Lawrence S Johnson
I have a few questions…
Is it ever permissible to kill another human being or is it always evil?
Imagine that you were crossing a highway on a pedestrian bridge and you see a man with a rifle shooting at the cars as they pass beneath. You can see that he is seriously homicidal as two cars have already crashed, their drivers apparently dead. By a miracle he has not noticed you as you approach. The railing is not high, and if you were to give him a bit of a shove, he would topple over it and fall, probably to his death, ending his rampage. Should you push him?
Are all human lives equal in value, or are some worth more than others?
If it is possible to judge the comparative value of human lives, can one compare the values of American lives and Iraqi lives?
If one can do so, then is an American life worth more than an Iraqi life? Or is it equal to it, or worth less than an Iraqi life?
Does it matter who is asking the question?
Does it matter who is answering the question?
Would this performance be improved or degraded if the audience participated by answering the questions?
Do the U.S. war planners assume that an American life is worth more than an Iraqi life?
If they do, then we may assume that an American life is worth more to them than an Iraqi life. How many Iraqi lives are worth the same as one American life?
Is there a limit to the number of Iraqi lives that U.S. war planners would be willing to sacrifice for what they perceive to be U.S. interests?
Let’s assume that you are the president. You have just been told another country is about to engage in an act of terrorism that will cost 100,000 American lives. The only way to stop it would be to attack that country, resulting in a loss of 1,000 American lives and 10,000 lives in the other country. Have you any choice other than to order the attack?
On the other hand, why would you trust the intelligence or the casualty estimates for either alternative?
Shouldn’t the president also take into account the long term results of going to war as well as the immediate benefits and liabilities?
Should the president be concerned about the long term effects of seriously angering a large group of people many of whom feel they have nothing to lose?
On the other hand, is there anything this country can do that would not anger these people?
Again, you are the President, and you have been presented with a convincing argument that defeating Iraq will greatly enhance American power by impressing the entire Middle East with our strength and determination. There would be immediate gains that would benefit nearly everyone in that region, including resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and encouraging Islamic and Arab regimes to democratize. But neither of these benefits is a sufficient case for making war, neither in terms of International Law nor in the collective opinion of the American Electorate. Should you as President consider manipulating and misleading Congress and the public in order to secure these gains for your country?
On the other hand, shouldn’t the president be concerned with being honest with the people and upholding the Constitution, as long term benefits that transcend the immediate gains to be gotten from bending the truth and subverting the Constitution?
If the President were too idealistic, would he or she do things that were unrealistic or foolish that might endanger the country?
Is a human life worth more than an animal life?
Are there significant differences between humans and animals that might make a human’s life more valuable than an animal’s life?
Is it evil to kill animals for food?
If it is evil to kill an animal for food, who is more guilty—the person actually slaughtering the animal in a slaughter house who knows exactly what he or she is doing or the consumer unmindfully purchasing meat in a market with no conscious awareness of where it comes from?
If by either law or custom the people in this country stopped eating mammals, what would happen to the various cattle, sheep and swine that have been bred and raised for this purpose?
Could these animals live by themselves in the wild? Or, if not, would we then be responsible for supporting them, with no economic gain to be had from doing so?
This is the life of Jesus as presented in the Nicene Creed:
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate
from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake
he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
Why does the Creed fast-forward from Jesus’ birth to his death, skipping over all of his teachings and his message of love?
Does Christianity over-emphasize the death and suffering of Jesus and under-emphasize his exemplary life?
Has this emphasis on death in Christianity influenced the more deplorable actions of the Church, such as the Crusades, the murder of heretics and the Inquisition?
When I wrote these questions, people world-wide were watching a film in which the sufferings and death of Jesus are dwelt on in excessive and possibly prurient detail; furthermore, these sufferings are presented in a way that can easily be interpreted as unjustly blaming an often persecuted group of people for them. How should we respond to this film and to its director?
If the most important thing about Jesus was that his death saved us all from original sin, and his life was of little or no importance, then doesn’t that make his death little more than a human sacrifice in a mindless magical ritual?
What are the arguments in favor of capital punishment? Are any of them valid?
What are the arguments against capital punishment? Are any of them valid?
If capital punishment deterred potential murderers from taking life, would the smaller number of murders that resulted more than offset the lives taken through executions?
Is the life of a murderer worth less than the life of someone else?
The execution of a murderer is said to bring a certain satisfaction to the family, friends and loved ones of the victim. Does this make the execution worthwhile? Is there any spiritual cost to the family, friends and loved ones as they take this satisfaction?
The state gives a very high value to human life, and shows how high this value is by dealing severely with murderers. Does executing a murderer dilute the strength of the high value the state holds for life? Does it provide a bad example to those who might take a life that the state can take a life when it sees fit?
Does the fact that executing a murderer may save innocent lives in the future since the murderer won’t be around to take them provide a good reason to have capital punishment?
How does a thoughtful person, who greatly values human life, who is aware that the world is a complex place and that complex problems rarely yield to simple answers, who knows that an infinite number of shades of gray link the polar opposites of black and white in nearly every situation, how does this person take a stand on the large-scale sanctioned violence known as war, or on the small-scale sanctioned violence known as capital punishment?
If listening to or answering these questions results in some questioning of the meaning and value of human life and the taking of it, does this strengthen or weaken ones stand?
Do any of you think that I constructed these questions without bias? Do any of you think that I should have? Do any of you think that I could have?