Talking Points for 09 May

We’re on air now – click here to listen

Further to Karnie’s post below, we had a long meeting today and looked at the evidence for what people were talking about and we couldn’t move for 3 stories; the Burma aid crisis – on a domestic phone-in here in the UK, a lot of people were unhappy that their donations were going to agencies that wouldn’t themselves be distributing it.

Secondly, the “atheist” story Karnie talks about below, and the Fritzl case and whether madness is a defence for evil acts (a subject we’ve discussed before).

We felt all three stories have an ethical/moral element to them and to that end we will try to bring in guests who can talk about all those subjects.


If you have suggestions, the door, metaphorically speaking, is wide open.

here’s Karnie’s morning post..



Good morning and thanks to Steve in the US for keeping the blog “live” overnight.  The Lebanon story is something we are most likely to discuss today.  At least 10 people, mainly civilians have been killed and many more injured.  Hezbollah’s leader called yesterday’s move to close down their telecommunications network “a declarataion of war”.  Steve’s question on whether this is the start of a full scale civil war is a good starting point.  If this is, how can it be prevented from taking place? 

The Archbishop of Westminister, Cardinal Cormac Murphy -O’Connor is calling for a greater understanding between believers and non-believers.  His urging Christians to treat atheists and agnostics with “deep esteem because the hidden God is active in their lives”.  Are you an atheist?  What do you make of it as a believer or non – believer?  Would you like to hear a discussion on WHYS between atheists and christians?

The Burmese military Junta say the country is still not ready to accept foreign aid workers.  They’ve asked for the aid, providing it’s left for them to distribute.    Will this attitude stop you from giving aid to Burma?  If you have already given aid, do you regret it?  And following these comments, why should anyone bother to give aid to the country?

Apparently, in the United States you can go to a Taser gun party.  Have you been to one?   If you have, do you believe that self defence parties will make America or the world even a safer place?

Another story that  Lubna mentioned last night..what do you make of it?

136 Responses to “Talking Points for 09 May”

  1. 1 steve
    May 8, 2008 at 19:24

    Here’s an obvious start. Looks like Hezbollah and the Lebanese government are going at it.


    Could this be part of a new Lebanese civil war?

  2. 2 adam in portland oregon usa
    May 8, 2008 at 19:36

    Hey Steve and everyone,
    a thought to start the evening off. I was thinking about a poll to see if WHYS listeners contribute to charities, NGOs, aid organisations or non profit orgs and if so what type of contribution? financial, volunteer time or other types? Additionally if folks are comfortable with saying so specifically what are the names of those organisations or agencies. The drive behind this poll is the current focus on aid agencies and their role in the world as discussed here on WHYS.

  3. 3 Peter Gizzi UK
    May 8, 2008 at 20:08

    Hi Adam in Portland,
    I give a small amount monthly to our Hospice Movement. They have given a number of my friends a dignified departure and as a smoker it is where I might die too.

    I give a similar amount to The U.K. Independence Party. I think you all know my feelings towards The European Union. I also give to our local branch and go leafleting every other week for about 3 hours.

    I may donate to The Burma Relief Fund but remain unsure about where the money actually goes.

    I did recently give to Stuart Wheeler’s Fund. He is taking our Prime Minister to court to try and get us a referendum on The Lisbon Treaty. It will be decided inm June whether the case can proceed.

    The BBC did an interesting documentary a while ago showing the plight of people after The Tsunami. Much of the money it seems went into local officials pockets. I feel so torn to see such suffering but helpless to give?

  4. 4 Jens
    May 8, 2008 at 20:12

    what about discussing detroits in ability to produce fuel efficient cars. are our engeneers less capabale than japanese or european ones. sure there can be only an advantage to dos so.

  5. 5 Shirley
    May 8, 2008 at 20:25

    It is indeed scary. I know people who come from Lebanon, and it would hurt dearly to hear that something had happened to their families. I am still reading to try to understand the argument between Sayyid Nasrullah and the Lebanese government. I don’t understand the reference to telecommunications and its importance to Hizbullah. If there is any other coverage of it by established sources (BBC, CNN, etc.), I will appreciate references/links.

  6. 6 steve
    May 8, 2008 at 20:55


    In europe, US cars have smaller engines are are more fuel efficient. I think Ford is releasing the european versions of the Focus here soon, which get better mileage. I think they are even producing some diesel cars they will bring to the US.

  7. May 8, 2008 at 21:00

    Hello Precious Steve… Please guys, take a look at this story and tell me what you think : http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7388762.stm. With my love. Yours forever, Lubna.

  8. 8 steve
    May 8, 2008 at 21:03

    Wow Lubna, that’s bad. Was in Guantamo, gets acquitted in Kuwait, and then goes on a suicide bombing mission.

  9. May 8, 2008 at 21:24

    Hey again Precious Steve… You know, my web access is through an old generation cell phone, and that’s why I only wrote the link to the story and couldn’t put it out properly in my blog post… I’m really sooooo grateful that you put out the link to the story in a proper way for me… So a very big THANK YOU from a firm Israel criticiser to a firm Israel supporter ! :-). And Shirley my love, if you’re interested, you may wanna check out the middle east page of the BBC at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east. There you may find what you’re seeking for. With my love. Yours forever, Lubna.

  10. 10 Xie_Ming
    May 8, 2008 at 21:54

    The dearth of news concerning Sadr City is disconcerting.


    Those interested in Lebanon must learn about Israel’s repeated aggressions against it. Google:

    Israel + “Uri Avnery” + Sharon + interview.

    Avnery’s columns in gush-shalom.org archives will be a treasure for anyone seeking truth about the Middle Eastern situation.


    It seems that ZK was the only participant west of San Francisco last night. For anyone from there:

    (1) what do you consider to be the principal Confucian values?

    (2) Are there distinct Asian values. If so, what are they and are they changing?


    For the obsessed or medically interested:

    How do physical differences in the brain influence the manifestation of sexuality?

  11. 11 Will Rhodes
    May 8, 2008 at 22:00

    steve May 8, 2008 at 8:55 pm


    In europe, US cars have smaller engines are are more fuel efficient. I think Ford is releasing the european versions of the Focus here soon, which get better mileage. I think they are even producing some diesel cars they will bring to the US.

    Saturn have released the Astra, Jens – nice car, too.

    Lebanon is a good topic BTW.

  12. 12 Jonny
    May 8, 2008 at 22:05

    How about the Chief of Mexico’s Police assassinated by drug cartels?


    There has to be a better way to combat drug cartels, but is the ‘legalization’ argument debated to death at this point?

  13. 13 Shirley
    May 8, 2008 at 22:12

    Salam, hyati. I have been to the story that I saw posted at BBC. Inshallah God willing, I will keep looking for other stories. Perhaps the more I hear the same stories, the more those stories will make sense to me. Am I the only one confused by the focal events in Lebanon?

    Please please stay safe!

    By the way, Peter is trying to discuss the world food situation at https://worldhaveyoursay.wordpress.com/2008/05/08/more-food-for-thought . It is a topic that interests me, but I see only one post there so far. I also feel as if I have said my piece. Would it be tacky to basically repeat myself there?

    I saw an ABC news interview with a UN official who described the distribution of several tons of food-stuff to Myanmar. These things are essentially energy bars that are packed with nutrition. They have been able to distribute enough for 17,000 people for one day. I cannot help but think that those biscuits are already gone (in the bellies of the survivors). If the UN has been able to get food in, perhaps they might be a good avenue for donations?

    Another Myanmar note: It was infuriorating to see Buddhist monks out there cutting trees while the streets were so empty of the military who should be doing that job.

  14. 14 Dennis Young, Jr.
    May 8, 2008 at 22:34

    Hi Lubna:

    I hope you are safe and sound!

    Dennis~~from Madrid, United States of America

  15. May 8, 2008 at 22:47

    I have a solution for the gas problem. Less people driving. We need to improve public transportation. That can hopefully be followed with a more intense test to get a driver’s license. One that not only test skill, but intellect, patience, and courtesy. Too often I see a driver with a carload of kids, talking on a cell phone, smoking and swerving through traffic. Currently our economy is set up so that driving is more of a right then a privilege. First that needs to change. Maybe start by giving out different classes of licenses. certain people would only be aloud to drive a moped, others indy cars.

  16. 16 Xie_Ming
    May 8, 2008 at 22:53


    Repeating yourself is really necessary,

    Since the scattered focus of having many different topics assures that no one will read them all.

  17. 17 Jens
    May 8, 2008 at 23:53

    i know it’s the american obsession with the 8 liter engine. Heck i travelled through europe in an opel kadett with a 1 liter engine and it did not bother me.

    i just wish to have the option to get a car with a small engine AND 4WD, since I do life at 7500 feet and get a lot of snow.

  18. 18 steve
    May 9, 2008 at 00:01

    @ Jens

    There are some small SUVs that get good mileage, like the Honda CR-V, and the Toyota Rav4. I believe all subarus are 4 wheel drive, though I think for 4 cylinders they don’t get the best mileage because they are rather large displacement and are flat fours instead of inline.

    Audi has the A4 Quattro. BMW has the 3 series in 4wd version, look for the 325ix (x) in BMW names means it’s 4WD.

  19. 19 Xie_Ming
    May 9, 2008 at 00:02

    I just received this from a friend of mine in Tel Aviv:


    Can anyone offer a plausible explanation?

