The image to the right has been making its rounds on the internet, and it reflects an argument with which many who are pro-life and pro-death penalty will have to contend. The picture sums the argument up pretty well, but I will draw it out:
1) You are pro-life
2) You are pro-war [it is not stated what is meant by pro-war, exactly]
3) You are pro-death penalty
4) 1-3 conjoined are inconsistent
The simplest way to show this argument fails is to show that 1-3 are not inconsistent, which I shall now endeavor to do. What I mean to sketch here is a consistent ethic for valuing human life.
Clearly, this piece of the argument is meant to be the one that is inconsistent. The proponent of the argument could say, “If you are really pro-life, then you should value life in every other sphere.” I agree, but the person who argues in this way is often pro-choice, and so it is relevant to at least link to my other arguments for the pro-life position. Interested readers should view my pro-life page for a number of my articles on the topic.
This is perhaps the most confusing of the labels. I think very few people are pro-war in an undefined sense. I think that perhaps those spreading this image mean the Iraq war, but that is a political issue rather than an issue about the value of life. Why is it a political issue? Because almost everyone (except staunch pacifists) would agree with the notion of a Just War. What is meant by that term is that there are some sets of circumstances which justify using military force in order to prevent their continuance.
For example, what I consider one of the most infamous cases is the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. During that genocide, an estimated 800,000 people were slaughtered, yet the UN pulled out their presence. The U.S. did not intervene, and Europe did very little. In my opinion, this was a truly deplorable example of international complacency, which allowed hundreds of thousands of people to be murdered wholesale. Should we have intervened with military force in that genocide? I say absolutely. When there are circumstances wherein human beings are being systematically destroyed by a national power, it seems like Just War against that national power is justified.
If someone wants to disagree with me on that, that is fine, but I don’t see how this notion that we should intervene to prevent genocide and other atrocities somehow means that I am not valuing human life. I would challenge someone to show how this is inconsistent with the pro-life stance.
Of course, the point that some have made is that the image is somehow linked to the Iraq War. But then the issue is whether the Iraq war is a Just War or not. I’m not going to start that debate, so I’ll just point out what I said above: if one is pro-life and for waging war in a just fashion, there is no inconsistency.
In my opinion, this is actually more difficult to defend from a pro-life position than ‘pro-[Just]-war.’ Why? Well, we’ll get to that. First, let me make the positive case for the death penalty. As a Christian, I could just reference the Bible and point out that the government doesn’t carry the sword for nothing and that the notion of the death penalty for murder is pretty consistent throughout. But! I think it is important to show a more integral part of the case: being for the death penalty is part of valuing human persons.
How is that possible? Well, consider this: one reason the death penalty seems to me to be justified is that what is being said by it is that the human life is so valuable that if you willingly destroy someone else’s life, then your own life is forfeit.
I find this reasoning to be fairly solid and certainly consistent with a pro-life stance. On this view, life is so extremely valuable that the murder of a fellow human being means your own life must be forfeit.
Several objections could be lodged here.
1) One could object that this seems like a wholly retributive system. In response, I would say that may indeed be the case, but the current debate is not over what kind of penal system should be in place but rather on the consistency of a pro-life stance with other positions.
2) One could argue that the justice system is imperfect and therefore someone who is innocent may be executed. This is a much more powerful argument, in my opinion, and must be taken into consideration. Of course, any system of justice is going to be imperfect, and that imperfection alone does not justify jettisoning everything. Furthermore, one could argue that the extreme burden of proof in order to convict someone of murder when the penalty is death almost ensures that the innocent will not be proven guilty. More on (2) later.
3) One could argue that the death penalty does nothing to decrease violent crime. Again, this is a side issue and actually isn’t the justification for the death penalty I offered above.
