AHSUCLan Does The BBC’s The Big Questions


Sunday was an eagerly anticipated experience as myself and Glen were at the Pyramid and Parr Hall, in Warrington, to sit in the audience for two episodes of The BBC’s The Big Questions – a show I had, myself watched for quite some time. This was one of those occasions where you are sat, two rows behind the likes of Andrew Copson, Peter Tatchell, and Maryam Namazie, watching them being pounded with questions by the brilliant Nicky Campbell, and you realise these are the tremendous opportunities that present themselves when you are at university, and especially part of a society.

When you are passionate about something, the best thing you can do is get involved. It soon becomes apparent that there are others just as passionate and some even more so. You realise your arguments are flawed, your opinions can be changed and you can disagree with and be disagreed with, by people who share the same passions as yourself. This is vital in broadening one’s horizon and developing one’s arguments. Indeed, you do not go to university to hear people who have the exact same opinions as yourself.

phil bbc big questions

Back to the actual topics of the day: Is the death penalty ever justifiable? Should the church stay out of politics? Should sex education be secular?

The death penalty is a topic that divides opinion throughout all cultures. It is often a subject that surprises you with regards to friends and relatives who’s opinion on the matter you did not see coming! On the day however, Imam and broadcaster Ajmal Masroor  was very passionately arguing the case that, in certain circumstances, the death penalty is the right punishment. Ultimately, every argument he, and those who defend capital punishment, are shot down with academic evidence, or lack of evidence, suggesting it does not work. It does not work as a deterrent, it does not work in a progressive society. America has some states with the death penalty, and some without it. As Shaun Atwood said, some of the highest homicide rates in the world, come from those states with capital punishment. Ultimately this will divide opinion, but for me the greatest quote of the day regarding this issue came from Phillip Blond who said “the death penalty is a way of not dealing with the issue”.

Moving on to the second topic of the day: Should the church stay out of politics? The political system has quite rightly been under the microscope over the last couple of months due to the upcoming general election. This always sparks the fire of how much influence the church has in our political system. Emily Dyer  made the point eloquently that an individual using their faith and religiosity to influence their own decisions and opinions is mostly a good thing. However cases of abuse of power by religious individuals is something that can be seen throughout society. And indeed, there seems to be a privileged position for christianity in politics in that unelected bishops are members of the house of lords. There is no doubt that the different groups of people in the country should be represented in politics, however none should have a privileged position.


The final topic of the day was a highly emotive one indeed: Should sex education be secular? Essentially, should sex education be fair amongst all children, based on facts, evidence, fairness, with unbiased agendas. You would have thought this was a fairly easy question to answer. Yes, it should be secular. However, the notion that sex before marriage can be taught as a sin was “feasible”, and the question of telling students sex before marriage with destroy their souls was ducked on a couple of occasions. The quote of the day came from Rev Stephen Lowe, when he said that the church should “hang its head in shame, with the way it has handed human sexuality”. A quote than Glen commemorated towards the end of the show.

Each debate was brilliantly argued and it was such an excellent experience to be a part of a show that deals with real issues, which effect people every day. I will absolutely urge anyone who is interested in these topics to get involved and help change things.

– Phil Ashburn

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