would leave


if they did not happen educated workforce, good roads, a good health


system that staff could rely on, that is when businesses would leave.


APPLAUSE When you are dealing with businesses


you are talking about a system of tax that pays 19%. 19%


incorporation, you keep your money in your company and do not take it


out as income. If you take it out as income you are taxed at 45, 50, 60%,


you do not do it. It is terribly important that we have more


equality, that is why I will say bring the rate down, don't raise it


up for Corporation Tax, if you do that we will drive businesses out of


the country for the various reasons that you say that we have a safe and


secure country and a fantastic workforce. Khalil, as a Muslim, 10%


during come those two... Sorry? Is it 2.5%? I was talking about the old


ties! 2.5%. What, principally, do you think about taking more than


half of what someone earns? Some people say it is a moral duty, the


right thing to do is agree, some people say it is unethical and


immoral because you are discouraging people to work hard? Where are you?


The system of redistribution of wealth, the important thing here is


that when you live in a democracy it is not just about having a free


vote, it is about transparency. There have been great arguments on


the panel about how you use the money. What is important is when you


are setting the tax rate you have transparency in how that is


distributed. In my view it is important to recognise that the


economic crisis for many people and many families is not over. What we


need from all of the political parties when making a tax policy is


to understand how it will be used and have it will benefit the


population of the country. Thank you very much indeed for your


contributions, all of you. I look forward to hearing far more from all


of you later as we proceed. If you have something to say


about that debate log on to bbc.co.uk/thebigquestions,


where you'll find links to join We're also debating live this


morning from Salford: Do we have a right


not to be offended? And is death easier


if you believe in God? So, get tweeting or emailing


on those topics now or send us any other ideas or thoughts you may


have about the show. On Tuesday, the Irish police


dropped their investigation into claims Stephen Fry made


blasphemous remarks on a television Fry asked why he should "respect


a capricious, mean-minded, stupid god who creates


a world full of injustice." People have said much worse on this


programme over the past decade. But in Jakarta, Indonesia,


blasphemy has landed the Christian governor in prison,


after he suggested some imams had misused Koranic verses


to discriminate against Christian These days some students want


trigger warnings if a law lecturer plans to discuss a rape case


or a literature professor wants to analyse a gruesome play,


like Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus. And woe betide you if someone


insists they are neither male nor Do we have a right


not to be offended? Dawn, what's all this? What's all


this? When I was at university, a little while ago, I didn't want safe


spaces, I want a dangerous basis, I wanted challenges. We debated with


Communists, fascists, we didn't have is amiss in those days... I'm sure


you did extra measure my I joke, but not at Aberdeen University. We


relished that. What is the problem? We always focus on the most extreme


examples. I left university in 2010 and we had a big debate while I was


there about whether or not to remove the no platform policy for the BNP.