It therefore seems to me that (2) is a powerful response to the death penalty argument from a pro-life perspective. If we should err on the side of caution whenever it comes to human life, then perhaps it is more consistent to be against the death penalty. However, it seems that the argument to justify the death penalty above does give a powerful reason to maintain the death penalty in light of the vanishingly improbable likelihood of someone innocent being killed. I rate this as about a 50/50, and think that one can be consistently pro-death penalty and pro-life. I leave it to the opposition to show me otherwise.
I have shown that one can be pro-life and pro-[just]-war. I have furthermore shown that one can be pro-life and pro-death penalty, with one minor caveat. Regardless of where one stands on the second argument against the death penalty offered above, it seems that one can remain consistent as pro-life and pro-death penalty if they hold that the value of human life trumps the argument.
I have therefore shown that 1-3 are indeed consistent and therefore 4 is false.
I think the biggest problem I have is that images like this do not do anything to contribute to the conversation. They are merely jabs at the other side. I think that the only way to have serious discussion is to avoid these types of “meme” images altogether. If your goal is to convince the other side, then engage in honest dialog. Do not post pictures to mock them. I say this to everyone.
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Your Just War case is fine, but I’m really not seeing the defensibility of execution here.
The problem is that you’re arguing on deontological grounds. You’re giving us a rule, “Life is so valuable that the murder of a fellow human being means your own life must be forfeit,” without consequential justification. This is upside-down morality (“morality comes from rules”) and isn’t how things work anymore (1 Corinthians 10:23. “‘Everything is permissible’–but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’–but not everything is constructive”).
But again, you’re arguing for the consistency of a deontological position, not arguing consequentially, so when consequential arguments are made against your rule (which is how rules are invalidated — you show that they’re nonproductive or counterproductive), you’re dismissing them — which you’re free to do under deontology because, after all, a rule is a rule.
Even so, I will say that each of the objections you provided are 100% valid given a purely deontological pro-life stance.
The three objections are:
1) You’re killing someone for no constructive reason. A consistent pro-life stance values all life, not just innocent life. That lives guilty of murder lose their value is a special exception. “Pro-innocent life” is weaker than “pro-life.”
2) You might kill innocent people. I think your counterargument here is rather specious. A consistent pro-life stance, equally valuing all innocent life (even life you don’t know is innocent), would say that it’s not worth the risk of one innocent human being executed. In order to rebut this statement, you would have to make a consequential case, which you can’t do under pro-life deontology.
3) You’re killing someone for no constructive reason. A consistent pro-life stance values all life, not just innocent life. That lives guilty of murder lose their value is a special exception. “Pro-innocent life” is weaker than “pro-life.”
There are murderers who, in prison, repent and find Christ. A vindictive position says they ought to have been executed. A pro-life person is relieved that they weren’t. A pro-life position can only be pro-execution if execution resurrects the victim or saves lives down the road.
I do think there are significant problems with the death penalty on a purely ‘divorced from religion’ [which is impossible] level. Let me state at the outset I think the best argument is the Scriptural one. Unlike the pro-life stance, which I think is utterly unassailable logically and scientifically, the pro-death penalty has great difficulties.
Now I admit that I’m a bit put off by the objections you offered. I think they fail. Here’s why:
1) I’m not at all sure how this one works against the position I put forward. I’m not sure of your own convictions, but I don’t think there is any such thing as an “innocent” life to begin with. So I really don’t see where this objection works. My contention has been consequential and essentially based upon a retributive version of justice. But what you’ve done is insist I must be deontological across the board. Why? Why can’t I hold that the very grounds for justice/etc. are deontic whilst the application of those moral laws can be consequential?
2) There are no innocent people. Now, of course what you mean is someone wrongfully convicted. But in that case, I don’t see how such an argument would escape the following logic: “If someone may be convicted wrongfully, they should not be punished.” That’s basically what 2) boils down to. You’re suggesting you can’t enforce the death penalty because someone may be innocent. But then why enforce life imprisonment? Why enforce convictions of rape, child abuse, and the like? The simple possibility of innocence does not overthrow the whole system.
3) Same as 1. (mistyped?)
