The Murder Question

Why is it wrong to murder?

The answer to this question seems obvious and even nonsensical to most people. In this post I will explain briefly how the Christian and atheist differ in their reasoning. For argument's sake I will define murder as the willful taking of an innocent life.

A Christian believes it is wrong to murder because God says - Do not murder. To a Christian, God is the supreme law giver and disobeying  God's law has eternal consequences. The taking of an innocent life can lead a person to eternal damnation. The atheist also might believe that it is wrong to murder, but the reasoning isn't as clear since atheism is relativistic in nature. Atheism for the most part doesn't believe in moral absolutes.

There are 2 arguments which atheists commonly make regarding the murder issue: 1) The environmental/cultural argument, and the 2) the utilitarian argument.

I will briefly explain both positions:

1)The environmental/cultural argument. 

Since atheists don't believe in an absolute law giver, they argue instead that the environment/culture of a person determines weather it is right to murder or not. The atheist might agree that murder is wrong but not on objective grounds. Proponents of this argument say that human behavior is shaped exclusively by  the customs of that culture or society.

The problem with this argument is obvious to any person with basic historical knowledge. Firstly, not every culture prohibits murder. There are many cultures throughout history and in the present which promoted and even advocated murder.  An example of this were the ancient Inca who performed ritual human sacrifices on children in order to appease their gods.  Another example of this ideology is radical Islam which promotes murder to those who won't pledge their allegiance to Allah. What made Judaism so unique was that it was the first culture in history to publicly outlaw murder.

2)The utilitarianism argument.  Utilitarianism is a fancy philosophical word which means that morality is based on its usefulness to a given society. To an atheist, being good is utilitarian. Something is good because it is useful.

The problem with this reasoning is that  morality isn't always useful  Jesus dying on the cross wasn't useful, but necessary to the spread of Christianity.  St. Theresa of Calcutta helping dying lepers wasn't useful since these people were destined to die, doomed by their specific caste system.  Why build hospitals? Why take care of the poor? Why protect the lives of unborn fetuses? All of these actions would be immoral to most atheists since they are not "useful." Some atheists throughout history have advocated the whole scale murdering of certain people on the grounds that it was more expedient to do so for the greater good of their society. (Think of concentration camps, gulags, abortion, euthanasia, and ethnic cleansing.)

To be fair, of course not all atheists are immoral. Many atheists are exceptionally moral and do great things for the world such as taking care of the poor, building schools, hospitals, fighting for their countries and many worthy philanthropic works. My argument to these exceptions would be that the individual atheist is being moral in spite of their worldview. Unwittingly these atheists through these moral actions are proving the existence of a god since God is the author of all good;whose existence they spend their lives trying to disprove. Atheism is immoral in nature since it doesn't believe in moral absolutes.  How can something be moral if morality doesn't exist in the first place? I know that there have been terrible, immoral so called  Christians throughout history, but the big difference here is that the moral standard of Judeo/Christianity  has never changed even if its people failed to live up to it.  Morality is objective, not subjective in nature. Just like gravity.  The law of gravity exists whether people choose to believe in it or not.   It's not an subjective thing.  Gravity is keeping our planet from shooting off  into the stratosphere and keeping our feet on the ground (literally)
Yet in Sir Isaac Newton's time there were nay-sayers  to this very basic truth.

As a people, we need to accept the concept of moral absolutes or a moral law.  Humanity is destined to annihilate itself if we don't come to a collective understanding of whether or not murder is wrong.


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