Friday, March 24, 2006

Christians More Likely than Secular to Support Torture

The idea that Christians are more moral than atheists is such bullshit. And if my use of the word "bullshit" upsets you more than the data in this table, you've got a real problem.



Survey by Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Oct. 12-24, 2005; nationwide survey conducted among 2,006 adults. Via The Secular Outpost who got it via Andrew Sullivan.

85 comments:

CyberKitten said...

Interesting... as always.

Sadie Lou said...

JA--
This question is for you only:
Let's say you have a 7 year old daughter and she was kidnapped.
Let's say there's this guy who you believe knows where your daughter is.
Would torturing this individual to get the information be beneath you, morally?
Or would you find yourself being willing to do whatever it takes to find her?
These things are not always so black & white.
Do you ever watch those cop shows where some jerk is getting slapped around by the cops because he won't be straight with them about information? We, as the audience, knows that the jerk had something to do with the murder but the cops don't know for sure and yet we sit there and we are behind the cops slapping the guy around because he deserves it!
It kind of bugs me that you are calling torture bullshit when it produces desirable results. You are more on the side of some creep that blew up a school full of children and not on the side of the victim.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

First, not everyone who self-identifies as a Christian is actually a Christian. Frankly, I'd say only a minority are. Christianity isn't like taking out a membership in your local art gallery. It requires a willingness to continually reform one's life in accordance with Christ's will — and very few people genuinely live that way.

Second, as for torture, I don't think it's an easy moral issue. Anyone who thinks it should be used "often" is out to lunch. Even "sometimes" is probably impossible to justify (though it's such a vague term as to be rather useless).

But "rarely"? If you knew with a very high degree of likelihood that the person you were about to torture had committed cruel acts against others? And if you knew that the person possessed information that was a matter of life and death for innocent people?

I know torture is not very likely to elicit reliable information. Still, I think there's room for disagreement here. Torture might rarely be the lesser of two terrible evils.

Jack's Shack said...

Define torture.

CyberKitten said...

Q said: If you knew with a very high degree of likelihood that the person you were about to torture had committed cruel acts against others? And if you knew that the person possessed information that was a matter of life and death for innocent people?

If you knew THAT much about the person there would probably be little need to torture them for more information.

Also as I believe people are ends and not means then it doesn't really make any difference if the torture of one person can save ten people or ten thousand. It's like saying that its ok to harvest the organs of a homeless person to save a great doctor.

There are many issues with the idea of torture that just make it plain wrong. No matter what the reason.

Sadie Lou said...

There are many issues with the idea of torture that just make it plain wrong. No matter what the reason.
I find that hard to believe.

CyberKitten said...

sadie lou said: I find that hard to believe.

Why? I'm in line with 32% of the public, 26% of Catholics, 31% of white evangelicals & 41% of the secular community - so I'm not exactly out on a limb here [grin].

Jewish Atheist said...

Sadie Lou,

I might go along with torture is "rarely" okay, but "sometimes" is way too much and "often" is absurd. Why are Christians more in favor of torture in every category?? How is that moral?

Jewish Atheist said...

jack's shack:

The question was posed as it shows. It didn't define torture.

Sadie Lou said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sadie Lou said...

I see now the question uses the word "suspected" terrorists.
That seems so vauge. I wish the quiz wasn't so biased to support that the torture would be used on suspected terrorists.
Torture on suspects seems cruel without substantial evidence.

Esther said...

Here's how this card carrying secularist thinks about this question:

Even though it might gratify me to see someone suffer who has harmed me or my family, it's still always wrong.

What would Jesus do in this situation? I vote that he'd be against torture, but what do I know? I think he was merely an insightful guy...

On the question of whether important information can be gained through torture - hasn't it been proven that torture does not yield accurate information? I've heard that people who are being tortured tend to say whatever they think the torturer wants to hear in the hopes that the torture will stop.

CyberKitten said...

sadie lou said: That seems so vauge. I wish the quiz wasn't so biased to support that the torture would be used on suspected terrorists. Torture on suspects seems cruel without substantial evidence.

So... It would be OK to torture someone only after they had been convicted by a court of law...? That could take a while... and I wonder how many people would happily convict someone knowing that it would then result in their torture?

I find it strange (and rather disturbing) that the atheists in this discussion are saying that we shouldn't torture people and the theists seem to be arguing that it's OK to do so...

Sadie Lou said...

I would not be above torture if my child's life was at stake. I don't cater to criminals--I cater to victims.

Foilwoman said...

If you believe in god, and you're right, what's a little bloodshed and pain (as long as it's someone else's bloodshed). What is the hypothetical where one saves a child through torture? That will be a convoluted fact pattern. Normally, torture results in no saved lived only destroyed ones.

CyberKitten said...

Sadie - How certain of the persons guilt would you have to be before they could be tortured? Would you rely on other peoples evidence? What if they are wrong? How could you forgive yourself if the wrong person had been tortured?

Sadie Lou said...

cy--
All good questions. Let me ask you one before I attempt to answer:
If it was a loved one at stake and the wrong person was tortured in my quest to find answers, would you fault my efforts to save my loved one?

CyberKitten said...