The debate was about the fact that we were a membership organisation, a


students union, and lots of the Jewish and Muslim students, lots of


the black and Asian students said that if fascists were entered into


their organisation we would not... They would not feel safe. We have to


look at the fact that everybody should be free to express political


opinions, up to a point where it discriminates against others. You


happy by Peter Tatchell and Germaine Greer who are no platform, people


who have fought all the way for the rights of others Daesh you have


people like Peter Tatchell and Germaine Greer. These great human


rights campaigners. Douglas Carswell from Ukip is banned from one


university and is an elected representative. When you have Peter


Tatchell and Jermaine Greer getting no platform, Islamist 's with


poisonous to views do not have no platform, there is not a level


playing field and makes no sense. A lot of the issues here are conflated


them not being invited to a specific debate... Trigger warnings. I would


not personally no platform Peter Tatchell Douglas Carswell, but there


is an argument against some very extreme Islamists, some very extreme


fascists. You have to look at whether people feel safe in their


organisations, their private spaces. Everybody should have the right to


be heard in public spaces, we were discussing Nick Griffin at


university, Nick Griffin not being invited to the University of Warwick


campus did not stop him from standing on the street and is


posting any views he wanted. We have to look at, for instance... When he


was on Question Time he made a fool of himself coming he was tested. But


it could have gone the other way and he could have roused applause. One


journalist said we were expecting Oswald Mosley and we got David


Brent. Adam, is it a case of trusting people? You can understand


Dawn's argument, someone has maybe left home for the first time, in a


university environment, it might stifle their confidence in


expressing their opinions because they have somebody so unpleasant


that? I exactly agree, university should be a dangerous space. The


University in the press is often described as a home from home,


universities make those points. It is not a comfy home surrounding, it


is a dangerous place where ideas should be tested. Within this debate


everybody claims to support free speech, that is the problem, they


say I support free speech but... But this is the exception. Where is your


but? There is no but. Free speech is to be absolute, so you often find


yourself to spending people who you disagree with entirely. A Holocaust


denier? If you silence people, you lose the opportunity to defeat these




You lose the opportunity to engage with them and put them down, which


is really important for society, more broadly. As activists and


citizens we should be debating and discussing things in order to build


a better future for everyone. That is the point of free speech. On this


show we have had the BNP when they had elected representatives, we have


had Anjem Choudary, all manner of Islamists, Tommy Robinson from the


EDL. People can play but we would argue it was in


context and there was a proper reason for it. Any thoughts from the


audience? The guy in the grey shirt? The right to not be offended begins


and ends with your right to not listen. You can't stop someone


else's mouth, only your own ears. You have to think for yourself.


APPLAUSE Stephen, does anything go with free


speech? I believe so. I suppose it might direct incitement to violence,


but how would you classify incitement? It is treating the


public as infants that can be incited into committing violence at


an instruction. We have all heard the expression it is taken, not


given, it is entirely subjective. What I find deeply offensive might


not faze the next person, vice versa. Where do you draw the line


and who do you trust to draw it? Given things I hear people getting


offended about, I trust nobody to draw that line. Who needs a safe


space? Possibly a group that might have a good shout for this is former


Muslims, they are ostracised by the larger community, it can be a great


risk to their personhood if they come out against Islam, vocally. I


speak to a lot of former Muslim groups... The guy behind you is not


happy at all. I work at a university. At the University I work


for an ex-Muslim group came up to the campus and I was asked to sit in


and observe, this is nonsense that ex-Muslims are somehow scared and


the idea that... It is not Muslims, Muslims are the most attacked people


in the press by everyone. You can't open a newspaper, turn on the


television without Muslims being attacked. In the last five minutes I


have heard about Islamist them used by almost everyone who has spoken.


Which Islamist people are you speaking to? That is offensive to


me. Do I had to sit here and take it? If you are an Islamist that you


have certain views on homosexuals, for example, if you are LGBT you


might find that offensive, but is it not better to debate that Islamist,


if I might use that term? I have had to listen to many anti-Muslim


comments, but there is a line. What about anti-LGBT comments? Stephen?


You made a point about Muslims having to put up with anti-Muslim


abuse, ex-Muslims have to put up with that. There are misconceptions


about you based on skin colour or your Arabic sounding name or


whatever, that is projected onto ex-Muslims, and they have the added


ostracisation from their own communities. Angela, would you sit


on a platform with a Holocaust denier? Given...? Absolutely not.


Absolutely not, because... Is a second-generation, both my parents


are survivors, my father over for and a half years in different camps,


including concentration camps, my mother questioned at gunpoint by the


Gestapo aged ten, I cannot tolerate the term Holocaust denier, because


Holocaust happened, it is not open to debate, you cannot debate if it


happened or not. It is one example, sorry, Angela, that you cannot use.


It is not the same as flat earth, it happened in 1939 to 1945. Excuse me,


you cannot deny facts. I feel really strongly. In that sense, there is no


debate. As far as debate goes I would like to say that I'm open to


free speech with a limit of... There is a limit.


I don't think individual psychology and emotional harm our bigger


principles of make-up foundation of society, I don't think it's the name


of mine to go out and offend people, I don't think it's good to


pointlessly offend people and in many ways this debate has become


toxic... This debate? The broader free-speech debate. The general


debate. The name-calling. Free speech is calling no platform


snowflakes, being quite aggressive, -- I think what we need to


understand is that free speech is a vehicle to enable us to progress as


a society and it is also the bedrock of freedom. All freedoms. As a


Moslem, the bedrock for society, we've made progress because of


free-speech kicking against clerical power and authoritarian power and


getting two where we are, the freedom to save what we want and


that much cherished freedom, the freedom to ridicule which said early


British and European thing, people who are against it, something of a


cultural imposition but your community has suffered greatly and


you feel that you have been slandered. Yes, my community has


suffered as a result of blasphemy laws and we might come to that as


the conversation progresses... In other countries. Free speech is...


