Sam Harris, the noted contemporary atheist says the following in his debate over God. The full text of the debate-in an article published in April 2007 issue of NewsWeek- can be accessed through this link:
1. “…..and it’s instructive to notice that we’re all atheists with respect to Zeus and the thousands of other dead gods whom now nobody worships.”
2. No society in human history has ever suffered because it has become too reasonable.
3. The thing that bothers me about faith-based altruism is that it is contaminated with religious ideas that have nothing to do with the relief of human suffering. So you have a Christian minister in Africa who’s doing really good work, helping those who are hungry, healing the sick. And yet, as part of his job description, he feels he needs to preach the divinity of Jesus in communities where literally millions of people have been killed because of interreligious conflict between Christians and Muslims. It seems to me that that added piece causes unnecessary suffering. I would much rather have someone over there who simply wanted to feed the hungry and heal the sick.
4. Pastor Warren said: A low probability? When there are 96 percent believers in the world? So is everybody else an idiot?
Sam replies:It is quite possible for most people to be wrong—as are most Americans who think that evolution didn’t occur.
Pastor Warren: That’s an arrogant statement.
5. Right now, we have to change the rules to talk about God and spiritual experience and ethics. And I’m denying that that is so. You can have your spirituality. You can go into a cave and practice meditation and transform yourself, and then we can talk about why that happened and how it could be replicated. We may even want, for perfectly rational reasons, to say we want a Sabbath in this country, a genuine Sabbath. Let’s realize that there’s a power in contemplating the mystery of the universe, and in reminding yourself how much you love the people closest to you, and how much more you could love the people you haven’t met yet. There is nothing you have to believe on insufficient evidence in order to talk about that possibility
The voices and concerns against female foeticide are getting morea and more attention, as evidenced in this letter published in The Tribune:
“The state-level conference on female foeticide at Kurukshetra recently was one of the few conclaves organised in this part of the country. It was heartening to see representatives from the executive, the legislature, the judiciary and various religions come on a common platform on this crucial issue. The response from the public was overwhelming.
The issue of women’s empowerment and female foeticide has become the focal point for the nation to turnaround, jettison the old mindset and look at the future in a different perspective. We must save our unborn daughters at any cost. The whole nation is one on tackling this issue and would like to get on to the task of nation building from here. “
Dr MANOJ LAMBA, Radiologist, Kurukshetra
(Ref: The Tribune, Chandigarh: April 4,2007)
This letter was published in NewsWeek magazine. The dabtae is the usual religion versus science:
“In her article on evolution, Sharon Begley acknowledges that many readers will want to believe that the “hand of God” was instrumental in guiding evolutionary change. Actually, that’s not a wise choice for the theist subscriber. Supreme beings who have the ability to create whole universes out of nothing are by definition omniscient and omnipotent. Evolution, on the other hand, is a disorganized process of “fits and starts” with thousands of dead ends and mistakes leading up to the flora and fauna of today. Omniscient deities don’t make mistakes. So a God who guides evolution is a supreme bumbler, not a supreme being”.
David Werdegar Naperville,
(Source: NewsWeek, April 2,2007)
This letter published in a daily expresses dismay at the current affairs of our democracy.
“While having dinner at a native friend’s house the other day in Houston, I requested the host to track the developments in India on the website of The Tribune. The very first slot was the unruly scene in the Lok Sabha, portraying the worst display of parochialism. Such incidents occurred in the past too. But what happened on Tuesday pales into insignificance.
There was jostling, pushing, pulling and shoving for nearly 15 minutes and MPs of the Left parties came close to assaulting Union Shipping Minister T.R. Balu. Marshals had to be called to protect the Minister!
My host’s candid query with furtive looks was “are both Chennai and Kolkata not within India?” I felt sheepish and small at the odd bite but retorted, “these are as Houston and New York are”. But I do retain the itch at heart and so share with you aloud: The development of a state is the development of the region which, in turn, is the development of the nation.
It is time we condemned provincialism and parochialism and kept the democratic values high on the agenda. We cannot have a decent democracy if the members of Parliament don’t behave decently in Parliament.”
Prof SUDARSHAN DHINGRA, Houston (USA)
Source: ‘Mailbag’, The Tribune (March 19, 2007)
The trait of chamcha-giri (flattery) is well-established in our politicians. Here is a letter expressing the same sentiments.
