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Another Ignorant Meme

Memes are created by the dozens everyday.  I have no idea what makes one meme go viral while others sit and rot.  But I’m convinced the anti-religious ones that go viral must do one of two things:

  1. Commit serious exegetical errors that Average Joe Christian cannot counter because the church sucks at apologetics.
  2. Commit a serious category error that Average Joe American won’t notice because he’s too busy watching horrid shows like Keeping Up With the Kardashians and not busy enough learning how to think critically.

This meme goes in the second group.  I would like to point out that it is exactly the same category error discussed with the Scumbag God meme: a failure to distinguish between “kill” and “murder.”

“Kill” is a broad term that refers to the taking of lives.  Murder, on the other hand, is the unlawful taking of a life.  All murder is killing, but not all killing is murder.  For example, the following “kills” are lawful:

  1. Hunting
  2. Trapping
  3. Euthanizing sick/injured animals
  4. Butchering animals for food/by-products
  5. Killing enemy combatants
  6. Capital punishment
  7. Self-defense
  8. Defense of another who is immediate, life-threatening danger
  9. Killing a person who presents an immediate threat to the community but not directly to you (police officers only)

No comment on the fairness of those kills, but they are considered lawful in that if you clean a fish, kill an enemy soldier, shoot a horse with a broken leg, or kill to protect your child you won’t face prison time.

Murder represents a case where you killed unlawfully.  For example, if you caught your wife in bed with another guy, then beat that guy’s head in with a sharpened stick, you’re going to jail.  I’m sure that the jury would sympathize with you, mostly because there’s at least one hotheaded, possessive S.O.B. of a juror who would have done the same thing.

But that doesn’t change the legality of your action.  You still killed without a justifiable reason.  And that makes it murder.  (In the above example, if you had no “cool-down” period, it would likely be charged as manslaughter, but my point still stands that the killing is unlawful.)

Capital punishment is the right of the state, agree or disagree with it, it is still a justifiable killing.  As is killing an enemy soldier in combat; soldiers know what they’re getting in to and they know they are risking their lives when they enter the armed forces.  Same as any police officer or government Special Agent.

So, you can be pro-life, pro-war, and pro-death penalty while not earning the brand of hypocrite.  Some might say that this is special pleading, but it isn’t because I’ve shown the one exception to special pleading — the principle of relevant difference.  Lawful killing of enemy combatants and convicted murderers/traitors is vastly different than murdering a baby in the womb.

Okay, I jumped the gun a bit.  I haven’t actually proven that abortion is murder.  And that’s not my aim.  My aim is to show that not all killing is unlawful, and therefore this meme commits a serious category error.

And now, having squashed another ignorant meme, I shall enjoy a piece of Victory Gum…

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About Cory Tucholski

I'm a born-again Christian, amateur apologist and philosopher, father of 3. Want to know more? Check the "About" page!

Posted on August 24, 2012, in Apologetics, Morality, Philosophy, Pro-Life Issues and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I have to say that I actually agree with that picture…I don’t think someone who would say that would be worried about the law, héhé, especially since abortion is legal in many cases anyway…whether the murder/killing, what have you, is lawful isn’t the issue here…the issue is whether it’s right or wrong…

  2. If we are discussing federal law from our two countries, which I understand this post to be, then abortion is also a lawful kill, not a murder.

  3. “I’m trying to demonstrate there is a difference between lawful and unlawful kills.”

    That is very easy. The short answer is:

    To clarify, In Australia, abortion is lawful on demand up to 24 weeks.

    In your country USA, abortion is lawful up to viability date.

  4. Very interesting post. I think it would be interesting if you expanded and clarified what you mean by “lawful” and how that interacts with the coherence of these three positions.

    I wonder if you saw my own thoughts on the topic: http://jwwartick.com/2012/08/24/war-life-death/.

    • I DID see your post. I think I actually stole the meme from you.

      I’m using “lawful” in the secular sense of “not punishable by the state.” Perhaps “justifiable” would be a more precise term. An unjustified kill would be murder.

      Pro-war (I agree with you; what does that even mean?) and pro-death penalty mean that you favor (I think; pro-war is beyond vague and Internet memes aren’t known for elaborating on definitions) situations that — like it or not — create justifiable kills.

      Abortion is an unjustified kill. It is far different to take a baby’s life than to shoot an enemy combatant or execute a vicious killer or wartime double-agent. Therefore, one is not a hypocrite for supporting war and capital punishment while opposing abortion.

      I hope that cleared things up.

      • Cory,

        Thanks for clarifying!

        I’m wondering though: if you define your terms as “justifiable,” aren’t you here begging the question (or at least not providing positive arguments) in favor of the death penalty? Your argument in its favor was this:

        “Capital punishment is the right of the state, agree or disagree with it, it is still a justifiable killing.”

        But isn’t that exactly what’s at issue in the meme? Doesn’t it suggest that it is not justifiable? How would you address that?

        I pretty much agree here, I’m just trying to draw out what you mean.

      • I figured out my problem.

        I need to develop a justifiable reason for capital punishment apart from the state reserves the right for itself. That’s question-begging. The state has also declared abortion is perfectly fine, and that is something I oppose because I don’t think that is a right the state can take.

        My usual formulation, that I’ve stated elsewhere, is that the rights of our American citizens are inherent to every individual. The government doesn’t grant those rights. The government defends those rights.

        I need to justify capital punishment outside of declaration of the state. If I simply use the line of thought that the state reserves capital punishment and go no further, than I haven’t really answered the problem posed by the meme, since the government doesn’t grant us our rights.

        I might develop this more down the road. But I see now what the issue is.

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