Life matters... All life. Period.

So I was listening to a song today, and part of it includes the audio of a preacher. The preacher states that "We find it easy to crush a worm we see crawling on the earth, so it is easy for God to cast his enemies down to hell".

To me, this seems to address the moral stance of unending torture. (IE: How could a loving God torture people forever?) To the preacher in question, we are like worms to God, and he doesn't think twice about torturing us lowly Atheists. This says something about this concept of God, as well as how some of his believers feelings on non-human life in general.

Is it physically easy to crush a worm? Yes. But it seems that the worms life is being deemed as below our consideration. Thus, one should be able to kill it without any thought. A total lack of compassion... I for one will move a worm off the walkway and into the grass when I see one crossing in my yard on a hot day. Or if it's raining and all the worms are out on the surface, I will do my best to avoid stepping on them. Yes, they are 'only' worms, but needlessly killing them is pointless. But you can extend this thought process further, to all non-human life. Is the life of a bird or rodent unworthy of our remorse? I for one feel terrible if a squirrel runs out in front of my car and I end up flattening it on the road. Yes, it was the squirrels fault and I did everything I could to miss it, but I still feel bad for the poor squirrel. I'm not talking about being broken up due to the event, but still feel compassion for the animal in question and any family it had.

If there is a spider, bee, firefly, katydid, etc etc in the house, I will pick it up and move it outside or trap and release as needed. Killing it is not usually my first option. Fleas, ticks, flies, hornets, etc get different treatment due to being a direct treat of nuisance. I know that I will probably be in the minority in these actions. But I feel that it illustrates just how precious I feel life is... all life.

So I'm proud to say that I don't 'easily' crush worms. Also, I don't believe this speaks well for the supposedly all loving deity. The aforementioned statement by the preacher (real or not) suggests a very different version of God's morality and opinion of his 'children'. Not that any of us find this as anything new. Rather that is humorus that one can speak of divine retribution and then speak of God's infinite love in the very next breath.

My Catholic mother-in-law had a cat she didn't want to take care of anymore. So she asked us to take him the the humane society for her to
be put down. The cat is moody until he gets used to you, so adoption was
a very improbable outcome. So taking him to the humane society was an
almost assured death warrant. This cat did nothing to deserve such a
callous act, so we refused. He loves being outside, so we suggested letting him out to be an outside cat. The response? "But he'll come
back"... No one said you HAVE to let him back in. Cats are instinctive
hunters and more often then not will make due in the outdoors. But the final stance was you take him or I will... So we decided on the latter, but improvised on it a bit. We took him to our house and let him out in our yard (him living inside was out of the question however, since he does NOT get along with other cats AT ALL). He loved it in the yard and when he comes by we'll feed him. But at least he now has a fighting chance. Rather than a senseless death.

I feel I'm rambling now. But what I was trying to illustrate here was that I feel my Godless views actually lead me to appreciate life more than when I believed.


Views: 80

Comment by joabaldwin on May 30, 2010 at 2:21am
I feel similar in some ways. I recommend you look into "I Am a Strange Loop" by Douglas Hofstadter, great read that tries to deal in the "value" of "souls" of different creatures in a quantitative way (while acknowledging that there's no such things to begin with). He does a great job at being objective about it.
Comment by Atheist Exile on May 30, 2010 at 3:11am
So, James, what's your view on abortion, the death penalty, killing (including wars) in self-defense, leather shoes, eating meat and fish, crop-dusting, laboratory animals that suffer and die for science, and euthanasia?

Nature is red in tooth and claw. The value of life is not absolute. Your sentiment is laudable: it's precisely because the value of life is not absolute that we need to value it as much as possible. I, for one, have no issue with terminating pests or war for a just cause or (when it's essential) sacrificing animals for medical research.

I don't believe in the relativist stance that all lifeforms are equal. I place a higher value on human life than on other lifeforms. With almost 7 billion mouths to feed, we can't afford NOT to raise livestock and farm fish.

Our egalitarian impulses are noble for their desire to include and embrace but they're not realistic in a world where nature insists on death for survival.
Comment by Galen on May 30, 2010 at 4:34am
What he said ^
Comment by Jānis Ķimsis on May 30, 2010 at 8:18am
Exile, I don't think James is advocating the Jainist approach, just saying that if it can be avoided, you shoudn't kill. I agree, seeing as wars can be unavoidable. I understand the neccesity for experimenting on animals for medical purposes too, as long as it isn't some stupid shit like lipstick.

Regarding the preachers words, it seems strange that he equates killing a worm with torturing a human for eternity. Even if we are to god what worms are to us, I think there is a huge difference between killing something and torturing it forever.
Comment by Atheist Exile on May 30, 2010 at 11:56am
Hi Jānis Ķimsis,

Yes, you're right. I was addressing only one aspect of James' piece: namely the sentiment expressed by the title of his post. While I see nothing unnatural about killing for food, research or principle, there's also nothing wrong with the kind of sensitivity to life that James expresses.

The reason I asked for James' views on the value of life in the specific scenarios listed is because his rationale, if taken further than stated, could advocate or endorse the vegan principle of species equality . . . something I disagree with. Because the value of life is not an absolute, survival trumps species equality.