Sadie lou said: If it was a loved one at stake and the wrong person was tortured in my quest to find answers, would you fault my efforts to save my loved one?

Yes.

Sadie Lou said...

This is probably why liberals tend to be more on the side of gun control and conservatives tend to want to be armed.

This is probably why liberals tend to be aginst the war in Iraq and conservatives are patiently waiting it out.

This is probably why liberals are generaly against the death penalty and conservatives are not.

Bottom line:
I would not pussyfoot around when lives are at stake.
Maybe that's a character flaw--I don't know.

asher said...

If we could have avoided 9/11 by torturing the hell out of someone who knew about the event in advance, would it be worth saving 3,000 lives?
Please don't tell me torturing doesn't work. Thousands of suspected terrorist activites have been avoided by having those heros
rat out their friends. What kind of morality would allow for the wholesale destruction of human beings at the hands of terrorists which could have been avoided by torturing someone who might know?

dbackdad said...

Is there any irony in being for torture (to save lives) and against stem-cell research (to save lives)? How can people be for war and against abortion? Apparently, a life only matters before it's born. Pop out of mommy and you got a target on your head. :-)

CyberKitten said...

asher... and how many innocent people would be tortured and killed along the way? Or is that just a case of unfortunate collateral damage in the so-called war on terror? Where does it all end? How did we cope in the past without torture - authorised or not? Aren't our enormous intelligence agencies up to the job of protecting us without the wholesale application of torture... without the wholesale application of terror? What kind of world do we want to live in? Do we really want to live somewhere were people are routinely tortured?

Random said...

JA,

Where did you get this table from? I've just spent a fair amount of time searching the Pew Research Center's website and can find no mention of this. In fact the only report I can find that mentions religious affiliations in the context of approval of torture is this one from August 2004:

http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?PageID=866

With detailed data as follows:

----------------------Justified
----------------------Often Sometimes Rarely Never
Total White Prot...14.....28...........21........34
Evangelical............14....26...........18........37
Non Evangelical.....14....29...........24........31
White Catholic......20....28...........19........30
Secular................14....27...........29........28

(I hope the formatting works out on your reader!)

Or to put it another way, Christians are no more likely than secular types to think torture is often justified - and rather more likely to think it's never justified. Incidentally, I think the question is skewed to maximise positive responses - it's perfectly possible for someone to think something like torture can be justified as an emergency law enforcement measure and still believe it's morally wrong. Acceptance of something as the lesser of two evils does not in any way deny that it is still in fact evil - something which your really should bear in mind before throwing words like "moral" around.

Now assuming the survey you quote is a valid one, I suppose it's possible that in the following 14 months Christians have got bloodthirsty at a significantly greater rate than the general population, but I find it difficult to imagine any obvious reason why. Another possibility is that what you are looking at is no more than a statistical artefact and there is no significant difference in the groups being polled. I'd think the latter is more likely, but until I can find the actual report you're citing at third hand I can't say for sure, I think you owe us an apology for the "bullshit" remark.

Random said...

Oh, and to clarify my personal position before anyone jumps to conclusions. As a Christian, I am an adherent of a religion whose founder allowed himself to be tortured to death rather than resort to the same measures his persecutors used to save himself. It is an example we need to be mindful of when discussing such issues.

Random said...

Oh, and I would have mentioned this earlier, but it's way past my bedtime and I'm missing things:-) - I've e-mailed the Pew Center in the hope of getting a definitive response from them on the status of this survey. If I get a reply I will of course report back.

Esther said...

To all you pro-torture folks, a few questions:

When is torture justified? Should we torture bank robbers into telling us where they hid the loot, or should we limit torture to terror suspects and people that harm children?

What level of certainty of guilt is needed to justify torture?

How do we define torture? Can we waterboard people? secually humiliate them? apply electrical currents to their gonads? force objects into their rectums? Or perhaps we can use Alberto Gonzales' definition of torture as that which inflicts as much pain as would be experienced in death or organ failure.

Where would Jesus come down in these questions?

Anonymous said...

If you slice and dice the data you probably won't find too much of a statistical relationship one way or another. For instance, if you regressed support for torture on religion, years of education, household income, and state of residence, I would bet that the dummy variable on CATHOLIC would not be significant...just a hunch.

JDHURF said...

“Let's say there's this guy who you believe knows where your daughter is.
Would torturing this individual to get the information be beneath you, morally?
Or would you find yourself being willing to do whatever it takes to find her.” – Sadielou

Terribly flawed reasoning and if for no other reason than this, if you torture someone you are encouraging them to lay claim and admit to anything to get you to cease torturing them. Simply put, no matter what the conditions are torturing people is not only unethical but it is also impractical.

“It kind of bugs me that you are calling torture bullshit when it produces desirable results. You are more on the side of some creep that blew up a school full of children and not on the side of the victim.” – sadielouw

Torture is “bullshit” for a plethora of reasons. Your unsubstantiated assertion that torture produces desirable results is something that I find both incredulous and malevolent. To say that torture is a bad idea characterizes a civil and reasoned human being. Then to claim that one who denounces the use of violent, nefarious and rather ineffectual techniques at getting individuals to indulge information as being on the side of criminals is blatantly irresponsible and uncalled for.