Perhaps the following is meant to be 3:
Now 3′) is guilty of taking the argument outside of the current debate and putting it directly into the Christian sphere. I’m fine with that, but if that’s going to be the realm of determining whether one is for or against the death penalty, how does one deal with God instituting the death penalty for murder and then authorizing the gov’t’s use of the sword? Further, why can’t someone hold that God is providential enough that those who would repent in prison do, even if on death row and executed? It seems to me that if God is really all good and just, then He would providentially provide for such an occasion. I would not limit God’s salvific plan to be incapable of being in accord with his justice.
“I’m not at all sure how this one works against the position I put forward. I’m not sure of your own convictions, but I don’t think there is any such thing as an ‘innocent’ life to begin with.”
I’m talking about “innocent of murder,” based on your claim that executing a murderer is justified. Explication: A consistent pro-life stance values all life, not just innocent-of-murder life. That lives guilty of murder lose their value is a special exception. “Pro-innocent-of-murder life” is weaker than “pro-life.”
“But what you’ve done is insist I must be deontological across the board. Why? Why can’t I hold that the very grounds for justice/etc. are deontic whilst the application of those moral laws can be consequential?”
Because you said the following: “The current debate is not over what kind of penal system should be in place but rather on the consistency of a pro-life stance with other positions.” Any consequential application must flow consistently from that pro-life stance, would affect things like, say, what kind of penal system we employ. When you implied that our form of penal system was moot, I assumed that meant you were not venturing into the realm of consequential application. (This clearly was a bad assumption!)
“You’re suggesting you can’t enforce the death penalty because someone may be innocent. But then why enforce life imprisonment? Why enforce convictions of rape, child abuse, and the like? The simple possibility of innocence does not overthrow the whole system.”
The possibility of innocence means you don’t do something irreversible, like execute. You can set an innocent-of-murder man free after 20 years locked up for murder. You can’t resurrect a person executed for a murder they did not commit.
If you are truly pro-life and consider human life of sacrosanct value, you cannot risk killing a person without truly justifying guilt.
“How does one deal with God instituting the death penalty for murder and then authorizing the gov’t’s use of the sword?”
Because lex talionis is primitive justice *appropriate* for primitive societies, and life imprisonment was, at one time, and in some places still, not very practical. The Catholic Church is the most consistently pro-life church on the planet: execution is forbidden for societies that are well-equipped imprison indefinitely.
“Further, why can’t someone hold that God is providential enough that those who would repent in prison do, even if on death row and executed? It seems to me that if God is really all good and just, then He would providentially provide for such an occasion.”
This smells a lot like fatalistic die-casting. We ought not feel free to do whatever we want just because God is sovereign. This is like abandoning evangelism because “God will save who he will save.” Our charge is do what is beneficial and constructive in service of love, not arbitrarily adopt a divine perspective on sovereignty to kick the can of responsibility upward.
Okay, our discussion is getting extremely broad, and at risk of sounding like I’m trying to dodge the issues, I’m going to try to bring it back home.
The point of this post was to show that 1-3 (listed in post) were not inconsistent. Now, you’ve basically been attacking the Christian holding to the death penalty, so I’m going to focus on that.
I will operate under this assumption:
A) When you attack a position for being incoherent, you must grant that system its resources to show that it is, in fact, coherent.
Why do I hold A? Simple: the charge of incoherence is a charge against a system on its own grounds. It says “System X is incoherent on x, y, and z grounds which are part of X.” Thus, if X has a, b, and c which show that x, y, and z are actually coherent, those must be granted to show its coherence. I’ll not argue further for this, nor do I particularly want to debate A. It seems nearly self-evident to me.
Now, granting A, take the following propositions:
B) God commanded the death penalty.
C) Retributive justice is [possibly] correct.
D) The Gov’t still carries the sword, per Paul, and this applies to the death penalty at least in part.
E) God can set up the world in such a way that everyone who would repent and be saved is.
