Category: Morality

…. ask me if I’m surprised. (The answer is ‘no’)

Cover of "Letters to a Young Contrarian"

I find something repulsive in the idea of vicarious redemption. I would not throw my numberless sins onto a scapegoat and expect them to pass from me; we rightly sneer at the barbaric societies that practice this unpleasantness in its literal form. There’s no moral value in the vicarious gesture anyway. As Thomas Pain pointed out, you may if you wish take on another man’s debt, or even offer to take his place in prison. That would be self-sacrificing. But you may not assume his actual crimes as if they were your own; for one thing you did not commit them and might have died rather than do so; for another this impossible action would rob him of individual responsibility. So the whole apparatus of absolution and forgiveness strikes me as positively immoral, while the concept of revealed truth degrades the whole concept of the free intelligence by purportedly relieving us of the hard task of working out ethical principles ourselves.

– Christopher Hitchens, Letters to a Young Contrarian, p34

Islamic Republic of the Maldives Sentences Child Rape Victim to 100 Lashes

A girl is repeatedly raped by her father in law and other men. So what does the Islamic nation of the Maldives do? They sentence the girl to 100 lashes because she had sex outside of marriage.


The labels of “pro-choice” and “pro-life” have both come to represent legalizing and prohibiting abortion, respectively. This is inappropriate. The use of the words “choice” and “life” make it seem like this is all there is to the argument. The fact is both sides are wrong when they simplify this argument to either, “Do you hate a woman’s right to do what she wants to her own body?” or “Do you love killing babies?”

Since both sides have become hypercharged in a hypersensitive atmosphere, both sides fail to see the childishness of their own arguments.

Personally, I come down somewhat firmly on one side of this debate: the so-called “pro-choice” side; yet, perhaps counter-intuitively, I couldn’t care less about a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body. The fact is that the woman and her baby are not analogous to a woman and her arm. The baby is not simply a part of her body. She bears responsibility for the life inside of her, of course. This argument becomes stronger the further along in the pregnancy the woman is. It’s hard to see why once the woman emits the baby from her body, she cannot kill it, but if it is inside of her, and has the ability to live outside of her, she is free to kill it.

This would be the extreme, however. A third trimester abortion is something rarely performed unless the mother’s life is in danger anyway. However, this raises the question: where do we draw the line? I think almost everyone would agree that there is a point after which we cannot ethically terminate a baby (which is not a threat to the mother’s health), but it is much harder to say exactly when that point is. So, in all, given the choice between letting women do what they want to “their bodies” and allowing a life to be terminated, of course I will take away the woman’s right to do what she wants to her body.

Now, before I get to why I am actually on the side of the pro-choicers, let me breakdown why the “pro-life” term is also ridiculous. Think about that term. Pro-life. What stupidity. Who is not pro-life, in the greatest sense of the term, aside from psychopaths? This term is an ad hominem in itself. That’s a bad start. You’re labeling all people who disagree with you as psychopaths before the argument has begun. This is not an argument about who likes life and who likes death. This kind of thinking destroys any nuance that may be presented counter to abortion prohibition.

Now, as for me, I don’t believe that abortion should be legal, as I said, because I care about a woman’s choice to do what she will with her body. This doesn’t have a big enough impact on society, in my opinion — and I believe that it is the purpose of laws to make a society run as smoothly and humanely as possible. Well, if you’re a pro-lifer and you’re banging your desk and screaming right now, just calm down for a second. I have not just contradicted myself. I believe abortion should be legal because when we look at examples around the world where it is not legal, we have to consider what happens. Does abortion just stop? Wow, I wish I lived in that world! No. It does not stop. It goes underground. It still happens, and it happens by boyfriends kicking their girlfriends in the stomach until the fetus or the mother dies, it happens by single mothers using coat hangers to hopefully puncture the right organs (I will save you the details. I’ll assume you can guess what I’m saying), it happens through quack doctors, or people who are not doctors at all, try to make a quick buck off a helpless would-be mother. This is a totally inhumane society, and one I am not willing to live in. For this reason alone, I am for the legalization of abortion everywhere.

Abortion is an admittedly terrible procedure, but one which qualified doctors can perform with the lowest chances of error. This has nothing to do with being pro-choice or pro-life; it is simply the best solution to a hard problem.


How many people would claim that they love killing people? How many of those people do you actually think, if they knew the gruesomeness and cruelty of killing someone, would actually continue to claim that they love killing people?

Anders Breivik, the perpetrator of the terrorist attack in Norway, in which he single-handedly walked around an island full of unarmed civilians and shot them one by one, doesn’t even answer yes to the above questions. Breivik has been very straightforward about the brutality of his crime with the utmost details. He has incriminated himself over and over, without remorse. Yet, he did admit one thing: he said that as he was killing people, he had a strong desire to stop the whole time. He said that he only overcame this gut feeling by convincing himself that it was a necessary evil to help society as a whole.

So, aside from sadistic psychopaths (I’d argue that although non-sadistic psychopaths wouldn’t feel empathy for people they killed, they would be able to reason enough to decide that its not a good thing to kill random people and therefore have no desire to do so), people have a built in morality against killing random people.

We do not need the silly ten commandments to know that killing people is not good. This is instinctive. What were people doing before the ten commandments? Killing each other randomly? Society could not function if this were the case since society is built on trust.

Claims are made that modern societies are built on Judeo-Christian values; however, many less violent countries, such as East Asian countries, were not founded on Judeo-Christian values.

Also, I would argue that it is not even our society that makes us moral. The society just keeps the trust among us for those few who, for whatever reason (bad upbringing, bad DNA or a combination of these two), commit crimes. But, there are always exceptions. Most people will act morally in any political system.

People try to use NAZI Germany’s holocaust as an example of how our morality can be molded according to the regime in power. This is absolutely false.

If you actually know about the details of how the holocaust was carried out, you’d know that the most difficult aspect of pushing through the holocaust was human reluctance to kill. At first, soldiers were just ordered to shoot Jews. This didn’t last long. Although people naturally will go along with authority, this only goes so far. Watching numerous people die by your own hands is something that few people can endure. Eventually, some German soldiers refused to obey their superiors orders, and this led to a cascade effect of other German soldiers refusing. The result? The gas chambers. If you claim that gas chambers are more cost effective than shooting people, you are not thinking about what is involved in the gas chambers. First, the technology didn’t exist. They had to do some serious R and D to figure out how to pull off mass death via gas chambers. Second, they needed to transport people to gas chambers. Third, they needed to build gas chambers and death camps. Fourth, they needed to man these death camps. Fifth, they had to burn the bodies. Sixth, they had to do this in a way to not alert the local population (who, by their own morals, if they found out, would have become horrified). This is only six reasons, but there are many more. The fact is, the NAZI government learned very quickly that their soldiers were moral and they needed to circumvent this morality very quickly and efficiently to prevent mass mutiny.

Even in wartime, there are outbreaks of peace that happen. The Christmas Truce of World War I is probably the most well known example. Even though both sides of the War were taught to hate one another by political and military authorities, suddenly, mass outbreaks of peace occurred between British and German soldiers. It seems it’s actually not that easy to ensure a war continues without pressure from forces above (forces that themselves have not participated in the ugliness of war).

It is for these reasons that it really bothers me when someone claims that humans need religion to be moral. This is the greatest insult to the humanity that exists within all of us.

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