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February 01, 2008


Resident Atheist

I can't believe you are trying to make an argument that you increase the value of LIFE by ending it. That's like saying that I am going to increase the value of my house by knocking it down. (I had to think a while to even find an analogy as silly as this real argument.)

I don't care how you sugar-coat your argument for killing someone by evaluating how they've lived, if you kill them you cannot claim that life, in any form, has MORE value. (I mean, killing does mean reducing life, right?) A much more honest argument would be that there times when life should be valued, and times when it shouldn't.

Peter Eicher

RA, speak to what John and I both mentioned....comparing taking the life of an innocent verses taking the life of someone who has destroyed other lives. Are you really saying that the two are the same? You really can't see how that is different?

Like I said previously, I haven't made up my mind fully about capitol punishment...but I can see how capitol punishment is a just "reward", which places ultimate value on the LIVES that were destroyed by the criminal. whereas, killing the innocent completely devalues life.


Therein lies the distinction about what I anticipated would be a controversial idea: that we tend to focus on the life of criminal and forget the life (or lives) of the innocent victims in a capital crime. It goes back to the idea of justice. If it's never right to take the life of another human being, than how do we appropriately punish someone who has taken the life of a human being? Life in prison without parole? Or, maybe we resurrect the Russian Gulag and give them a life sentence there?

Are there people who have been mistakenly killed because of being wrongly convicted? Certainly, and each incident is a tragedy. While those are the result of an erroneous judgment on the part of a fallible human being, the decision to end the innocent life of a child (or an elderly person at the other end of the life cycle) is not a mistake in judgment, but rather a willful decision.

My point being, eliminating a "life-for-life" penalty creates a moral system that is anything but just. We cannot quantify the value of a life (For example, how high would a ransom have to be for my kidnapped child for me to finally say, "I'm sorry, but that's more than I'm willing to pay?" There is no price too high that I would pay as a father.) And for the Christian in particular, we must wrestle with the fact that God set up the "life-for-life" standard. In fact, it sets the foundation for why Christ needed to come down and offer His life for ours as a means of preventing the ultimate death that comes through unrepentant sin.

We've gotten on two different, yet related, issues here which both require some concerted thinking and reflection as we come to an understanding of the value of life in human society.

Resident Atheist

I certainly don't equate the taking of an innocent life with that of taking the life of a criminal (of course, my definition of an innocent life would not include an aborted fetus). I believe the first is reprehensible and the second justified. You've started to hint at my point to John in your second paragraph.

I think we both agree that the killing of the victim puts us -1 in the 'Life Value Bank'. The question is how to calculate for capital punishment. I say that by killing the criminal you are devaluing life, which puts us at -2. You think that it somehow makes up for the victims, putting us back at 0.

I would argue that you do not value life, but you value a 'well-lived' life. The distinction is important. Being 'alive', does not make a statement about how well you do it. If we are truly calculating on life, there is no way that ending one can be +1 in the bank. I think the reason you hesitate to acknowledge the difference is because it makes it harder to argue that abortion is wrong when you admit that there are times when life has no value.

Peter Eicher

Oh, but there is the difference, RA. All life has incredible value, even that of the murderer we are talking about. The value of a thing is how much someone is willing to pay for it. i.e. I can price my house at $200,000, but I'd be lucky to get $100,000 out of it. The value is whatever someone would pay for it. John and I believe that everyone, even the murderer has immense value...so much that the price paid was the ultimate price, the death of Jesus Christ. Please don't interpret that statement as me trying to get spiritual on you, it's just to show you where we are coming from. Everyone- children, adults, elderly, unborn, lawyer, rapist, murderer - we all have the same value. The price paid for us...Jesus' life.

So the question of capitol punishment is not one of "value", the question is, is it "Just" to kill a killer, or would it be more Just to let them live?


Aha! Finally. I've been holding back, but as usual you guys say everything for me, on both sides of the issue. (I think I've just either landed wrong too many times while pole vaulting or spent too much time breathing toxic fumes while remodeling, in order to respond quick enough).