Foilwoman said...

Sadie Lou: What if someone, completely erroneously believes that you have kidnapped their children and are harming them or killing them. That person is wrong, but they believe that truly and sincerely. Under your logic, torture of you is okay. When do you draw the line when your fingernails are being torn out, electricity is being applied to your genitals, whatever horrible things they can think of doing to you. What about twenty years from now, presuming you have children, and someone, erroneously or correctly, thinks your son or daughter has done something heinous that is ongoing?

What do you say to your (assume to minimize the horror) adult child when he or she turns up horribly harmed by this treatment? Ok, it was OK, they thought they were prevently harm? You loss of hair, nails, bruising, whatever is pretty minor in the scheme of things? What if they die under torture (has already happened in Iraq)? Is that OK?

r10b said...

The "Total Public" numbers are all but identical to the "White Protestant" numbers. Makes me wonder how many of the 2006 respondants identified themselves as secular.

I would also echo the earlier comment that most people who claim to be Christian do not live out serious biblical Christianity.

Foilwoman said...

Well, lots of people tell me that religious people who do horrible things (in the name of their religion or not) aren't really Christian or whatever other religion they are, but still, a look at theocracy and products of religious education would give any thinking human being pause, I would hope.

I wonder how many people would answer the quiz differently this way: "If reasonably suspected of something you would justify torturing other for (whether or not you thought the suspicion reasonble, would the autorities have the right to torture you and yours and what torture would then be acceptable?" I think we'd get lots of different answers then, but many people seem to think this sort of thing will alway happen to someone else who isn't one of "them". Some "other" group member. Not a christian. A Muslim, a Jew, an adulteress, someone of another ethnic background, someone who insulted them in junior high, someone who vaguely threatens them by having more education, sex appeal or moxie, whatever.

The idea that these rules, if accepted, will also apply to you and yours seems to slide right over the heads of many.

Those who think torture is okay, what tortures are okay, by which I mean what tortures are okay for the government, its agents (or vigilantes, if you belief in that), and others in authority to commmit against you? Toenail and fingernail removal? Hanging by your arms for an extended length of time? Electrical shock (be specific about where and how much)? Cutting with knives? Punching your nose til it breaks? Your face (how long? how hard?). Inserting things in your body (where? how? what?)? Sexual assualt? Mutilation? Where do you draw the line? If you believe in torture, please have the stomach and intellectual honesty to clearly definse what you mean. Thank you.

Foilwoman said...

Excuse me, last line: I obviously meant "define" not "definse".

r10b said...

I’ve got to hand it to JA. He puts a great deal of time and mental energy into his blog; it shows and we appreciate it very much. This post is a prime example. Consider all the issues of moral consequence facing our culture today; life issues like abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research, or issues of sexual purity, or issues regarding the care of the sick, the poor, and the helpless, or even the more mundane issues like lying and stealing. JA doggedly combed through all these to find a study on one issue that placed secular people to the right of the religious people. JA would have us put aside:

1) the highly focused nature of the survey question (that these are murderous men who have information that could save innocent lives),

2) the fact that the opinion of the religious very closely mirrors that of society in general

3) the fact that the issue of torture is exceedingly academic (How many of those surveyed are in a position to inflict torture? None, I’d guess. Who’s to say they would have answered the same if that were not so. How dubious are the results of such a question?)

JA has decided that we should ignore all the issues we all face regularly and that the issue of torture is the litmus test of morality and that all those who disagree with his stance are patently immoral.

Good work!

r10b said...

foilwoman,

My first comment was PB4P, "posted before pondering." My thinking shifted, for better of worse, away from the nominal-christians-aren't-real-christians defense to the torture-opinions-as-poor-moral-test defense.

Nonetheless, I agree that religion when used to promote injustice (and worse e.g., Abdul Rahman) against those of other religions (or even different denominations of the same religion e.g., Ireland, Iraq) is serious evil. It's also a convenient pinata for critics who find it easier to swing sticks than thoroughly consider the real teachings of scripture for themselves. When a person claims to be following religious convictions yet acts in opposition to that religion's established, normative beliefs, that person is only using God not obeying God. Why is that so hard to understand?

Sadie Lou said...

after careful study of the Scriptures, I found something interesting.
It's in Matthew chapter 18. I'll paraphrase:
Jesus tells the parable of the unmerciful servant. There was this Master and he had a servant that owed him a lot money. The servant begged the master to be patient with him; he will pay off the debt in time.
Instead of being patient, the Master went ahead and cancelled all his debt.
Later, this same servant was in a position to have mercy on someone that owed HIM money and instead of showing the same mercy he was given, he demanded payment and threw the guy in jail until he could pay.
Some people heard of this unjustice and told the servant's master.
The master was angry and threw the servant in jail to be TORTURED until his payment was paid--his debt was no longer cancelled since he did not show the same mercy he was given.
::::
I'm sure nobody is going to like that Biblical ref. but I don't really care.
The point is= mercy is for people who show mercy themselves and I have a hard time understanding how terrorists that do really bad things to people and hurt people and are unmerciful to others, are getting defended here on this blog.

