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Posted: 20 June 2008 08:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Brendan, I initially incorporated my answer to your post with Stephen Lawrence’s.  However, I re-read what you said and I wanted to change my answer.  Also, I happened to see this article which indirectly ties in with human instincts and social interaction. 

As always you make a strong and persuasive argument.  I agree that deterrence is by far a more valid rationale.  I think we disagree only insofar as I think retribution is a legitimate part of justified response.  The fight/flight reflex may not be helpful in some circumstances, but it still plays a useful role in our existence.  Just because we live in civilized society does not mean we don’t still face dangerous or even deadly circumstances. 

This article is somewhat off point, but it made me think about this post.  It describes sarcasm as an important social and evolutionary tool:


http://www.livescience.com/history/080620-hn-sarcasm.html

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Posted: 20 June 2008 10:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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jrm5001,

Thanks for the link. Definately an interesting article. I suspect a lot of our behavior is the consequence of adaptations to living in large, complex groups. If you haven’t read Stephan Pinker’s The Blank Slate, I highly recommend it as a discussion of the question of what, if anything, human nature is, how it got that way, and what it’s implications are for modern living.

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Posted: 20 June 2008 10:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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JRM5001 - 20 June 2008 08:31 AM

Stephen,

I am mystified by your first answer, who do you want to blame for the Holocaust other than the Germans? 

I don’t want to blame anybody. I would like us to learn to do better, that’s all. I think by learning lessons on all sides we can do better and what prevents us doing that is that we focus too much on who is to blame.

JRM5001 - 20 June 2008 08:31 AM

[quote author=“SL”]
No retribution is the idea that payback is justified full stop.


I do not understand what you are saying in this sentence, please clarify.

Sorry I think my lack of punctuation might not have helped. I’m just saying retribution is paying someone back for what they have done, with punishment and that can’t be justified.

JRM5001 - 20 June 2008 08:31 AM

I’m also not sure what you are saying here.  A deterrent is different from retribution.  Deterrence is put in place to prevent future behavior.  Retribution is acting in response to the prior act of someone else.  Retribution can be a form of deterrence, it appears to me that you are saying that retribution is justified when one believes the future acts of the offending party may be worse if they aren’t stopped.  It seems you are making my argument for me. 

I would also say it’s as much to do with preventing others as the person you do it to. I’m sure many, perhaps most murderers would never kill again but still the deterrent is enforced to deter others all the same.

I believe retribution is payback rather than merely acting in response, it’s giving the person their just desserts.

 

I think using children is a bad example, I cannot think of a circumstance when retribution against offspring is justified and I wouldn’t disagree that some forms of punishment should not be rehabilitative in nature.

I was just trying to show how I think in some circumstances a penalty inflicted upon somebody may be fair to them. It may be in their best interests. People who had the short sharp shock treatment when they were younger (not children) often say it was the best thing that ever happened to them. I’m not saying that’s right or true but just that I can imagine that paying a penalty can be for people’s own good sometimes. 

The actions taken against Germany after WWII were justified retribution.  The Polish, Russian, and Jewish survivors of the Holocaust received some satisfaction in knowing that some of the people who enslaved and murdered them were punished.  That wasn’t the only reason to defeat Germany and hold the Nuremburg Trials, but it was a part of the rationale.

Well my point is that while people think retribution is justified they will have a strong desire for satisfaction and when they understand it isn’t their desire will lessen.

If people’s desire for satisfaction lessens and their understanding increases, there will be much less violent behaviour on all sides.

Stephen

[ Edited: 20 June 2008 10:49 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 20 June 2008 11:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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JRM5001 - 20 June 2008 08:31 AM

I am mystified by your first answer, who do you want to blame for the Holocaust other than the Germans?

I must jump in, here, by saying that I am a bit mystified by the manner that you would blame “the Germans” blanketly for the holocaust.  Do you include in that group the many German Jews who suffered at it’s hands?  I have met quite a few holocaust survivors… and they were Germans!  Are black Germans and German Gypsies and German expressionistic artists who were labeled as degenerate to blame for their own persecution as well?  So what about the intensely large population of Germans that suffered at the hands of Nazi fascism?  Is it really the “Germans” as a whole that are to blame?

