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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

On Atheists, the 6th Commandment and that 'other' Hitchens

Columnist Peter Hitchens (above, right), younger brother of arch-atheist Peter Hitchens (left) weighs in on one of the more common criticisms raised by atheists. One that they preceive to be an supposed inconsistency in the conservative Christian worldview, as to how one could support the death penalty and and still adhere to the 6th of the 10 Commandments Thou shalt not kill..

"This is annoying because the atheists themselves couldn't care less what scripture says, and are trying to catch Christians out - and because they so seldom seem to realise that the matter has many times been dealt with before, and is not as they think it is. This should now go into the index under 'Capital Punishment' or 'the Death penalty', and so should be easily found. Not that this will stop them...

On the question of the Commandment 'Thou Shalt do no Murder', it is so rendered by Christ himself (Gospel according to St Matthew, Chapter 19, 18th verse, Authorised or 'King James' version). This is why it is also so rendered in the service of The Lord's Supper in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

Now, as this dispute is supposed to be about what Christians believe the Commandment to mean, and Christians believe that Christ is God himself, or they would not be Christians, this rather closes the debate. If God himself in his most recent appearance among us (as believed by Christians) says 'Thou shalt do no murder', then that is what the Commandment is, superseding and overriding any previous version, or clarifying it if you prefer.

Atheists can believe what they like. I cannot see why they should care one way or the other. But they really need to be better-informed before trying to tell Christians how to interpret their own scriptures, don't you think?

I might add that Christ himself was subject to the death penalty, and his sayings were recorded when sentence was passed on him and while it was being carried out, and He did not take the opportunities offered to condemn it in principle. I agree that arguments from silence are not always reliable. But in this case, the silence is pretty eloquent. He did say much on other subjects during this event. What is more, one of the two thieves stated from his cross that they were justly punished for their crimes, and Christ did not contradict him.

I might add that both the 39 Articles of the Church of England (Article 37) , and the Roman Catholic Catechism, both conclude that the death penalty is justified in certain circumstances. Those who compile these documents do not do so without much study of scriptural texts, or without much thought. Non-religious persons trying to make trouble will just have to accept that mainstream Christianity somehow manages to distinguish between lawless murder and lawful execution - even if Atheists appear to be unable to do so.

Likewise it manages to observe that the destruction of a baby in the womb is the wrongful taking of life, which atheists also seem unable to perceive."

Kudos to Hitchens for being able to relate quite effectively that there are people who can distinguish between life that is totally innocent and someone's life that has been tried and convicted by a jury of their peers.

1 comment:

Ross said...

Christopher and Peter don't get along, apparently. I hope that they can make peace with each other before Christopher dies. The last I read, he's not very well.