I was surprised to see the photograph (Feb 8) showing Punjab Finance Minister and Congress candidate from Amritsar, Surinder Singla, making fawning obeisance to the AICC president, Sonia Gandhi. Apparently, Sonia Gandhi did not bother to acknowledge Singla’s gesture reverential gesture and looked towards another side.
Many Congress leaders used to bow before Indira Gandhi like slaves. Former Congress president Dev Kanth Barooah earned the sobriquet of her Durbari Maskhara (court jester) by his ludicrous remarks “Indira is India”.
At a rally in Jind, Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda described Sonia Gandhi as “a holy stream of the Ganga in the polluted politics”. Once the late BJP leader Pramod Mahajan compared Atal Bihari Vajpayee with Jesus Christ as both shared the same date of birth – December 25.
BHAGWAN SINGH, Qadian
(Source: The Tribune, Feb 27,07)
This letter was published in The Pioneer (link) onFeb 25, 2007.
This refers to the article, “Did Jinnah really fight for freedom?” (February 18), by Samuel Baid. The writer needs to be appreciated for disclosing the fact that Pakistan’s largest Islamic party, Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam, has decided to expunge Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s name from the list of Pakistan’s freedom fighters. The reason given is that neither did Jinnah do anything for Islam, nor had he gone to jail during the freedom struggle.
The JUI is the Pakistani version of India’s Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Hind (JUH), which was founded by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi since 1919. The JUH had opposed India’s Partition till the end, hoping it could re-establish Muslim rule throughout undivided India with the support of Hindu leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Jinnah’s partition plan, however, shattered such hopes.
The choice of the JUI for the next person to be named “Father of Pakistan” would, therefore, logically fall on Maulana Azad and Mahatma Gandhi, the torchbearers of the Khilafat movement in 1920 and subsequent struggle against the British. It was Mahatma Gandhi who brushed aside the burning questions of the time, such as the massacre at the Jallianwala Bagh and the Rowlatt Act, and made Khilafat an important movement. Gandhi’s authoritative biographer, DG Tendulkar, says: “Around Gandhi new forces were gathering. The ulema felt that the Muslim divines of India whose collective power and influence had been shattered after the revolt of 1857 should again come together…” (Mahatma, Vol-I).
On March 10, 1920, Gandhi observed: “The Khilafat has now become the question of questions…” On March 19, explaining the four parts of the Khilafat movement, he said that while its three parts were to be followed by all Hindus, Muslims and others, the fourth was mainly for Muslims. He observed: “But Muslims have special Quranic obligations in which Hindus may or may not join. They, therefore, reserve to themselves the right, in the event of the failure of non-cooperation-cum-non-violence, in order to enforce justice, to resort to all such methods as may be enjoined by the Islamic scriptures. I venture heartily to associate myself with this resolution…”.
This is a sample of Gandhi’s double-faced non-violence — one for Hindus and another for Muslims.
Recently the issue of MPLAD (MPs and MLAs Local Area Development Scheme) has been in news again.This scheme was initailly started by the then Prime Minister Mr PV Narsimha Rao and each MP was sanctioned one crore rupees annually to spend on the development of his/her area. This lucrative scheme -with no accountability- was liked by all MPs and if I am correct, the current tag is 2 crore rupees annually. This is a huge money, particularly when you multiply this by 5 and that this money is largely unaccountable. One reader in The Tribune- while appealing for scrappimg this fund- has raised a very valid point that the scheme also circumvents the spirit of the panchayati raj institutions (PRIs). The letter is reproduced below.
The editorial “Scrap MPLADS” (Feb 19) rightly suggests Parliament to wind up the MPs’ Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) as recommended by the Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Mr M. Veerappa Moily in its latest report, Ethics in Governance. This scheme has remained mired in controversy since its inception and the malaise has spread to municipal corporations across the country, involving a whopping Rs 15,000 crore.
Several other committees had also called for the abolition of the scheme. One cannot lose sight of the corrupt practices in this scheme in a string operation. The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has also upheld Parliament’s right to disqualify members who were caught accepting bribes in the sting operation.