Now, from our interactions elsewhere I think you may be open theist [?] and so would def. deny E, and most likely B, C, and D as well based on what you’ve said here. However, all I’m trying to establish is that B-E make 1-3 consistent. I don’t see how this could be false.
So consistency charge averted, the discussion would turn to B-E, and there I think that B [and by implication the last part of D] may be most suspect. I grant that. Hence my tentative conclusion that the death penalty issue is probably about 50-50. It may even be weighted more heavily one side or the other, but to say it’s completely incapable of cohering with the others seems a bit absurd.
Do you think they are totally irreconcilable?
J.W., you said,
“Now, you’ve basically been attacking the Christian holding to the death penalty, so I’m going to focus on that.”
I didn’t really intend to do that; I was claiming that it was inconsistent to be pro-life and to support execution. My reference to the “repentant murderer” was not to attack a Christian position per se; both the retribution advocate and the pro-lifer could be Christians.
“A) When you attack a position for being incoherent, you must grant that system its resources to show that it is, in fact, coherent.”
I agree with A and hold it as well.
“Now, from our interactions elsewhere I think you may be open theist [?]”
Negatory, I’m an advocate of absolute sovereignty and am a determinist (compatibilist). I agree 100% with E, but am also a purgatorial universalist, so that changes the meaning of it a bit for me.
“Do you think they are totally irreconcilable?”
I’m going to rewind a bit and go the thought experiment route to show what I’m trying to convey.
Let’s say Dave says that he’s pro-life. You ask him about his various positions on execution, war, euthanasia, and abortion. Everything seems consistently pro-life until he gets to abortion, when Dave startles you with the following: Dave subscribes to the religion of Szilenism, the sacred scripture of which commands that when a woman becomes pregnant, a priest must perform a sacred ritual to determine whether the growing child is worthy of being born, and if the priest determines ‘no,’ the woman must ingest a poison that aborts the child.
You say, “Dave, how can you possibly claim you’re pro-life!?” He says that his position is perfectly consistent. He values human alife to the utmost, except for under conditions dictated by his holy writ.
The “except” is the whole point. “Pro-life, except X” is weaker than “pro-life.” Any “excepts” denote inconsistency. So if a person says, “I’m pro-life, except that my religion tells me that it’s permissible to execute murderers,” that’s not being consistently pro-life. There’s nothing that says Christianity and being consistently pro-life are equivocable or even compatible.
I appreciate the insight your thought experiment brought to your argument. But I don’t think that it answers the Christian position. One could add the proposition:
F) The sacredness of life is such that if one murders someone else, their own life must be forfeit in order to satisfy justice.
I’m still not sure how F would be inconsistent with a pro-life position in any way. It’s not that somehow a person A’s life loses value upon murdering person B, it’s that person B’s life is so valuable that the destruction of it results in an imbalance of justice which can only be satisfied by person A’s execution.
I grant that F is highly contentious, but then I even if there is any possibility at all for it being true, A-F make a consistent set.
One could indeed add that proposition. But similarly, a Szilenist could say, “The sacredness of life is of such utmost intensity that we can only allow those determined worthy to be born; an unworthy life allowed to continue is an abomination to the sacredness of life. So as you can see, our ritual abortions are the TRUE pro-life position.”
What I’m trying to say is that you can use all sorts of post-hoc justifications to dress up the killing of someone as “pro-life.” That’s the power, and reckless danger, of deontology. It’s a kind of moral framework so upside-down that it can call black “white,” and who can argue?
If we rid ourselves of all deontological intrusion, and talk only about the consequential goal — that is, the preservation of human life — then execution can only be considered “pro-life” if it saves more lives down the road (the latter justification is why Catholicism correctly allows for execution in societies that can’t sufficiently accommodate life imprisonment).
Ah, but I’m a deontologist, and despite your rejection thereof, you haven’t given me a reason to show that my position is actually incoherent given A). So I feel fairly confident I have succeeded.
