Episode 7 The Big Questions


Episode 7

The show live from Leith Academy in Edinburgh. Nicky Campbell asks: Should Christians rise above their differences? Should assisted dying be legal? Do religions need gods?


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Today on The Big Questions: Church splits, assisted dying, and godless

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religions. Good morning, I'm Nicky Campbell.

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Welcome to The Big Questions. Today we're live from Leith Academy in

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Edinburgh. Welcome, everyone, to The Big Questions.

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This week, the Archbishop of Canterbury told the Church of

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England's General Synod that it might have to accept changes that

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many members won't like at all for the sake of unity. The Church should

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not be afraid of incoherence and inconsistency or untidy

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arrangements, he said, to avoid splits over issues like gay marriage

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or women bishops. Up here in Scotland, there have been several

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defections in recent months by Church of Scotland ministers, elders

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and members to non-conformist churches because of differences over

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gay clergy. Should Christians rise above their differences? Colin

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Wilson, good morning all stop we were having a Coffey earlier on.

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This issue of gay marriage has troubled youth. You used a memorable

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phrase. You said it is reversing gods architecture. What does that

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mean? It means the family, the heterosexual family is a basic

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building block of any society. What is happening is turning that process

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on its head. I think it is probably the biggest piece of social

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engineering we have seen. Who knows what the social consequences will

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be? What do you think they might be? Back is up for conjecture. We have

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departed from God 's basic plan for a healthy society and that is the

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problem. Who knows what it will lead to? Do not let them put you off,

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Colin. We will hear you out. Let me ask you, it is something of great

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concern to you. What if one of your children was gay and married their

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partner? Would you attend the wedding? The important thing is to

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realise that God loves each one of us. His love is such that he loves

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so much, he does not want to leave us as we are. He wants to shape us

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into the standards and righteousness and the form of living, into the

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belief system, that he has set for us. That is why you left. Regarding

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the Church of Scotland, it is ruling beyond the pale. Do you want people

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like Colin in your church? As soon as you create systemic division, you

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belittle all of us. We should struggle with our difference and

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find ways of celebrating it, rather than saying I am in my corner and

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you are in yours. I do not agree with Colin but I understand where he

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is coming from. I want to work to improve our relationship, rather

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than saying, see you later and I am over here. It is not a good moral

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for the rest of society. We are an enormously diverse place. You are so

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much stronger together, surely? God came to bring unity but unity

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between the individual and God. He did not necessarily send Jesus

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Christ to create unity amongst society. I know a guy who runs a

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place in the occupied territories. He is a Palestinian Christian. He is

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surrounded by illegal settlements, who are trying to encroach on his

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land. He says to me, I refuse to let those people become my enemies

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because he knows if he does that, it is all over. I want us to continue

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to do that kind of thing here. It is far better for all of us. The point

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is, this is a point for you again, and everybody else. If this is an

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abandonment of doctrine, this is such an abandonment of doctrine,

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they say you might as well make it a social club. You said that, didn't

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you? The key issue is, I work for an organisation promoting unity. We are

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about unity of Christians. It cannot be at any cost. If we start to lose

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the distinctive things that make us Christians, we kind of loose

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everything and we did become a kind of a social club. We become

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something which is just about getting together. We can get

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together and do some good but there has to be a unity. That is about who

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Jesus was, what he taught, what he lived, what he said. The framework

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would be around the place in the Bible, the Scriptures. We will have

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debates - all sorts of debates within that context. For us, that

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has to be the context. The point is, you are both reading Scriptures. You

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both read them day and night, one reads black and one reads white. I

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understand that the world is full of great as well. For most of Christian

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history, the family was not what Christians thought was the highest

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weight of God. They thought it was celibacy. There are a number of

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equally valid interpretations. The churches have to find a way in which

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they can bring together people who have different views. So far, they

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never have. Christians have never been able to deal with difference.

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It is urgent they find a way of doing that. Why would you want to be

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in a church with someone who believes that the earth is 6000

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years old who believes that Lot 's wife was turned into a pillar of

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salt? My relationship with God is enhanced by my capacity to be able

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to love somebody with whom I fundamentally disagree. Those around

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me become a better consequence -- become better as a consequence of

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that. My son goes to school on Diversity Day. They show us how we

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can celebrate diversity and deal with difference. What can I learn

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about that and how can I continue to be with people when I disagree with

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them? That has to be a better way than to say, I am right, you are

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wrong, see you later. What do you want to say to all of this? This is

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one of the fundamental issues with religion. In an area like science,

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in principle, you can sit down and look at the evidence on either side

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and come to a conclusion. Since the only evidence that Christians have

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for their beliefs is the interpretation of scripture and some

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traditional stuff, and some revelations that people have had,

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how can you... ? The evidence shows revelations that people have had,

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that about 30%, 40% of the variation in sexuality is shown by genetics.

