Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Big Question

This week I went along to an event called The Big Question at King's School, Ottery.  The questions were...
  • Is religion good for society?
  • Should same sex couples be allowed to adopt?
  • Does prison work?
  • Should fertility be left to nature?
    I said I'd post up my notes based on a little bit of research.  I'm no expert on all this and I'm still figuring out what I think but these are my initial thoughts...

    Is religion good for society?

    Overall: YES (but let’s value truth)

    Personally: Relationship more than religion
    I wouldn’t describe myself as religious.  As a Christian, I’m more about relationship with God than about mere religion (e.g. Jesus and the religious leaders of his day).  Is God good for society?  Yes!

    Religion is beliefs and values
    And yet, religion is about beliefs and values.  Are beliefs and values good for society?  Yes!

    Religion is people
    Religion is also full of people.  Are people good for society?  It’s a mixed bag!

    Truth matters
    Value of specific religions for society?  Depends how much their beliefs and values are based on truth (especially if believing God is a banana leads people to kill anyone who doesn’t like eating bananas!).  We should all look for objective truth when weighing up certain sets of beliefs and values.  Truth is good for society but made up stuff can be dangerous!
     
    Dictionary on ‘religion’
    1. A set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
    2. A specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion. 

    The Bible
    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 (James 1:27).

    Should same sex couples be allowed to adopt?
     
    Overall: YES (because of the urgent need)

    We should consider what’s best in regard to what’s needed
    People say a male and female couple make better parents and I agree with this because that’s how the Bible says God made us to be.  But because of the 48,000 children currently needing permanent homes, we shouldn’t ask, ‘Is LGBT adoption as good as MF adoption?’ but ‘Is LGBT adoption better than the care system?’  And I think, providing LGBT couples satisfy the usual strict requirements of the adoption process, the answer is yes!

    Current UK law (according to Wikipedia) 
    • Same sex adoption – Legal in England and Wales since 2002, since 2009 in Scotland, unclear in Northern Ireland
    • Same sex sexual activity – Legal since 1967
    • Recognition of same sex partnerships – Civil partnership since 2005
    • Same sex marriage – No but under consideration
    • Allow gay people to serve openly in military – Yes
    • Bans all anti-gay discrimination
    • Laws concerning gender identity/expression – Gender Recognition Act 2004

    Stats
    • There are over 80,000 children in the UK care system.  Over 60% of these are living in temporary foster care (according to Foster Care Associates 2011).  That’s 48,000 children without a permanent home.
    • 53% of children in care leave school with no formal qualifications (The Guardian 2009).
    • 13% get 5 A*-C grade GCSEs compared with 47% of other children (The Guardian 2009).

    The Bible
    • So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).
    • 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 (James 1:27).

    Does prison work? 

    Overall: YES (in most cases)

    3 purposes of prison
    Protection of society, punishment and rehabilitation/reform.  These are the things we should consider when measuring levels of success. 
    • Are prisons effective in protecting society from dangerous criminals?  In other words, are they good at not letting people escape?  Yes.  UK prison breaks are rare! 
    • Are prisons effective punishment for criminals?  Despite the arguments over what privileges inmates should receive, their freedom is definitely limited and their lifestyles are also limited.  The level of punishment is up for debate but the effectiveness of punishment should be measured by the level of re-offence but this is tied up with the effectiveness of rehabilitation.
    • Are prisons effective at rehabilitation/reform? From the re-offending stats, it seems that rehabilitation is 60.7% effective and slowly climbing.

      Stats
      • 81,156 men and 4,263 women in UK prisons (Ministry of Justice 18th March 2011 weekly bulletin)
      • Since 2000 the proportion of offenders who were re-convicted has fallen from 43% to 39.3% – a fall of 3.7%. Since 2008, the proportion has fallen by 0.8% (Ministry of Justice 2011).

      The Bible 
      • Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord (Romans 12:19).
      • You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:43-44).
      • There is no-one righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10).
        
      Should fertility be left to nature?

      Overall: YES (because the alternatives are an expensive luxury)

      We should consider adoption first
      Maybe we have a moral responsibility to the 48,000 children in the UK currently without a permanent home before we consider bringing more lives into the world (especially with the risk of bringing several lives at once into the world through IVF).

      Embryos
      As a Christian, I believe the Bible teaches us that life begins at conception (not every Christian would necessarily agree) and that God is involved in every new life that is made.  To my mind, this means that we should avoid any research that treats embryos as anything less than human and we should definitely avoid throwing away ‘spare’ embryos following IVF too. 

      Money ethics
      IVF costs £4-8k. Alternatively, for £4000 you could...
        
      Stats
      • IVF live birth rate for under 35s was 33.1% in 2008 (Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority – HFEA).
      • IVF costs £4-5k. The NHS provides funding for 1 cycle of IVF for women who have met the clinical definition of infertility (www.fertilityexpert.net).
      • There are over 80,000 children in the UK care system.  Over 60% of these are living in temporary foster care (according to Foster Care Associates 2011).  That’s 48,000 children without a permanent home.
       
      The Bible
      For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:13-16).