  20. 20 Xie_Ming
    May 9, 2008 at 00:04

    The Subaru may fill the bill for a small 4WD.

    Toyota also has some very economical vehicles.

  21. 21 steve
    May 9, 2008 at 00:11

    Subarus don’t get very good mileage though.. I think the best bet would be the Hybrid Escape, but I’m not positive it’s 4WD. Rav4’s get pretty good mileage.

  22. May 9, 2008 at 00:12

    Good gas mileage?
    VW needs to bring the CitiGolf (rabbit) back to the US, bring us the Polo, and all of the other cars which were great econoboxes in the 70s and 80s and got scrapped in the 90s for safety and the great bulk-up of cars the US began to crave.

    I swapped in an ej25 (the 2.5 naturally aspirated engine, currently the most fuel efficient one they make and offer in the US market) into my 94 subaru impreza running on OBDI, the AWD killed the mileage. I was looking around 23, others with that motor in their stock OBDII cars werent getting any better than 25-27. The few FWD swapped inmprezas (they did not offer a FWD OBDII so any swapped one was running on OBDI in a FWD platform) still got under 30mpg highway. City driving killed those numbers greatly.
    I suppose decent for AWD, but certainly not anything to brag about.
    The EJ25 is still an awesome motor for a 4-banger though. Completely oversized. They need to bring in a puny 1.6 or 1.8 16v AWD platform into the states (IIRC suzuki has a 16v AWD car out in the states now).

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  23. 23 Will Rhodes
    May 9, 2008 at 00:20


    Television showed gunmen firing rifles and rocket-propelled grenades in central and southern areas of the city. The fighting began after the leader of Hezbollah described the government’s move to close its telecommunications network as a “declaration of war”.

    Hassan Nasrallah vowed to “cut off the hand” that attempted to dismantle it.

    Earlier, the Lebanese army command warned its unity was at risk if the ongoing political crisis and civil unrest in Beirut continued.

    In recent years, it has been seen as one of Lebanon’s most neutral institutions, but correspondents say clashes between rival factions could draw it into the conflict.

  24. May 9, 2008 at 00:20

    As a point of reference, my old 82 Rabbit L with a 1.7l 8v motor and 3 spd automatic averaged 37-38mpg on my ride back from Indiana where I bought it. The car had 27,000 miles on it and ran like a top. It had great acceleration and excellent handling for its size.
    Even my worked 3a (audi-80 motor) 2.0 rabbit that was built for auto-x got in the 30s for the MPG and still ran in the 14’s in the quarter.

    For fuel efficiency I think few can come close to VW’s in the 70s and 80s. At least in the states.

    We went downhill and went downhill fast from there. All the weight from conveniences which we don’t need but crave, all the power that we don’t need but want so we can show off, all those huge rims and tires which diminish gas mileage, increase unsprung weight, etc, the need to drive around a mini-bus which seats 8, even though its just you and your husband or wife… All these additions and more to the market took all that work that was made in the 70s and 80s for efficiency and threw it right out the window.

  25. 25 Will Rhodes
    May 9, 2008 at 00:27


    A religious court in Malaysia has allowed a Muslim convert to leave the Islamic faith, in what is being hailed as a landmark ruling.

    Penang’s Sharia court ruled that Siti Fatimah Tan Abdullah was free to return to Buddhism, following the collapse of her marriage to a Muslim man.

    It was decided she had not had proper counselling during her conversion.

    Malaysians are rarely allowed to renounce the faith – those who do can be prosecuted under stringent laws.

    Religious rights are a sensitive issue in Malaysia – which is 60% Muslim.

  26. 26 Xie_Ming
    May 9, 2008 at 00:47

    I was just sent an item from a friend in Tel Aviv describing a raid on a Palestinian girl’s school in Hebron. It seems the IDF took all their sewing machines and office equipement!

    Here was the URL that got lost on this thread:


    There is a long history of this sort of thing in Hebron.

    Is anybody interested?

  27. 27 steve
    May 9, 2008 at 00:55

    @ Xie Ming:

    That link you provided, doesn’t seem to be written as a news story, but as an opinion piece. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s propoganda. But isn’t it funny that Israel allows such websites to exist, that make the government look bad, because Israel is a democracy?

  28. 28 steve
    May 9, 2008 at 00:57

    I’ll be back in about an hour, have to go to the gym now, though if I’m nice, I can moderate from my phone, but it’s a pain.

  29. 29 Xie_Ming
    May 9, 2008 at 01:20

    My impression is that kibush is operated by Israelis trying to protect the Palestinians. Please correct me if I am wrong.
    One rock-solid source is



    (There are many such organizations in Israel)

    Perhaps the history of the ethnic cleansing in Hebron might make it onto the blog for post celebrations of Israel’s birthday?

    This is a very short item also concerning Hebron:


    It sounds like selective murder and deportation.

    The intent sometimes changes:

    How many are aware of the Gush Emunim trying to blow up the Mosque on Temple Mount?

    They are an Israeli government-armed and funded terrorist group who tried to bring on a massive uprising to exterminate the Palestinians. In their thinking, this would appease the Lord and let in the End Times and Israeli World domination.

    Gush Emunim” + “Temple Mount” + explosives + fundamentalism

    will provide an interesting insight from a variety of perspectives. Jewish fundamentalism is a major vector in Israel’s troubles in Palestine. It would really be informative if on could look at it on WHYS.

    Submitted to WHYS 9 May 2008 13:10 GMT

  30. 30 Xie_Ming
    May 9, 2008 at 01:25


    I think that Malaysia and Indonesia should be studied carefully to see how Islam and Islamic fundamentalism are evolving.

    These might be good case studies.

    We need more like that!

  31. May 9, 2008 at 02:26

    what about discussing detroits in ability to produce fuel efficient cars. are our engeneers less capabale than japanese or european ones.

    Nope, not at all, we are quite capable.
    The problem lies in the US market. Up until just recently, the market in the US was for (and still primarily is) huge trucks, SUVs, bigger and more power the cars the better, etc. It was all about payload (which would never be met by 99% of those buying the vehicles), size, power, and options. Fuel efficiency was down low on their list of things to do. Gas was [and still is compared to other countries] cheap and plentiful. Now they find themselves in a bind because they are so far behind. They slept for too long and became complacent in a market which is evolving daily. Old market approach strategies are failing for them and they are scrambling to get the R&D done which foreign makers have been doing all the years we have been churning out gas guzzling monsters and not thinking ahead to the future.

    Now Toyota took an interesting approach. They start with fuel efficiency, gain midsize market share with the Corolla and Camary for decades, then slip in the back door introducing the Tundra and larger trucks and SUV’s, enter NASCAR for the primary purpose of marketing their trucks, and guess what! They sell bunches of cars, trucks, and SUV’s of all types and efficiencies (or inefficiencies). All the while leading the way in manufacturing techniques, market response techniques, R&D, and sales.

    I still say the approach needs to be more EV’s. The EV1 ( http://www.ev1.org/ ) proved it could be done in a profitable manner with excellent end user results. But that weens us off the oil, and the big guys sitting in for Exxon and the like aren’t too fond of that one. I suppose thats why they haven’t caused a ruckus about hybrids… The majority of them get the same, if not worse mileage than econoboxes of the 80’s. So we still depend on them, and that keeps them happy.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  32. 32 steve
    May 9, 2008 at 02:31

    Wouldn’t now be a good time for French manufacturers to come back to the US, ignoring the mechanic issues? Many of their cars are small and efficient, like the Peugot 106/206 and whatever cars you rent in europe.

  33. May 9, 2008 at 02:35

    mmm Id be down with some Peugot action!

  34. May 9, 2008 at 02:43

    … whoa! Sure beats my Solectria Force lol. My EV tops out at 75 😦 and takes the better part of the trip to get there, with some tail-wind lol. Not that I mind, I’m in the city 🙂 But I’d still rather have that car, Will!

  35. 36 Will Rhodes
    May 9, 2008 at 03:06

    Nice init!? 😀

  36. 38 Tom
    May 9, 2008 at 03:21

    This may be old news, but what does everyone think of Australia’s anger toward Papua New Guinean villagers intention to expand a copper mine near the fabled Kokoda Trail?

    I find that for a rich country to deny their improverished neighbour the opportunity to develop their country because of nationalistic nostalgia is simply disgusting!

    I fully support the villager’s non-violent action in cutting off the trail by felling a tree across it.


  37. 39 Xie_Ming
    May 9, 2008 at 03:48

    For the Papuans to be expanding a mine sounds like progress!

    What is the legal relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea?

  38. 40 steve
    May 9, 2008 at 04:11

    Night everyone. For those on the west Coast and wherever it’s still not night, it’s 4:10 AM in London, so I’m sure within a couple hours they will be back on moderating. It’s kind of late here and have a dentist appointment tomorrow morning before work, so I must part with you now.

  39. 41 Tom
    May 9, 2008 at 05:06

    “What is the legal relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea?”

    PNG was a protectorate of Australia until gaining independence in 1975. PNG continues to receive aid donations from Australia. During WWII, Australian troops were involved in heavy fightings in PNG, the most famous of which was along the Kokoda Trail where an undermanned Australian squad turned back a Japanese advance.

