Some great questions were asked tonight, however, the majority of answers were crap. Straight off the bat the first question was on religion
Judaism, Christianity and Islam all share a common thread of lineage. They just disagree on the details such as who really is the true prophet. Given their origins are from illiterate goat and sheep herders, some slaves and a tradesman all of whom suffered from no education, bad diets, hallucinations and chronic dehydration, why on earth would anyone in their right mind place any importance on these bizarre thoughts? – Gordon Hinds
A funny yet serious and pertinent question I thought, but before the panelists even replied you knew the Christians were going to dance around it and rationalise their beliefs while the atheists/agnostics concurred. The discussion was suddenly steered onto secularism and the separation of church and state in which Jim Wallace, leader of the Australian Christian Lobby, dropped the most stupid line I’ve heard flop from a Christian’s mouth in a while. It was along the lines of:
The separation of church and state isn’t there to keep the church out of the state. It’s there to keep the state out of the church!
That’s complete and utter nonsense at best… The whole idea of a secular society was created by those who didn’t want the church controlling the state. It dates back to the founding fathers of America, who wanted a secular state devoid of any single religion’s influence, whereby all men regardless of their religion were treated equally. The phrase itself, ‘separation of church and state‘, is derived from a statement Thomas Jefferson wrote in his letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802.
…I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
The astounding thing is that the founding fathers themselves were of course Christians. Yet they had the insight to want to create a government that would treat all of its people equally. At least assuming you were male, and white… but that’s not the point, as they eventually got there… for a while…
Anyway, this is clearly a contorted, self-interested and ignorant take on Jim Wallace’s behalf where he’s pushed a secular idea into a Christian hole to fit his religious agenda. He’s really not doing his cause any good with such stupid assertions.
Gerard Henderson steered the conversation back closer to the actual question and made a few interesting statements regarding the average Australian’s willingness to criticise Judeo-Christian religions, but leave Islam well and truly in the taboo. Cristina Rad also chimed in and said that many atheists don’t hold back when it comes to hounding on Islam as much as they do any other religion or supernatural belief/claim, etc. It’s something that has not so much puzzled as annoyed me for a long time as an Australian. It is bizarre that you can take Christianity to the cleaners these days with regards to criticisms, yet any statement with a slightly negative opinion of Islam is effectively met with “You’re a racist!“. I have received such criticisms in the past when in reality it has nothing to do with race, it has to do with religion. After all, Islam isn’t a race of people, it’s a belief system. And for me I treat Islam the same as I do any other religion or supernatural belief system. So label me religionist if you want or even anti-theist, but I’m definitely not a racist, nor are the majority of anti-theists who attack Islam among other religions.
I think a lot of it must tie back into the fact that many immigrants, and asylum seekers in particular, are Islamic and it has become a taboo to criticism the cultural practices of those who have immigrated to Australia. Though I think it is incredibly important we realise that just because it’s someone’s culture doesn’t mean we should give them free reign to do whatever they like in our society. This sort of overt and excessive political correctness does more damage than it does good to the people it’s meant to protect. We need to remember that such people have chosen to come to our country and therefore we should expect them to integrate and become a functional part of our society that adheres to our laws even if they aren’t inline with their own beliefs of cultural practices. To do otherwise allows things such as the genital mutilation of children, the oppression of women by physical and sexual abuse, homophobia, racism and separatism to flourish within these immigrant communities. So we must move past this taboo of criticising Islam and the cultures of immigrants. When it really comes down to it everyone has the right to an opinion or belief, however, not all opinions or beliefs are equal, and the same holds for cultural practices.
The following question was:
A university study concludes that religious people are more generous, more altruistic and more involved in civic life than their secular counterparts. They are more likely to give blood, money to a homeless person, financial aid to family or friends, a seat to a stranger and to spend time with someone who is ”a bit down”. If religion contributes so positively to society, why then are we so quick to distance it from politics and don’t want it influencing our policies and society in general? – Zackary Nicholson
I laughed at the response from the panel at this one. Jim Wallace’s eyes seem to glean soon after the questioner finished and his opinion was asked. Whereas, Cristina Rad’s first response was a skeptical one, effectively asking “what study, what sample size, what demographic?”. I think the conversation moved away from the latter part of the question, so I can’t quite remember what each panelist said in response to that bit. However, I feel it comes back to the separation of church and state, and not wanting any religious beliefs to be influencing the state one way or another. There’s nothing wrong with Christians being involved with politics, or muslims or jews, etc. The problems arrive when the religion of a person starts influencing politics. This seems to be the case more often than not when a politician is religious. Think about opposition leader Tony Abbott and his adamant position on climate change being false, at least until recently. The same goes for gay marriage. The only reason that is still not legislated is undoubtedly a direct result of the church controlling the state. Especially when numerous polls have shown the vast majority of the public believe it should be legalised.