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It is strange that God would have done if it were planned for everyone

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to be heterosexual. The men who broke the Bible did not understand

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about human sexuality. Why are you laughing? Men wrote the Bible. God

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wrote the Bible through men. Men were really God 's mouthpiece. They

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put his words onto the paper. Right, OK. You think there has been a

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curtailment of freedom of speech, don't you? If you say anything, gay

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and lesbians, it is fine but if we say anything, it is shot down in

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flames. I have gay friends and they have been friends no problem at

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all. Are they your best friends? One of them is very close. One of my

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employees is a lesbian and we get on fantastically well. There is no

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difference. We have unity. When it comes to the Bible is getting

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married, I do believe it is a man and a woman and God has preordained

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that. That is the basis of the family. Sexuality should not come

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into it at all. Why not? Do you think the Church is

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upset with sex? Absolutely. It has caused so much trouble over the

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centuries. It has caused so many wars. I could go on and on. I think

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they say too much. What would you like to say? Behind you. I will be

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coming to you in seconds. I wonder if Cindy believes her good friends

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who are gay will go to hell. I believe they are Christians and that

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is between them and God. If they have made a commitment for God and

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ask for forgiveness, that will be OK. The gentleman at the front was

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saying that God wrote the Bible through men. Why were some of the

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chapters drop throughout time? How do we know he did not say, two guys

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together are all right because they are making a go of it, they are

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bringing up children who are orphans. How do you know? Who was

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King James the fourth 's Bible? What was that like? The Bible is a book

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we need to engage with. The basic problem is that when people come to

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the Bible, they put themselves on the same level as God. Almost in a

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sense that they are equal to God. There are some things we have to

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accept. The word of God we accept by faith. I would concede that. It is

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only by faith we will accept the faith. I would concede that. It is

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Bible is the Word of God. It is only by faith we will accept that Jesus

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Christ is God 's son. Only by faith would we see him like that. I

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understand people come to the Bible with their own views. The way the

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Bible is read today is different to what it was 100, even 50 years ago.

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Is it worth working for people to stay together? A Church that stays

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together is more powerful in society. In Matthew, there are clear

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rulings that a man should submit to a woman in marriage and divorce is

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adultery and therefore a sin. There are a whole range of views taken on

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that. The views on divorce of the father of all schisms in Western

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Christianity. There is a point where you have to respect each other's

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right to take a different view, a different interpretation, and to

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work together. I attend Unitarian Church which has the perspective

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that your own view of how the universe is ordered, whether there

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is a God and all of that, that is your business. While we are here on

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us, let's be nice to each other and respect each other. That is a

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unifying principle. Some of my closest friends are Christians. I

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have a concern that if the Church breaks up into more and more niche

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areas with more specific ideas, especially concerning homosexuality,

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that will bring up children with more close minded viewpoints.

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Considering we live in a society where homosexual teenagers are

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committing suicide, is it a good idea to have the church breaking

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off? It is said that God created man in

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his image. Is it a possibility that humans are creating God in their

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image, with their attitude is? Have you done that? I think society, in

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general, is trying to create God. Really? By shifting the doctrinally

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goalposts? Exactly. As trends change, as fashions change, what is

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in flavour today will be outdated tomorrow. And this is the good thing

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about the word of God. It doesn't change. It is absolute, total and

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comprehensive. It doesn't change? You are shifting with the winds of

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liberalism. That's what you're doing. After World War Two, the

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Church of Scotland had to grapple with the issues of divorce in a way

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it never had had to before, for a number of reasons. It took 11 years

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to work it out. It got to a point where they could understand and

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accept how that could happen within the context of the faith, and

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providing space for those who still struggled with that. The point is,

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they took time to do it, because people had to change where they were

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coming from. They succeeded, and we can do it again, because our

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understanding of ourselves, our world and God has to change, in the

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same way that the Bible has changed ever since it was gathered together.

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If you think it is absolute, why are you not knocking on the prison door

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now saying, free the captives? That is an interpretation. We do that all

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the time. We do that in our relationship with God. You are a

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humanist. I am. Somebody brought up the question of freedom of speech.

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As a humanist, I accept that freedom of speech only counts for something

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when you are listening to something you don't want to hear. I am

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actually in favour of the split you had, because Colin, I want you

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telling everyone every Sunday what they think, so that they can vote

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with their feet, and hopefully come to your church instead! Thank you

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for that. One of the problems, the big problem is that we have, as the

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church sways and follows every wind of doctrine, is that people are

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looking for a truth. God isn't happy at the moment? He's never happy! You

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have said that God is not happy, and the unhappy God is what -- is with

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what we are doing in society. And what will happen is more floods and

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things like that? The more we apart from God's standards, the more we

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expose ourselves to serious problems, and that can be said right

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across the global spectrum. The big problem is that the Church message

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is so woolly now that people don't know what to believe. They are

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looking for absolutes. Know, people are looking to find the right path

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in their own lives through reason and compassion. This is why Humanism

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has become so popular, because people have the power to think for

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themselves. One more on this. We have other topics to discuss. A