    The fact is, PNG is now an independent country. Despite being a receiver of Australian aids, it should have full rights of self-determination especially with regards to its economic development.

  40. 42 Bob in Queensland
    May 9, 2008 at 07:47


    I think you’re right that the differences in fuel consumption between the US and Europe are more to do with taste in cars than engineering skill.

    I remember a recent discussion on another forum I frequent about cars and I was surprised by the number of Americans who insisted they HAD to have a large SUV “for safety reasons”. There seemed to be a major perception that small cars were inherently unsafe in an accident–and maybe this is true if everyone else is driving a huge SUV.

    On top of this, it’s worth remembering that, in Europe, the majority of small cars are still 4 or 5 speed manual shift while automatics are the norm in the US. I’m not a mechanic but I believe that automatic gearboxes are tend to be a few percent worse than manual in fuel efficiency terms.

  41. 43 Dennis Young, Jr.
    May 9, 2008 at 07:49

    Good job, Steve!!!!

    Dennis from Madrid, United States of America 🙂

  42. 44 Jennifer
    May 9, 2008 at 09:34

    UTTERLY CONFUSED!! Which is the talking points page for today 9TH MAY??? It was nice and simple before and now i have no idea which programme is posting on this blog and what’s for today and what’s for tomorrow. Talking points for 10th May – 10th May is a SATURDAY – you don’t have a programme then do you?

  43. 45 Jenny
    May 9, 2008 at 09:37

    Another thing – this blog is becoming a love in between the regulars posters, it’s like an exclusive club and I can’t keep up. Some of us have jobs and lives and can’t keep up with every twist on this blog. Can’t you just keep the titles simple and clear?

  44. 46 ZK
    May 9, 2008 at 09:57


    I suspect it was a typo caused yesterday that wasn’t spotted and carried over.

  45. 47 f0rTyLeGz
    May 9, 2008 at 10:46

    I’m thinking about Burma this evening, I’ve been in a few hurricanes, and I can assure everyone that when there is no water, no food, no shelter, no current, and many people are injured, very young, or old… that those people are living in Hell on Earth tonight. How can a bunch of old men in funny hats tell the whole world they can not come and save lives? What is the matter with US?

  46. 48 Lubna
    May 9, 2008 at 10:47

    Hi Precious Jenny… How are you doing ?! This blog is really like an exclusive club, and once you’ve posted a comment on it, then you’d become a member of that exclusive club no matter how many times you post per day or per week… We’re all like a big global family Precious Jenny, and love is always present there among us no matter how much we disagree with each other on certain issues and topics… Lots of love and blessings to all of you from Baghdad. Yours forever. Lubna.

  47. 49 Mark Sandell
    May 9, 2008 at 11:43

    Hi Jenny
    The date was a typo and the person responsible has been fired. As it was Ros, i’ve had to reconsider and reluctantly take him back – but on a final warning.
    As for your point about the “love in” – we do have a committed community around WHYS, who as you will see , rarely agree but (with the odd exception) treat each other with intelligence, courtesy and respect. But i think,from reading everyones comments the community is like a supermarket loyalty scheme, we have Platinum WHYS members(post every day come rain or shine),Gold members (post most days, but probably have a look at the very least)and Silver members (post occasionally or only when it’s an issue they feel very strongly about), and a lot of casual members who pass through every now and then.
    They are all very welcome- Lubna (definitely a Platinum member!) says it’s an exclusive club (in the sense that the community are a special bunch) but not exclusive in the sense that anyone can be a member.
    So a mixture of incompetence (on our part) and loyalty (on the community’s part) has caused your problems Jenny- apologies.

  48. 50 Katharina in Ghent
    May 9, 2008 at 11:44


    What strikes me most about what’s happening in Lebanon, is that it took place on Israel’s 60th birthday, as if to remind everyone why Israel needs a strong army and must never let its guards down.

    BTW, I consider myself an atheist, who has great respect to believers like Lubna or Shirley, even if I can’t share their belief. So to hear from a Bishop that other people should show similar respect to me seems just fair.

    Looking forward to this weekends’ Blank Page!

    Read you later,

  49. May 9, 2008 at 12:42

    Burmese authorities are reported to be saying “they are now willing to accept International aid, but will not accept other nationals to come along to help distribute the aid”.

    Here, they will prefer to collect the aid but not the owners of the aid. This, I see as an affront and an insult. WHYS, what is your opinion.

    Here is a country that has been brought to her knees by the Volcano and in a state of desperate need of help; instead of opening up to that help and international assistance, is busy weighing her ‘ options’ (if any) and giving conditions.

  50. 52 Bob in Queensland
    May 9, 2008 at 12:47

    It could be argued though that at least one of the causes of the present problems in Lebanon is that same strong Israeli army. Far from neutralising Hezbollah, Israel’s various attacks on Lebanon (and the “collateral damage” to thousands of innocent civilians) has merely served to make the elected government appear weak compared to the terrorists.

    This is not to blame Israel alone. The outside influences from the USA, Syria and others, coupled with the in-fighting among Christian, Sunni and Shi’a factions all contribute to the chaos we see today.

    …which is unfortunate because Lebanon is a truly lovely country and the Lebanese a warm and generous people whose land is being used as a battle ground for the middle east.

  51. 53 ZK
    May 9, 2008 at 13:26


    The World Food Programme has halted aid shipments to Burma after the contents of its first delivery were impounded on arrival in the military-ruled country.

    The UN body says the Burmese government seized aid material flown in to help victims of Cyclone Nargis, which has killed tens of thousands.

    The WFP said it had no choice but to halt aid until the matter was resolved.

    That’s enough. Enough is enough. Time for the junta to be disregarded. The world must act now, with or without the junta’s permission, and take a stand against the junta’s inaction. Relief supplies must be brought to the people of Burma, by force if necessary. The junta is deliberately mounting a campaign of genocide here.

  52. 54 Xie_Ming
    May 9, 2008 at 13:35

    The topic of believers vs. atheists is sure to ring up the “hits” and contribute nothing to anyone’s understanding (I can refer you to a blog where this has been going on for seven years!)..

    If you want to try for a more productive query, how about:

    “What is the role of religious ideology in various parts of the World
    and what should it be?”

  53. 55 steve
    May 9, 2008 at 13:53

    @ Brett


    Look at this, the Saturn Astra. I don’t get it. It has a weak engine, and only gets 32 mpg. Why cant US carmakers have the high mpg that european cars have? I mean, for the love of God, my car has a 200 hp engine and gets 31 mpg. One less than this car and I have 62 more horsepower than this monstrosity. It’s like they keep on coming out with smaller cars that still don’t get good mileage. Even Honda is guilty, The Civic gets the same mileage as the Fit, so why on earth would you want the Fit? Make the Fit get 45 mpg at least and then people might look at it.

  54. 56 Peter Gizzi UK
    May 9, 2008 at 14:03

    Hi everybody I’m back early today. I should have been doing some “eletric” gardening but it is too hot! My excuse.

    We do have fuel efficient cars even though I do not drive. My sister had a Smart car for some years. I was quite impressed by it. Expected to ride in a “lawnmower” with a body but it seemed very comfortable. I am quite fat 5 foot eight inches and weighing 14 stone. Granted it is only a 2 seater. How often though do I see a “large” young person driving a 4×4 alone? Green is not fashionable.

    I was thinking in a similar way to you. This blog is a bit “elitist” I do enjoy it but at times feel ignored. I wasn’t last weekend it has to be said! People also seem to focus only on war. I was born during WW2 so prefer to discuss other matters.

    I am deeply saddened by what is happening there. One thought though drawn out but could perhaps save some lives. Could the aid agencies not ask those countries more trusted by Burma to take in some of our aid? I’m thinking of Thailand, India, and China.

    Come on folks shoot me down in flames!!!!!

  55. 57 Shirley
    May 9, 2008 at 14:17

    I woke to that same news and had the same reaction as you. To hell with national sovereignty, territorial integrity, etc. This is one of those cases where the dots of i’s and the crosses of t’s in international law need to be disregarded to fulfill the spirit of that law: save lives and promote peace. The thing is that once an ogranisation goes underground, they cannot very well publicise what they are doing. How would we know where to send our money?

    Thank you all so much for trying to help me figure out Lebanon. I still cannot wrap my mind around why that telecommunications thing is so important to Hizbullah. What do they need it for?

    Who could mediate between Hizbullah and the Lebanese government? Might it be possible for the Lebanese government to bend to Hizbullah’s demands? What would be the implications of such a move? What other terms of negotation could be used to come to a solution?

  56. 58 Bob in Queensland
    May 9, 2008 at 14:31


    On an emotional level I agree with you that the time has come to do something about the junta in Burma. However, thinking logically, is it really possible just to disregard them? Realistically, we’d be talking about full-scale military action and, most likely that horrible phrase: “regime change”.

    Is outside force in the affairs of a sovereign nation ever justified? If so, Burma is a good case. Once we’ve started with Burma, do with move onto Zimbabwe? North Korea?

    Beyond that, who decides which governments are evil or corrupt enough to justify the use of force and which aren’t? What countries would be willing to send their armies…and see young men and women return in body bags? How do you persuade countries like China and Russia to become part of a united front rather than always “supporting the underdog”.

    As I started off saying, I’d love to see something done about Burma. However, for the life of me, I can’t see how.

