Twelve people have been killed and 25 injured by a gunman who opened fire in west Cumbria. A body thought to be that of the suspect - taxi driver Derrick Bird - has been found in the Boot area.

The first fatality was in Whitehaven before the gunman drove south, apparently shooting people at random. Witnesses said the suspect drove through the town with a gun hanging out of his car window, before heading south through Gosforth and Seascale. A GP in the town of Seascale said he and a colleague had later certified two other people dead. BBC Look North Chief Reporter Chris Stewart said a farmer is also believed to have been killed in the Gosforth area.

After the shootings, detectives said 52-year-old Mr Bird drove to the central Lakes in a Citroen Picasso, then abandoned it in the Boot area. People living nearby were urged to stay indoors for their own protection. Soon afterwards, Deputy Chief Constable Stuart Hyde said: "I can confirm that we've found a body in a wooded area near Boot which we believe to be Mr Bird, together with a firearm.

The Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant in west Cumbria closed its gates as a safety precaution and afternoon shift workers were being told to stay away, though the site has since reopened.

The Whitehaven victim, believed to be a colleague of 52-year-old Mr Bird, was killed at 1035 BST. A local taxi firm boss, Glenda Pears, said: "We just don't know what's happened.

"The lad that's been killed was friends with him. They used to stand together having a craic on the rank. He was friends with everybody and used to stand and joke on Duke Street."

Sue Matthews, a telephonist at A2B Taxis in Whitehaven, said the Mr Bird was self-employed and lived alone. She described him as a "quiet fellow".

COMMENT: This sort of incident happens in the UK about once every decade. What surprises me is that it doesn't happen more often.

We live in a world where the majority of people don't believe in heaven and hell, and those that profess a faith in God tend to reject the idea of eternal punishment. Yet, when people are driven to their wits end, for whatever reason, and their lives seem no longer liveable, or when people face certain death because of terminal illness, they very rarely decide to take other people with them, even those who may have made their lives hell. They don't believe they will be punished if they do so, yet the thought of killing other people is still not an option for all except a few people, most likely suffering from mental illness.

Whatever, fundamentalist Christians may claim, people are not basically evil. They are basically caring. We are tempted into sin, not born sinful. The more people that are involved the more likely the chance of evil being committed. Which is why we should fear the powers and dominions of this world. Even when individuals do evil things it tends to be as a result of the influence of the powerful, or because they find themselves slaves to sins caused by the powerful.

When you consider how shitty people can be to each other, the tendency of inclusive minded Christians to see the good in everybody may appear to be a naive way of viewing other humans. But, the evidence shows that, individually, most people will overwhelmingly choose to act according to accepted moral standards, even when they have nothing to gain by doing so.

The question is, will this situation continue? Are people moral creatures because of the religious beliefs of their predecessors or because altruism is our natural state with or without the concept of our being punished or rewarded for our actions. I am unconvinced by the claims of atheists that morality can be divorced from religion. But I accept that may say more about my reasons for trying to be good rather than the true situation for most people.




  1. MP,

    Thanks for the commentary, which draws some pretty good conclusions about the nature of why people do not do evil naturally.

    I like to believe in and have faith in human nature as being intrinsically good. I might be a mug, but is use the “so what” response to that accusation.

    I will be praying as I suspect will hundreds of thousands of others.

  2. Oh, for goodness sake. I thought you Americans were supposed to be more Irish than the Irish.

    Craic or crack is a term for fun, entertainment, and enjoyable conversation, particularly prominent in Ireland.[1][2] It is often used with the definite article – the craic.[1] The word has an unusual history; the form craic was borrowed into Irish from the English crack in the mid-20th century, and the Irish spelling was then reborrowed into English.[1] Under either spelling, the crack/craic has great cultural currency and significance in Ireland. (Wiki)

    You will notice that it first came from England. But then what of any worth didn’t?

  3. Oh dear! How awful! Wherever they happen, I don’t understand random killings, except that the person who does that sort of thing is in the grip of something terrifying. I have a certain understanding, without condoning, of course, the grudge killings and taking one’s own life.

    I try to be good, because being good is a good thing in itself, not for fear of punishment. But the concept of goodness as a good thing comes from my religious beliefs.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think I would be all that altruistic without my faith. It is all grace, or, at least, almost all, and still, I fall short.

  4. I’m with you all the way on that, Mimi. The question I ask myself is do I have sociopathic tendencies? Does the fact that I can so easily see myself behaving amorally if it wasn’t for my faith mean that I am not as naturally good as the vast majority of people?