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question from earlier on - if one of your children were gay and they

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married their gay partner, would you attend the wedding? Yes. Well, there

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you are! Thank you all very much for taking part in that one. If you have

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something to say in that debate, log onto our website and join in the

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discussion online, or on Twitter. We are also debating life today, should

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assisted dying be legal? And also, do religions need gods? Please send

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us any ideas or thoughts you have about the show. The Scottish

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Parliament is currently considering a bill to legalise assisted suicide

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for the terminally ill, and those with degenerative conditions. It is

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the second attempt by the independent MSP, Margo MacDonald,

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who has Parkinson's disease, to give people the right to die. Recent

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polls suggest 69% support the measure across Scotland. Should

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assisted dying be legal? Leslie, we have to start with you, because he

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went with your brother John, who had motor neuron disease, to a clinic in

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Switzerland, where they help people to die. Why did you, why did John

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think that was the right thing? John thought that he had authority and

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control over his life. He thought it was to do with as he saw fit, and as

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he was very clearly dying of motoneuron disease, there was no

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miracle cure, there was nothing that was going to change the fact that by

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the middle of 2003 he was going to be dead. So when he saw the idea of

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Dignitas, he couldn't speak or communicate, so he tapped on his

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screen, that's the way I would like to go. My reaction was, yes, I will

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help you. So in May 2003, we were in that one Mac's small flat in Zurich,

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and John literally held out his hand, and in those few moments

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between taking the medication and falling asleep, he smiled at us to

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say a final goodbye. We were comforted by the fact that he was

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dying peacefully and in a very dignified manner, albeit not quite

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at the time of his choosing. If he could have had the same treatment in

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the UK, he would have lived a few weeks longer, but he had to have the

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ball deep -- the bodily strength to get to Switzerland. I have good

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memories of that day, of him smiling and sharing a laugh before he died,

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because he was happy to be in control at the end. And I believe

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from the time that the barbiturate was administrative -- was

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administered from the time he slipped away, it was about 20

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minutes. Yes, you fall asleep within two or three minutes, so he was so

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fast asleep that the he didn't know we were there, but within 20

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minutes, his breathing had stopped, his heart had stopped beating, and

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those were 20 extra ordinary minutes which I will never forget. What I

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will never forget about them was the fact that he literally embrace this

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opportunity to end what was, for him, intolerable suffering. And

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there was no palliative care that could have eased that? He was unable

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to be stand -- he was unable to stand, speak or swallow. For him, it

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was a question of living a dignified life that he could take part in. He

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could still type with one finger of his left hand, and he could show

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some expression on his face, but it was getting to the point where he

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would be called a living head on a dead body, no input at all to life.

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John didn't want to live like that. He had been a fit, strong, funny,

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independent man, and to be reduced to that condition, and to be dying,

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meant that, for him, the only solution was to take this way out.

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And it was the only out. For him and for us. A light went on in his eyes

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when he realised this was a possibility. Very powerful to hear

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that. Gordon MacDonald, what Leslie said there was incredibly moving for

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everybody. What ever side you are on Mr Bate. But she also said that it

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should have been available in this country. -- whatever side you are on

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this debate. There is real dangers associated with legalising assisted

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suicide, or euthanasia, and the role of Parliament is to take into

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consideration all the facts, not just an emotional or difficult

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situation, and to consider what is the best for all of society. The

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dangers are that people who are depressed or who people who feel

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they are a burden on their family or the NHS will come under pressure,

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either from external or internal sources, that... The bill makes it

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quite clear that mental competence is vital here. This is all about

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personal but on me. It is, but the bill doesn't have any mechanism to

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ensure that people are not depressed when they access assisted suicide.

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The bill has many mechanisms to make sure that the vulnerable are

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protected. At the point of registering your interest in having

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an assisted suicide, you have to have two separate doctors assessing

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new at four independent times. Doctors are very good at telling

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when people are depressed, and if there is any level of doubt at all,

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they will refuse that person an assisted suicide. So the vulnerable

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are protected all the way through, and no one with any interest in that

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person's life, anyone who can have any financial gain from their death,

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can be involved at any point at all. We believe that friends should be

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working at the end to setup a campaign to work on this but also to

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share information about it. If you go to our website, everyone can see

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all the questions and answers. I just wanted to come in and talk

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about the independent living movement, and how they feel about

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this. People have been campaigning for the right for legislation for a

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assisted living and independent living, and we feel it's not the

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time to have this debate just now. At the moment, there's a lot of

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disabled people who are being oppressed by the cuts to social care

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services, health services, welfare benefit... So a lot of people under

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pressure. Yes, and that is what makes life intolerable for people.

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As a society, we should be supporting the right to life, and

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there are too many dangers and risks with this. There is no right to

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death. We talk about choice and autonomy over death, and we would

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absolutely support that people have a dignified death. That means that

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health services, assisted care services... People talk about life

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being intolerable, but it is often external factors in society that

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makes life intolerable. The way that the media portrays disabled people.