  57. 59 selena
    May 9, 2008 at 14:35

    From my perspective, religious ideology is a throwback to the beginning, when people had nothing to do with their time and were looking for meaning.

    The smart asses quickly realized (as smart asses do) that they were on to a good thing. What better way to control and dominate than to posit an “Old Man” who was watching every move and could mete out punishment on a whim?

    With the Internet (which I regard as the Second Coming 🙂 ), there ceases to be a need for religious entertainment.

    There is more to the universe than meets the human eye but we are unable to imagine what is it. We are too dependent on egos to look outside ourselves for an explanation.

    I am not an atheist; I am not an agnostic; I am not a label.

  58. 60 John in Salem
    May 9, 2008 at 14:56

    Burma, Fritzl and Talking to Atheists – those are the topics today, yes?

    Burma ~ I will not be giving aid to the Burmese government.

    Fritzl and the death penalty ~ My gut says yes, my heart says no. Death would let him off the hook (I won’t say here what I think is an appropriate punishment).

    Talking to Atheists ~ As a life-long atheist I am not interested in discussing my beliefs with Christian literalists or in hearing such a discussion. It is an utterly pointless waste of everyone’s time.

  59. May 9, 2008 at 15:07

    I remember when the Fit first came out, consumers were highly irritated that it got such lousy gas mileage compared to what Honda was shooting for and compared to what the consumers wanted out of such a little car.

  60. 62 Katharina in Ghent
    May 9, 2008 at 15:08

    @ Selena:

    I don’t think that religion emerged because people had nothing to do with their time, after all, feeding themselves and their family/tribe must have taken a big junk out of their everyday’s life. IMHO it came up because they had no answers to scientific questions like “why are there flashes in the thunderstorm, why doesn’t it rain when there’s a draught, where do babies come from etc.” If you don’t know the correct answer, then it’s easy to make something up that fits “because God/the Gods want to punish us, it’s a message from the gods, the spirits have united etc.” Naturally, in every tribe there was one (lazy) person who figured out how to communicate “the messages from the higher being” particularly well, and together with some funny plants and obscure rituals religion was born.

    Nowadays our understanding of physics, chemistry and biology, among other things has increased so much, that as a rational person you don’t need a God anymore to give you the answers. I became an atheist/agnostic/whatever simply by reading a book about the universe, which described very neatly for lay people how the universe came into being. (For those who are interested: “Stardust”, but I don’t know anymore who wrote it.) The simple truth (to me) is that we don’t need a God for the universe to exist, and even if there were one, what are the chances that he is watching every single individual on earth 24/7 and why doesn’t he have anything else to do???

    I also don’t need a God to know right from wrong, or to be a good person. When I was a teenager, I went one Sunday to mass and when we left the Church, there was a gipsy woman with a baby in her arms, begging, and all the righteous Christians who just listened to a sermon about “love thy neighbour” went past the woman with nasty words on their lips. To me, that was all I needed to know about the usefulness of sermons.

    @ Peter:

    I also wish that the blog weren’t about war so much, but some people who blog rather frequently have no other topic… ever. That’s why I really enjoyed the last Blank Page, it was about a lot of other things.

  61. 63 John in Germany
    May 9, 2008 at 15:27

    Incompetence to the last breath. Burma’s military leaders want to distribute the aid themselves, is it because we have learnt to mis-trust all incompetent leaders ,or just pure experience. Cant help it but i see a very big warehouse near that new ciry of thiers, getting very full. What genuine reason have they to forbid help to thier own countrymen-women, whom are suffering; hunger, sickness, and death, shock at the death of there own flesh and blood. Every second counts, the words of nearly all interviewed helpers, whether on the BBC, or German radio.

    You wont say it? ok i will. they did not care about them before the catastrophe, so why should they act reasonable now. Any one that locks opposition away can only be mistrusted, as long as the opposition is not terrorist.

    We will give nothing, until the decision is made to let all aid helpers in to the country without hindrance.

    A lot of self respecting people are getting sick to the teeth with such leaders, those that just care about themselves. and thier own survival.

    God be with you all, even the atheists.

    John in Germany

  62. 64 Shirley
    May 9, 2008 at 15:27

    You don’t think it possible to get supplies in using a more covert method?

  63. 65 Bob in Queensland
    May 9, 2008 at 15:34

    I would also describe myself as an atheist but I find it interesting you describe that as a “belief”.

    To me, religion is a belief in something intangible; my atheism is the LACK of such a belief. I can’t actively choose to believe in something I cannot see or touch–I either do or don’t and in this case it’s “don’t”.

    As for the idea of dialogue, I don’t see the point. I’ve tried this before and know we start from two mutually exclusive points. There’s no common perception that can be used as a starting point for such a discussion.

  64. 66 Katharina in Ghent
    May 9, 2008 at 15:43


    UN stopped shipping supplies now because the junta seized everything. This is why I won’t donate.

  65. 67 Keith
    May 9, 2008 at 15:47

    John, may I ask why do you have such obvious scorn toward believers? I think it’s interesting that you assume any kind of discussion would be with “Christian Literalists.” why do you assume we are all literalists? I am a believer and also extremely analytical and also extremely open to all sorts of ideas. I just began reading the bible for the first time in ages and I am amazed by the beauty of the poetry in the creation narrative. Of course it is not literal, but this does not mean it isn’t true as metaphor, and it certainly doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable.

    Selena, your flippant remarks are disappointing and unfortunately I think characteristic of much of our generation. The arrogant notion that everything that is “now,” our knowledge, our technology, our abilities….these things are the best there ever was and they trump all that has come before. This is a profoundly immature way of thinking. Do you really think that once upon a time, people had nothing to do and just came up with religion to keep people in line? Nothing to do? How much free time do you imagine ancient people’s had when they had to make everything they used with their bare hands, grow food, etc.? Religion has indeed been perverted as a means to control people and indeed has become an opiate for many of the masses. But true religion is born of a desire to understand the source of things, the meaning beneath things, and to connect these truths and mysteries with our fellow human beings that we might respect and understand each other more deeply.

    I don’t know how we can have a conversation like this if there isn’t some civility and respect of one another’s intellect. I have never met either of you and you have decided across many miles, before I typed a single letter on the topic, that I am a fool. This is sad, and it goes both ways on this subject and I think this is exactly what the Cardinal or whoever is getting at…he is asking Christians to do what I am now asking you to do. Listen. Make an attempt at respect and have an open mind.

  66. 68 Peter Gizzi UK
    May 9, 2008 at 16:25

    Hi Again Katherina in Ghent,
    yes the blank page was good, i really enjoyed it and of course meeting so many lovely people.

    Have just read The Atheist bit.
    As many of you already know i was born and baptised a Roman Catholic. The Roman Catholic church says “Once a Catholic always a Catholic!” You then get counted in their numbers even if you never ever go to church.

    I claimed violation of my human rights as I was baptised before I was old enough to decide for myself. My Catholosism was revoked officially by The ~Archbishop’s Office.

    I do question the fact that most religions impose their religions on babies in many ways. When adult those children are often not able to leave as they may be disowned, disinherited or even put to death. Is that what God is all about?

  67. May 9, 2008 at 16:28

    This whole concept of “the hidden God” is totally offensive to atheists. I mean, why open a dialog at all if you’re simply going to be so patronizing and, frankly, underhanded? It’s not a true dialog if you’ve already undercut the conversation with thoughts like this.

    If anyone who buys religious principals without any evidence to support their ideas wants to talk to people who are in the business of Reason, they need to put aside the “hidden God” baloney and learn to think and speak logically. What the churches are afraid of is that, once a person learns how to think, they abandon their religious delusions.

    But enough of that. I’m incredibly offended that the cardinal brought up Hitler and Stalin as examples of atheists. Hitler believed in Jesus:


    Can we stop trying to rewrite history? Maybe Hitler modified Christianity as he saw fit (doesn’t almost everyone?) but he certainly was most definitely a believer. Instead, can we instead talk about the cardinal’s essential dishonesty?

  68. 70 Keith
    May 9, 2008 at 16:35

    Katharina, I appreciate your mostly balanced and respectful way of expressing things. I think that is more the order of the day and so we may have a chance at understanding one another. Unfortunately, your anecdote about hypocrisy after the mass is all too common a story. However, it is all too convenient to allow that to obscure the fact that Christlike compassion has motivated and inspired massive efforts of meeting needs for centuries. The civil rights movement in this country for example. The abolitionist movement for example. St. Patrick was the first slavery abolisher – 1500 years ago his devotion to God and belief that this implied profound worth in every human led him to transform Ireland and, without force, bring about cultural shifts that including eradicating the practice of slavery. Hypocrisy looms large and is an easy target, but acts of meaningful faith-motivated compassion are often quietly moved aside.

    John I think that is the “point.” the point is not to convince one or the other that I am right and you are wrong, or vice versa. I agree with you that this is highly unlikely. But, we all have to share the same little planet and hopefully have some goals and dreams in common (like keeping this little planet and its inhabitants afloat for example). It is not a waste of time to talk with one another.

  69. 71 Vijay
    May 9, 2008 at 16:41

    Here in India there is a vehicle called a Maruti-Suzuki Gypsy King that has a 1.3litre MPFI engine and has 4WD it gets about 30 miles per us gallon and costs about $12000.Newer versions in Europe are called a Suzuki Jimny.

