Can someone help me understand this

Temujin

Well-known member
I don't think you need any recourse to scripture to demonstrate that abortion is immoral. A simple syllogism can do it:

P1) Intentionally and directly killing an innocent human being is wrong.
P2) Abortion intentionally and directly kills an innocent human being.
C) Therefore, abortion is wrong.

You can even frame the argument legally is you prefer:

P1) The law should protect the lives of innocent human beings.
P2) Abortion kills innocent human beings.
C) Therefore, the law should protect innocent human beings from abortion.
P2 is where your argument falls. Not only is it ludicrous to refer to a being with no cerebral context as "innocent", but also I would not agree with your use of the term "human being" in this context. Please define it, preferably in a way that does not include the unused product of IVF treatment or HeLa cultures unless you want to make murderers out of thousands of lab technicians and research scientists.

I would also quibble with your P1. I think there are occasions where killing an innocent human being is not immoral. Again, definitions of "innocent" as well as "human being" would be important.
 

jonathan_hili

Well-known member
That's because biblical morality is obviously just man-made since the ten commandments etc didn't apply to Abraham et al and their ancestors, and the laws evolved as society evolved. Which is why the biblical writers said that Cainan's god even protected him from retribution after killing his brother Abel and relocating to live happily ever after with one or more Nod girls in the Land of Nod, and why Noah's father said he was similarly protected from retribution after he killed a young man (Gen 4).
Which is why the "Right to Life" groups can't use the bible to support their aims, given the commandments in Lev 20:10 and Numbers 5:20-28.
I don't see how that argument follows at all.

What makes you think the Ten Commandments didn't apply to Abraham or Moses' ancestors? I think you're still confusing what characters in the Bible believe or think with what God approves of.

So, does it follow from God's protection of Cain that He approved of what Cain did? When we imprison murderers, don't we try to protect them in gaol (e.g. from an attack)?
 

jonathan_hili

Well-known member
P2 is where your argument falls. Not only is it ludicrous to refer to a being with no cerebral context as "innocent", but also I would not agree with your use of the term "human being" in this context. Please define it, preferably in a way that does not include the unused product of IVF treatment or HeLa cultures unless you want to make murderers out of thousands of lab technicians and research scientists.

I would also quibble with your P1. I think there are occasions where killing an innocent human being is not immoral. Again, definitions of "innocent" as well as "human being" would be important.
Sure, I would say that a human being (at least in an earthly/physical sense) is "a living human organism" and by "human" I mean "having human DNA". How would you define "human being"?

Whether a human being has a cerebral cortex or not is, I think, irrelevant to their innocence or guilt, which are ontological not functional statuses. You become guilty of X by your actions but it is you who are guilty. So, I would say a foetus, for instance, is innocent because he or she hasn't done anything to incur guilt. This would be different from a murderer or rapist.

I'd like to here under what conditions you think it's morally acceptable to directly and intentionally kill innocent human beings and what would move it from a general to particular moral principle.
 

J regia

Well-known member
I don't see how that argument follows at all.

What makes you think the Ten Commandments didn't apply to Abraham or Moses' ancestors? I think you're still confusing what characters in the Bible believe or think with what God approves of.

So, does it follow from God's protection of Cain that He approved of what Cain did?
Where does the bible say that the ten commandments etc applied to Abraham et al, given that they are obviously just man-made since it wasn't morally wrong for Abraham to kill his son as blood sacrifice, nor was it morally wrong for Cainan to kill Abel or for Noah's father to kill a young man since they weren't punished and were even protected from retribution (Gen 4), and the "eye for an eye" laws obviously didn't apply to them.
Nor was it morally wrong for Abraham to have a sexual relationship with his sister Sarah and commit adultery with Hagar.

And afterall the bible was just written by men, for men, about men and their patriarchal society, and their laws and history and myths including the gods they created in their images and likenesses
 

jonathan_hili

Well-known member
Where does the bible say that the ten commandments etc applied to Abraham et al, given that they are obviously just man-made since it wasn't morally wrong for Abraham to kill his son as blood sacrifice, nor was it morally wrong for Cainan to kill Abel or for Noah's father to kill a young man since they weren't punished and were even protected from retribution (Gen 4), and the "eye for an eye" laws obviously didn't apply to them.
Nor was it morally wrong for Abraham to have a sexual relationship with his sister Sarah and commit adultery with Hagar.

And afterall the bible was just written by men, for men, about men and their patriarchal society, and their laws and history and myths including the gods they created in their images and likenesses
The Ten Commandments are basic moral principles that all human beings should know. Paul notes that humans have a conscience that speaks of the moral law that can excuse or accuse them, irrespective of whether they know the Torah or not. Who said it wasn't morally wrong for Abraham to kill his son as blood sacrifice? Or Cain to kill Abel? Or Noah's father? Again, just because something is reported it doesn't mean it's approved; you need to read it through tradition and see how the text is positioning the reader.

As for the second point, it's either (a) presumption and not argued or (b) completely irrelevant.
 