I suppose you have in a way, but only in a way that says the Szilenist is consistently pro-life as well! : )
“2) There are no innocent people. Now, of course what you mean is someone wrongfully convicted. But in that case, I don’t see how such an argument would escape the following logic: “If someone may be convicted wrongfully, they should not be punished.” That’s basically what 2) boils down to. You’re suggesting you can’t enforce the death penalty because someone may be innocent. But then why enforce life imprisonment? Why enforce convictions of rape, child abuse, and the like? The simple possibility of innocence does not overthrow the whole system.”
Let me amend that for you: “If someone may be convicted wrongfully, they should not be executed, since there is no way to bring back the dead.”
Or: “If there is substantial evidence to suggest that: A) The judicial system that you are putting a man’s life in the hands of is fairly flawed and numerous people have been wrongfully executed, then there should be no executions, since executing innocent people is horrendous. B) The judicial system that you are putting a man’s life in the hands of is systematically racist and classist, then there should be no executions, since in that scenario, executions would amount to genocide of a kind. C) The system that you are putting a man’s life in the hands of has been responsible for executing people with extreme mental handicaps, which is horrendous, therefore there should be a moratorium on executions.
Just some food for thought.
By this same logic, no one should be punished by anyone. There is always the possibility of punishing the wrong person.
Looking at it from a human standpoint: I wasn’t aware that someone who commits murder loses his value as a human being or that his life loses value because of his horrible act–or any act, for that matter. One may lose the right to wander about freely and end up in prison, but surely one does not lose value as a human being.
Looking at it from a Christian viewpoint: I think Christ incarnated on earth and died on the Cross precisely to redeem all of us sinners, including the sinner who commits murder. Certainly that would imply that the sinner’s life has immense value, even the murderer’s life. That’s one of the reasons that Pope John Paul II wrote in The Gospel of Life that states (governments), while having the right to exercise the death penalty, should only do so after exhausting every other means of protecting citizens, etc. There is always hope that the murderer would repent and turn to the Lord and be saved. And this is really a (if not *the*) major objection to the use of the death penalty: that one forever cuts off the possibility of repentance and conversion for another human being. Why do that when we can protect the rest of society without executing the prisoner, even if he is a murderer?
From the standpoint of Catholic moral teaching: The death penalty, while hardly ever being necessary or used, is not intrinsically evil. Abortion is intrinsically evil, always and everywhere in every circumstance. Killing someone in self-defense — or for a state to kill someone to defend the people for whose safety that state is responsible — is not intrinsically evil. Abortion always kills someone who has not tried to kill us — a child, a human being in early stages of development. How could that be anything other than evil?
Btw, this was a reply to Stan’s comment and to these lines in it:
“3) You’re killing someone for no constructive reason. A consistent pro-life stance values all life, not just innocent life. That lives guilty of murder lose their value is a special exception. “Pro-innocent life” is weaker than “pro-life.” “
I agree, J.W. And my response to objection #2 to being pro-death penalty is that many more innocent people are put to death by murderers undeterred by the weak threat that capital punishment is. Decades on death row being cared for by the state is worth the risk. If they knew that their lives would be taken within, say, six months of being convicted, I believe they would think twice about pulling the trigger.
Caroline, thanks for your comment. The one thing I would hesitate to endorse is that the death penalty is necessarily deterrent. I’m not convinced it is. I’ve seen studies on both sides.
J.W. we had this discussion in my ethics class at CCU and came to the conclusion that killing a judicially innocent person is what God defines as murder. A person on death row is not judicially innocent, therefore the killing of a judicially guilty person is permissible.
But is it right?
This is a knotty problem in the world we live in today, where Capitol punishment is so mired in bureaucracy as to have lost it’s deterrent value.
I recommend for viewing the old classic movie “12 Angry Men” before passing judgment on Capital Punishment.
I have seen and enjoyed that movie, Lisa. I am not sure exactly where I stand on the death penalty, though I lean towards favoring it. See my convo with Stan in the comments here.