  70. 72 selenayvonne
    May 9, 2008 at 16:55

    To Keith,

    I am truly sorry if I offended you. My respect for you, as a fellow human being, knows no bounds. How you came to the conclusion that I regard you as a fool is yet another testament to the power of perception and its limitations.

    I am pleased to take your views into consideration, as I reflect on the wondrous nature of the universe.

    Please allow me the opportunity to consider the “big question” from another angle. There may be a different way of understanding that does not keep us locked in the power and control paradigm.

    If we are truly seeking peace and not just another sermon, we will not prevent others from venturing into the unknown.


  71. 73 Keith
    May 9, 2008 at 17:01

    Actually, Hitler was heavily involved in the occult. He was also essentially a humanist and rather darwinian. I don’t want to get into that one though because it’s clear I am in the minority and there is a great deal of vitriol directed at those who believe on this blog. I don’t think there will be much value in a snarky tit for tat discussion of….”Christian Crusades killed lots of people and priests molest boys!” to which the believer responds, “Stalin and Mao were responsible for the brutal death of millions!” Not valuable.

    Maria, I agree that does seem patronizing and underhanded. Peter, I also agree in general with your points about imposing beliefs. I am frustrated though, by the fact that most of you are speaking in terms of “Religious people do this, and that is why religion is worthless.” Those broad strokes are no more fair than racial stereotypes. I understand that each of you can only reflect on what you have been exposed to, but the fact is that there are many of us out here who do not fit your tightly held stereotypes.

    For example, Maria said “What the churches are afraid of is that, once a person learns how to think, they abandon their religious delusions.” Saying “what the churches are afraid of…” is as open ended as – “Black people are always….” Seriously, we need to be able to address each other individually instead of lashing out with broad perceptions. Regarding a supposed fear that people will learn to think, that may be true somewhere, sometime but is not standard. Check out Ravi Zacharias at rzim.org. I dare you to read a book like his “the end of reason.” interestingly enough, his radio broadcast is called “let my people think.” He is a brilliant intellectual who has hosted several forums where he invites atheist scholars that he regards as colleagues to discuss these issues at universities.

  72. 74 Joel Salomon
    May 9, 2008 at 17:03

    Xie Ming:
     It’s interesting to note how, when the discussion is Iran- and Syria-financed Hezbollah versus the independent Lebanese government, you still think Israel is somehow responsible.

     Any story about those birds is funny. Especially since the automatic censorship on many online forums (don’t know about WHYS) won’t let you name them.

    Regarding Burma/Myanmar, I don’t see why anyone should send aid when there’s almost nil probability of it getting past the junta to those who need it.

  73. May 9, 2008 at 17:04

    I am so upset with the confiscation of aid supplies by the Junta. What a disappointment! I understand their need and want to not have outside interference, but every day that they wait, hold up aid, store it in warehouses awaiting ‘their distribution’, is another day hundreds of thousands / millions go without the necessary things they need to survive. Instead of worrying about distributing aid, the government needs to leave that to experts waiting to enter the country. The government needs to be concerned with cleanup of the thousands of rotting corpses both human and animal and setting up a clean water and waste infrastructure.
    It seems they are sitting on their hands spending more time arguing with foreign aid agencies than helping the people. I’m not there so I cannot tell, but thats what it seems like!

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  74. 76 Keith
    May 9, 2008 at 17:07

    Thank you so much Selena, I am sorry if I assumed too much of your perception of me based on your general comments. I think I am feeling a bit defensive because my foundational beliefs are apparently unpopular in a forum like this one, which is disappointing to me as I love this show and love being a part of this little scattered community of sorts. I really value genuine dialogue like this, and I thank you for your openness and happily pledge mine in return. It may surprise you to know that one of my favorite aspects in my faith journey is a celebration of the mystery and the unknown…a determination to ask the hard questions and to never move quickly to the easy dispensed religious answer. I am glad you are a lover of “mystery” too as I think this is a fading value in the modern world.

  75. 77 John in Salem
    May 9, 2008 at 17:14

    The WHYS posting suggested a conversation about Cardinal O’Connor’s remarks regarding esteem for atheists and their “hidden God”. While I have had many enjoyable discussions with people of many religious faiths the benchmark was always that they understood the concept of metaphor. A literalist does not, and O’Connor is, by definition, a literalist.

    I feel that “God” is a metaphor for a mystery that transcends all categories of human thought. I don’t expect any answers from such a concept and I don’t ask for any. For someone like myself the idea of trying to find meaning in existence is like asking “what is the purpose of sunlight?”.
    I am quite happy to live in a universe of unknowables. I don’t deny people the value they can get from having faith in something but I have long ago lost patience with those who cannot accept that others can live without it.

  76. 78 Peter Gizzi UK
    May 9, 2008 at 17:17

    The BBC have recenty shown a series about Medieaval Britain. The Chuch taxed overburdened surfs 10% of their income! That’s not religion it’s business! All religions claim they are right? Is that possible?

  77. 79 Rosalie-Portland, OR/USA
    May 9, 2008 at 17:20

    In regards to religion:

    I grew up with exposure to various religions. Many of my friends had different religions and I would go to church with many of them. Early in life I learned that each religion even church/mosque etc. thought their religion or way was the only way and was the proven correct way. They would come up with all sorts of proof and theories. Well conspiracy theories are created to sound believable and given such proofs which make you question, and believe, but that doesn’t make it so. Well this just couldn’t be – all these various versions claiming to be the correct and true way. Not all could claim to be correct because there could only be one correct way. This was my early suspicion on the validity of religion.

    Next college exposed me to the ways of the world. Most importantly related to this topic was the way in which religion was used as a form of social control and the teachings of religion molded to fit the society they were trying to control. If the belief of one church didn’t allow a group to do something than they would branch out on their own and adopt their own set of truths.

    I am very skeptic of the books of religion such as the Bible Koran etc. Books that were supposedly written lifetimes after the actual event, and now an entire society is expected to go by the “Word” of God.

    With the various religions: and even breaking religion down into beliefs such as the Christians, Muslims, Catholics, Jewish, etc: even broken down into religions each group varies. You step into one Christian church that says one thing and the Christian church across the street says another. Much of the bible is left up to the reader’s interpretation.

    Even if religion was truth, and not just a fable transferred down from generation to generation, it is far to diluted to call it religion any longer. It’s no longer in its pure form.

    People need and want something to believe in. For some religion gives them comfort and gives life and purpose meaning. I respect that.

    I don’t believe in Religion. I find it offensive when religion is forced on me by my Government in the form of policies, rights, equality etc. I respect people’s rights to choose their own beliefs, just don’t expect others to share your views.

  78. May 9, 2008 at 17:21

    I am, as far as I know, the only Agnostic Christian I have ever met. I know a really good plan when I see one. I think Jesus had it right on the head. I believe everything he said about social interaction. If we followed his outline we could have world peace. However, he looses me at the, “I am the son of God” part. Then again lately I have had a couple of epiphanies that have rocked my categorical disbelief.

    I do not think that organized religion has done any good for the human race. Furthermore, I believe those that claim to be extremely religious, are often the biggest hypocrites.

    I hate to break it to you. But as i understand every religion I have encountered, Heaven is communist, the ruler is a jealous dictator, there are no rights to guns, killing, or wealth. The only way you are going to get in to everlasting paradise is to prove that you are not a “self serving, short sighted, idiot.” (I could have said that with one word but… the censors.) If you are going to live together in harmony for eternity, you are going to have to prove yourself tolerant, giving, and passive.

  79. 81 Keith
    May 9, 2008 at 17:26

    John, thanks for your clarification, and as I mentioned in one of my other rambling posts, I am encouraged and glad to hear of those that embrace mystery. I must admit I don’t know much of anything about O’Connor or his beliefs and kind of just jumped in here. I also, am happy to live with many unknowables. For me, faith is not about a pursuit of answers, it is a path and a pursuit for deep meaning – a meaning and a peace that transcends words and definitions.

    Peter, yes religion has many times over become co-opted by business and by politics and by the power hungry. Meanwhile you won’t likely hear a BBC special about the Irish monks who travelled all over europe and had a passionate love for knowledge (sacred and secular) and singlehandedly preserved many classics in a time that the Roman church was doing the kinds of things you described above.
    So You’ll get no argument from me on the misdeeds of the church past and present. I am just trying to point out that it seems to be the trend here to attack religion in the most general and vague of fashions. Religion is not a finite thing like the issue of gun-control or something….to speak in terms that casts religions or religious people as all of one sort is not useful.

  80. 82 Katharina in Ghent
    May 9, 2008 at 17:31

    @ Keith

    In this forum we have at least two very faithfull muslimes, Lubna and Shirley, who contribute regularly and are highly respected/liked by everyone, so I don’t think that as a devout Christian you should feel excluded or unpopular here. I think the problem lies more with us non-believers, because we often have to defend our decision, and, if you happen to live in the States (which I luckily don’t) then you’re probably seen as “scum”, given what’s going on in the presidential debates. Obama and Hillary went to Christian Colleges, did they also seek out the opposition?

    I understand that for philosophically interested people religion provides a vast range of questions and answers, with a lot of different aspects, and the most fruitful quest is probably when you search in many different religions, because different regions/religions come up with different solutions, and you can probably understand a lot better what’s going on in certain countries around the world when you know where they come from philosophically.