CyberKitten said...

sadie lou said: The point is= mercy is for people who show mercy themselves and I have a hard time understanding how terrorists that do really bad things to people and hurt people and are unmerciful to others, are getting defended here on this blog.

Personally I was arguing against the use of torture. Or do you think that those who argue against it are actually pro-terrorist? Are you saying that arguing for humane treatment of everyone is actually arguing for terror? Is it a case of either you're with us or against us? Say it ain't so Sadie.

r10b said...

If Hell exists in it's Christian interpretation then God Himself is either implicitly or explicitly involved in torture, no? Some of the questions that arise then are:

1) Is torture always immoral even if the one allowing/inflicting it is God?

2) Can God engage in immoral behavior?

3) Who gets to judge God's acts as immoral?

Sadie Lou said...

R10b said3) Who gets to judge God's acts as immoral?

Cyberkitten does. *wink*

Cy--
Okay. You argue against the use of torture; fine. The thing that bothers me is when people say they are against something but then do nothing to find an alternative. It is easy for you to stand in judgment of the methods used on terrorists.
Perhaps nothing else works.
Have you considered this? Perhaps everything else they have tried to get information from terrorists produces nothing and rather than throw our hands up in the air and let the terrorists win--we resort to violence.
I can't say that I haven't resorted to violence against my own terrorists. I was a freshman in highschool and the only language my bully understood was the same language she used with me.

CyberKitten said...

r10b's questions lead on to this question:

Is the morality of an action dependent on who is doing it or are actions moral or immoral separate from the agent undertaking the action?

If they are separate - which I believe they are - then God can do things which are immoral & we can judge Him on those actions.

CyberKitten said...

Sadie Lou said: Cy--
Okay. You argue against the use of torture; fine. The thing that bothers me is when people say they are against something but then do nothing to find an alternative.

Here's 3 ideas off the top of my head - without even mentioning things like good old fashioned detective work & the proper use of intelligence...

Lie Detector tests... 'Truth' drugs'.... Hypnosis....

Also - do you honestly think that beating the crap out of someone will achieve useful results? I'm presuming that torture here is being used on *suspected* terrorists rather than actual convicted one's? So, how happy are you with the torture of innocent people? How many innocents need to get tortured for it to be OK for you?

Sadie Lou said...

I already stated I had a problem with the word "suspected". I think you better have a pretty damn good idea what you're doing and who you're doing it to, if those methods are to even be considered.
Torturing innocent people doesn't please me, no.

r10b said...

Sadie, I am also reminded of your morality quiz from a couple of weeks ago. I remember hearing references to Barak Obama's remark that passive indifference is the same as active malice. I think in the context of this thread that means that those who are not actively working to end the U.S. Government's supposed torture policies are as immoral as those who are actively working to implement them. So the question to the anti-torture voices here is, is Obama full of shit or are you?

CyberKitten said...

Sadie lou said: I think you better have a pretty damn good idea what you're doing and who you're doing it to, if those methods are to even be considered.

So we're talking about convicted terrorists? If they've been convicted in a court over weeks/months of the trail I'm guessing that either what they're hiding isn't a factor any more or the prosecution has made a strong enough case to convict - so why the need for torture at all? After the trail it's kind of over and done with isn't it?

r10b said...

Cyberkitten...

Is the morality of an action dependent on who is doing it or [not]...

That brings us all that way back to the question on square one, what makes an action moral or immoral? I am starting to think that it involves a consultation with you, beloved CK.

...then God can do things which are immoral & we can judge Him on those actions.

Good luck with that!

BTW: This is fun, like our own chatroom courtesy of JA!

CyberKitten said...

r10b said: That brings us all that way back to the question on square one, what makes an action moral or immoral? I am starting to think that it involves a consultation with you, beloved CK.

That's funny [rotflmao]. Just don't worship me OK... I hate it when people do that.. [rotflmao].

Random said...

CK,

Don't be absurd. Sadie is clearly only talking about an emergency scenario where it's pretty certain the guy in custody is involved in something nasty that's about to go down soon. If you've got time to put him on trial then torture is obviously unnecessary.

Let me run a hypothetical past you (I know from your own blog you like alternate histories). It's now well known that in the week or so before 9/11 the terrorists were partying hard - girls, booze, the lot (on the principle no doubt that if martyrdom wipes out all previous sins then you might as well do some vigorous sinning in your last few days). Suppose for a moment one of them got into a fight and was pulled in by the police on a drunk and disorderly charge - on searching his stuff and running his name through some databases they realise they've got somebody very strange indeed on their hands and the FBI is called in. By this time however it's September 10 and he's sobered up and is refusing to say anything without a lawyer present. What do you (and the other no torture in any circumstances advocates) think is the best course of action here? (a) Give him his lawyer, prepare a D&D charge sheet and watch while 3,000 people die in the rubble of the WTC, or (b) get the rubber truncheons out and start slamming his kidneys until he tells you what's going on?

Nobody here is denying that torture is an evil thing (and I'm certain this includes Sadie) - the question really is is it always, in any circumstance, the most evil possible thing that could happen? I'm not sure I've seen a straight answer from you on this.