I have a weird take based on something of a paradigm shift that I’ve had lately in that I don’t think a Christian (an important distinction) should participate in war, I certainly don’t think they can execute someone or support their execution, and they certainly can’t be a part of abortion. So I guess I can’t be charged for being a hypocrite. But I agree with your argument, just because you’re not against the death penalty or war doesn’t mean you can’t argue that abortion is wrong. It’s just a red herring.
Thanks for your comment, Erik. I’d be curious to see your reasoning as to why a Christian should not participate in a just war sometime.
I should write about it at some point once I get back to blogging. There’s a difference between Christian pacifism than other forms of pacifism, but I think nonviolence is what Jesus and the NT writers taught, and what the early church fathers taught and practiced up until about the time of Constantine. Then Augustine and others went about changing things. Now, usually when I say this I get asked “well what about X, Y, or Z” scripture text, but from what I’ve seen most objections to Christian nonviolence have been pretty weak to this point, even though I was one of those people raising those objections. I’d be more than happy to discuss it with you privately if you’re interested. I really need to get back to writing, but honestly I’m afraid if I do write about this I might raise a couple of eyebrows from people within my church!
Really? I wasn’t aware that Christian pacifism would be a very controversial issue.
Besides World War II, can you offer any example of a so-called “just war” that the United States has engaged in over the past century? The idea that Christians should support a “just war” strikes me as extremely abstract, since there has been much more harm than good done by this country. The Iraq war was notably started by an imbecilic born-again Christian who thought he was on a mission from God. I think Noam Chomsky is right when he says that by the Nuremberg standards, any U.S. president since World War II could be indicted and executed for war crimes: http://www.chomsky.info/talks/1990—-.htm
Another thing I find very interesting about Christianity is how much crazy stuff you can find in the Bible to justify almost anything, from socialism, to smoking ganja, to stoning gay people to death, to social welfare programs. But Christians seem to have a very myopic, selective view of the Bible, they pick out the parts they like to justify doing what they feel like doing.
In light of many of the strife caused by religion, I think Steven Weinberg’s quote is particularly fitting: “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”
Don’t get me wrong, for there are good things about some elements of Christianity–I particularly like Christian anarchism, liberation theology, and much of the music and spirit of the african-american protestant tradition, but I think anybody that attempts to argue that only a religious person can be moral will fall on their own sword. Christopher Hitchens has already destroyed that argument to the point of humiliating his opponents.
Fundamentalist Christians have warped values.
Your argument is strewn with virulence and so it is hard to pick out any actual threads of thought other than spewing anger at Christianity. I’ll try.
“Besides World War II, can you offer any example of a so-called “just war” that the United States has engaged in over the past century?”
Red herring. The concept of a just war is coherent.
Actually… now that I’m reading your comment, there is little else I find need to address. It’s just a long ad hominem against people you disagree with.
You didn’t answer any of my points. If you can find fault in any of my statements, by all means, do so. I’m always up for a debate. My two main points were A) the concept of a “just war” is just that, an abstract concept that in reality doesn’t occur very often, and is a dangerous concept that is used as an attempt at rationalizing horrendous crimes and B) Christianity’s self contradictory nature makes it a bad template to base a society on, especially since it has a long bloody history of torture, war, and other horrendous crimes, which can all be rationalized using the Bible.
I hardly see anything virulent in my comments–they contained no profanity and contained solely logical arguments that I’m prepared to defend.
Regarding A), you’ve already conceded the existence of at least one just war. Are you disputing the example I used (intervention in the Rwandan genocide) as an example where a just war should have been carried out? If not, then I’m confused what point you think you’re making.
Regarding B), frankly, this is mere assertion. I think ultimately any non Christian view is self-contradictory. Now we are even. What exactly is your argument?
I should also note that in this post what I am defending is not the individual points, but rather the coherence of three positions: pro-life, pro-[just] war, and pro-death penalty. I’m not trying to defend specific instances, whether the Iraq War or an individual execution. All I’m saying is that this set of propositions is not self-contradictory. Frankly, your comments line up exactly with what I’m arguing. You conceded my point by admitting to a just war. Even if just war is a concept that “in reality doesn’t occur very often” you’ve already said it does occur and so the internal coherence of these positions is affirmed.