J regia

Well-known member
The Ten Commandments are basic moral principles that all human beings should know. Paul notes that humans have a conscience that speaks of the moral law that can excuse or accuse them, irrespective of whether they know the Torah or not. Who said it wasn't morally wrong for Abraham to kill his son as blood sacrifice? Or Cain to kill Abel? Or Noah's father? Again, just because something is reported it doesn't mean it's approved; you need to read it through tradition and see how the text is positioning the reader.

As for the second point, it's either (a) presumption and not argued or (b) completely irrelevant.
So why did Abraham's god command him to kill his son if it was morally wrong, even though Abraham then decided to kill a ram instead presumably because the god preferred to eat mutton instead?

And if it was morally wrong for Noah's father and Cain(an) to commit murder, then why weren't they punished using the "eye for an eye, life for a life" law, and why did their gods protect them from retribution instead (Gen 4)?

And if it was morally wrong when Abraham committed incest and adultery, then why didn't Abraham's god mention it when they shared a non-kosher meal together and had a face to face discussion about the number of righteous children in Gomorrah (Gen 18)?

You know it makes sense.
 

jonathan_hili

Well-known member
So why did Abraham's god command him to kill his son if it was morally wrong, even though Abraham then decided to kill a ram instead presumably because the god preferred to eat mutton instead?

And if it was morally wrong for Noah's father and Cain(an) to commit murder, then why weren't they punished using the "eye for an eye, life for a life" law, and why did their gods protect them from retribution instead (Gen 4)?

And if it was morally wrong when Abraham committed incest and adultery, then why didn't Abraham's god mention it when they shared a non-kosher meal together and had a face to face discussion about the number of righteous children in Gomorrah (Gen 18)?

You know it makes sense.
The first question is one on which floods of theological ink have been spilled, so I won't be able to provide a thorough answer. The text says that God was testing Abraham's faith - that is, to show to God (or Abraham) how much he trusted in God? After all, God had promised Abraham that Isaac would have heirs so how could this be possible if Isaac was killed. Abraham seemed to believe that Isaac would somehow return alive, as he said to his servants, "We will return..." To add more depth to this, I'd want to say that it was a teaching moment for Abraham. Notice, Abraham doesn't argue against God or bargain with God over killing Isaac the way he did with Sodom and Gomorrah. Why? Well, Abraham was familiar with human sacrifices to gods and probably considered his God up to the same thing. However, God is teaching Abraham here that He is not a God who wants human sacrifice.

With regards to Lamech, we don't really have much data. He claims he slew a man for wounding him. Could it be self-defense? Who knows. Vengeance was popularly carried out in horrific ways. The lex talionis (eye for an eye) was part of the Mosaic Law not Ten Commandments and supposed to mitigate vengeful killings.

Did Abraham commit incest and adultery? Can you explain that please.
 

J regia

Well-known member
The first question is one on which floods of theological ink have been spilled, so I won't be able to provide a thorough answer. The text says that God was testing Abraham's faith - that is, to show to God (or Abraham) how much he trusted in God? After all, God had promised Abraham that Isaac would have heirs so how could this be possible if Isaac was killed. Abraham seemed to believe that Isaac would somehow return alive, as he said to his servants, "We will return..." To add more depth to this, I'd want to say that it was a teaching moment for Abraham. Notice, Abraham doesn't argue against God or bargain with God over killing Isaac the way he did with Sodom and Gomorrah. Why? Well, Abraham was familiar with human sacrifices to gods and probably considered his God up to the same thing. However, God is teaching Abraham here that He is not a God who wants human sacrifice.

With regards to Lamech, we don't really have much data. He claims he slew a man for wounding him. Could it be self-defense? Who knows. Vengeance was popularly carried out in horrific ways. The lex talionis (eye for an eye) was part of the Mosaic Law not Ten Commandments and supposed to mitigate vengeful killings.

Did Abraham commit incest and adultery? Can you explain that please.
That makes no sense whatsoever. Why would a real god command Abraham to kill his son if it was morally wrong to commit murder, and given that the ten commandments etc obviously didn't apply to Abraham or Cainan or Noah's father since Moses hadn't even written them yet. Would you kill your children if a god commanded you to? Or is that story just an imaginative fantasy?

And the bible says that Abraham had a sexual relationship with his sister Sarah and committed adultery with Hagar, given that a biblical marriage is simply a personal agreement between two people to shack up together and doesn't require a legally signed marriage contract or a wedding celebrant.

And why did Abraham's god need to ask Abraham about the number of righteous children in Gomorrah and walk down to count them anyway after finishing the meal, unless it wasn't an omniscient and omnipresent type of god?
 

