Right, Wrong, and Killing
September 13, 2017 at 3:00 pm #5046
I happened across some photographs that reminded me of one of the biggest moral dilemmas that I have ever faced in my entire life.
Generally speaking, killing is wrong. One of the ten commandments appears to be clear about it: Thou shalt not kill.
A good enough message, on the surface. But this gets complicated when someone breaks your door down in the middle of the night, and is set on killing you and your family in order to rob you. If you kill them, is that still wrong? Yes, you are in self-defense, and we humans can understand that and figure it out. But could this particular god figure it out?
It gets even more complicated when discussing whether or not slavery is right or wrong, when the bible was used to justify the ownership of human beings. It even has very clear rules on how to own human beings.
I’ve had Christians ask me, “If you don’t believe in the bible, then how did you know to not kill your parents?” It’s probably the most insulting question of all time. It’s as if that thought crosses their mind, and then they pause to open a bible and look it up. That’s an insult to Humanity.
I had a dilemma in my mind, a situation in my real life, where I wanted to kill someone. It was not about rage, anger, or hatred. It was not about financial gain. It wasn’t about some random stranger.
My grandmother and I were very close. When I was little, she would tell me that she wanted me to become a famous doctor who cured the world of the things that lead to death. She also said that she never wanted to live in a vegetative state, and would rather be dead. “If that ever happens, I hope that someone will kill me.”
I never became that doctor. One day, she had a stroke. It was really bad, but she lived. Next thing you know, she’s in a “home” in a vegetative state. She would be sitting in a wheel chair, drooling, and being fed pudding, while they’re re-teaching her the alphabet and giving her medication to keep her alive.
I went to visit her, and it was horrific. She had ended up in a place, with everything she feared, everything she hated. Her eyes were hollow, and her grin was wide, vacant, and uninspired, like how a monster in a horror movie might grin. If I looked hard enough, I could see some pain in what little bit might have been left of her. Maybe that was my imagination.
And for a moment, I wanted to hold a pillow over her face, to stop her pain. I cried so hard about it.
I wanted to kill my grandmother, that one person whom I loved so much. That one person who made me who I am today. That person who cared, and took the time to teach me and guide me. I wanted to take her pain away.
But I couldn’t do it. I knew back home that I had a baby son, and that he needed me in this world. I looked in my grandmother’s eyes. She did not know who I was, and I had just reminded her a few minutes earlier. I left and never went back. She lingered for ten years, before finally dying.
I DID THE RIGHT THING, AND THE WRONG THING
To this day, I sincerely believe [since I don’t know] that I did the wrong thing for my grandmother. My only hope is that “she” was dead, and the husk that once was her was nothing more than a life-form of pulsating meat, waiting to expire.
At the same time, I am fairly certain that I did the right thing for my son, as he had a father who was there for him, instead of in prison for doing the right thing for his grandmother.
I find that particular commandment about not killing to be so childish; so black-and-white in its approach. Maybe it’s easier to have a bumper sticker, sound byte rule for the uneducated, unwashed masses.
Had I gone through with it, then chances are good that I would have been put on death row and executed by the “Christian” leadership of this country, which is also killing. Would that be right or wrong? I see it as wrong, due to what my motives would have been.
That was the first time that I had ever been in a position where I felt that killing would be the right thing to do. It was one of the most difficult events of my life.
ANOTHER DECISION THIS YEAR
My situation with my grandmother was just over 20 years ago.
I found myself in a similar, yet slight different position, yet gain, in April of this year, when my girlfriend’s older brother had a health issue related to his recent Diabetes diagnosis. He was taking his medication, but had not yet modified his diet. He lived alone.
He did not show up for work, so they called us to see if we knew anything about it. He loved his job, so we got worried and had a relative who lives closer to him go over and check. No answer at the door, and his car was in the lot. The landlord would not open the door, so she called the police for “a well visit.”
They gained entry, and found him on the floor. He was naked, wet, and in some type of sugar shock.
Their guess was that he was in the shower when he felt that something was wrong. So he got out of the shower and tried to make it to the door to call for help. He didn’t make it.