So, again, what is your point?
Alright, for clarification: A) The majority of wars fought by the U.S. in the last century were not just wars. But the people waging the wars either believed, in every case, that the wars were just, or led others to believe so. Therefore, in practice, the concept of a “just war” is dangerous, because it is misleading and used as rationalization for horrendous acts.
B) Christianity and the other two Abrahamic religions have been responsible for so much suffering in the forms of torture, war, brainwashing and the like that they are irrelevant when considering legal values of a society. No crimes have been committed using logic or reason to justify them. Therefore, logic and reason are superior considerations for a society to base its laws on, if it is to be a humane society.
I hate to say this, Walker, but your comments are truly red herrings. What part of this post, exactly, are you trying to rebut?
Regarding A) Okay, let’s say I grant this. Again, you’ve already said that there is such a thing as a just war. Case closed.
Regarding B), all you have is a string of assertions. You say that your comments “contained solely logical arguments that I’m prepared to defend.” Really? What arguments? All I see is several claims, yet no argument. What argument am I supposed to comment upon? Is it relevant for this post?
Edit: What I’m asking is this: What relevance do your comments have regarding this post? It seems to me like you’re just trying to start an argument about religion. But this post is making a simple claim that three positions are coherent. It seems you actually grant that, which is why I keep asking this question again and again.
I would like to add that your comments here reveal a startling tendency to fall into the “myth of religion.” (Well, it’s not really that startling, because it’s easy to marginalize the ‘religious other,’ but my point largely stands.)
I missed that last post– I was simply responding to your earlier post.
A) I’m not arguing that the idea of a “just war” is incoherent. I’m arguing that a “just war” is the exception, and that the concept is dangerous.
B) Yes, assertions that are rooted in historical evidence, that lead to a conclusion: the values of a society that wishes to be humane should not be rooted in Christianity or any of the Abrahamic religions.
Are you not prepared to argue either of these points?
Regarding A), of course, toying with war is dangerous in general. However, that simply does not change the fact you’ve conceded: there is such a thing as a just war.
Regarding B), I still see no argument, and I fail to see the relevance to the discussion at hand. You’ve conceded the coherence of the three positions, so you’ve basically said my argument here works. I see little to argue about.
I also read some of your thoughts on the “myth of religion”. I readily concede that some forms of secular nationalism produce violence– but I repeat: There is no significant use of violence as a result of too much logic or too much reason. Most violence is the result of the opposite. I would actually classify nationalist personality cults such as those of Kim-il sun and Hitler to be the ultimate in religion: Illogical beliefs acted on by mindless zealots whose ideals are ideals of intolerance: a dangerous combination. That’s why I’m an anarchist. Any ideology can be dangerous–what makes organized religion stand out is the size and scope of its indoctrination, and its anti-intellectual views that systematically place an abstract ideal above the practice of compassion, love, reason, or any other positive values of a secular society.
Ah, again, you are using the false religious/secular dichotomy. I don’t think there is such a thing. Your glorious vision of the secular paradise seems to have been attempted a number of times and failed utterly. Of course, you claim to be an anarchist, so I fail to see how such a view actually is, in any way, a society. You wish to regulate society by what, reason and logic? Well, what do you mean by anarchy, then?
You seem to think you have presented an argument. You haven’t. All you keep saying is various forms of “religion is violent” and “just war is dangerous.” Great. Regarding the latter, you also say that just wars can occur, and acknowledge its coherence. I fail to see a challenge there. Regarding the former, I’m waiting to see your argument. I think there is no such thing as religion. It’s a useful fiction, a semantics game. Certain views are more dangerous than others, I agree. Yet a view being dangerous in no way undermines its truth value. We need to analyze worldviews based upon their truth values, and it seems to me your position is very dismissive of such an approach. I’m concerned with truth, not dismissive attitudes.