CyberKitten said...

random - the problem with your scenario is that on Sept 10th people apparently had no idea that there was going to be a 9/11. So what justification do you use to torture him? Do you torture people on the off chance that something big & nasty is going to happen? If you had enough information that something that big was going down then you'd be able to do something about it surely?

I know this is a sensitive subject for a lot of people so I've been putting off this question since this debate started - but the topic of 9/11 keeps coming up. So...

After 9/11 can *anything* be justified in the name of stopping another one happening? After all, 2 countries have been invaded. People from all over the world have been 'arrested' and 'detained' and more than likely tortured. Phones have been tapped. Rights have been denied and who knows what else has happened or is going to happen. Is torture going to be a standard police procedure in the future? Is that really the kind of society you want to live in? Do we defend democracy by denying our democratic ideals? How will the slide into tyranny save us from our enemies?

Sadie Lou said...

R10b--
This is fun. I think it would even be better if we were all in my livingroom sipping hot totties by the fire but this will do!
*smile*
Cy is never going to get on board with the idea of torture in ANY event.
Even if his own flesh and blood was being held hostage and possibly victimized.
CK would stand by with his arms folded and demand answers from the terrorists and they would most certainly oblige.
__OR__
CK would miraculously be able to buy some truth serum or get his hands on a lie detector--he could take a course on hypnosis.
Meanwhile his flesh and blood is being treated with the same patient mercy and dignity.
I'm sure.

CyberKitten said...

Sadie... Let me get this right.

You're proposing that relatives and loved ones of hostages should torture suspects?

Really?

Oh, and I agree on the hot living room idea... But make my drink a diet coke. I argue *much* better sober.

Sadie Lou said...

I didn't say "let's get drunk"! My Hot Tottie will have just a little kick to keep me warm and lively and you can have your boring diet coke. (Pepsi is better)!

You know what I'm saying.
I'm saying when you've run your course of resources and you have a limited time frame and a creep that won't talk--I don't have a problem with getting answers the old fashioned way.
Maybe just the *threat* of torture would produce results?
I saw that work on my favorite TV show--LOST
There have been lots of torture scenes on that show come to think of it and I haven't heard one protest or accusation of the show being overly immoral.
Personally, I think you're just being difficult.
For someone that doesn't believe in absolutes, you're being very concrete.

JDHURF said...

“The point is= mercy is for people who show mercy themselves and I have a hard time understanding how terrorists that do really bad things to people and hurt people and are unmerciful to others, are getting defended here on this blog.” - Sadielou

This coming from the self proclaimed religion of love, acceptance, forgiveness and redemption, such extravagant hypocrisy as to gives me vertigo. It has been understood for quite some time now that torture simply does not work, it is ineffectual and the fact that it is also immoral and an egregious affront to human decency makes it even less appealing. The use of torture was praised when it was used to obtain confessions of witchcraft and other such absurdities. Did these torture induced confessions prove that such individuals were in fact witches and in cohort with the devil? Of coarse not it only proves that when someone is under extreme physical and psychological distress they will admit and confess to anything under the sun to cease the torture, throughout all of recorded history torture has done nothing but lead to self-delusion, the revocation of human rights and decency and has never been shown to produce desirable results that are even remotely worthy of such barbaric and animalistic behavior.

It is not only that torture is immoral and destructive of human decency it DOES NOT work!!

Foilwoman said...

Gosh: None of the torture proponents have come up with any examples of torture that would be fair to apply to themselves or their children. Surprise.

CyberKitten said...

sadie lou said: Personally, I think you're just being difficult.
For someone that doesn't believe in absolutes, you're being very concrete.

Actually I'm being consistent with my ethical standpoint.

I think this debate has proven JA's point though. One one side we have Christians who are consistently advocating the use of torture. On the other side we have atheists and humanists putting forward arguments against it. Why is that I wonder? I find it both sad and disturbing.

asher said...

You can't torture people period. It doesn't matter if they know where the girl is being tied up, if they know where the bombs are, if they know where the hostages are being held. These folks have rights and we have to respect their rights.

Bottom line: there are no evil people with evil intentions.

Foilwoman said...

Asher: You think they know where the girl is tied up, where the bombs are. Maybe they are evil peopl with evil intentions, maybe they aren't. It's not written on their forheads. You might be torturing an innocent person. Someone might be torturing you. You're saying that's all okay. Again, I ask: If they think you know where the bombs are, where the hostages are, where the girl is tied up, what are they permitted to do to you, your father, your mother, your wife, or your child? That's the deal your making. They can do it to someone who you think threatens you, and they can do it to you.

Sadie Lou said...

Cy said...Why is that I wonder? I find it both sad and disturbing.

It is a sad fact that there are people out there that think basic human rights apply to people who rob others of their basic human rights all day long.
It's sad that there are people in the world that would rather stand by and watch a bully harrass a weaker individual instead of jump in and assist them. Perhaps if you witnessed a terrorist torturing a victim you would try to TALK them out of it?

dbackdad said...

Sadie,
How can we, as Americans (or Christians), claim to judge from a higher moral ground when we would use the tools that others use? Assuming that you obtained useful information (which experts in interrogation have said you would not), you've already debased yourself.

