Thou Shalt Not Kill?


Yesterday’s post brought with it some very interesting comments. One, in particular from a lovely Christian lady who said “The idea that people can take my religion and decide that “Thou shalt not kill” is negotiable makes my heart sick.”

This got me thinking quite a bit about the commandment, Thou shalt not kill, perhaps the most impossible commandment to abide.

Every one of us commits mass murder on a daily basis. Yes, PETA members, even you. When we are walking outside, we kill countless number of insects. Every time we scratch or wash ourselves, we kill thousands upon thousands of bacteria. We kill without thinking about it all day every day. We kill to feed ourselves. Even the most vegan of vegan people are killing plants in order to sustain their own lives. When a lion kills a limpy gazelle we say it’s thinning the herd or it’s natural selection at work. If all life is sacred, then what makes insects so expendable?

We, as human beings are members of the animal kingdom. We are hard-wired to kill, just as all other parts of the food chain are instinctual killers. It seems that only us humans have put in place a set of rules regarding when it is okay to kill and when it isn’t. For instance it’s okay to kill another person in self-defense, or in defense of others.

Then there’s the fact that humans are the only species that kills for sport. How do religious hunters reconcile their breaking of the number one commandment?

As an atheist, I can’t help but look at sweeping statements like thou shalt not kill and question its meaning. If it is taken literally, we are all going to burn in hell for simply stepping on a spider. If taken as thou shalt not kill other humans, then why are we inventing exceptions to the rule, like self-defense, or killing in the name of God? (which makes no sense if he told you not to kill in the first place)

A little religion is a dangerous thing because it teaches us to deny and ignore who we are at our most basic core. We pretend to be better than animals when it comes to killing, when in fact we are far, far worse. Animals don’t kill just for sport. Animals don’t keep souvenirs of their kills hanging on the walls of their dens. When a lion looks at a herd of gazelles, he purposefully picks the lamest, weakest or oldest one to take down so that the herd will continue to replenish itself. When a hunter looks at the same herd, he wants to bag the biggest, strongest, most magnificent specimen for bragging rights. When are we going to drop the pious, holier than thou crap and admit to being the self-serving hypocrites that we actually are? It’s great to strive to be more than that. I think we should be striving to back up our own lofty opinions of ourselves. But until we admit to what we really are, we cannot know how far we have to go.

9 thoughts on “Thou Shalt Not Kill?

  1. My first thought on the comment you mention was a little more direct. Someone left a link on my piece about John 3:16 the other day that works almost as well for Exodus 20:13 or Deuteronomy 5:17.

    We should revise it: “Thou shalt not kill, unless you hear a voice which you believe to be God telling you to do so.”

    Which is, of course, the problem with basing one’s system of morals on unevidenced assertions and ancient books of mythology. If ‘hearing’ an unevidenced god and acting on its commands is taken as a virtue, we should not be shocked or surprised when some people ‘hear’ commands to do things we personally find abhorrent.

  2. The problem with the lady’s comment is, “Thou Shall Not Kill” is pretty much negotiatable, if we are to look at the OT. There are dozens of verses instructing believers to kill heretics. So which verse(s) should believers adhere to? Should they kill non-believers or not?

  3. And many of you may know that “thou shalt not kill” (or murder, whatever) is not actually in the Ten Commandments. I explain this a little further in the post below, but the summary is that Ex. 20 tells of the first set–the ones that Moses smashed (and the version quoted by Christians). Then he goes back for another set. Read them (Ex. 34)–“Thou shalt not murder” isn’t there!

    What Does the Bible Say About Abortion? Not Much.

  4. That image is offensive and sexist… if it was a woman being crushed by a man’s shoes this website would be shut immediately.

    Remove it or I will contact a lawyer and press charges.

  5. There’s a quote I remember vaguely that goes, “We are all hypocrites to some degree…some of us are just more skilled at it than others.”

    It’s been said that we are both moral angels and devils at the same time, and unfortunately people will want to groove on the former and ignore or deny the latter only to succumb without ever noticing it.

    None of us are saints, not even the best of us, and only in admitting it can we seek to improve.

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