My pastor grew up Mennonite (a pacifist denomination) and has made some statements of his objections to pacifism. I don’t want to sound like I’m trying to undermine his teachings. He also did a lengthy series on hell, and I’m an annihilationist! He’s such a good hearted pastor and I agree on way more stuff than I disagree I just keep my beliefs quiet.
Interesting. I suppose that scenario would indeed make it controversial in that setting.
I’d rather rely on prayer and preaching rather than politics and prohibition to solve the abortion problem. I won’t give anybody running for poitical office a single dollar because they alll falsely believe that money buys power-WRONG!- it’s the vote of “We the People”. And here’s a joke on the post office-they ought to be thankful for this most polarizing election; if it weren’t for all the political junk mail in our boxes, they would have probably shut down by now.
Yeah, I’ve seen this graphic too. And I hear it a lot in conversations on the web and elsewhere. Like other catchy phrases, it sounds better before you give it even a little thought. But these are issues I’ve been pondering on and talking/writing about for years. I’m glad you posted about this, JW. I don’t see the death penalty as something that really deters crime either. I think we have a death penalty because the blood of the victim cries out from the ground and we cannot pretend that the crime of murder is like any other crime and demands a penalty like no other. I think a state has the right to use the death penalty but I agree with John Paul II that it should hardly ever do so, and only when there is no other choice. The murderer might repent and turn to the Lord. Perhaps if we law-abiding Christian citizens prayed more for the conversion of those in prison, then we would have more converted sinners and more cause for rejoicing. Food for thought, anyway, as was your post, as usual. Peace be with you, JW.
Hi, JW. What we have here is a failure to distinguish between assertion and argument (not on your part). I find myself in a similar situation when I stand on the sidewalk during every 40 Days for Life campaign (or whenever I wear a pro-life t-shirt, or anyone notices my crucifix, or, well, for any number of reasons).Invariably someone comes along and starts hurling assertions at me, undoubtedly thinking he is presenting and winning an argument but actually only casting assertions. Seems that when someone is determined that a view is false simply because it is religious, then no amount of argument or evidence will persuade them. So many of those who claim to desire a more humane society reject totally the one thing necessary to bring that society about: the truth of the human person that is found only in the Person of Christ.
Peace be with you, JW. Keep up the good fight! 🙂
Most Christians only read ‘proof texts’ not the whole Bible. Numbers 35 gives us the reason for the death penalty: “‘So you shall not pollute the land where you are; for blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it.”
Christ has made the full and final atonement for all sins. No more blood is required. (It was said of the early Christians that they could not bare to see a man put to death, even justly. )
On war, American Christians need to read the heroes of the faith. Here is one, Charles Spurgeon, http://spurgeonwarquotes.wordpress.com/
And to read Scripture in context: http://textsincontext.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/romans-13-in-context-sword-pacifism/
A really fascinating article, JW! The comments section is a great read, too.
The only thing I would like to toss into this pot is that people who are against capital punishment / the death penalty should examine the cost of keeping a death row inmate in prison. Let me give a sampling: The official 2008 statistics I saw for the state of California, for example, list the cost of incarcerating a single inmate per year was $47,102! I don’t think that the combined salaries of my wife and I even amount to probably two-thirds that much. (I’m not joking.) It would be wrong to reduce a human life to a price tag, but it just doesn’t seem just that a person steals the life of what was most likely an innocent person and ends up living somewhat comfortably in a jail somewhere. (I once heard a pastor tell the story of a guy who went right back to jail after being released because he said the real world was too scary; he had to find a job, pay bills, do things himself. He made the statement that in prison everything was done for him.)
Oh! It should also be noted that I’ve seen a pretty interesting suggestion elsewhere by a Christian brother that the prison system is even foreign to the Bible. If I might paraphrase what I remember of it, it was: The Bible speaks of restitution and punishment, never incarceration.
Just throwing some thoughts out there…