And lastly, James' comparison of man/worm and God/man is an apt one and something to think seriously about. I should have acknowledged this to begin with. As a fellow atheist, it simply wasn't a very controversial idea to me and, thus, was not as provocative as the title of his piece.
Comment by Mario Rodgers on May 30, 2010 at 12:21pm
If we are lowly worms to God, how are supposed to believe that he's also a personal God who knows us and loves us?
Comment by James on May 30, 2010 at 10:16pm
My stance is pretty much as Jānis stated. I understand that taking a stance of all life being 100% equal can be taken way to far. In fact, plants are alive as well in their own way. So ultimately, something has to die in order for any animated life to survive. I just think that killing should be avoided if possible. Re-reading my blog, I can see that it may suggest a slippery slope. In short, there some areas where the death of animals seems more necessary, and others where it seems plain pointless. For food, pest infestation, immediate protection, etc are situations where I would deem it acceptable. While I enjoy eating a good burger, I try to reconcile the fact that the particular cow was bread for that end. Although, I do think they should be treated as humanely as possible, throughout. It's something that doesn't seem to fit with my thoughts above. But sadly there is no way to make everyone and everything happy. Obviously, there will be differing definitions for just about everyone. Where I grew up, there were those that considered it 'sport' for the guys in there big trucks to try and hit animals that crossed their path on the road. Where I would try and miss them, they would deliberately hit them, and then brag about it at school... Hunting is another thing I never got in to. If you hunt and then take the deer home and eat it, I have no problems with that. But many kids I knew would just go out to shoot stuff. Sometimes just leaving it dead in the woods, and other times keeping only the rack for the wall and trashing the rest. I've never seen the sport in a game that is stacked in the one direction.

People I knew would laugh about making road kill. Meanwhile I would feel bad for running over a squirrel. This was more of the root of what I was trying to convey. I realize that all animals are alive through the same means as we are. Our lives, just as fragile as theirs. I feel that this kinship allows me to relate with their plight to some degree. To me, the preachers words seemed to suggest that we should have no remorse from killing a creature that is 'bellow' humanity. THAT is where I can not agree. Death is a regrettable, yet necessary part of life. If I were to consider 'lower animals' as unworthy of compassion, then what reason would I have to donate money to the ASPCA or Defenders of Wildlife? None. This compassion for our cousins is nothing unique to Atheists, as I know Theists that also share this view, contrary to the fact that they are told that they are more special.

Abortion: I'm OK with it under certain considerations. If you simply want to use it as birth control, then no. But if you took the measures to not get pregnant, (were raped) or the birth would kill the mother and child, then I feel it's acceptable. But not late term. Accidental pregnancies need to decide early on if they are going to have a child or not. It's something that one should reflect on and decide for themselves, but decide as soon as possible. At that early stage, it's not a person yet. In a perfect world, I would hope people would be able to make that decision as soon as (or shortly after) discovering they were pregnant.

Death penalty: I can't give a blanket answer for this one. I feel that it depends on the degree of what the individual was found guilty of. For some crimes, life in prison is just. In extremely heinous circumstances, death could be justified. Admittedly, I'm still fuzzy on this one. When I was a believer I thought 'eye for an eye' was the right way to go about things. But as my views have changed, so have my opinions on other issues softened or changed. Once, death for any murder seemed right. I was disillusioned that no one innocent was ever sent to jail. However I'm not so naive now, or as quick to prescribe death as a form of justice.

War: Obviously it can be an unavoidable fact. If it's kill or be killed, I feel the choice is pretty obvious.
Comment by Atheist Exile on May 31, 2010 at 1:17am
Hey James,

Thanks for the full reply. It cleared up my questions.

There are a few people who are vegans . . . not vegetarians . . . but vegans. Strict vegetarians won't eat animals but vegans go further by also not consuming anything made from animals (meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, honey, fur, leather, wool, silk, gelatin, lanolin, rennet, whey, casein, beeswax, isinglass, and shellac). I think that's taking things too far! Some of these things don't even involve killing: dairy products, honey, wool. I wonder how many vegans use medicine developed by testing with animals . . .

From your original post, I got the impression you might subscribe to veganism or even Hinduism or Jainism. If so, we could have had a lively discussion. I don't view veganism as "bad" so much . . . it's more like I think it's unworkable on a global scale. Vegans have to be very careful about their diet in order to meet their nutritional needs. Add to this the burgeoning human population and veganism becomes a luxury for those who can afford such a selective diet/lifestyle.

To be sure, far too many people view meat as a luxury. And far too many would feel privileged to have a down pillow or leather shoes. Vegans are a rare lot, thankfully, and you're not one of them. If you were, I would have had a "bone to pick" with you. :-)
Comment by Jānis Ķimsis on May 31, 2010 at 2:31am
It's better that people view meat as luxury than take it for granted.
Comment by Atheist Exile on May 31, 2010 at 3:28am
Hi Jānis Ķimsis,

If we could supply mankind with the protein needed for healthy and palatable nutrition -- without meat -- then I'd have to ask . . . why not? Do you (or anybody else) know of a way to do that?

I'm not sure a majority would sign up for a tofu substitution diet.


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