Saturday, November 9, 2013

Thou Shalt Not Kill

Most theologians interpret this commandment to deal with murder rather than other forms of killing. Wikipedia has a handy entry outlining the history and interpretation of this verse.

Jews and Christians alike -as well as every state and the Federal government- prohibit murder.  (There isn't much to map in terms which states have legalized murder or not. <wink>)

Among Christians, the broader context of issues of life and death vary with different denominations and branches holding contrasting views.  The Catholic Church has one of the most logically elegant approaches by opposing a range of actions viewed as ending or preventing life:

  • opposing contraceptives
  • opposing abortion
  • opposing the death penalty
  • opposing euthanasia  
The later Protestant denominations which broke off from the Catholic Church in past 500-600 years take a variety of approaches.  Some more conservative churches oppose abortion but support the death penalty.  Some more liberal ones oppose the death penalty but leave abortion up to parishioners as a matter of individual conscience.  Quaker Christians are pacifists.  Other Christians serve in the military.  So while I've had Christian friends explain these differences by arguing their Christianity is the correct one and that the other Christian approaches are misinterpretations, it is clear there is no single Christian viewpoint on these issues.

What Do Americans Believe Is Morally Acceptable?

Source:  2012, Gallup
Gallup has an interesting poll from 2012 looking at various issues in terms of whether respondents believe they are morally acceptable.  Keep in mind, these numbers reflect what people feel regarding the morality of an issue -not whether they should be legal or not.  

The majority of Americans -including American Catholics- believes using birth control involving contraceptives is morally acceptable.  The majority also supports the use of the death penalty.

While only 38% of Americans view abortion as morally acceptable, 58% of Americans still support using stem cells harvested from human embryos in research.  Cloning -whether of animals or humans- is decidedly unpopular.  

The data on suicide as a morally acceptable choice also shows some mixed feelings.  Only 14% of Americans believe suicide is morally acceptable, but those numbers jump to almost a majority -45%- when asked about doctors assisting patients to commit suicide.  Perhaps respondents view doctor-assisted suicide as ending pain for a terminally ill person and view suicide as more a choice driven by depression or life circumstances that can be changed?  I can hypothesize, but I do not actually know from this one poll.

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