    I just refuse to believe in a physical God and everything that’s associated with it, but I would never try to convert anyone, everybody has to find his own answers. For Lubna and Shirley, it’s Islam, for Keith it’s Christianity, for me it’s “Humanity”, as I would like to call it.

  81. 83 Joel Salomon
    May 9, 2008 at 17:40

     Why do you “understand [the junta’s] need and want to not have outside interference” at all? Does it have any justification other than maintaining absolute control over the lives of their subjects?

  82. May 9, 2008 at 18:14

    Fritzl needs to be imprisoned in solitary confinement for the rest of his life. Period.

    @ Joel Salomon:
    I understand, i don’t agree. This was a recent issue on the blog with aid and agendas. Look at Bush’s comment about wanting to provide aid along with a free society. Comments such as these show the regime that the world wants to provide aid, but also remove them from power at the same time. Is it hard to understand then that their logical reaction to hang on to power is going to be to refuse aid?
    Comments such as Bush’s are counterproductive in a time like this. Give the aid, worry about providing a ‘free society’ later.
    Unless you are willing to force them to accept aid, you need to court them as much as possible so they help their own people. Deal with them after the peoples basic needs are met.
    To answer your question, it doesn’t have any other justification than the one you listed. I simply noted that I understand it, I have no compassion towards it.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  83. 85 Keith
    May 9, 2008 at 18:19

    Thanks for those words Katharina. I really appreciate your welcoming attitude.

    Also, thanks Dwight for your perspective. I like your last sentence though I prefer a slightly more nuanced and complicated description of heavenly Castro; )

    I would just add, that many Christians and Atheists alike seem to often miss that while our faith has become sullied seemingly beyond repair by many (I like the sticker that says, “Jesus, save us from your followers”), it is truly at it’s core the good things that Dwight is referring to.

    Some wise folks had this to say about “religion”

    James said: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

    Jesus said this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

    thanks for listening

  84. 86 Scott Millar
    May 9, 2008 at 18:20

    + Friztl’s madness revolves around free-will which relates to religion. The relgious, who are major believers in free-will, are more likely to say madness is not a justification. The religious support the concept of free-will because they feel it is the only way to hold people accountible and to place blame. They don’t like the idea that “wickedness” could be just a random confluence of envirnoment, genetics or faulty wiring. How else could the relgious be viewed as morally superior, or the chosen people, if they accepted this idea?!.

    – Portland, Oregon

  85. 87 Joe Keller
    May 9, 2008 at 18:22

    Gordon Keller in Afghanistan here. Having been into Burma many times my conventional wisdom dictates I dare say the reason why Burmas junta won’t allow any foreign aid workers in is because the generals won’t be able to take that aid for themselves & cronies firstly & give the “scraps” to the effected people. Tq.

  86. 88 Jens
    May 9, 2008 at 18:22

    thanks for all the extra info. i just wish there was a 4 cyl 4WD that does 45-50 miles to the gallon. that challange can not be too hard. or maybe? well i am 6’8″ so i need a wee bit of leg room. i am currently driving a wrangler, ehich has poor milage. i would have liked to get one of the suzuki “jeep-a-like”, but i could not fold myself into the driving seat.

    yes i would love one of the teslars, they actually are building a factory in my town (i believe) for a more family oriented on, with a price tag of about 60K. alternativly the audi’s or BMW’s look nice, but on extrem snow days they just do not have enough clearance. plus the 325 ix milage at an average of 18 to the gallon is pretty poor and actually worse than my jeep.

    now look at that and we are talking, but the price will be tasty as well.


  87. 89 Isabelle - bELGIUM
    May 9, 2008 at 18:23

    And today the head of the Catholic church in England and Wales has, in a speech, urged Christians to take atheists seriously. Is this the way to open up dialogue or a patronising gesture?

    All depends what he meant by “taking seriously”.
    Does it mean “realizing the danger we, atheists, reprensent for the church”?
    Or does it mean he finally admits that a human being can be driven by ethics and morals outside any form of religion?

  88. 90 devadas.v - india
    May 9, 2008 at 18:25

    Burma: The world has no moral right to cry now as this regime was given a free hand by this now crying same world community before the cyclone and has given scant regard for aung sui kyi who was impisoned in house for years.

    Fritzl: is the cancer that has eroded our social fabric for years which have been all this years well covered with band aid plaster to please everyone and propagate the marriage and morality concept rather than treating from its roots. Rather than arguing on the defence of insanity etc its better for the world if Fritzl be hanged for his uncontrollable act to her daughter or else yet again the sticking plaster wil cover this wound caused by fritzl – the world in future may see many more fritzls popping up.

    its nice preachers and teachers at least are intending to talk to athiests. Remember all are part of a piece (community)and piece of a whole (whole human race).so better late than never for a meaningful dialogue.

  89. 91 Mr alex - Harare zimbabwe
    May 9, 2008 at 18:26

    The indifferance shown by the unelected generals of burma is very similar to that of the unelected charlatan robert mugabe. One solution will fix both problems. A voting system which cannot be frauded but which is being blocked by the west.

  90. 92 Keith
    May 9, 2008 at 18:27

    Katharina, for what it’s worth, clarification I guess…I don’t know that I would be what you’d call “devout.” I believe deeply and pursue my faith intensely but I detest the American Christian right notion of a culture war and the obsession with imposing our morals on others. I cuss and drink with the best of them, which probably disqualifies me from being considered particularly devout.

  91. 93 Lotte - New Jersey
    May 9, 2008 at 18:27

    It is so disheartening to listen to the US and UN representatives going on about their “frustration” about the Burmese junta’s unwillingness to help its own people. Clearly, neither of these organizations is able to make headway with an oppressive regime in the midst of committing a colossal crime against humanity.

    The Burmese leaders should be hit where it hurts: In their pockets. The companies (like Chevron, Alcatel, Taisei and many more) and countries (Thailand, China, Japan, India) should be called upon to put pressure on the Burmese leaders so that help can finally reach those in desperate need. China, with its huge interests in Burma, has a particular moral obligation to help resolve this tragic situation.

  92. 94 MAC BWAIRA - Lilongwe , Malawi
    May 9, 2008 at 18:27

    It’s unfortunate that the Burman Government has decided to frustrate the relief programme. I am concerned that leaving the aid with the Government would result in the diversion of the aid, thats the aid may end up not reaching those it is meant.But lets wait paitiently and dont give up persuing the Government to accept the offer.

    My message to all the citizens of Burma ‘I wish you the best of luck and a quick recovery from the devastation’ ,and to the Government ‘Accept the offer because failure to do that is a bleach of the peoples rights, Dont you respect human diginity please?.

  93. 95 Eugene - Singapore
    May 9, 2008 at 18:29

    Dear Sir/Madam

    If the events happening were not so tragic, even Hollywood would find it hard to come up with a more hilarious comedy. The Emperor Nero fiddled while Rome burnt. The generals want a referendum while the citizens are dying.At least Nero made contributions to the arts before he became mad; the only art the generals have given to the Burmese was to dress the top general’s daughter with diamonds from head to toe on her wedding day; a conservative estimate put the value at US$40 million.

    Why do the generals insist on such madness? For the same reason it has disallowed foreign aid workers into the country. The generals only want the aid without the aid workers so that they can deliver the aid to the army away from the prying foreign eyes. The generals are aware of their unpopularity and need to feed the army to ensure their loyalty. The referendum is a desperate attempt to ‘win’ legitimacy even though very few believe that the vote would be free. Anything for self-preservation.

  94. 96 Venessa
    May 9, 2008 at 18:31

    Organized religion is a means to control people under the guise of salvation. While the concept of religion is not bad it is twisted by those who want power. I don’t need to believe in a God (or someone who dictates God’s plan) to make decisions about what is right or wrong, have empathy, tolerance or morals. There are people out there that need an absolute and I respect that; just don’t expect other people to subscribe to the same value system.

    Science provides tangible and proven answers. The bible (incomplete, translated many times over and written by man) is subject to whatever interpretation serves your needs.

  95. 97 Jean from Cleveland, Ohio
    May 9, 2008 at 18:32

    Can’t even imagine how he managed to keep his daughter prisoner for 24 years in the basement of his home. And the children…doesn’t anyone scream and make noise?????

    I think he needs to be locked up in solitary for the rest of his life with no sunshine, no visitors, no walking in the fresh air, no nothing.

    A evil man..

  96. 98 Keith
    May 9, 2008 at 18:34


    I am saddened by the intellectual elitism already surfacing on the blog on this issue. It is interesting to me that the question is asked whether it is condescending of a religious figure to make such a statement, when as I see it there is much more condescension and derision aimed at those who believe in God. I have reconnected with a childhood friend recently and we have become good old-fashioned penpals (actual paper and stamps that is). He is an atheist, I am a Christian. We are having a great dialogue which is only possible because we recognize each other’s personhood and intellect. We are seeking to have a friendship and relationship, which is a foundation of discussion. I hope that today on the show people who call in and blog will find a way to treat one another not only with civility but respect. I would be very happy to be on the show today if you want.