Unspent money under this scheme by MPs and MLAs and favouritism in sanctioning the funds are the other maladies. Examples galore, some MPs have diverted the entire fund meant for eight or nine Assembly segments to just one or two for political mileage.
The scheme also circumvents the spirit of the panchayati raj institutions (PRIs). To make use of the taxpayers’ money judiciously, the scheme needs to be scrapped. Let the crores of rupees allocated under this scheme be saved and utilised for actual development.
S.K. KHOSLA, Chandigarh
In Haryana, khaps ( self-administered units of villages, mainly in references to Jat community. Jats have traditionally been a very brave and heroic community) have in recent years passed some orders (diktats to be more precise) which have created controversies. Here is a letter published in The Tribune concerning this issue. I am inclined to call these these diktats Hindu ‘Fatwas’ ! In a democracy and liberal society, these kinds of medieval practices have no place and are clearly anti-progressive. I am not sure but my feeling is that majority of people (including Jats) donot approve of these acts and probably give a damn!
Tackle khap panchayats with iron hand
Ranbir Singh and Chaitali Pal’s article, “Strengthen panchayati raj to tame khap menace” is timely. I do not think delegation of more powers to panchayats will tame khap panchaysts. In fact, they need to be dealt with an iron hand by the administration. They are running parallel governments and are interfering in the personal life of othercitizens. This is a slur on the democratic set up.
Ironically, khap panchayats generally issue diktats against the poor and weaker sections who dare not utter a word against the rich and the powerful. For instance, no panchayat said a word against Mallika Sherawat (a Jat girl) who has crossed all limits of obscenity.
In the case of the Punia couple of Jevali village in Bhiwani district, the khap panchayat had issued a sermon that the Punia boy who married a girl of sheoran gotra won’t be allowed to enter the village.
The administration kept mum over the incident while the Punjab and Haryana Court had ruled in earlier cases that the administration should curb the misdeeds of khap panchayats by dealing with them firmly and that they should not allowed to reign over the lives of other poor sections of their community.
G.D. GUPTA, Jagadhari
Typical ‘babusaahi'(bureaucracy) ! Did he pay for the bills?
Read this letter by a foreign visitor to India, as published in The Tribune on Jan 31,07.
All for a bureaucrat!
During a visit to Punjab recently, I had been to ‘Boat Club-Pincasia’, a tourist complex, near Ropar, for dinner. Surprisingly, the dinner service was suddenly suspended for all ordinary people like us after a local bureaucrat arrived there to dine with his friends!
Having seen the bureaucrat, the hotel manager was tense and panic-stricken. He diverted the hotel staff to the place where this bureaucrat settled for the dinner. This is not the way in which tourists should be treated. In principle, bureaucrats should not visit public places if their visits are likely to disrupt the normal functioning of the hotels and cause inconvenience to the general public.
I hope the authorities concerned will understand this writer’s deep anguish and act accordingly. This letter should not be viewed as an individual complaint but as a general suggestion to the Punjab government to have concern for all customers and to treat all humans equally.
ROBERT SMITH, 25, Broadway, New York (USA)
Nehru’s link with Bhagat Singh
I am grateful to Prof V.N Datta for having responded to my proposal on Bhagat Singh Chair at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), in the background of the martyr’s “close association” with Nehru (Perspective Page, Jan 14). As for his observations about Nehru’s conduct at Gandhi’s behest, I have no difference with him. Nehru backtracked from his friendship and closeness of ideas from Subhash Bose as well.
Though Jinnah defended Bhagat Singh in the Central Assembly during his and other revolutionaries’ hunger strike, other leaders also defended him, particularly Subhash Bose, who held a big rally in Delhi on March 20, 1931, three days prior to his execution, to oppose death sentence to Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. Viceroy Lord Irwin wanted Gandhi to stop Subhash from holding this rally, but in vain.
Undoubtedly, Nehru and Bhagat Singh had deep liking for each other, particularly for socialist ideas. Bhagat Singh, in an article, had appreciated “Nehru’s ideas as more rational than those of Subhash Bose” though Subhash was emotionally more close to Bhagat Singh and other revolutionaries than Nehru was.
Prof CHAMAN LAL,
Centre of Indian LanguagesJNU, New Delhi
Published: The Tribune (Chandigarh), January 30,2007