Your statement to CK, "It's sad that there are people in the world that would rather stand by and watch a bully harrass a weaker individual instead of jump in and assist them. Perhaps if you witnessed a terrorist torturing a victim you would try to TALK them out of it?" is disrespectful and off topic. Watching someone hurt someone else and doing nothing is not the case that we are discussing here. I believe that any of us, if seeing that, would fight to protect the victim.

The hypothetical case here involves "reliable" intelligence and "assumed" guilt. By your own beliefs, no one should have such absolute certainty of someone's guilt short of God.

If we don't hold ourselves up to a higher standard, we are just animals.

CyberKitten said...

sadie said: It is a sad fact that there are people out there that think basic human rights apply to people who rob others of their basic human rights all day long.

Yet again Sadie we are talking of terrorist *suspects* here. Before their trial, before their conviction on evidence... Is suspicion of terrorism enough to torture someone? How certain do the authorities have to be before you're OK with the torture going ahead? More than 50% (I hope). More than 75% certain? Absolutely certain? If they're THAT certain of the persons guilt why bother with time wasting trials & pesky lawyers at all.. Why not just 'disapear' terror suspects, lock them away for ever and torture them as they please....?

But your country already does that... doesn't it?

Wandering Coyote said...

I'm very reluctant to get into this, but here goes.

Define terrorist. Are we talking Muslim, Middle Eastern, Al Qaeda types here? Because it seems so. There are plenty of white, upperclass, American terrorists sitting in your White House/Pentagon/CIA headquarters, I'm sure. It's all a matter of perspective. Would you think the Iranians justified in torturing Bush or his flunkies for information about the invasion the common rhetoric talks about their planning on that country?

Random said it best, BTW: As a Christian, I am an adherent of a religion whose founder allowed himself to be tortured to death rather than resort to the same measures his persecutors used to save himself. It is an example we need to be mindful of when discussing such issues. Well said.

Sadie Lou said...

As a Christian, I am an adherent of a religion whose founder allowed himself to be tortured to death rather than resort to the same measures his persecutors used to save himself. It is an example we need to be mindful of when discussing such issues.

I would allow myself to be tortured for the faith too. That's not what's on the table for discussion, here.
God does not require his people to walk through life with their hands tied, does He?
Random?
Is there ever any cause to defend one's self? One's country? One's rights against people who want to destroy you and yours?
read the old tesament for proof of how God led his people to defeat terrorists.
I'm done here.

Sadie Lou said...

oh yeah,
and you non believers need to stop throwing my faith up in my face everytiime we have these discussions. You can not assume to know how faith is to be pacticed when you have none yourself.
You can't make fun of Christians, debase God's character and spit in Christ's face one day and then turn around and hold me to a standard you don't even hold yourself to.
That's called hipcocracy.

Juggling Mother said...

One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. To condone toture for suspected (or even known) terrorists (and paedophiles, kidnappers, rapists, murderers etc. apperently from previous comments), is to condone torture against anyone who uses, or suggests violence against another country/organisation/belief structure.

Wow, we're all in deep sh*t, aren't we?

[no, not me personally - i have never suggested a violent solution, but Sadie Lou certainly has - against that naughty man who breaks into her house. Those nice men that we all voted for (or accepted as our leaders under due democratic process) have certainly suggested violence is the way to go in some circumstances & we have all allowed them to follow through with those threats. we are guilty as accesories.]

And, no, I would never condone torture. not if it was me who had been kidnapped & tied up somewhere & torture would find me quicker. Not if it was my kids. Not if it was my whole society & way of life. Because to do so would be a fundemental betrayal of my beliefs. Apparently my belief in morality is stronger that Christians who are quite definitively told that deliberately harming another is wrong!

Anonymous said...

Sadie: I know you don't people who don't accept your beliefs much, but read what you wrote. All your posts are based on your beliefs, and you don't respond to logical questions. Whenever someone asks you a tough question, you tell that person they are attacking you, personalizing the arguments, or being mean. Why not just answer the questions without accusing people of animus. And to my mind is saying you are spreading the good news of your god's love while doing the opposite.

The savior you believe in took more than a few fair if harsh comments to allegedly prove his beliefs. If you can't even try to follow in his footsteps, whether real or ficitonal, you really aren't doing your cause much good.

Esther said...

Sadie Lou - just because some people don't identify specifically as Christian, Jew or Muslim doesn't mean they have no faith.

Many people who consider themselves to be athiests or agnostics, do so, not because they have no faith, but because they practice a faith that dares not speak it name in this biased society - the faith of humanism - the faith that humans have the capacity and more importantly, the obligation to make the right choices and decisions.

Sadie Lou said...

I won't be throwing my pearls before swine on this blog anymore. Sorry, JA.

Random said...

I see things have moved on a bit,but...