Anti-semitism was out of the closet and rampant in the US and England and France and Russia just as it was in Germany before WW2.  All of those nations shared multiple currents of thought and expression.  All of them shared in the evil.  Henry Ford’s deep reciprocal fondness for Adolph Hitler and detestation for president FDR is just one simple example of American conservative support for the Nazis.  To this day it is quite easy to find conservative nationalism and racially elitist rhetoric shouted without apology, both in the US and abroad.

In the 20s and 30s and 40s and to this day one will also find gentle, kind and caring persons in all of the countries that we have mentioned.  Isn’t such blanket generalization of a people part of what led to the Nazi persecution of the Jews?

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Posted: 20 June 2008 01:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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erasmusicinfinity,

I think it’s pretty obvious that I hold Hitler and the Germans who perpetrated the Holocaust for their own crimes.  To a lesser degree, the Germans who were aware of what was going on or that something bad was happening and did nothing bear some blame as well.  The people as a whole who supported the regime and the Nazi war effort (there was never an uprising against Hitler—only two small scale assasination attempts) were also somewhat culpable.  But blame the German jews for the Holocaust?  Come on, I don’t think you can reasonably read that into my post.  You have taken what I wrote beyond any reasonable interpretation into the absurd.  Please try to read my posts a little more analytically in the future.

You have also tried to equate me with the Nazis for allegedly stereotyping all German people.  I suspect you came after me because it was easier than having to defend the Germans of the WWII era, a nearly impossible task.  The Nazis made racist assumptions based on people’s religion and ethnicity and sought to eliminate them.  My statements were made about the “volk” based on their actions as a nation.  There is a fundamental difference, I hope you can see that. 

How can latent anti-semetism in the US make us culpable for the Holocaust?  Did the US engage in a massive effort to rid the Earth of jews?  No.  The US fought the Germans, we did not support them.  Even before we entered the War in 1941, the US was clearly aiding the enemies of Germany and not the Nazis. 

Henry Ford admired Hitler’s economic programs bringing Germany out of the Great Depression, he may or may not have agreed with Hitler’s anti-semetic rants, I don’t know.  However, once the war began, Ford mass produced thousands of Sherman tanks and other war materiel to help defeat the Nazi so I fail to see how Ford bears any culpability for the Holocaust. 

I would like to know as a practical matter what you and Stephen would have done with Germany beginning in 1944 through to 1955 and what you would have done with the Mengeles, Goerings, and other monsters of the Third Reich when the war was over.  Would you try to rehabilitate them?  That’s seems laughable to me.  If you were to punish them, what would your rationale be?  Who would be punished and what would you do with the nation of Germany as a whole?

I hope you realize that when you say “we’re all to blame”  that no one can be held at fault for their actions which leaves the murderers, rapists and thieves free to do their worst.

[ Edited: 20 June 2008 01:51 PM by JRM5001 ]
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Posted: 20 June 2008 07:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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JRM5001 - 20 June 2008 01:46 PM

I think it’s pretty obvious that I hold Hitler and the Germans who perpetrated the Holocaust for their own crimes.  To a lesser degree, the Germans who were aware of what was going on or that something bad was happening and did nothing bear some blame as well.

I also hold the Nazis and the Germans who perpetrated the Holocaust to their crimes.  My issue is with holding those Germans who were not to blame for the holocaust accountable for it.

JRM5001 - 20 June 2008 01:46 PM

But blame the German jews for the Holocaust?  Come on, I don’t think you can reasonably read that into my post.  You have taken what I wrote beyond any reasonable interpretation into the absurd.

Then I think that I did a pretty good job of illustrating the absurdity of collective blame and punishment.  Of course you can’t blame persons who belong to a collective population for an injustice commited by other members of their group when they, in fact, are the victims of the injustice.  It is a smaller step along a similar line of reasoning to recognize that you can not blame all individuals for generalized actions of a group.  For example, to blame Germans collectively for the holocaust.