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I just wanted to say that in the last British Social Attitudes

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Survey, 70% of people with disabilities supported the right to

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choice at the end of life. In Oregon, where assisted dying has

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been in place for ten years, there is no reports of pressures for

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anyone to end their lives. That is an important point. Everyone uses

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the phrase slippery slope. If we go to a certain place here with this.

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are talking about. Someone mentioned euthanasia. We're not talking about

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euthanasia in the bills. We are talking about assisted dying, where

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the patient himself or herself takes the final steps. Why would it not

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move further if this were to go through? You mentioned Holland and

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Belgium. At the start, these countries had the possibilities of

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moving beyond the terminally ill. If you look at Oregon, there's been

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absolutely no movement whatsoever in the 16 years the bill has been

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placed. There was no suggestion that people have been coerced into taking

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an early death. There has been evidence that that has not

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happened. As a country that believes in compassion, we ought to be

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ashamed and angry that we don't allow people who are dying the

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dignity in death that so many seats. -- so many are looking for. For far

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too many relatives and grieving friends, the legacy is not of a life

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well lived, it is the grim death in difficult circumstances. As a

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society, we need to do better, and give people the right to die with

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dignity. On the way in today, we saw a big sign saying, this is a home

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being built for assisted living. I have huge compassion for people who

:28:38.:28:43.

have difficult deaths. I am a GP, and I have worked as a doctor for

:28:44.:28:48.

over 30 years. I have seen many difficult things, but I think the

:28:49.:28:52.

answer to people having difficult births is to improve the medical

:28:53.:28:57.

care, the nursing care, and great advances have been made in that in

:28:58.:29:06.

hospices and other places. There are a small number of cases where

:29:07.:29:14.

palliative care cannot help. In terms of the strength of legislation

:29:15.:29:19.

that is talked about, and the safeguards, I am not a lawmaker. I

:29:20.:29:26.

am a GP who works at the coal face. I look after a large nursing home

:29:27.:29:31.

with a number of beds. Over the 20 years I have been there, I have

:29:32.:29:34.

looked after many people who have died and had lots of concerts --

:29:35.:29:39.

lots of conversations with relatives. Some relatives have said

:29:40.:29:45.

things like, can you not just to speed this up? This is costing

:29:46.:29:50.

thousands of pounds a week. My fear would be, if we enacted legislation,

:29:51.:29:55.

the right to die would lead to a huge problem for all the vulnerable

:29:56.:30:07.

elderly. I am not in favour of a right to die but I want the dying to

:30:08.:30:13.

die with dignity. There is absolutely no evidence of any

:30:14.:30:20.

country which put any pressure on them whatsoever. People who opt for

:30:21.:30:24.

this feisty individuals with a determination to control their own

:30:25.:30:32.

destiny. Good luck to them. I have looked after many people like that.

:30:33.:30:36.

I would like people to die with dignity. Just remember that the

:30:37.:30:43.

organisation that is now called Dignity is the voluntary euthanasia

:30:44.:30:53.

Society. They are looking to improve services in palliative care and

:30:54.:30:56.

generally looking after people as the end of life approaches. I will

:30:57.:31:03.

come to you in a second. There is this principle of double effect. You

:31:04.:31:07.

give people drugs, not with the intention of killing them, but

:31:08.:31:11.

knowing that the consequences may well be that their life ends. That

:31:12.:31:18.

is while you are easing their pain. There are grey areas. I do not think

:31:19.:31:25.

that is the case. I help people to die. I do not intend to kill them.

:31:26.:31:33.

They will die as a result. We will all die. Death and taxes and all

:31:34.:31:40.

that. I can remember visiting someone at home before we had these

:31:41.:31:45.

syringes to put into people and doctors used to visit people every

:31:46.:31:50.

three, four hours. I was visiting an elderly lady and gave her her

:31:51.:31:54.

injection. Within two minutes, she died. The relatives looked at me...

:31:55.:32:03.

Tony Nicholson starved himself to death because he was not allowed to

:32:04.:32:08.

have a dignified death. Which would you rather? Would you rather

:32:09.:32:14.

somebody had that 20 minutes and just drifted away? I would rather,

:32:15.:32:21.

as a society, we actually care for people and not kill them. I just

:32:22.:32:29.

want to correct the doctor. I do wish doctors would keep themselves

:32:30.:32:37.

up to date. There is no such society as the Voluntary Euthanasia

:32:38.:32:41.