Pete, I love you man. Thanks for bringing up that question. Ok, game on! Keep going.


Resident Atheist

Peter, you are completely missing my point. You won't get any argument from me that killing a killer is just. I'm all for it. Hell, I'd throw in a few pedophiles as well. If you're looking for someone to defend the abolition of capital punishment, I'm not your man.

The point I am trying to make is much more subtle. And conveniently for me, you have helped make my point in your argument. If the murderer's life has such immense VALUE, how can you say that you do not devalue life when you kill him? That is a complete contradiction. There is no way around it.

So, since you are saying that it is perfectly okay to devalue life at times, why is that an acceptable argument for stopping abortion?

I've always found the 'you devalue life when you have an abortion' argument particularly unpleasant. I think it trivializes the decision that these women make and places a finger on the side of the scale with the fetus's life.

There are plenty of good reasons to argue against abortion and for the death penalty. I just think that devaluing life isn't one of them.


RA, this has been a very thought-provoking dialogue all the way around, as usual whenever you enter the fray. :) For the record, I'd be interested to hear your reasons against abortion and for the death penalty.

Peter Eicher

ok, here's the thing... Perhaps I'm missing something, but it seems when women are making a decision whether or not to have an abortion, they are making that decision based on values (not monetary[necessarily]), but values none the less. If they decide to abort, they are saying (if I'm not mistaken) that they value something else (be it freedom, finance, emotional stability) more than they value the life of the child. they may not put it in those words, but I can't help but think that this is what it boils down to.


If I may weigh in here again, I think RA's point, Pete, is not necessarily with your understanding of the rationale for taking an unborn baby's life. Instead, the difficulty lies in the fact that on the one hand we say we value life (thus, we are against the taking of life through abortion), while on the other hand we advocate the taking of human life if that person is a criminal, while still suggesting that even the criminal's life is valuable (but not valuable enough to save). RA, is that your point, or are we both wandering aimlessly in the woods of ignorance here?

Resident Atheist

You are exactly correct, John. I think it is fine to argue that you are devaluing human life. I just find it hypocritical to then be pro-capital punishment. Seems very inconsistent to me. The weird thing is that is exactly what you must argue if you tow the Republican party line.

I'll post to your previous questions later when I have a moment.

Resident Atheist

John- to adress your earlier question regarding my arguments against abortion and for capital punishment:

Arguing for abortion is not a position I usually find myself in, but I'll give it a shot. I think you could make a case that ALL life is sacred, and killing anything is wrong. (Of course, I would expect you to oppose the death penalty and be a vegetarian.) If you were to believe that a fetus is a living being, then you could argue that it is immoral to end its life. You could argue the same point based on your religious beliefs, rather than a morality position. You could argue that there are many people who would like to adopt a child rather than having it terminated. All of these are plausible arguments to me. (I find them lacking, but they are fair arguments that one might make.)

As far as capital punishment goes, I haven't heard a dissenting voice from this crowd. Seems like we all agree that individuals that are unable to abide by society's laws should be extracted from the population. I agree that it is just, but I also like that it is vengeful and may be a little prohibitive. The only thing I don't like about the death penalty is the amount of time and resources it takes. We need to figure out how to cut out the appeals in cases where DNA evidence is iron-clad. Oh, and I'd also add a rule that we can decide to make you die in the same manner that you killed your victim.


heck yes dude! I've taken care of way too many shaken babies (that have died), to want to see some jerk left alone in the gorilla cage at the zoo for a while! (with an angry gorilla in it, of course).

but, I'm pretty sure that's not right.

Resident Atheist

Andy- don't discount your gut feeling so quickly. Why isn't it right and just? Eye for an eye, and all...

I find it a little silly that we think killing someone is perfectly fine as long as it's done without pain. I would argue that the pain would serve as a better deterrent.

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