JRM5001 - 20 June 2008 01:46 PM

You have also tried to equate me with the Nazis for allegedly stereotyping all German people.  I suspect you came after me because it was easier than having to defend the Germans of the WWII era, a nearly impossible task.  The Nazis made racist assumptions based on people’s religion and ethnicity and sought to eliminate them.  My statements were made about the “volk” based on their actions as a nation.

I did not try equate you with the violent actions of the Nazis.  I did point out that you were collectively judging an entire population.  The nazis collectively judged the jews by characterizing them collectively as evil.  For this reason they justified their actions, in their own minds, as a form of retributive justice.

JRM5001 - 20 June 2008 01:46 PM

How can latent anti-semetism in the US make us culpable for the Holocaust?

It has never been latent.  It was quite the status quo to openly discriminate against jews in the US prior to WW2.  Also, I did not say that anti-semitism made the US culpable for the holocaust.  I said that it doesn’t make all Germans culpable for the holocaust.

Consider, for a moment, that during the early part of the 20th century an influx of German immigrants reconstituted America’s ethnic majority as German.  Also consider that antisemitism did not occur of a sudden in Germany with the rise of Hitler and the Nazis.  There was a buildup spanning centuries.

JRM5001 - 20 June 2008 01:46 PM

I would like to know as a practical matter what you and Stephen would have done with Germany beginning in 1944 through to 1955 and what you would have done with the Mengeles, Goerings, and other monsters of the Third Reich when the war was over.

I would have done what was necessary to stop their actions and to prevent such future actions.  Vindication would not have been on my agenda.

Back to the main topic of this thread.  Tell me if I’m falsely summarizing, but your holocaust analogy seemed, to me, an attempt to convey legitimacy for retributive justice by, in effect, establishing that certain people and/or situations are quite simply and intrinsically evil.  Of course, the holocaust has become something of a trademark for evil.  But I don’t regard morality that way.  There are reasons why people do things, however misguided and wrongful they may be.  And I don’t say that we should ever tolerate them.  But moral and immoral behavior are not black and white.

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Posted: 21 June 2008 11:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Occam - 17 June 2008 08:29 PM

You people make everything too complex.  I suggest a simplification.  First, get rid of jails because they are just places to train criminals to be more effective.  Second, change the system to make three classes of crime: 1) Breaking a law, 2) Stealing, 3) Murder.  Handle them as follows:
1) Assign a schedule of fines.
2) The person or company found guilty of stealing forfeits all his/its assets to the government.  The company would be dissolved.  Personal assets that are hidden by belonging to a family member or being kept overseas would also be forfeit.
3) Everyone found guilty of murder is sentenced to capital punishment with a maximum of six months for appeals.  However, if a person is executed then later found innocent, the judge, district attorney, police involved, prosecution witnesses, and the jury would all have been complicit in a murder and, therefore, be sentenced to be executed.  This would either take care of the population problem, or possibly, reduce capital punishment to a much more manageable level.  smile

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Posted: 23 June 2008 11:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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First of all, I did not raise the issue of Hitler, I responded to Stephen Lawrence’s post where it appeared to me that he was stating that Britain and France may have actually borne the responsibility for all the horrors of WWII:

I’ve read that the cause of the second world war was the retributive justice dished out on Germany after the first world war. So if that’s right, who was really to blame? Hitler or the people who dished out the retribution after the first world war?

StephenLawrence Posted: 18 June 2008 09:59 AM

You really should be a little more discerning as a reader, I never said you equated me with the violent acts of the Nazis.  How could you, you have no idea who I am.  You did equate what I said to Nazi rhetoric though and that was uncalled for.  Once again, I don’t think the reasonable reader would take my statements to mean that I blamed German jews for the Holocaust.  I never said innocent people should be punished, but the declaration of war and the Holocaust were undertaken by the German government of the day.  Punishment of not only individuals but also of the German nation was appropriate. 

So according to your proposed solution, if we could have caught Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels, Mengele, etc, they could live under solitary house arrest so long as the arrest ends the war and prevents them from furthering their goals? 