  97. 99 Ken - Cleveland
    May 9, 2008 at 18:36

    As an atheist in the US, I fear it may be decades before a fair dialogue will open up between those of faith and those without. The atheist population in the UK is in the upwards of 44%, so it makes sense the church would embrace anyone that opposes their beliefs. In the US, a mere 15% of us reject religion and believers don’t think we’re worth bothering with unless it’s to convert or ridicule us. The one positive thing about atheists in America is that our numbers have doubled in the last 10 years.

    Just to illustrate the general attitude towards atheists in America, George H.W. Bush said this about us in 1987:

    “No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.”

  98. 100 Tracy - Portland OR USA
    May 9, 2008 at 18:38

    I am fine with insanity as a “defense”. However I do not think diminished capacity magically can be cured or disappears. If someone is found not guilty by diminished capacity they should never see the outside of an institution. They have proven themselves to be a threat to society. Serve the time for the crime or sign off your right to ever be free to mingle with society.

  99. 101 Keith
    May 9, 2008 at 18:38

    Scott, could you please give those of us here enough credit and respect to stop using such broad strokes characterizing “the religious” as if we are a monolithic group of people. The diversity among the religious is enormous. It is simply silly to refer to “the religious” as an identifiable group.

    I am still finding it ironic that the question as Chloe just read it was asking whether or not folks agree that Christians should respect Atheists. It seems that many of you on here (not all of you!) are simply using this as an excuse to cast random insults at people of faith. I would like to propose an increase in respect all around.


  100. 102 Sikylaw
    May 9, 2008 at 18:40

    Opportunity present itself but once. The people of Burma should seize this chance, they have paid enough price.

    Thousands of people died and the military junta was not perturbed, even impounding the free given aid to the most needy at the very critical time. What a faceless and wicked goverment.

    What is the usefulness of aid given that doesnot reached the needy. The people should not wait for outside intervention, they should rise up to the occasion and take there destiny to there hand. God is definetly behind the oppressed.

    Driven by addiction for good 24years!!! To your daughter! Far from it. If he goes free unpurnished, surely thousand of his like will emerge. God save Austria.

  101. 103 Scott Millar
    May 9, 2008 at 18:41

    + How could the religious respect the beliefs of atheists? It is in direct opposition to what they believe. By definition they already don’t respect it. You could ask the same of atheists—to respect the beliefs of the religious, but it wouldn’t make any sense. Perhaps, if this superficial politeness is genuine, it is better then nothing? Maybe? Maybe not?

    -Portland, Oregon

  102. 104 Vicki
    May 9, 2008 at 18:42

    I am a Christian and what I think about the Fritzl case…of course he is “crazy” but not in the sense of needing psychiatric help. He knew what he was doing, and he needs to be punished for what he did!!!!

  103. May 9, 2008 at 18:43

    Fritzl’s daughter should have the opportunity to see her father face to face one last time. Then, without saying a word, she should slap him with all her might, then walk away.

  104. 106 steve
    May 9, 2008 at 18:43

    @ Ken

    A lot of the people in the US that claim to be religious aren’t. Do you think Obama or Clinton are religious? They do that stuff, and say that stuff, because they need to to get elected. It’s comical to hear them talk about faith, when you know they are lying through their teeth, but they have to, at this moment, as I don’t think you could win as President if you came out and said you were an athiest.

  105. 107 Venessa
    May 9, 2008 at 18:45

    Fritzl spent the last 24 years living his life however he wished. Reading the article it seems he was fully aware that what he did was wrong; there is no defense for insanity! He deserves nothing less than living his days out in a windowless cell below ground which still wouldn’t make up for the disgusting crime he has committed against his daughter and children/grandchildren.

  106. 108 Virginia
    May 9, 2008 at 18:46

    Will I donate funds? No. Do I hope that the situation sorts itself out? Yes.

  107. 109 Per - Portland, Oregon
    May 9, 2008 at 18:47

    I don’t believe in Zeus. Does that make me an atheist?

    One can discard all the various deities and still ask what’s out there. Scientists have yet to account for consciousness.
    Their explanations come down to making the brain the
    ultimate Mystery Meat.

    I’m not sure what it means to “believe.” If I had to name a prime mover it would be the Big Banger.

  108. 110 Scott Millar
    May 9, 2008 at 18:48

    + Keith.

    No, I can’t! No, I won’t! No, I’m not going to!

    Perhaps, you’d like to spell out all the differences among atheists every time you speak of them collectively. For the sake of brevity and intelligence it makes no sense!

    – Portland, Oregon

  109. 111 Shirley
    May 9, 2008 at 18:49

    I was so hoping to see and hear more dialogue conerning the crisis in Myanmar. I was only able to tune in half an hour into the programme, so I don’t know what I missed on air. It’s interesting how we collectively have jumped on the discussion of atheism and religious belief.

    I personally hate to just sit aside and watch this catatsrophe play out at the hands of some tyrannical ditators. There *must* be *something* that the common person can do, even if it simply be to raise the global voice against the junta.

    Thank you. You really do treat others whose opinions differ from yours with respect.

    I am so glad that you raised the point of the broad generalisations used by some atheists when they speak out against religions. I also feel irritated with this discussion method.

    There is a radio station out there somewhere that airs a show hosted by a person of faith who tries to explore peaceful trends in spirituality. It does not come on regularly, but it does air about once a month. I, as a religious person, see that nearly every religion on the face of the earth attempts to establish peaceful relations among people. The methods used are definitely different from one religion to the next. Also, many religions do not have their ultimate focus on peace, but on worship of a/some/the deity/deities. This does not mean that they discard a goal of peace, but that the ultimate duty of humankind is to worship the deity.

    I am glad that Cardinal O’Connor called for Christians to respect atheists and agnositic. It is too easy for a God-believing person to think himself higher than others because of his belief in God (“holier than thou”). We all need to remind ourselves that we are all human. The uppity attitude is even against the teachings of many religions.

  110. 112 Meb Mallorca, Spain.
    May 9, 2008 at 18:50

    The difference between a Christian and an Atheist can be defined by the simple question: “Did man invent god or god invent man?”

  111. 113 Julie
    May 9, 2008 at 18:52

    From OH, USA

    James Madison, the primary author of the Constitution of the United States, said this: “We have staked the whole future of our new nation, not upon the power of government; far from it. We have staked the future of all our political constitutions upon the capacity of each of ourselves to govern ourselves according to the moral principles of the Ten Commandments.”

    Since removing the right to express this dedication to the bible and the Ten Commandments and teach it to our children, we have forever damaged our country.

  112. 114 Stephen
    May 9, 2008 at 18:52

    After Katerina, it is amazing to hear someone in the USA praising George Bush for taking the lead after a disaster. This sort of holier than thou position does not help anyone.

  113. May 9, 2008 at 18:53

    Great programme today! It was nice to bounce around and touch on topics all in one show!

    Take care on the weekend,
    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  114. 116 Denise - San Francisco, CA
    May 9, 2008 at 18:53

    The real problem is not over-population, but over-consumption by Western Countries. Our greed causes other people to bleed.

  115. 117 Vicki
    May 9, 2008 at 18:54

    I forgot to answer this on my last entry. Why not treat atheists and others with respect. Being a Christian, I don’t believe in what everybody calls “religion” but I believe in having a relationship with Christ. I don’t try and push my beliefs on others, I let my actions speak for me. I allow others to see a difference in me, I don’t react to things like others do, I don’t fly off the handle when problems come my way. I believe you can win people over more by not pushing your beliefs on them. I have several friends that don’t believe what I believe, but they see the difference in me and respect it as I respect them. We have to love one another and not tear each other down. God Bless

  116. 118 Allan
    May 9, 2008 at 18:54

    Ok, if the idea is true, the world is over populated and it impacts the control of our climate, what’s your solution? Should we adopt the idea like China, standardize how many children are allow. In America, there is already a concern about the government micro-managing our lives. Not allowed to smoke in certain areas is a problem for an average American.

  117. 119 Peter Gizzi UK
    May 9, 2008 at 18:54

    Burma is on friendlier terms with China, India, and Thailand. Could we not ask them to take in our aid?

  118. 120 Hayden Ellis
    May 9, 2008 at 18:55

    I’m horrified at hearing a fellow American suggest military action in yet another country. Yes, there are many terrible governments around the world, among which I would place our own quite prominently. I’m so ashamed of the readiness of my countrymen to jump in like cowboys with their guns blazing, never willing to grow up and think a problem through and consider how to approach a problem like Myanmar or Iraq with a knowledge of the history that brought that country to its present situation. I feel as if I’m living in a madhouse filled with 2-year old children who want what they want right now with no consideration of the rights of anyone else. The world does NOT belong to the USA. It is NOT our playground.

  119. 121 Henry -- San Francisco
    May 9, 2008 at 18:56

    There is a crime against humanity being perpetrated by the military junta in Burma. Its about time we chucked these buggers out, by military means if necessary. For too long the military have been enjoying life in their ivory towers at the expense of the Burmese civilians.

  120. 122 Solomon - Salt Lake City, Utah.
    May 9, 2008 at 18:57

    I can not believe what I’m hearing about Burma. How ridiculous to think that what is happening in that country is because of over population and global warming. I’m sick in tired of the global warming hysteria.

    The barbaric dictatorship system of government in Burma is the real problem. To think that peoples is the problem is very evil.
    As civilized nations we have the obligation to help our neighbors in distress.
    China said that what is going on in Burma is an internal problem. How sad for China.
    Let’s do not punish people for the evil of their governments.