CK, still no straight answer, I see. I'd like to say I was surprised, but sadly I've got to know you too well through these blogs to say that. In ayny case, to help you out let's flesh out this hypothetical a little. It is I believe well known that one of the criticisms made in the official report of the 9/11 commission was that there actually was enough evidence around to forestall the attacks if only somebody had had had the competence to put all the pieces together. Okay, so let's postulate a slightly more competent FBI - they've managed to put some of the pieces together, they're aware that a big Al Qaeda operation is planned, they're aware that the terrorists are in country, and possibly they even have some of the names on their watch lists. However, they don't know precisely when, were or how. Suddenly, a local law enforcement operative reports that they've pulled in one of those names on a D&D charge - a pattern of behaviour which the profilers suggest is indicative of a suicide bomber that is about to go on a final mission. So they know an operation is underway, it is imminent, and that they have one of the gang who are supposed to be launching it, but he's refusing to talk. *Now* is it acceptable to get the rubber truncheons out? A straight yes or no will do, though if you want to provide your reasoning that will be nice too.

CyberKitten said...

random said: *Now* is it acceptable to get the rubber truncheons out? A straight yes or no will do, though if you want to provide your reasoning that will be nice too.

No. Happy now? [sigh].

Sadie Lou said...

I wrote a post concerning my leave.--Just to explain myself better.
Bye Cy, JA, Random and r10b

Juggling Mother said...

No, because we're back at that thin end of the wedge thing again.

If it's Ok in one scenario, it must, by definition be ok in others. Which ones? who decides?

What is terrorism? Which suspected criminals can be tortured? When? By who? How much "evidence" is required? How about treason? sedition? Anti-government rhetoric? Enemy combatants? Friendly combatants?

No it is never acceptable to get the rubber truncheons out.

Nor to sit quietly & watch others do so.

Nor to allow people to suggest it without trying to explain why it's a bad idea.

Sadie - you have been sensible & open in your comments on all the blogs I read. I thought you were one of the few committed christians who could understand the difference between disagreeing with your beliefs and attacking you as a person. maybe I was wrong. How depressing.

CyberKitten said...

sadie lou said: I wrote a post concerning my leave.--Just to explain myself better.
Bye Cy, JA, Random and r10b

Saw it & made a comment.

Hope you come back here - and to other places too.

Random said...

"For every question there is an answer that is simple, clear - and wrong." - Ronald Reagan.

Thanks CK and Mrs A for the simplicity and clarity of your responses. Just to make it clear for one last time - I am not saying there is anything "okay" about torture, just that we need to be sufficiently realistic to realise that there may be times when it is the least destructive alternative. I'll even go so far as to say that anybody who indulges in it should, without exception, be subject to an official inquiry with a view to pressing criminal charges - after all, if the situation is serious enough to warrant torture it's also sufficiently serious for the guy who orders it to be prepared to risk some jail time if he makes the wrong call (by all means let him cite operational urgency, nationals ecurity, etc. as mitigating factors).

What I do not think we can accept without challenge is the idea that inflicting injury on one person is a worse evil than refusing to do everything possible in your power to prevent the death of thousands of other people.

r10b said...

RE: Sadielou - How could what started with torture go so horribly wrong?

SIDEBAR

esther said... Many people who consider themselves to be athiests or agnostics, do so, not because they have no faith, but because they practice...the faith of humanism.

I don't know how many times I've seen theists raked over the coals by atheists for suggesting the same thing. What's up? The theist statement is usually along the lines of, "Everybody has faith in something..." The atheist response is usually along the lines of, "up yours, moron."

Regardless, unlike those whose faith is humanism, those who place their faith in the unseen supernatural can at least pretend their faith will one day be justified without it being proven wrong countless times a day.

CyberKitten said...

random said: What I do not think we can accept without challenge is the idea that inflicting injury on one person is a worse evil than refusing to do everything possible in your power to prevent the death of thousands of other people.

Even if that one person actually turns out to be innocent? People are not means to achieve ends - however noble those ends are. Ends do not justify means. We all know where THAT particular ideology finishes up don't we?

..and the idea of quoting Ronnie Raygun as some kind of authority on clear thinking... Well, that certainly sent me to bed with a smile of my face. Thanks!

Random said...

"Even if that one person actually turns out to be innocent?"

Which is why, if you'd bothered to pay attention to my last post, I said:

"I'll even go so far as to say that anybody who indulges in it should, without exception, be subject to an official inquiry with a view to pressing criminal charges - after all, if the situation is serious enough to warrant torture it's also sufficiently serious for the guy who orders it to be prepared to risk some jail time if he makes the wrong call (by all means let him cite operational urgency, national security, etc. as mitigating factors)."

Torture the wrong guy and face several years in prison for GBH in other words. How is this in any way condoning the torture of innocents?

Happy to brighten your day, BTW.

CyberKitten said...

random said: Torture the wrong guy and face several years in prison for GBH in other words. How is this in any way condoning the torture of innocents?

That's all very well... but what about the innocent being tortured. What do you do there? Say 'Sorry about that' & pay them a million bucks for their hardship?

No matter how hard it gets we find another way. Torture is not & never will be an option for the countless reasons given by many people in this debate.

Foilwoman said...

Random: What tortures would you accept as th reasonable cost of society, if those tortures were implemented against you and yours? I've asked this several times now,not specifically of you, but, please, if you condone this, think it through: can they rip off your toenails? Cut off your testicles? Where's the line you draw?

Random said...