He's shaking his head again, that fella. Sorry, carry on. Free-speech


is important, a fundamental right that should be protected but with


every right comes a level of responsibility, it's not something I


make up, we see that everywhere. On this programme today you wouldn't be


able to use abusive language, we have norms and rules that protect


against that, even the UK Human Rights Act... You might add to ten


o'clock, and I don't mean ten o'clock this morning. The UK Human


Rights Act has by our Parliament and our democratically elected leaders


talks about freedom of expression in article ten budget talks about it in


the context of morality, the context of responsibility. It's important,


absolutely important that we protect the right of spree speech but we do


it in a way that doesn't impose on minorities or the week... The


measure of democracy and the measure of our freedom is not how much we


are able... What exactly, we have a right, Chris Hitchens, Sunday said I


find that offensive and his next question was, your point is... It's


interesting, you identify as an Amadi muslin and it's one of the


largest persecuted sections of the Muslim community. Asad Shah, the


shopkeeper in Glasgow, held by a fellow Muslim because of his belief


and proclamations about faith, once you justify this offence culture you


provide people with rhetorical tools and justification to take matters


into their own hands. What we are not saying it's you can't have free


debate and discussion, it is absolutely important that you are


able to challenge what I believe, what a Jew believes, a Hindu or a


Christian, I defend that right, people should be able to save what


they want to see in order to get to the truth but when you start to use


free speech in order to ridicule and to insult and hurt and harm without


purpose, that does not benefit society. Look, I am born in a


century... I am born in a century... Whose truth, this is a thing?


Ridicule. We glory in ridicule, one at a time, Angela has been trying to


come in. You have been jumping up and down in your chair. You said


absolutely you would not... A Holocaust denier, if I can use that


term. She eloquently made the point that I was going to makes or I won't


repeat it, setting aside that it's humongous Lee offensive to Jewish


people or anybody who believes that shouldn't... To humanity. The


bleakest moment in the annals of human history but the problem is


what we have touched upon in this debate, there is a default position


in society, this generation outrage and the moral high ground is


overcrowded with people who are sort of ready to take offence if they


don't agree with you. Obviously we have social restraints about


incitement to racial hatred, sexual objectification of women,


xenophobia... But if I say Germany instead of chairperson, someone


leaps down my throat. Trivialising it a bit? I'm not, the issue has


become trivialised by those who object to the fact that the idea


that a wall. For example is somehow offensive to me. I wish I got more


wolf whistles! All, Don Foster doesn't like that, it's great, I can


see the expressions. Stephen in a second. I find it funny that someone


says we have social restraints which stop object occasion of women and


xenophobia and they write for the Daily Mail! I absolutely loathe that


argument, it's a cheap, get out of jail card. It's true. It may be but


you did nude the strength of your argument by saying I'll batter her


over the head with one of the newspapers you write for the cause


that way I don't have to take such a responsibility for anything else I


say. I'm entitled as an individual to have my point of view my point of


view is deeply offended by racial hatred, to racism, xenophobia,


sexual objectification of women. You are hypocritical. I'm not, you are


denying me the power of free-speech on a national television


programme... I can hear you. You are sat here lives as a situation of


censorship. I can't hear myself think. Stephen, this is the point


that was raised, whose truth is it anyway? Exactly, people have truth


that they try and base in science, for instance and people take it on


faith and there's all these multiple truths, I class a lot of them as


untruths myself but how do you compete for space in that way if you


get more power to run than the other? That's my opinion, there is


no ultimate truth and we should be open to challenge any sacred Kalb


numb at how many people hold it and how much it might hurt her feelings


if you do challenge. What about Holocaust and iris? Something as


ridiculous as that. There are other examples. -- deniers. My only


concern, Holocaust Nile is burly sinister in the fact it's


conspiratorial nature and if you tell people you can say that they


push it underground computer get to know where these people are. Denying


reality, something that happened. Religion is denying a reality as


well. I am going to collect your jacket. I think a religion is based


on faith and we are going to come to that in a minute. Don't worry,


Naomi. Faith is not something that can be proven. Faith in God is not


something that can be proved and it's a denial of reality, it's an


idea. It's man-made and it is a man-made idea. That's a question of


opinion. So we can debate it. And we should. It's important that we do.