We do disagree, I think the perpetrators of the Holocaust were inherently evil, bad or whatever you want to call it.  Their egregious acts of cruelty, torture and murder were crimes against humanity and those who were caught were rightly executed.  The execution of the Holocaust perpetrators gave comfort to those who survived and that is a legitimate end of justice.  The problem with your view of the world is that if there is no moral right or wrong, then on what basis do you find someone guilty of anything?  What’s your standard of a crime and on what do you base your authority? 

Last, your insinuation that the invasion of Iraq was somehow religiously inspired has no basis.  If the invasion of Iraq was a religious quest, why did the US go after the most secular regime there?  We could have hit Saudi Arabia and taken Mecca and Medina; the US could have taken Jerusalem, the place where Christ was crucified; or we could have attacked the fundamentalist Iranian regime, who held our embassy staff hostage for 444 days, and whose president calls us the “Great Satan.”  Iraq was the least religious target in the reason.  Further, unless I am mistaken, there have been no efforts to convert anyone to Christianity or to install a Christian based government.  If you have evidence to the contrary, please share it.

[ Edited: 23 June 2008 11:51 AM by JRM5001 ]
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Posted: 23 June 2008 01:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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JRM5001 - 23 June 2008 11:45 AM

You did equate what I said to Nazi rhetoric though and that was uncalled for.  Once again, I don’t think the reasonable reader would take my statements to mean that I blamed German jews for the Holocaust.  I never said innocent people should be punished, but the declaration of war and the Holocaust were undertaken by the German government of the day.  Punishment of not only individuals but also of the German nation was appropriate.

I most certainly don’t think that collective punishment of innocent Germans is appropriate.  And I equated your blanket vindictiveness toward innocent Germans with nazi vindictiveness toward jews.  I do regret that you take my difference in perspective personally.

JRM5001 - 23 June 2008 11:45 AM

So if we could have caught Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels, Mengele, etc and we had taken all forms of communication, they could live under solitary house arrest so long as the arrest ends the war and prevents them from furthering their goals?

Sure.

JRM5001 - 23 June 2008 11:45 AM

We do disagree, I think the perpetrators of the Holocaust were inherently evil, bad or whatever you want to call it.  Their egregious acts of cruelty, torture and murder were crimes against humanity and those who were caught were rightly executed.  The execution of the Holocaust perpetrators gave comfort to those who survived and that is a legitimate end of justice.

Yes.  That is where we disagree.  It was justified to fight against the nazis.  But the taking of delight, or comfort or whatever, in the dishing out of just desserts toward others strikes me as nothing but sadism.  As I said before, I also believe that such a vindictiveness is a large part of what motivated the nazis to persecute the jews from the start.  Of course they were wrongful both in their thinking and in the morality of their choice, but the nazis genuinely believed that they were acting on behalf of a moral imperative.  They believed that they were acting in the name of justice.

JRM5001 - 23 June 2008 11:45 AM

The problem with your view of the world is that if there is no moral right or wrong, then on what basis do you find someone guilty of anything?  What’s your standard of a crime and on what do you base your authority?

It is my view that the notion that one speaks and acts on behalf of a god translates very quickly to the belief that one’s personal views are those of such a god.  I am not personally interested in authority.  I only wish to advocate for compassion via reason.  I expect that you will take or leave my arguments as you see fit.

That being said, I think that it is obvious that I do think that there is such a thing as right or wrong.  Otherwise, I would not be an advocate for anything.  I should like to make clear to you that I do not identify either as a cultural relativist nor a moral relativist as you accuse me.  It may be that I have a different conception of morality than you do.  I don’t base moral authority on the dictates of a vaguely defined third party deity.  My moral foundation stems from you, me and the persons that we are discussing.

It is my view that placing moral “authority” in a god is the ultimate form of relativism.  Is such a god also not accountable to moral principles that are even bigger than himself?  Is it that anything that god dictates or does necessarily becomes good, or does god himself have to follow certain rules in order to be good?

It is curious to me that those most readily seek to inflict vindication on others within this life are so quite often the same persons who believe that god will inflict eternal punishments and rewards upon us when we die.  I think that point speaks volumes about the insatiable appetite of vindication.