FW,

I have difficulty understanding what you are saying. I thought I'd made it clear that torture could only ever be justifiable (not moral, not legal, not right and proper, but *justifiable*) in circumstances of extreme urgency were large numbers of lives are at stake. Given that I have no intention of taking part in terrorist acts such circumstances are unlikely to apply to me or mine. If I was nevertheless to be subject to such duress however I would expect the perpetrator to be treated as a criminal and punished accordingly - something which I have already said twice previous to this post.

You seem to be trying very hard to believe I am some sort of hypocrite - please, tell me what it is I have said that has led you to that conclusion.

Anonymous said...

Random: The point is this: if someone else sincerly thought you were threatening large number of lives, however mistaken or erroneous or prejudicial that belief, what torture would it be fair for that person or governmental agent (regardless of whether they go to prison afterwards) to apply to you or yours. You don't have to have done something bad, they just have to honestly and earnestly believe that you have done someone bad.

Given that circumstance, regardless of what happens to the torturer, what torture is ok?

Remember, there won't be a trial of you before you are tortured. There will only be someones sincere belief. Or worse, someone who doesn't believe, but just likes the power and thinks maybe they'll get some interesting information.

But assuming sincere belief that you or someone you love is a potential terrorist or capable of harming many others, what can that person do under your philosophy? That's my question.

This is Foilwoman, btw, it won't let me add my ID right now.

Foilwoman said...

Is it unclear that in the survey described, someone doesn't actually have to be a terrorist to be tortured, they just have to be suspected of being a terrorist?

Jewish Atheist said...

Sorry, everybody. I was away for the weekend. Wow, what a lot of comments. I just have time to address a couple.

Random:

I linked to the original table in my post. It's at http://ncronline.org/NCR_Online/archives2/2006a/032406/032406h.htm


r10b:

JA has decided that we should ignore all the issues we all face regularly and that the issue of torture is the litmus test of morality and that all those who disagree with his stance are patently immoral.

I saw this study and offered it as an example of how secular people may be more moral at least in some areas than believers. I said nothing about how we should ignore all other issues or that torture is the litmus test of morality.

Random said...

Actually JA, you linked to a media report of the original survey - it was the survey itself I was after. In any case, the Pew people have now got back to me and seem to recognise it - they say it's from this report -

http://people-press.org/reports/display.php3?PageID=1016

Though I haven't found that table in there yet.

"I saw this study and offered it as an example of how secular people may be more moral at least in some areas than believers."

And I offered another survey from the same organisation which showed your point was at best not proven, and certainly did not justify the harsh language used to describe it. Still, it was an interesting report!

Foilwoman said...

Random: Did you understand and can you answer my question? If you were suspected of terrorism, what would be acceptable torture under your point of view? Same question for anyone else who argued that torture can be okay. Please remember, while I believe torture is always wrong, the poll was about torture of suspected terrorists -- people who haven't been proven guilty of anything.

Random said...

Seriously FW, isn't attempting to delve into the precise details of torture methods a trifle, well, pornographic?

But insofar as an answer is possible it would be whatever is the most effective method of delivering an answer quickly enough to save lives. I'm not enough of an expert in the various techniques involved to know what that is (though I believe it is true that crude physical brutality is an extremely poor method of getting somebody to tell the truth as distinct from what they think you want to hear).

And to ask you an insulting question in return - how many people must be at risk before you cease to regard a terrorist's life and safety as paramount? I know it's at least 3,000 as my WTC hypothetical failed to deflect the purists from their absolutist positions.

Foilwoman said...

It might be pornographic to think about the specifics of torture, but if one is going to cede the moral authority to torture to someone, either as an individual or as a government agent, one should think through what that actually entails.

I didn't mean my question to insult. I meant it in all sincerity. If you found it insulting, I think the underlying statement, that you would be willing to have those things done to another human being, which is what you are saying, is what creates the underlying insult to your humanity, not my asking the question.

I do not find your question insulting. If I knew with an absolute certainty that I could save 1,000 lives by tearing out a fingernail, yes I would do it. If I knew with an absolute certainly I could save 1 life by applying electric shocks: yes, I would probably do it. The key phrase there is "absolute certainly." Since that circumstance is unlikely to happen and it would be just as likely that my certainty was incorrect and I would have tortured someone, and later found out that the 1 or 1,000 people died anyway, and the person I tortured was innocent of all but being wrongly suspected, it's very unlikely I would every do it.

I agree with you (hallelujah) that torture is very ineffective in gathering information. Actually, it's often quite erroneous. People will say anything to stop being hurt, so often you go down blind paths, wasting time (and in life or death situations, lives).

I'm sorry you felt insulted, but the question was fair, and you still haven't answered it. I answered yours. What can they do to you if they think you're a terrorist and they think you will talk through torture and save lives? What can they do to someone else's son? You say it's acceptable under those circumstances, but won't say what it is. Are we talking sleep deprivation, needles under fingernails, beating, water torture, what?

r10b said...

JA said... I saw this study and offered it as an example of how secular people may be more moral at least in some areas than believers.

That's an exceptionally tame assertion.

Forgive me assuming a broader assertion, because I saw no such timidity or qualification in your original post which read, The idea that Christians are more moral than atheists is such bullshit.