At the hospital, his sugar levels were through the roof. He was on life support. Initially, we were hopeful. But then there was talk of organ failure, and more than one organ. It kept getting worse. A neurologist ran some test, and told us that the part of his brain that makes him “that person we know” is dead.
We had a decision to make. It was difficult for my girlfriend, as she struggled with it. This was the only person left in her immediate family, so if he died, then she would be “alone.”
I reminded her of my story about my grandmother. I told her that, “If you love your brother, then you will end his suffering.”
We talked about it more, and eventually agreed and made the decision to remove life support. Then we sat by his bed for ten hours, watching and waiting as he died. We saw his last breath.
Since we made the decision to remove life support, are we killers in the eyes of this mythological god?
THWARTING GOD’S WILL
There was this one nosy nurse who came in before the shift change, when her brother’s body was still clinging to life. She saw in the file that we had made the decision to remove life support. It didn’t take long for me to see that she was one of those “good Christians” that comes up from time to time.
Already knowing the answer, based on the file, she asked us if we were the ones who made the decision to remove support. We said we were. She then asked, “Who are YOU to thwart god’s will?”
This came off as rather rude and insensitive. I reminded her that modern medicine and medical machines are hard at work every single day in an effort to thwart the will of this god. These machines are relatively NEW in the context of human history, and that they’re a product of SCIENCE. If we relied on nothing more than your god, then we’d not have these things. AND, if these things did not exist, then his suffering would have ended a long, long time ago.
You are an agent of science, working every day to thwart the will of your god, and YOU GET PAID FOR IT! So don’t come in here preaching to us any more!
We did file a complaint. I hope that she saw her hypocrisy and quit, but I seriously doubt it. Her mental gymnastics were on a certain Nadia Comanici level that probably can’t be beaten.
These are two slightly different situations, requiring two slightly different actions.
For my grandmother’s situation, I did nothing. To this day, I see it as both the right thing AND wrong thing to do.
As for my girlfriend’s brother, I have no doubt that it was the right decision, and that decision did result in his death, even though “he” was dead long before we made the call.
I think that the concept of killing is a very complex issue. To me, it is very obvious when it comes to NOT killing my neighbor to steal his wallet, and things like that. Those scenarios are wrong to me, and may be due to a complex mix of empathy, social and legal pressures, and just not wanting to feel something that horrible.
But when it comes to situations like my grandmother, the motivation was love, which is more powerful and important to me than money or revenge.
Context is everything. While I think there is a context to killing, where there are VERY RARE cases that may justify it, I also think that the “commandment” about not killing is simply not enough when it comes to addressing the complexity of this horrible issue. In the cases where it might be justified, the issue is still far from easy.
It’s a good thing that we humans do not have to rely on an ancient book to get our morality. There is a big difference between the bad idea of getting moral behavioral advice from a book, and the bad idea of using that book to justify horrific behavior.September 13, 2017 at 3:16 pm #5047
Gregg R ThomasParticipant
Killing is NOT right nor wrong, killing is a means to an end.
Killing the threat before it kills you is NOT wrong.
Killing your neighbor so you can have his wife is wrong.
The right or wrong of killing is dependent on the circumstances.September 13, 2017 at 4:12 pm #5049
Thou shalt not kill is explicit.
Jesus, as a human, understood that killing is wrong in all circumstances. The person killing you is wrong to kill you, yet you are still wrong to kill your attacker. If you can’t stop them with words and they lay hands upon you to injure you, you must abide as this is God’s will.
Jesus would not raise a fist or ask his followers to use violence because he truly believed killing is wrong and killing in self defense is also wrong.
A similar message was understood by many of the Jewish victims of the holocaust. Many refused to use violence to stop violence.
Note: Let’s not get into a debate about Jesus as a man, I am speaking of Jesus as the character.September 13, 2017 at 4:27 pm #5050
Now I wonder why so many American “Christians” own guns, and are all about “stand your ground.”
