Murder is wrong–but only sometimes

03 Jun

Genocide is wrong.

I don’t remember when exactly I learned that–it could have been from a book, or in class, or even from my parents. Whichever is was, the only important part is that I picked that up at some point or another

When I was a junior in high school, I was in an IB English class. For those who don’t know, the IB English curriculum dictates two papers on world literature, which are to be completed in either the first or second year of the program and shipped off to somewhere else in the world at the end of the second year.

One of the options for one of the papers was The Odyssey, by Homer.

Now, I hate to spoil the ending of a book, so I’ll try to keep out all the minor details. There’s a point in the book where Odysseus is told by the gods to kill fifty people. He does, and is duly rewarded.

While the class talked about how he obeyed his gods’ orders, I talked about how Odysseus was hearing voices telling him to kill people. In today’s world we call that schizophrenia, I argued. At what point does religious obeisance translate to murder? At what point does that become a problem, one that we in the United States now call a serious psychological problem? Is murder ever justified, even if it is committed on religious grounds? This was my topic, I decided. Unfortunately, my ideas were still raw, and I hadn’t quite reached that last question when I proposed my topic. My English teacher denied my request, saying that I might get a low grade because it offended the scorer.

That was unfair, I thought. Students should be graded on the merits of their paper, the validity of their interpretation, and their ability to carry their argument. Questioning religion should mean absolutely nothing with respect to my grade. I’m sad to say I gave in to my teacher’s request–now I can’t even remember what I wrote about, it was that unimportant to me. Portrayals of men and women throughout history, probably, a topic which usually bores me to death on a good day. The only time I can ever stand reading about anything like it is when I read Clarissa’s Blog, but that’s another story for another day.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. If I can see that genocide is wrong, that killing people is wrong, even on religious grounds, why is it that elementary schools have to allow people to teach that genocide is right if it’s in the name of God?

Let’s take a step back. These people see elementary schools as potential missions. Their goal is to convert children to a specific brand of Christianity, the most outspoken members of which have a tendency to claim the following (in no particular order, and often all at once):

1.) Abortion is wrong because murder is wrong*.

2.) This is the United States, not Nazi Germany.

3.) This is the United States, not the Soviet Union.

So, murder is wrong, but genocide on religious grounds is just fine? How does that work? Since when is genocide not murder?

Oh, but they’ll be punished anyway, when they die and find themselves barred from Heaven. Regardless of their morality, their code of ethics, or their own beliefs. Someone can be the most moral, ethical person in the world, but if they don’t have this highly specific system of beliefs, they’re not going to Heaven. Regardless of whether they believe in Heaven or not.

I’d be perfectly fine with it if anyone thought I was going to be punished in the afterlife for not following their beliefs. Does that mean I agree with them? No. Does that give anyone the right to try to “reeducate me,” and teach me the “error of my ways?” Absolutely not. I personally don’t care what you think of my beliefs or what will happen when I die. So don’t pretend that it’s some personal affront to yourself when I tell you I don’t believe what you want me to believe. If you like to walk around with your eyes closed, completely content that “it’s all for the best,” then go ahead**.

Clarissa is completely correct when she says that the more people state that we’re not the Soviet Union, the more these peoples’ policies appear identical to the Soviet Union (or Nazi Germany, as the case may be). Here are people who will freely tell you that genocide is barbaric, that murder is wrong, but it’s okay if it’s done in the name of God. In the Soviet Union, Lenin was treated as a god, and communism as religion. Therefore, all murders and imprisonments and genocides committed in the name of communism were perfectly fine, right?

But, Fundamentalist Christians will tell you, that doesn’t count, because Lenin was not God, and neither was Stalin, and neither was Hitler. And communism is not Christianity. So that makes them wrong. They can’t commit murders in the name of God, because they didn’t share our exact brand of Christianity, if they were Christians at all.

So, no one but Fundamentalist Christians can commit murder in the name of God, and they’ll not only be forgiven by God for committing murder or genocide or what have you, but they’ll also be rewarded.

I have to agree with Larisa on this. At what point will people stop taking the Bible so literally that they completely ignore their own religion’s basic tenets? Rather than obey blindly as in Orwell’s 1984***, is it not better that we keep our eyes and ears open? Is it not better that we learn to think for ourselves?

If murder is wrong, then it’s wrong. There are no exceptions. Not even in the name of God. We have a name now for those people who have committed murder “in the name of God,” and we call it “mentally unstable.” You can’t just go around killing people and claiming that even though God said “thou shalt not kill,” he also said “kill this person, for they have sinned.” Because that, my friend, is a direct contradiction within Fundamentalist Christian teachings.

How can any Fundamentalist Christian claim that history will never repeat itself because we live in an enlightened Information Age when members of this group are essentially promoting the beliefs behind the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition? How can anyone tell me that McCarthyism was wrong, that Stalin was wrong, that Hitler was wrong, and then turn around and be willing to commit the exact same crimes in the name of their God?

If murder can never be justified, then why is it that this is exactly what these people are trying to do?

*I’ve written more about this statement here.

**Bonus points if anyone can guess what book I reference here.

***Anyone else find it funny that Fundamentalist Christians try to ban this book because it supports exactly the blind obedience they promote, but in a negative context?

Before taking offense at this post, please note that I am not claiming that all Fundamentalist Christians believe this. The ones who do just happen to be very outspoken.


Posted by on June 3, 2012 in Uncategorized


2 responses to “Murder is wrong–but only sometimes

  1. Titfortat

    June 5, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    Here is a kicker, I think Clarissa indentifies as a Christian. I guess she is just not one of “those” Christians, right? 😉
    Ultimately, if you are going to call yourself a Christian you have to answer this one simple little question. Remember, everything that comes afterwards in regards to the religion is dependant on your answer. Here goes……….Do you believe a talking snake convinced a woman to convince a man to eat an apple and because of that we are all shit for all eternity. Please save my sorry ass Jesus. 🙂

    • Pen

      June 11, 2012 at 3:59 pm

      Remember that there’s a difference between “Christian” and “Fundamentalist Christian.” The first is a general term covering many sects, while the latter term describes a specific sect with specific values. Really, any member of any religion has to ask themselves whether their religious text can be taken literally. From there, the question turns into whether or not a religious text can even be taken completely metaphorically. The tenets of fundamental Christianity state that only a specific version of the Bible can be taken literally. Other sects take different perspectives.


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