JRM5001 - 23 June 2008 11:45 AM

Last, your insinuation that the invasion of Iraq has no basis.  If the invasion of Iraq was a religious quest, why did the US go after the most secular regime there, they could have hit Saudi Arabia and taken Mecca and Medina; the US could have taken Jerusalem, the place where Christ was crucified; or we could have attacked the fundamentalist Iranian regime, who held our embassy staff hostage for 444 days, and whose president calls us the “Great Satan.”

“Great Satan” sounds, to me, quite a bit like “Axis of Evil.”  I don’t think that the Iraq invasion has been, first and foremost, a religious quest.  I think that it has been primarily about economic greed, and that religious differences have served to enhance tribal divisions between global populations.  But perhaps the rightness or wrongness of the Iraq invasion and the motivations behind it are a bit off of the topic original topic of our thread, no doubt it is a worthwhile discussion in and of itself.

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Posted: 24 June 2008 02:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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erasmusinfinity -

[quote author="erasmusinfinity" date="1213650116">

The only possible exception that I can think of is accidental killing as a result of self defense, in which case death should be avoided if and whenever possible.
Also, to the degree that such a resultant death is accidental, it isn’t really killing.

OK, we may be closer than I thought so I will clarify smile

I believe the death penalty (as a punishment) is wrong for reasons already stated (in essence that mistakes cannot be corrected/compensated for and that the state declares murder to be wrong so should not stoop to the same as a means of punishment). In principle I believe it is better that 20 guilty men go free than one innocent man be imprisoned.

I do not believe it is wrong to kill another sentient being in self-defence either personally (to defend another directly) or less so (as in when soldiers fight to defend their family, friends & countries). I have no inherent objection to armed police but prefer the British system of specialist police units rather than all police being armed ... in the event of a conflict between an apparently armed criminal and police I believe they should take that criminal out in the most efficient way possible but the moment he is under arrest it all changes and minimum force should be applied.

I am, in principle, OK with mercy killings (assisted suicides and similar) but feel each case should require legal mandate to avoid abuse.

And finally, just to confuse things further (EVIL GRIN), I am not and could never be a non-violent pacifist.

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Posted: 24 June 2008 08:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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erasmusicality

I did not take your point personally.  That may have been an unfortunate use of “uncalled for.”  I’m saying that you have no grounds to make that comparison.  Only if you unreasonably interpret my statement can you make that comparison. 

You advocate a strange form of justice.  I think you will find very few people who would agree that house arrest for Hitler was acceptable.  Nevertheless, we are not arguing the popularity of a punishment.  You and I simply disagree.  Retribution is legitimate when carried out reasonably.  Holocaust victims probably felt some satisfaction in knowing that the guard who shot their sister or killed their father was punished, that does not make them sadistic. 

The invasions of Poland, France, Russia, et al were acts of the German state.  The German people elected Hitler, they manned the armies, they worked in the war production factories, they allowed their jewish neighbors (and homosexuals, gypsies, and other “undesirables”) to be rounded up, used and disposed of.  Should not the German state not pay some penalty for allowing such acts to be perpetrated in the national name?  I’m not advocating sadism (see the Soviet invasion and occupation of Germany) but breaking up the country, putting it under Allied rule for 10 years or so, and forcing the Germans to confront their crimes seems reasonable. 

You stated that you did not want a central authority and that “my moral foundation stems from you, me and the persons that we are discussing.”  So how are we supposed to have some universal rules by which everyone can learn and live by.  If you and I met in person and in the course of our disagreement, you beat me up (or visa versa), I might find that unacceptable, but if your personal system of morality was “might makes right” your acts wouldn’t be “wrong” they would just be subject to disagreement about morality. 

With “Great Satan,” you missed the point, the Iranians use the term to describe us.  I was trying to demonstrate that the Achmedinejad and most in the Iranian government are zealots in the context of refuting your assertion that the Iraq invasion was some sort of Christian act of terrorism.

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Posted: 24 June 2008 08:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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JRM5001 - 24 June 2008 08:11 AM

You advocate a strange form of justice.

I tend to think that I advocate the just kind of justice.  wink

JRM5001 - 24 June 2008 08:11 AM

Retribution is legitimate when carried out reasonably.