Society. It disappeared three, four decades ago. I have a great

:32:42.:32:48.

interest. I became isolated from my family about two decades ago. I

:32:49.:32:52.

attended a lecture by a gentleman from America telling me how I can

:32:53.:32:57.

dispose of myself when I choose to go. Unlike this doctor here, I do

:32:58.:33:00.

not want anything to do with care homes. I have no intention of going

:33:01.:33:08.

into one. My personal GP knows I am not to be put into a care home. Do

:33:09.:33:13.

not tell us the process. You know how to do it, and the doctor has

:33:14.:33:19.

told you... Would you help anyone else to do it? I'd do it all the

:33:20.:33:30.

time but I am not supposed to give details. How many times have you

:33:31.:33:35.

done it? I have done it three times already. There is a lady who has

:33:36.:33:41.

contact me at the present time because she has seen my videos and

:33:42.:33:46.

other videos and DVDs and she knows she can trust me. The point is that

:33:47.:33:50.

doctors should not be concerned with this. I sat in the House of Lords in

:33:51.:33:57.

2003 and heard the lady who was head of the British geriatric

:33:58.:34:05.

Association. I am sorry, I am 84, I have difficulty in remembering. She

:34:06.:34:08.

said she does not see why doctors need to be concerned with this at

:34:09.:34:12.

all. It is nothing to do with doctors. What happens in Oregon, no

:34:13.:34:18.

doctor is allowed to be in the room and help the person to die. This

:34:19.:34:22.

talk for years about physician assisted suicide is garbage. It only

:34:23.:34:30.

occurs in the Netherlands and Belgium. I understand. That was a

:34:31.:34:36.

fascinating contribution, if I may say so. The doctor still has two

:34:37.:34:41.

write prescriptions. You cannot exclude them from the process. They

:34:42.:34:46.

will write these prescriptions under the legislation. A lot has been said

:34:47.:34:52.

about Oregon. There is a study and evidence was given to the Scottish

:34:53.:34:57.

Parliament. She found 26% of patients in Oregon where depressed.

:34:58.:35:01.

That says to me there is a real danger. No matter how many

:35:02.:35:09.

safeguards you try. Depression is associated with a terminal illness.

:35:10.:35:18.

I understand that. I do not agree with this gentleman but I am in awe

:35:19.:35:22.

of his candidness. I would like to know how he feels he can make a

:35:23.:35:28.

judgment to make that action in a way that we are struggling and

:35:29.:35:32.

grappling to do for the rest of society? We say that is all OK. It

:35:33.:35:41.

is a very dangerous precedent to be setting. It is a Rubicon being

:35:42.:35:46.

crossed. No matter the need your brother felt. That is extremely

:35:47.:35:54.

dangerous. He has not heard the story. I asked you a question. I

:35:55.:36:04.

will ask you your question when this is over. Legal compassion does not

:36:05.:36:16.

allow me to walk away. We accept that. That is a conversation after

:36:17.:36:21.

we are off air for all sorts of reasons. I think we are all right

:36:22.:36:29.

now. What would you like to say? This entire discussion has proved we

:36:30.:36:34.

need a bill like this to pass. It is happening in society. We have proved

:36:35.:36:39.

it. We need this bill to pass so there is legislation in place for

:36:40.:36:43.

these people to have the end of life they deserve. The gentleman in the

:36:44.:36:48.

blue tie. Sky I am a pharmacist, health care professional. I take --

:36:49.:37:01.

doctors and pharmacists are all bound by a code of ethics. In

:37:02.:37:08.

pharmacy, we have to make sure a patient is our first concern. There

:37:09.:37:11.

are a lot of issues around well-being. I totally sympathise

:37:12.:37:18.

with people who might say, well, people should have a dignified right

:37:19.:37:22.

to die and all that kind of thing. In the end, I feel this bill flies

:37:23.:37:29.

in the face of everything, the duties we have to adhere to as

:37:30.:37:33.

health care professionals. At the end of the day, we should do no

:37:34.:37:38.

harm. Allowing someone to drive does harm. The doctor who gave this

:37:39.:37:42.

kitchen for my brother said, as a doctor, my first duty is to preserve

:37:43.:37:48.

life. In Switzerland, I have an extra duty. I will write a

:37:49.:37:51.

description to enable you to end your life. They make it work in

:37:52.:37:57.

Switzerland. In Oregon, doctors are not regarded as murdering monsters.

:37:58.:38:02.

Health care and social care professionals work OK in Oregon.

:38:03.:38:08.

Nobody has... The state works well. A lot of people are merely

:38:09.:38:14.

depressed. People are unhappy they are dying. Depression is part of

:38:15.:38:27.

their illness. Most of the health care professionals have a great

:38:28.:38:32.

relationship with patients. That is nonsense as well. It sounds as

:38:33.:38:36.

though doctors are against this whereas the rest of the population

:38:37.:38:41.

is in favour of it. I have been a practising doctor all my life and I

:38:42.:38:45.

am sure that, with terminally ill patients, they should have the right

:38:46.:38:49.

to determine their own death. Nobody else. How would you limit it to

:38:50.:38:56.

terminally ill patients? The Bill goes further. What you see is an

:38:57.:39:05.

incremental extension. That has happened in Belgium this week. There

:39:06.:39:12.

is no incremental extension within Oregon where there was a terminally

:39:13.:39:16.

ill Bill, i.e. A dying with dignity act. There has been no extension.

:39:17.:39:22.