    The UN needs to show what they made of and enter the country by power if is necessary in order to save peoples life.

  121. 123 Diwakar
    May 9, 2008 at 18:57


    I think the UN have to pass an obligatory resolution in such kind of situations including famine,flood etc. The existing government must be prosecuted if they were not able or prohibiting to provide supply matters. Regarding Burma, food and relief matters can be handed through Indian and Chinese people whom they consider as a friends.

    Thank you


  122. 124 Steve - USA
    May 9, 2008 at 18:59

    This is clearly not insanity, as he said he realized what he was doing was wrong. The insanity defenses normally involved the person not realizing the consequences of their actions, or not knowing the difference between wrong and right. He’s just trying to say “I’m so bad, I shouldn’t go to jail.” But you could use that argument for any crime.
    If you kill someone, you must be “crazy” too, because it’s so extreme and cannot be undone.

  123. 125 Shirley
    May 9, 2008 at 19:04

    One of the reasons that I feel such an urgency to action is because of my own personal beliefs as based on Islamic teaching, especially in the Qur’an. As a Muslim, I believe that God said, “And what reason have you that you should not fight in the way of Allah and of the weak among the men and the women and the children, (of) those who say: ‘Our Lord! cause us to go forth from this town, whose people are oppressors, and give us from Yourself a guardian and give us from Yourself a helper.'” (Qur’an 4:75) The word used in this verse was “kill,” but I strongly feel that its application beyond its initial revelation to Prophet Muhammad is that of a struggle that one conducts in as peaceful a manner as possible: firstly, with one’s words, and only proceding from there if that is ineffective; and only doing those actions that would have a positive impact. I feel that for me to adopt an attitude of “the junta will just steel the aid, so I won’t do anything” as immoral. Even if I cannot give money at this time, there must be something that I can do. This is why I keep pushing the issue. Looking back at the verse, the rhetorical words of the oppressed really seem to ring to the current situation.

    I hope that accursed junta chokes on those biscuits.

    “Hidden God”
    Isn’t that a reference to the fact that even though atheists do not believe in a deity, religious people still believe that God affects their lives?

    Cool to have heard you on air.

  124. 126 Keith
    May 9, 2008 at 19:09

    Julie, I have to respectfully disagree. I am a Christian who believes very firmly in the separation of church and state, that both the church and state are better off that way. I am extremely uncomfortable with the way those lines have blurred in the last decade. I do not want the government and political campaigns sinking their teeth into my faith any more than an atheist wants the church making their laws. The fact is that many of the great minds behind the framing of this nation were loosely deistic, and were kind of a brand of pre-modern humanists on the model of several prominent Scottish philosophers at the time.

  125. May 9, 2008 at 19:11

    I have a different concept about GOD. To me GOD is what life is. Inherent in all of us that bountiful definition. As far as what religion has to say about GOD it seems that account gets confused with ethics.

    There has been documentation of actual miracles taking place. Research in the 1960’s to this time, have confirmed findings of telekineses. People were moving objects by thought and uncovering answers from items hidden from sight. Natural events have been foretold to happen and the very actions in their creation recorded while the event was being brought into existence from monitored individuals.

    Science has evolved, there exist other principles that dwarf the Big Bang Theory and throws it into the trash.

    A finite Infinity exist and has always existed and time is just a product of it. Time is a dimensional view of this finite infinity. This interaction display of dimensions is where time comes into play and there we have our animation. The complexity of those dimensions determine the enviroment and the evolving animated being.

  126. 128 Scott Millar
    May 9, 2008 at 19:30

    + Keith

    What a liberty?! What a luxury?! Most religions have repressed and continue to repress humanity, perhaps more then any other force that has ever existed on this teensy planet. So, the fact you think atheists are condescending and elitist is absurdly comical. Almost all religion is in itself, by very definition, condescending and elitist towards non-believers, some even speak of hell. Could you get more condescending? How dare you! What a feeble sham.

    – Portland, Oregon

  127. 129 Jens
    May 9, 2008 at 19:36

    Lee Roy Sanders, Jr K14JUP,

    come again……

    i have no idea what you are talking about, dude.

  128. 130 Keith
    May 9, 2008 at 20:25


    I am not sure that the liberty and luxury bit is referring to. I should reiterate, I don’t disagree about the things that have been perpetrated by organized religion, I have plenty of complaints about religion as institutions. I would mention again that if you want to start tallying the horrors perpetrated upon people throughout history, a few atheists did enough damage to balance the scale. Stalin, Mao….millions. People have a way of dominating and killing one another and I disagree that religion is the primary source of this, it is simply one of the ubiquitous means.

    You are misunderstanding me, I did not say that “atheists are condescending and elitist.” I am explaining my experience in forums such as this one where that is the attitude I have been treated with. So, I am in fact saying that some atheists have behaved in that matter. Your use of a term like “absurdly comical” illustrates my point exactly. I would say that phrase carries more than a little condescension.
    I don’t ask you to respect my belief, I ask you to respect me as a fellow human being and to respect my intellect and allow that in the big picture perhaps we have something to offer one another.

    What feeble sham are you talking about? Why do you insist on this being so combative? Isn’t there a possibility that we could discuss things wherein we actually desire to listen to one another and learn something, as opposed to talking AT one another with the usual soundbytes?

  129. May 10, 2008 at 00:15

    Keith- There is a danger that quote of “laying down your life to save others.” It has been twisted over and over again to justify wars. “These men are fighting so you have freedom.” Many times they are not. There is often no link. The soldiers are conditioned to believe they are saving lives. Yes, if a bear or a bugler attacks somebody and you attempt to stop the attack and are killed in the process, there will be points added to your application in the afterworld.

    Jens, I have had an escape Hybrid for 6 months now. I like it. With the birth and growth of our yr old, my wife was demanding something with more room. We both drove comtact 2 doors b4. So I agreed with the escape. They do make one with 4WD, but it looses 5 to 8 MPG. My @WD gets about 40 in the city and 25 on the highway. Sitting at a stoplight and driving through the neighborhood it gets infinity MPG. It gets really good mileage going down hill too. They got ample leg room, and the government gave us $3000 for buying it.

    Fritzl – The “insanity” plea is the funniest thing I have ever heard the human race conceive of. “well there is that “fighting for peace” thing. But beside that. Anybody who kills, tortures, or rapes another individual is by definition insane. If it was thought out, intentional, or even you took a gun out because you think you might want to kill somebody, you are insane. The idea of public punishment is to make the society safer. Insanity is not curable. For whatever reason that the violator took a life, they must suffer the consequences. If you kill somebody it is like you just caught a terminal disease. Sorry about your luck, thanks for playing. Better luck next time. Now you got to go. This guy will never be an attribute to society. If I was an Austrian I would not want to pay for this guy to live with my tax dollars.

  130. 132 Shirley
    May 10, 2008 at 02:52

    I wonder if it can be said that atheists take part in prosyletising activities as much as Christians or other rleigious people do. There are some who cannot refrain from using every discussion to refer their beliefs and framing them as the ultimate truth. I may have certain beliefs about God and about Prophethood, but I do not feel that it gives me the right to constantly impose those beliefs on others around me by using exclusivist speech. We can also see some atheists who choose not to refrain themselves from denigrating the religious beliefs of others and speaking combatively with them.

  131. 133 Shirley
    May 10, 2008 at 02:57

    re-word: I may have certain beliefs about God and about Prophethood, *and I may feel that it is the ultimate truth*; but I do not feel…

  132. May 10, 2008 at 08:19

    See beyond the old concept of God, keeping a populous controlled without self confidence.

    Tell a human they are a dog and not a human being and they will be nothing but a dog. Without a reference of what a human being actually is they will never see what they are.

    Propagate a whole world with every thought they ever can use. They will never develop even a independent individuality. What is left is a collage of multiple choices.

    Tell a people there is no GOD. Brainwash them only half of the truth, become a atheist. That is like tying your hand and your arms and never reaching for anything because it all is out of your grasp and impossible to obtain. So you better conform. Use every procedure your governed world provides you. Get what you can and that includes denying reality and anyone not part of a enslaved society.

    So called scientist lay before you more propaganda. They have destroyed your nature. There is no God, that ability of self creation of your own choices to bring into the world are gone.

    Belittled, without self confidence and your own soul discernment, the very principles of physics even those you will deny yourself the use of.

    Telekineses is a reality but without any concept of ones very nature there is no longer a instinctive cognitive ability because of fear and subhuman cultivation, minds are closed.

    Twice so far recently, I have been challenged through conjecture that might have too easily laid to waste what understanding others have acquired by what I have written.

    I only see that I am asked for more and so I give you more. I enjoy writing about what I know, what I have done and what I do.

  133. 135 f0rTyLeGz
    May 10, 2008 at 22:17

    About atheism… As one, I see it as just not believing in supernatural beings. Not yours, or any of the other ones that people believe in… or have believed in.

  134. 136 Tom
    May 12, 2008 at 04:05

    Isn’t it ironic that in a country as secular and democratic as the US, every presidential candidates must sell their Christian credentials to their voters? What’s more ironic is that a candidate’s credibility could be compromised by exposing any link of he/she has with Islam, no matter how remote the link?

    Even though officially secular, sectarianism is alive and well in the US.

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