But retribution is entirely emotional.  There is nothing reasonable about it.  To take gratification or pleasure in the suffering of others is sadism.  To embrace a pattern of such indulgence is termed Sadistic Personality Disorder.  Just because these things are common does not mean that they are morally justifiable.

JRM5001 - 24 June 2008 08:11 AM

You stated that you did not want a central authority and that “my moral foundation stems from you, me and the persons that we are discussing.”  So how are we supposed to have some universal rules by which everyone can learn and live by.

It depends on what you mean by “universal rules.”

JRM5001 - 24 June 2008 08:11 AM

If you and I met in person and in the course of our disagreement, you beat me up (or visa versa), I might find that unacceptable, but if your personal system of morality was “might makes right” your acts wouldn’t be “wrong” they would just be subject to disagreement about morality.

I did not say that each of us had an equally viable personal system of morality.  There are normative ethical principles that are shared across cultures and are derived from our innate empathies and from practical utility models.  Some of us are more compassionate than others.  Some of us work more constructively in service of social utility than others.

Fictional third parties, such as gods, get in the way.  They are imaginative figments that take on the personalities of their believers.  To believe that one acts in the name of a god is to eliminate any possible place for disagreement or argument.

JRM5001 - 24 June 2008 08:11 AM

With “Great Satan,” you missed the point, the Iranians use the term to describe us.  I was trying to demonstrate that the Achmedinejad and most in the Iranian government are zealots in the context of refuting your assertion that the Iraq invasion was some sort of Christian act of terrorism.

I don’t think that I did miss the point.  I agree with your point that those who would use term “Great Satan” are zealots.  I simply adde the point that the same is true for those who would use the term “Axis of Evil.”

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Posted: 24 June 2008 08:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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erasmusinfinity - 24 June 2008 08:12 PM

Fictional third parties, such as gods, get in the way.  They are imaginative figments that take on the personalities of their believers.  To believe that one acts in the name of a god is to eliminate any possible place for disagreement or argument.

It doesn’t help that you can use the bible to justify nearly any position (including killing a disobedient child), and people strangely pick and choose which biblical text is no longer relevant to the ‘word of god’, I don’t recall reading any amendments to (unlike our constitution) the bible.
It also doesn’t help when as the religious muslims are calling for a jihad against the US, president shrub is invoking the name of god for our ‘cause’.

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Posted: 19 July 2008 05:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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awisemanoncesaid - 17 June 2008 08:50 PM

There were no qualms about Hitler being killed. He was a killer.

StephenLawrence - 18 June 2008 09:59 AM

Well he wasn’t a killer all alone, he had a large chunk ( dunno exactly what figure) of the population agreeing with him and getting on with the job of killing 6 million Jews and so on.

Why did the population support him? And if not him surely someone else would have risen up instead?

It is the opinion of many that killing Hitler would have prevented WWII. Although there were plenty of sick, twisted ****s in Germany, none was insane enough to start such a war. Churchill believed this, he called WWII the “Unnecessary War”. There were opportunities to kill Hitler before the war - the British government refused to do it.

Had the US assassinated Saddam Hussein, 5000 lives and $3 trillion might have been spared.

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Posted: 22 July 2008 09:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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A Voice of Sanity - 19 July 2008 05:52 PM
awisemanoncesaid - 17 June 2008 08:50 PM

There were no qualms about Hitler being killed. He was a killer.

StephenLawrence - 18 June 2008 09:59 AM

Well he wasn’t a killer all alone, he had a large chunk ( dunno exactly what figure) of the population agreeing with him and getting on with the job of killing 6 million Jews and so on.

Why did the population support him? And if not him surely someone else would have risen up instead?

It is the opinion of many that killing Hitler would have prevented WWII. Although there were plenty of sick, twisted ****s in Germany, none was insane enough to start such a war. Churchill believed this, he called WWII the “Unnecessary War”. There were opportunities to kill Hitler before the war - the British government refused to do it.

Had the US assassinated Saddam Hussein, 5000 lives and $3 trillion might have been spared.

The same could be said if the US had stayed out of the war too.

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