There is a difference with this bill, I wish it well. It does not

:39:23.:39:31.

represent my bills. -- my views. The bill was proposed a few years ago

:39:32.:39:35.

and it was up for public consultation. According to

:39:36.:39:41.

Parliamentary briefing, 86% of responses were proposed. That

:39:42.:39:46.

included the medical Association and different faith groups, disability

:39:47.:39:55.

groups. The next bill she has introduced includes people with

:39:56.:40:02.

progressive conditions. I have to look at the bill in front of me and

:40:03.:40:06.

not what Bill might be produced several years down the line to amend

:40:07.:40:12.

but I support it. It is a conscience decision in Parliament and I support

:40:13.:40:16.

it. I would like to see some amendments. I would like to see

:40:17.:40:20.

terminal illness cleared up as the thing that is required. I came into

:40:21.:40:25.

this very sceptical. I believe that life is unique and everyone has a

:40:26.:40:30.

right to theirs. That is what makes us all equal from Prince to pauper.

:40:31.:40:35.

The stories that were cared by the first consideration of this bill,

:40:36.:40:38.

like the kind of things that were going on but we have heard, it

:40:39.:40:42.

showed the need to have this debate, to have the regulation brought in

:40:43.:40:50.

and to have this confronted. Rather than putting hands over our eyes and

:40:51.:40:55.

fingers in our is AMP attended it is not happening. As a parliamentarian,

:40:56.:41:01.

I cannot be deaf to all of this. Thank you so much for coming in.

:41:02.:41:06.

We're out of time on this. Thank you very much indeed. You can join in

:41:07.:41:16.

all this morning 's debates by logging on and joining in the

:41:17.:41:25.

discussion. Tell us what you think about our last question, do

:41:26.:41:31.

religions need gods? You can join in all this morning's debates by

:41:32.:41:34.

logging on to the website and following the link to the online

:41:35.:41:44.

discussion. Yesterday, many Buddhists celebrated Nirvana Day,

:41:45.:41:46.

when the 80-year-old enlightened Buddha died and obtained release

:41:47.:41:50.

from the cycle of death and rebirth. Today around 300 million people

:41:51.:41:54.

follow the path shown by the Buddha. They believe that leading a moral

:41:55.:41:57.

life, being mindful of thoughts and actions, and developing wisdom and

:41:58.:42:00.

understanding is the way to true happiness. But they don't believe in

:42:01.:42:13.

a god. Do religions need gods? Good morning. You have this concept. The

:42:14.:42:26.

impact of, . Individually, you are working towards Nirvana,

:42:27.:42:30.

enlightenment. It is an unguided process. There is no top man, no at

:42:31.:42:35.

the knee straight. How does that work? -- admin. We can get buried in

:42:36.:42:46.

semantics. I suspect what Christians might call God, Buddhists would call

:42:47.:42:53.

nature. If Christians would say something like, the kingdom of God

:42:54.:42:56.

is within you or the kingdom of heaven is within you, that is what

:42:57.:43:01.

we call good nature. We all have that and we can access that. That is

:43:02.:43:10.

why we spend a lot of time in reflection and meditation. Karma is

:43:11.:43:14.

a word that gets bandied about a lot but it really just means action,

:43:15.:43:19.

cause and effect. What causes actions and the effect of the

:43:20.:43:24.

actions. You can apply it to all the previous subjects you have been

:43:25.:43:28.

talking about. It applies to all of them. There is no God to pray to.

:43:29.:43:40.

You do not have to and all the sides this principle into being, I do not

:43:41.:43:46.

know, how you might think of some sun -- someone in heaven with a

:43:47.:43:52.

beard or something like that. Not as a guide, creator, all seeing, the

:43:53.:44:08.

Kim Jong Un ill in the sky? The Buddha became fully enlightened. We

:44:09.:44:11.

all have the same potential to become enlightened. It is our

:44:12.:44:17.

destiny. I have not heard so much of it in the eight series of The Big

:44:18.:44:25.

Questions. These are mine to states and get ourselves into. We also have

:44:26.:44:32.

a Hindu monk. You have similar beliefs but you have a God.

:44:33.:44:39.

Is that because you need someone to pray to? The understanding that

:44:40.:44:46.

Hindus have a god is completely different to what is thought about

:44:47.:44:56.

in religions that have a deity. Hinduism is a belief in a number of

:44:57.:45:00.

different traditions that are very different. For all of them, there is

:45:01.:45:08.

a unifying, underlying, all pervasive energy of consciousness,

:45:09.:45:11.

which is completely different to any chap in the sky playing with us with

:45:12.:45:18.

puppet strings. The life force? I think I can hear it now! Many people

:45:19.:45:25.

have referred us back to Star Wars and The Matrix! People were actually

:45:26.:45:36.

impressed by our philosophy, where it started from. Is it right to say

:45:37.:45:42.

that you broke away from Buddhism? Actually, it is the other way

:45:43.:45:49.

around! The original divine revelation for Hindus was in 1500

:45:50.:46:03.