You should be able to sit Moses didn't exist, Abraham didn't exist,


Mohamed existed, Jesus existed, we should be able to say that. Gentle


man in the jacket. Talking about free speech is an argument but


bottom line you shouldn't forget in this country and probably many


others in the world, people have died of -- died to preserve the


right of free speech. Have they died to provide the right to Richard


Tyseley and hatefully inside -- insult someone? It covers a broad


spectrum of thing, with free-speech, responsibility, the right to free


speech comes a responsibility to use it sensibly.


APPLAUSE Stephen, what is sensible? I think


free-speech has to cover everything from highbrow philosophy to gutter


tumour to insults to fence, the whole thing or it doesn't cover


anything, really. Free-speech has to be an absolute, we've had loads of


examples, the extreme example, the chair man, chairwoman... But Luke


looks plan? Taking away free speech from one person, you take it away


from anyone but it also as an individual speaker, it's


intellectually lazy to shut people up in order to win the argument. How


do you know your ideas are true if you never happened challenged? Do


you think it's a good way of testing and pushing and squeezing and going


through the scientific test of your own ideas? It's not a good way. It's


an affirmation of what you believe, a good way to test what you believe?


No, if you have beliefs that are never challenged and you never have


to defend them, you can never learn and develop your ideas. You stay


stagnant and you become intellectually lazy and there's no


proof, a lot of people who call themselves progressives in


university, they are the antithesis in my mind to what is progressive.


Thank you all very much. I know, many of you still raring to go. We


have time, joining the debate this morning.


You can join in all this morning's debates by logging


on to bbc.co.uk/the big questions then follow the link


Or you can tweet using the hashtag bbctbq


Tell us what you think about our last Big Question too -


Is death easier if you believe in God?


And if you'd like to be in the audience at a future show,


email audiencetbq@mentorn.tv We're in Peckham in South London on May


28th for the final two programmes of this series.


There will be the usual live programme in the morning


and in the afternoon we're recording a special


They say there are two certainties in life and we have already


debated one of them, taxes, so now it's time


It comes to us all in the end but some people have it


much harder than others, they must face the fact they are


There's a documentary on this tomorrow night on BBC2


called A Time to Live, and this shows people who found


a new intensity and joy in living, despite, perhaps because,


Academic research suggests facing death is easier for atheists


Is death easier if you believe in God?


Well, Doctor Elaine Sugden, good morning. How are you? Call offer of


talking about dying. A difficult thing to do but very important. --


joint author. This is interesting, people with strong faith and


atheists have the fewest problems, why would that be? I think the first


thing to say is you are absolutely right, death is a great equaliser,


we are all going to die, like it or not, we try and put it off and


doctors try and put it off, quite rightly. Life is good, we want as


much of it as we can but within limits. We get onto the quality of


livestock, we don't want to be prolonged so long and people kept


alive in frailty and in a way that is not compatible with good life.


But to get onto the question of faith, I think it's quite right. --


the quality of life. If you firmly believe that God is there and in


control and he's got something for you after this life or if you firmly


believe that as an atheist, there is no God and that this life is the


end, then I think those people who firmly leave can face death probably


with more ecumenically., haven't faced death, I do know people,


mainly because I am a Christian, who are firmly believing Christians,


Bible believing Christians who have put their trust into the form of God


that appeared on earth in Jesus Christ and firmly believe that there


is another life, we don't know, we believe it's good, after this one.


Our people worried that it is not going to be good, there are those


worried about judgment? I think maybe these are the people in


between, the people who don't know. I think there must always go through


your mind what if? Maybe through my mind what if there isn't? Well,


that's fine, I wouldn't mind if this was the end. What if there is and I


am separated one way or another from those that I love? As well?


Separation honours, you never see them again but separation, the


concerned but in judgment you may not see each other? Yes, you mention


judgment and the Bible clearly talks about a time of judgment after death


when we are going to be judged for not necessarily just what we've done


in this life but whether we have committed, whether we believe in God


and whether we've committed our lives to Jesus Christ. And therefore


as he says, after that, with forgiveness and reconciliation with


God, and to live with him for ever, we don't know quite what that means.