When I hear that “Jesus would not raise a fist,” I cannot help but imagine him with a double-edged sword coming out of his mouth. I know, the mouth is not a fist.September 13, 2017 at 4:42 pm #5051
Hypocrisy abounds in humanity. There is also the fact that few Christians ever read the bible, even fewer try to understand it further than the simple gloss over interpretations of pastors, and even fewer truly understand it as a morality myth then become atheists.September 13, 2017 at 7:13 pm #5052
There is a distinction between killing and murder. I think there is a time and a place for both.September 13, 2017 at 7:28 pm #5055
Hey Dang, that sounds horrific – both deaths you experienced. I’m not sure I’d have responded as delicately as you did to the nurse, mind you.
i always found it bizarre that there needed to be a commandment not to kill. It’s as if the Jews wandered about happily stabbing anyone that irritated them – until this majestic revelation occurred to stop them.September 13, 2017 at 10:00 pm #5059
I’ve heard it many times the words should be…… shalt not ”murder”.September 13, 2017 at 10:32 pm #5061
I’ve heard it many times the words should be…… shalt not ”murder”.
It might depend on which version of the bible is reference.
For King James Version, the most popular version in America, in Exodus 20:13 – Thou shalt not kill.
The source below also references non-English versions, and gets into some points about this, which is apparently some kind of controversy. I think if a god wants to say something, then it should try to be a little bit more clear.
I rarely discuss or debate the bible, because most Christians have actually read the book, so it becomes a waste of time.
While I do wonder what this Christian god Yahweh would think about it if I exercised mercy upon the life of my beloved grandmother, I do not have any big concerns about what a mythological deity would actually thing. It’s curiosity more than anything else, and wondering how others perceive this.
[source] Regarding Exodus 20:13, not only does the King James Bible read “Thou shalt not kill” but so also do Tyndale 1534 (he translated Exodus before his death), Coverdale 1535, The Great Bible 1540 – “Thou shalt not kyll.”, Matthew’s Bible 1549, Bishops’ Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1599, the Douay-Rheims of 1610, Webster’s translation 1833, the Longman Version 1841, the Brenton Bible 1851, Lesser Bible 1853, the Smith Bible 1876, The Revised English Bible 1877, the Sharpe Bible 1883, Darby 1890, the American Standard Version 1901, The Ancient Hebrew Bible 1907 – “Thou shalt not KILL.”, The Improved Bible 1913, Lamsa’s 1933 translation of the Syriac Peshitta – “You shall not KILL.”, the 1936 Hebrew Publishing Company version, the Catholic Douay 1950, the Revised Standard Version 1952, the New Life Version 1969, the St. Joseph New American Bible 1970, the Updated Bible Version 2003 – “You shall not KILL.”, The Word of Yah 1993, the KJV 21st Century Version 1994, Green’s Modern KJV 1998, the Third Millennium Bible 1998, God’s First Truth 1999 “you shall not KILL”, the Heritage Bible 2003, The Complete Apostle’s Bible by Paul Espositio 2005 – “You shall not KILL.”, The Revised Geneva Bible 2005, the Context Group Version 2007, Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010, The Work of God’s Children Illustrated Bible 2011, the brand new critical text Common English Bible of 2011 – “Do not KILL.”, The New Brenton Translation 2012 – “You shall not KILL.”, The Bond Slave Version 2012, The Revised Douay-Rheims Bible 2012, and the Katapi New Standard Bible 2012 – “You shall not KILL.”September 13, 2017 at 10:42 pm #5064
I meant that is what people have said, not a book.September 13, 2017 at 10:58 pm #5065
Ah, yes. People do say things.September 13, 2017 at 11:21 pm #5068
Murder carries by definition a wrongness. You cannot use the word without its embedded negative judgement. It would be like having a commandment that said “Do no wrong”. Those Christians who think the correct interpretation should be ‘murder’ rather than ‘kill’ completely miss that point.
Just think of all the time and resources that could have been saved if Moses had come down with a small pebble with “Be nice” on it 🙂September 13, 2017 at 11:23 pm #5069
Or keep thy hands/feet/teeth/weapons, to thyself……September 13, 2017 at 11:29 pm #5073
I’m favoring “Don’t worry, be happy” now, even if it’s necessary to get a bit bigger a pebble.September 13, 2017 at 11:39 pm #5076
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