BC. 95% of it says that this existence had origin in something

:46:04.:46:08.

that was existing, and 1% says that there wasn't any existence. This is

:46:09.:46:13.

the tradition that we have. We believe there was existence, but

:46:14.:46:16.

Buddhists believe there was no existence beforehand. Actually,

:46:17.:46:27.

that's not correct! Jimmy, you are a seventh day Adventist. How do you

:46:28.:46:36.

imagine God? God existed first. We don't know how he came to be. How

:46:37.:46:42.

did you imagine him? We imagine him as a person who loves us very much.

:46:43.:46:49.

So what does he look like? We have some clues in the Bible. The Bible

:46:50.:46:55.

writers gave us some ideas by which they attributed some human

:46:56.:47:04.

attributes. They use stuff that they can relate to. It sounds like a big

:47:05.:47:15.

invisible person. You think that literally he has an arm? I think

:47:16.:47:19.

literally he exists, and he is a person. He is not someone we can

:47:20.:47:26.

just put somewhere and use when we need to. We exist as Christians, and

:47:27.:47:32.

Christianity exists because of him. The interesting point about 1500 BC.

:47:33.:47:38.

All of us are using the term BC, which means before Christ.

:47:39.:47:42.

Interesting to me that Jesus has always been a part of humanity, and

:47:43.:47:48.

that all of our developed thinking that we have today has much of its

:47:49.:47:53.

roots... Actually, historians don't use the term BC any more. This is

:47:54.:48:00.

very interesting, because the social science literature on religion shows

:48:01.:48:03.

that it doesn't really matter what you believe. When you ask people

:48:04.:48:08.

about their religious... Can I put something into context? Ani Rinchen

:48:09.:48:16.

Khandro has, and no God. Bramchari Vrajviran Sharan has karma and a

:48:17.:48:24.

God. And Jimmy has a God and no karma! And you have nothing! And

:48:25.:48:32.

proud of it! The social science literature shows that it is all

:48:33.:48:36.

about your religious participation and your social network that is

:48:37.:48:39.

built up around your religion, and not about your beliefs. There is no

:48:40.:48:44.

correlation between mental health benefits and charitable giving

:48:45.:48:49.

benefits to your religious beliefs, but it is to your social network,

:48:50.:48:54.

which comes about from your religious participation. That is the

:48:55.:48:58.

nice thing about things like the humanist Society. They give an

:48:59.:49:03.

opportunity for community participation, but without all of

:49:04.:49:08.

the absolute nonsense, not to put too fine a point on it, that we have

:49:09.:49:15.

just heard! That is a bit disrespectful. Is there something in

:49:16.:49:21.

our society now that leads people to think that this is possible, the

:49:22.:49:26.

best bits of religion but no God? Most people in this country believe

:49:27.:49:30.

there is a God, but only just. The numbers of people who believe in God

:49:31.:49:37.

are falling. Also the kind of god we believe in is changing, from a

:49:38.:49:43.

personal God to a spirit. But it is a misconception that most people --

:49:44.:49:47.

most religious people believe in God. Amongst Anglicans, about two

:49:48.:49:52.

thirds believe in God. Amongst Jews it's fewer, and amongst Hindus --

:49:53.:49:59.

amongst Buddhists it's even fewer. Religion is all about identity,

:50:00.:50:03.

belonging to a group, ethics and practices. For some is it dashed --

:50:04.:50:08.

for some it is about a belief in God, but not for all. The lady over

:50:09.:50:15.

here just said we are moving away from a God that is personalised, and

:50:16.:50:22.

moving into a spirit. I think we are actually going back to spirituality.

:50:23.:50:31.

If you read back, if you go to some African tribes, they believe in

:50:32.:50:35.

their ancestry, which is the spiritual aspect of it. We are going

:50:36.:50:41.

back to spirituality, rather than saying we believe in one God. You

:50:42.:50:51.

have the spirituality. Do you want a comeback in? I spirituality, did you

:50:52.:51:01.

mean consciousness? We all have that and it gets a reborn time and time

:51:02.:51:06.

again. We don't have this idea of before creation and the end of

:51:07.:51:11.

creation. For us, it is about time without beginning, time without end,

:51:12.:51:16.

and we are part of that because we are born countless times again. And

:51:17.:51:24.

you come back as different things? What happens to us depends on us. We

:51:25.:51:31.

take responsibility for our actions. That is what karma is. It is cause

:51:32.:51:40.

and effect. It is similar to the Abrahamic religions. A sense of

:51:41.:51:46.

cause and effect. But not a judgement. It is a law, like

:51:47.:51:52.

gravity. So according to that law, are people who are born with

:51:53.:51:56.

disabilities being punished for something they have previously

:51:57.:52:01.

done? There is no concept of punishment or judgement. Is that

:52:02.:52:07.

because of something? Everything is due to karma. Is that a yes? It is

:52:08.:52:18.