A lot of people have not committed themselves to Jesus Christ and I


think, you have, Jacqueline. Let me just tell everyone, you are a


palette of cancer care patient, thank you for coming in. What are


your thoughts on facing death and where do you get your strength from?


I've been a lifelong Catholic, and in that time I've ignored God, I've


rejected him and I've taken him for granted. Over the years, my


experience has been that he's loved me more and more and enriched my


life more and more. For many years I've been carried on the blanket of


love and prayer by a lot of people, many of whom I don't know. In


September 2014 I became very ill and it turned out I had an unusual over


area and cancer had tangled itself with my bowel and stuck itself to my


blush at the -- bladder. Because everything was blocked by was in


imminent danger of death. I reached the point of being in imminent


danger of death about half a dozen times over the last two years and


nine months, and it's quite a scary place to go. But that blanket of


love and prior strengthened and uplifted me in the darkest times --


blanket of love and prayer. Far from being afraid of dying, as those


times when it became most imminent, I felt a jolly and almost an


eagerness to go. That was mitigated by the sadness of leaving those that


I loved because I knew that I'd be cared for. I am convinced that there


is a God. A great, good, powerful God who loves us beyond all telling,


loves everyone of us. APPLAUSE


And nothing can separate us from that love, but we have free will, we


can choose to reject that love. Can I ask you, do you think some of the


atheists in the audience or watching at home are in for a pleasant


surprise? If I'm totally wrong and there is nothing but an endless


sleep beyond death, then I would be happy with that. There have been


times in my life when I would have committed suicide if I'd thought


that, simply to get to that. Not existing, just like we didn't before


we were born? There would be no painful suffering, no injustice, no


war. Is I am right, all the people who do not believe in God, and that


is a gift, faith is a gift from God. It is not something we choose. We


can act for it and pray for it but it is a free gift. But for those who


have no faith, I hope they're going to get a wonderful surprise.


APPLAUSE Thank you very much.


Stephen, you blog is The Godless Spellchecker, maybe when you are


lying there and the clock is ticking you will be The Godly Spellchecker.


That was inspiring. Thank you for calling on me to follow that! It is


possible. Death makes you behave in a rational ways, certainly the fear


of death. It would not necessarily indicate any truth in the claims.


When you ask if God makes death easier, we ask this because God is


linked to the afterlife. I don't think you are facing death in that


sense, you are pretending it is not happening, you are pretending the


lights go off, you are reawakening and you can speak to your grandma


and play with your childhood pets. Sorry to be pessimistic but if you


know there is an end point where you are facing oblivion, you might put


interesting things, while you still have time. I think there is still


that anyway because of the separation between this life and the


afterlife. Death teaches you about life, death teaches you to live. It


is very different... What if you have a crisis of faith when you are


on your deathbed and wonder if you have wasted your life?


There is nothing wrong with that, when big things happen, be it sad,


like a death, or a marriage or a birth, we wonder what we should do.


That is a good thing, it is not a sad thing. Surely... Surely it is


better to put -- to do that sooner rather than later. Jacqueline? On


one particular occasion I was so close to death that the chief


surgeon stood at the end of my bed at half past 12 at night and said to


my daughter, if she survives until morning, we will operate at seven


o'clock. When you are that close to death your mind is very focused and


you are not being deluded or distracted by other things. You are


simply looking at the matter of death. When you survive something


like that, life becomes very, very precious and you want to make the


absolute best of it. But make no mistake, death is a scary place to


go and very often is accompanied by intense pain. I have seen several


people die over my lifetime. Several of those deaths were quiet, peaceful


and of great consolation. Two at least were horrendous. I firmly


believe that either a conviction of no faith at all or an absolute


conviction of the love of God gives great strength at the moment of


death. Right in front of you is Carrie from the British Unionist


Association, a Pastoral care trainer. Do you think there is a


default position from some that you need to have a deathbed conversion,


have you seen that? Have you seen people in that situation who have


been given press or offered sacraments who really did not want


that? That's not right in front of you is Carrie from the British


Humanist Association. I totally respect where you are coming from,


those who have had faith in life will have faith in their death.


Those who believe it is the one life we have will be working through our


lives to make sure we fulfil it to the fullest we can to lead a good


life and that death is just a conclusion of that and we enter.