  5. I confess to ambivalence as to whether people are basically caring. Some I’ve known definitely are, but judging from myself, I’m not sure. I’m afraid that I’d be quite selfish without my faith, even more selfish than I am now. I can’t say for sure, because I’ve never been truly without faith.

    I think it’s kind of a dead-end street to go the way of, “Am I better or worse than the general run of people?” I know, for certain, that I’m a better person because of my faith, and that’s enough for me.

  6. Prayers for all concerned. Horrible.

    BTW, is it of consequence that i do not believe in eternal punishment, as did not about 90% of the church for the first 3 centuries?

  7. I agree with Grandmere Mimi. I’m hardly a nice person now and that’s with as much grace as I’m ever going to get!

    It’s one of those weird things about life today – I’ve often thought the idea of Original Sin was the one thing the Church got pretty much right first time, but it seems the least popular of the trickle-down theologies in general society (although, maybe that’s not too surprising).

  8. My two cents…

    There are enough people of all religions and none who have come over time to realized the value of human life that I don’t think it is based solely on a particular religious view. Faith doesn’t always reside within the walls of organized religion, though one can debate over how well it can really thrive outside of it.

    Moreover, punishment and fear are not the only ways to guide behavior, and seem better suited for those who are less spiritually mature. The greater foundation is the full realization of empathy, which is epitomized in the Gospels and referred to in the Christian traditions as Divine love, agape, caritas.

    I have a hard time believing you would be comfortable with and be readily able or willing to to kill, rape and/or torture if you didn’t believe in eternal punishment. The quality of the reality and of the imagination of such things are not nearly identical.

  9. Having worked on farms and with horses, I know exactly what I’m capable of doing without any scruples. I can’t see that I would experience anything different with human beings. In fact, I think my lack of emotion when faced with death makes me the excellent companion for the dying and the bereaved that I have discovered I am.

    Intellectually, I am against the killing of anybody for any avoidable reason because I believe human beings have worth. But this worth is given to them by God and is made real by its permanency through eternal life. Quite honestly, without God and eternal life everything seems completely worthless to me. Actually worse than that. Overall the experience of life is not worth dying for. So everyone would be better off never having been born.

  10. Quite honestly, without God and eternal life everything seems completely worthless to me….So everyone would be better off never having been born.

    Ah, no. The good and beautiful outweigh the bad and the ugly, even for a pessimist like me.

    This thought for the day now has a prominent place on my blog:


    The thought allows for the possibility that there is no God and no eternal life, although I live and act in great hope that both are the reality.

  11. Ah, no. The good and beautiful outweigh the bad and the ugly

    I think you’re kidding yourself, June.

    No pain is better than pain. All life is painful (although some experience more pain than others). Therefore, as not being born equals no pain it is better not to have been born. Unless, of course, life is just the painful birthing of true, pain free life where there is no death.

    And remember, if you have never been born the question of whether the pain of life is worth enduring for the pleasures of life is a non-question.

  12. Jonathan, I realize that I speak only from the reality of my own life. But my life has, buy no means, been pain-free or without a good deal of ugliness. And yet, despite all the pain and ugliness, I would not forego the goodness and beauty that I have known.

    You’re right, of course, that I can’t speak to the experience of never having been born.

    And we speak of opinions here. Maybe I am kidding myself, but what harm is there in it?

  13. No harm at all as you are a Christian. But an atheist with such views would cause harm if they persuaded others to kid themselves and have babies and such. Having children without having faith in eternal life is the cruellest thing a human being can do. bearing in mind we can’t prove there is an eternal life it may be the cruellest thing a Christian can do as well.

  14. So I shouldn’t have “had babies and such” (determinedly leaving the “and such” in the realm of the imagination)? It’s a tad late to find that out.

  15. Having children without having faith in eternal life is the cruellest thing a human being can do. bearing in mind we can’t prove there is an eternal life it may be the cruellest thing a Christian can do as well.

    Perhaps selfishly, I am glad my parents were not of your opinion.

    The glimpse of a swift flying overhead or the sight of a blue tit on the bird feeder alone makes everything else worth it, as far as I am concerned.

  16. The thing is that you don’t miss what you’ve never had. And the risk is just so high. I wonder what proportion of the world lead miserable lives. It will be much higher than the proportion that are born fortunate like us.

  17. the risk is just so high

    The risk of what?

    I wonder what proportion of the world lead miserable lives.

    Do you mean what proportion are incredibly poor? But incredible poverty doesn’t necessarily equate to unhappiness, just as material wealth doesn’t make people contented. I realise that probably seems hypocritical coming from a westerner like me.