not a punishment. There are a lot of things that are unpleasant. Being

:52:19.:52:23.

born is unpleasant, dying is unpleasant, losing money can be

:52:24.:52:31.

unpleasant. But talking about reality... What is Nirvana like when

:52:32.:52:39.

you have had the impact of karma and you reach enlightenment, and you

:52:40.:52:47.

arrive at Nirvana? It is merging into the energy of the divine

:52:48.:52:52.

being, which is eternal consciousness and bliss. Have you

:52:53.:52:58.

touched it? Have you felt it? In our meditations, we do, and we do

:52:59.:53:03.

believe we can access this. As a Buddhist, I am sure that when you

:53:04.:53:07.

are meditating, you do access calmness, stillness and bliss. And

:53:08.:53:13.

that is what we believe. Colin, can I recommend this to you? There is a

:53:14.:53:19.

verse in the Bible that says that God is a sense of eternity in men's

:53:20.:53:27.

hearts. And women's heart! Are you all saying the same thing? In a

:53:28.:53:36.

sense, we are sharing that cost must together in our ideology. But the

:53:37.:53:42.

discussions have gone in two directions. One is looking for a God

:53:43.:53:49.

within, and that is very much expressed in what we would call the

:53:50.:53:56.

New Age movement. Ward is within me, -- God is within me, and I cant.

:53:57.:54:06.

Dot. -- and I can... And the other thing is to look for God. Your

:54:07.:54:11.

question was, what does God look like? That is a question we asked

:54:12.:54:18.

Jesus. Jesus says, if you are seeing me, you are seeing the father. It

:54:19.:54:25.

has been great listening to all these different ideas about the

:54:26.:54:30.

nature of our existence, from this extremely diverse society we live

:54:31.:54:34.

in, Buddhists, Hindus and Christians of all colours. Humanism is all

:54:35.:54:39.

about the things that unite us and don't divide us. What we should be

:54:40.:54:43.

doing in this era when religion is in decline, when people don't look

:54:44.:54:50.

to religion, is look for the need for column -- for common values, the

:54:51.:55:03.

need to be respected and loved. In terms of religion, I am a Christian.

:55:04.:55:13.

Religion is a relationship with Jesus Christ. That makes all the

:55:14.:55:20.

difference, because I believe, as Christians do, that Jesus Christ,

:55:21.:55:27.

God's son, lived amongst us, do died on the cross, and was resurrected on

:55:28.:55:33.

the third day. That is unique with regard to face around the world. I

:55:34.:55:42.

am a Christian, and it is only through faith that we discover this

:55:43.:55:51.

amazing relationship with God. Ani Rinchen Khandro has an amazing Will

:55:52.:55:56.

Asian ship with energy. I also have an amazing relationship with Christ.

:55:57.:56:01.

It's not that I don't believe he existed, or I cannot take guidance

:56:02.:56:06.

from him. Christ was Jewish. I actually saw him in a vision. What

:56:07.:56:13.

happened? I was very sick at the time, and Christ appeared, and my

:56:14.:56:18.

thought was, what are you doing here? As you would! It was odd,

:56:19.:56:33.

because I was not yet a Buddhist. That is proof there is something in

:56:34.:56:38.

it, because Christ appeared to her? I would agree. I wrote a book about

:56:39.:56:48.

angels, and I have quite a lot of experience in that. Have you seen an

:56:49.:56:53.

angel? I haven't seen one, but I feel the presence of God, and I'm

:56:54.:56:59.

aware of angels around me. I was in an accident, and a voice said to me,

:57:00.:57:03.

do not your foot on the brake. I didn't put my foot on the break.

:57:04.:57:08.

When the AA came, they said, most people would have put their foot on

:57:09.:57:13.

the brake. Why didn't you? And I said, I believe that God is with me.

:57:14.:57:23.

That is literally incredible. This discussion shows proportioning your

:57:24.:57:32.

beliefs to the evidence. There are a number of people who have a number

:57:33.:57:37.

of beliefs in God and energy, which I didn't realise was a thing! We

:57:38.:57:46.

keep getting the terminology wrong! The point is, one should always

:57:47.:57:51.

apportion those beliefs to the evidence, which is what sceptics and

:57:52.:57:56.

scientists try to do, because otherwise you get into endless

:57:57.:58:01.

discussions. Only your version of evidence counts. On the last

:58:02.:58:05.

programme we were on together, you said that you thought consciousness

:58:06.:58:08.

was evolution. How'd know what you are saying? We are going to have to

:58:09.:58:19.

end on disharmony. Give them all a round of applause, please! The

:58:20.:58:24.

debate continues on Twitter. Next week, we are in Oxford, weather

:58:25.:58:30.

permitting. For now, goodbye, and thanks for watching The Big

:58:31.:58:31.

Questions.

:58:32.:58:38.

The Big Questions is live from Leith Academy in Edinburgh. Nicky Campbell asks: Should Christians rise above their differences? Should assisted dying be legal? Do religions need gods?


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