Where I have found it difficult is where I have seen faith brought to


people as if it is something they should have to have a conversion,


where it can be the best irrelevant and at worst very intrusive and


really quite offensive when somebody actually has their own belief


system, like I certainly have, that this is my life and I want to live


it to the fullest and to help people and I will end my life in this way


as well. My reflections will be upon what I hope will be life was spent.


APPLAUSE Faiza? Just reflecting on this, my


mother, sadly, passed away a couple of months ago. She was of the Muslim


faith, it really helped her, she came close to death several times


and it gave her strength in those times. For those of us dealing with


people that die and how health Dann faith helps that those times, I am


really jealous of those that definitely believe she is in heaven.


I have a lot of questions. When you know it, when you really believe


that they are somewhat better, I am sure it helps. How can it not?


APPLAUSE My mum passed away a few years ago


and when I think about her and look to hurt for guidance I look up, the


idea was I don't look down, I look to a place where I think she will


be. But her memories survive. Her memories around me and I suffuse my


children with her wisdom, I repeat the things that she said to me, I


want them to be inspired by the things that she did. I am Jewish, I


have a very firm belief in God, the Jewish view is that this world is


almost a waiting room for the world to come. Not to say that all the


things you say are not true, we should live a fulfilling life, be


good and kind for being in the moment, but there might be something


in the world to come that will reflect that. But there is no proof,


none of us can say whether that lady who spoke so beautifully and


courageously is right or that you are right. Faith and proofs are


mutually exclusive, we have to follow what is in our hearts and I


could not survive without my Jewish faith because of that. Not to be


disrespectful, but the lady over there said it is not a delusion.


Frankly, it is. I am sorry but to think that the absence of life in


your body means that you are going to go off into some other world and


live there, it can be proven, just because it can be disproven neither


does not mean we should believe it. Also what the lady was just saying


then, you have this expectation that you are going somewhere else and I


think was Richard Dawkins who said that this allows people to sort


of... Oh, well, this life does not matter and we don't have to care


about the embarrassment, when really we should, we should protect our


planet. I did not say that. I know you did not specifically say that


but that argument is made. Some people are of that opinion but many


people of faith would say that of course we had to care for each other


and the environment. Hang on a second, allow me to come to Elaine.


People of faith generally care enormously about people in this


society. What if you do not... Sorry, Elaine, what if you do not


have Jesus Christ, you have not found Jesus Christ? Should you be


worried? I think that is something for us all to consider, what is our


faith, what does it mean? Who is God? We need to look into that. We


are all intelligent people and can do that. The Christian faith is


simple. But I think also we are missing something here because we


need to be looking... We have started talking about people who had


died and peoples memories and whether it is a good death whether


there is pain. Our book was really about talking about dying, we need


to talk about faith, yes, but we also need to talk about people's


fulfilment of their lives, they might be going to die at 45 but have


they fulfilled their lives? What have they done? Can they look back


and feel good about their life, have they finished it? Have they had all


the medicine they should have, is it time to say...? Is everyone going to


be OK that people leave behind? That is what my father was worried about.


His last words were... I said I love you, dad. He said, and I love all of


you. I had a patient who died in her 40s and she made sure that her child


and her husband could run the house on their own. They did nothing


before. She put all her energies of the rest of her life into that. We


need to talk about it. People shut off, very rarely do people talk


about death. We need to, we need to talk about what we would want as if


we were facing death. Would we want to be resuscitating, would we want


to be kept alive if we had a bad/? We can do that, it is all in place.


-- if we had a bad stroke? Faith is a part of it, as a Christian it is


an enormous part of my life... And should we have the ability to be and


the law to be in place to allow us to slip away is another huge debate?


With seconds of the programme left, we do not have time to go into. But


on another occasion we will, and on previous occasions we have. Thank


you for your brilliant contribution, Jacqueline. Thank you very much


indeed. As always, the debates will continue


online and on Twitter. We're back from Salford next Sunday


for a special on globalisation, is it making the world


a better place? But for now, it's goodbye


and have a great Sunday.


Nicky Campbell presents a special edition from Oasis Academy MediaCityUK, Salford. He asks:

Is it right to take more than 50% in tax?

Do we have a right not to be offended?

Is death easier if you believe in God?