The following question was asked on the topic of euthanasia by an elderly man who was disabled, bringing a bit of controversy to the topic.
There is more to this debate than “I want to decide how and when I die” versus “God should determine when we die”, so as a person whose level of disability is often used as a supposedly legitimate and understandable reason to allow someone to be euthanised, I just wonder when we will see a truly comprehensive debate about euthanasia – one that includes a genuine opportunity for people who live quite productively with serious disability to speak against euthanasia? – John Moxon
The man who posed this question was confined to a wheelchair after apparently breaking his neck. What confused me was why he thought his present state was ‘often used as a supposedly legitimate and understandable reason’ for euthanising someone. This guy clearly had a very shallow understanding of the idea of euthanasia, as well as how and to whom it would apply if it were legal. Last time I checked, in places where euthanasia is legalised, it’s not mandatory to anyone who’s disabled or even terminally ill. It is a personal choice, if you don’t want to make use of it DON’T DO IT!?
He used a 15 yr old wanting to commit suicide being able to be euthanised. Clearly things would never be that simple, nor that easy. Sure, of course someone who’s of that age with severe depression or other mental illness, euthanasia is doubtfully going to be an option. However, for those who are 80+ years old with some form of debilitating terminal disease that will kill them over a period of months or even years, then YES euthanasia most definitely should be an option than can exploit. If we don’t legalise and regulate some form of euthanasia system then we force the hopeless and desperate in our society to explore other much less dignified and dangerous options. How is that a better option?
Some irate tweeters sent in the following:
So mandatory life? That’s pretty sick in my opinion!
If euthanasia is made legal – it will be a LAW with RULES, stop panicking people!
Legalize youth in asia!
Josh Thomas submitted the following question via video:
Hello Tony, I would like to talk to Jim Wallace about gays. Why is it that we listen to the part of the Bible that says it’s an abomination for a man to lie with another man, but you ignore the part of the Bible that says it’s an abomination to mix crops from the same field? Why are you so passionately anti-homosexuality but you are fairly quiet on the issue of bio-dynamic farming? Also, it’s widely understood that gays have no choice about being gay. I can tell you from personal experience it’s impossible for me to feel sexual desire or romantic attraction to a girl. We know that young homosexuals have a hard time coming to terms with being homosexual and studies have shown that they are far more likely to experience depression, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, that’s right, homelessness and they’re ultimately far more likely to attempt and occasionally achieve suicide. I’m interested to find out if Jim, is concerned about the role the Australian Christian Lobby is playing in empowering homophobia which could be contributing to the mental illnesses of young gay people?
A brilliant questions, to which Jim Wallace replied with an interesting comment about Jesus not actually being homophobic, he appears to be silent on the matter in the bible. Though elsewhere in this holy book it suggests the act of homosexuality is a sin. In Jim Wallace’s stuttering and embarrassment he called the Australian Christian Lobby the Australia Homosexual Lobby, which was met with a huge amount of laughter!
Another question came in regarding homosexual parents and adoption, to which Jim Wallace replied with some moronic comment about worrying that any child adopted by gays would lose the surname of its real father… Things would be different if the child was adopted by a straight couple? Are you serious?! Considering the heterosexuals are undoubtedly the ones giving the children up for adoption then maybe it’s time we allow the homosexuals to stand in where we’ve failed and have a decent shot at raising the kids!
Wallace also referred to the ‘gay agenda’, which is along the lines of ‘wanting to adopt’, blah blah blah. To which Cristina Rad replied “Just like straight people?”.
Every child deserves a home and parents, and if the gays are the only ones that will take them then it’s better than letting the child stay in an orphanage or dangerous living situation. Denying them these kinds of basic human rights, of adoption, of marriage, of basic equality is akin to racism and it is a denial of their humanity!
I might also add briefly that I was pretty surprised with the amount of sensible opinions and answers that Kristina Keneally offered in this show. Especially considering she is a Christian. She had the right stance on things such as euthanasia and gay marriage in contrast to Jim Wallace, and received a great deal of applause from the crowd and praise from tweeters. Good on her!
Go here to watch or download the program.