Posts Tagged ‘murder


Do you approve of capital punishment? Explain.

(This is the 18th question in Brett Keane’s Atheist Challenge)

I used to strongly support capital punishment, but in recent years, I have begun to rethink my position. I have heard some pretty convincing arguments against it, and I am still considering them.

Since I can’t offer a definite answer at this time, I’m going to bow out of this one for now.


If you could go back in time and kill Hitler or Stalin as babies so they never kill the millions in the future, would you do it if time travel was possible?

(This is the 13th question in Brett Keane’s Atheist Challenge)

If you could go back in time and kill Hitler or Stalin as babies so they never kill the millions in the future, would you do it if time travel was possible?

Kill, no. Prevent all of the destruction and pain that they caused, yes.


Would you die for your religious beliefs?

In the post “Would you kill for atheism?,” Mark made the following comment:

That’s the wrong question. The question should be, would you die for your religious beliefs?

My answer isn’t different, however: No. Since I don’t have any religious beliefs, I don’t have anything to die for.

(We’ll save the “atheism is a religion” question for a future post, but here’s a quick spoiler:  No, it isn’t.)

But maybe this is the wrong question, too. Perhaps it should be “Would you die for your lack of religious belief?” or “Would you die to defend atheism?”

And for those, the answer is the same. No. Life is far too precious to waste it over ideological disagreements.

The fact is, if I were in a stressful situation, where someone was pointing a gun to my head and telling me that I needed to accept Christ or Mohammed or any other savior, or threatening to kill me if I admitted to being an atheist, I would lie to save my own life. I’d pretend to accept any religion my captor wanted me to right then and there, just for my own self-preservation.

Yep, I would lie – something I normally have a rule against – to keep myself (or others) from dying. And I’m convinced that this would be the most reasonable, rational thing to do.

Cowardly? Maybe. That’s for others to judge, and I’m not particularly interested in their decision. My life is all that I have, and there are a few people beside myself who treasure it – my daughters and partner in particular.

Really, I think most other people would do the same thing in the same situation. But I could be wrong about that.

Thanks for the question, Mark!


Where do you get the idea that killing is wrong?

I’m back from our mini New Year’s vacation, and I’ve returned to find a smattering of new comments on my posts, most of them with some great questions to answer. Thanks to all for the comments!

I’m planning to answer most of the questions I get in new posts, rather than responding in comments, to make them more visible, and possibly inspire more discussion from others.

This question comes from DG Pomerhn Jr., who is waving his hand frantically from the back of the room:

Oh, oh, oh!! Question, please!

Where do you get the idea that killing (with the exception of self-defense) is wrong?

Darwinian evolution says that we should eliminate the competition – so we don’t have this intrinsically inside ourselves…so where does the moral concept come from…hmmm?

Interested in your answer. I agree with you, about not killing others over differences of belief, by the way. Good one on you!

Thanks for the question, DG. I’d like to start by clearing up something you’ve said that is untrue, and commonly heard in discussions about Darwin and evolution: Darwinian evolution does not say that we should eliminate the competition. This is a common misunderstanding of natural selection and the phrase “survival of the fittest” (which itself is something that someone else used to inaccurately describe natural selection – see more here). Rather, it said that certain traits that help a species survive and reproduce will become more common in that species over time.

The image of bigger and stronger varieties of cavemen clubbing their weaker ancestors and dragging their women off by the hair is nowhere near an accurate representation of natural selection (though it was something I frequently saw happen first-hand in high school). For a much better example of what evolution says about selection, read more about Darwin’s finches.

Now, on to your question -Where do I get the idea that killing (with the exception of self-defense) is wrong?

Initially, I received the idea from my parents. They taught me a very strong sense of right and wrong that included not taking the life of another. They in turn learned it from their parents, who learned it from their parents, and so on through my family’s history.

Most, if not all, of my ancestors were religious, and I would probably go far enough to say that all of those were Christian. All of them likely began with religious reasons for recognizing this rule, as did I:  Kill someone, and you’ll go to Hell and burn forever (unless you’re forgiven).

But when I look past the religious reasons for not killing others, I can see why we’ve developed this rule as a species. Killing others brings misery – it saddens those who suffer the loss of a loved one, it breaks up families, and it even hurts societies when it removes productive members from them. When I thought about how early human societies were formed, and how those that developed firm rules about murder as a way to help those societies survive, I saw the bigger picture.

Observation shows us that societies that work together and abstain from slaughtering each other are more productive, and benefit the individuals much more. One classic example is the piranha, schools of which will ravenously devour every living thing in sight, except for their fellow piranha.  Humans have developed this philosophy to a much higher degree.

When I look at religious reasons for abstaining from murder, however, I find that there are a lot of exceptions permitted. Some religions permit the murder of nonbelievers, unbelievers, witches, and homosexuals. Some even promote the murder of specific societies or races. These rules appear in their holy books for all to see. (You can see a few examples for yourself here, here, and here.)

I reject every one of these exceptions. The fact is, most people living in our society today reject them as well, believer and nonbeliever alike, and many of those have no idea that these exceptions are even in their holy book. They’ve come to the same conclusion, beyond any religious belief, that these exceptions bring misery, break up families, and hurt societies.


Would you kill for atheism?

(This is the 5th question in Brett Keane’s Atheist Challenge)

Would you kill for atheism?

I cannot imagine a situation where my lack of belief in a god would require me to kill another living being. I wouldn’t kill for my lack of belief in Bigfoot, leprechauns, magic(k), psychic powers, numerology, or astrology, either.

I would kill as an absolute last result in defense of myself or others, and that’s about it.

So, I guess the simple answer is no.

I am an atheist, a person who does not believe in the existence of any gods.

Many people don't know a lot about atheists, and have questions about them. In this blog, I do my best to answer them, to help build an understanding between atheists and theists.

Do you have a question? You can post it in the comments to any of my blog entries, and I will do my best to answer it in a new entry.