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Reflections on Ethics 31
Killing for God

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There was an article in the Sunday newspaper;[1] a young man in Chattanooga, Tennessee had killed his parents. According to him, God had told him to do it.

Normally murders in Tennessee don't get reported as far away as Alberta. But killings on God's instructions tend to get wider coverage. It is easy to think these are a higher proportion of murders than they actually are. But still, it is a rare year that passes without one or two of these being reported.

In recent memory -

And God told them all to do it.

Non-believers have little problem with this excuse. The killer was either insane at the time, or was rationally laying the groundwork for an insanity defence.[2]

But what about believers? Just read the Old Testament. It's full of examples of God telling people to kill others. So, you would think they might be susceptable to this type of excuse. But you don't ever hear of any believer standing up in support of the killer saying "If God ordered it, it must be OK."[3]

Nor do they ever stand up and say "Well, God spoke to me, and said he didn't order this hit."

They seem to agree with non-believers; the killer was either insane or faking it. They just do not accept the idea that God might order killing someone today - even though the holy text they rely on has numerous examples of it happening in the past.

They think murder is wrong, even if the killer thinks God ordered it.

What strikes me here is that it seems that murder is considered wrong, irrespective of God's involvement. Everyone, regardless of belief or disbelief, views murder as wrong - not because God says it is wrong, but because, in spite of the imperfections in the definition, it is seen as an absolute wrong.

None of us needs a deity to tell us murder is wrong.


  1. Calgary Sunday Sun, December 12, 2004
  2. If I ever publicly and loudly convert, those who have offended me should be wary. I'm setting up my defence in advance.
  3. An exception seems to be the willingness for some to stand up for the self-appointed vigilantes who kill doctors and nurses from abortion clinics.