Temujin

Well-known member
Whether a human being has a cerebral cortex or not is, I think, irrelevant to their innocence or guilt, which are ontological not functional statuses. You become guilty of X by your actions but it is you who are guilty. So, I would say a foetus, for instance, is innocent because he or she hasn't done anything to incur guilt. This would be different from a murderer or rapist.
I am short of time this morning, so I will answer your post in two parts if I may, taking the easy bit first. To my mind, it is silly to call someone or something innocent if they lack the capacity to be guilty. It becomes a completely redundant adjective, in effect, meaningless. By talking of the innocent foetus you are not distinguishing it from the guilty foetus, since such an entity is impossible. (Unless original sin is held to apply to the unborn.)
I'd like to here under what conditions you think it's morally acceptable to directly and intentionally kill innocent human beings and what would move it from a general to particular moral principle.
Sure, there are several. The most obvious case is when the "victim" themselves requests it. We could discuss euthanasia elsewhere, but suffice to say here that I support it with caveats to support the vulnerable.
Also in the medical field there are operations to separate conjoined twins where only one can survive. Palliative care which shortens life and ceasing interventions which are prolonging life against the interests of the sufferer, are also examples.
Non-medical examples would include armed combat and police acting in good faith and with good cause. I would also include lawful execution. I disagree with capital punishment, but I don't hold those who carry it out to be immoral, even when the condemned is subsequently found to be innocent.
As far as a general moral principle is concerned, I would say that the overriding aim is the avoidance or reduction of harm. There are circumstances where destroying the life of another person is, or is honestly believed to be, the best way of reducing harm. I would apply this principle to abortion, with the added caveat that I do not consider the unborn foetus to be a person.
 

Temujin

Well-known member
Sure, I would say that a human being (at least in an earthly/physical sense) is "a living human organism" and by "human" I mean "having human DNA".
So you would include all those fertilised eggs stored in freezers for IVF, and those that are discarded as unsuitable, as well as sperm cells, unfertilised eggs and cancer cells, particularly those in labs such as HeLa cultures.
How would you define "human being"?
Human, born, alive.

Both these answers skirt around the central issue of why it matters. In other words, are human beings important because they are human or should they be regarded as human because they are important? In these matters I tend to use the not entirely satisfactory term "person" to distinguish from the kind of human being encompassed by your definition. It is not difficult to think of beings that we would certainly call a person, who are nevertheless not human. Anyone watching Star Trek can do this. Many people on these boards, including yourself believe such beings exist. I could define a person as a being to which the law attaches human rights and responsibilities, but I'm not sure that moves us forward any. Better would be: "a being that is self-aware and capable of moral responsibility." Some animals may fall into this definition, but I don't see it as a problem.

What this boils down to is that I believe that we are morally obliged to treat beings that are self aware and have a notion of moral behaviour, as persons, or as fellow human beings if you prefer. Anyone human, born and alive would be included in this. (Even if they are asleep or in a coma.) The human foetus, particularly in early pregnancy does not meet this definition, and in my view there is no obligation to treat it as a person. This is not just my view. In my country a specific Supreme Court ruling has declared that the foetus is not a person, has no rights and cannot be a victim of crime.
I know that there are many who strongly and sincerely disagree with this. All I can say is that I strongly and sincerely agree with it, and that my moral views are no less important or worthy than theirs. Unsatisfactory as it may be, we cannot use morality to solve this issue as no moral consensus exists. We are reduced to designing a law which does least harm and which is regarded as least unsatisfactory by most people. We have achieved this in my country. I don't think they have yet in the US.
 

SteveB

Well-known member
If someone is pro-life, and would want (demand by law) a woman to carry a child to term no matter the personal case (rape, incest, doesn't want / can't afford) then please answer this for me. Why shouldn't we also make it mandatory to be a bone marrow or kidney donor, in order to keep that same child alive after it's born? If we're asking a woman to literally risk her life to carry a child, why not ask the same thing of some random man that happens to have the life saving donor match of a kidney?

Ok, this isn't that hard, but let's do it this way....
Rape/incest cases are less than 5% of abortions.
As of yesterday, there were over 34 million abortions, worldwide, just this year so far.....
5%.
that means that 1.7 million abortions are because of rape/incest.
So..... how am I supposed to deal with the other 32.3 million abortions?

Why is it that it's acceptable to justify the genocide of 32+ million babies, all so 1.7 million can be slaughtered, as a result of their father's crime against their mother?
Why is the child to suffer the death penalty for the father's crime?
 

Temujin

Well-known member
Ok, this isn't that hard, but let's do it this way....
Rape/incest cases are less than 5% of abortions.
As of yesterday, there were over 34 million abortions, worldwide, just this year so far.....
5%.
that means that 1.7 million abortions are because of rape/incest.
So..... how am I supposed to deal with the other 32.3 million abortions?

Why is it that it's acceptable to justify the genocide of 32+ million babies, all so 1.7 million can be slaughtered, as a result of their father's crime against their mother?
Why is the child to suffer the death penalty for the father's crime?
Answer: it has nothing to do with the child. It has everything to do with the welfare of the woman. The unborn has no importance whatsoever unless the woman herself wishes it. The needs of the foetus are not taken into consideration unless she wills it. Until the stage of development where the foetus is acknowledged in law as a person, it is nothing and has no protection.

You may not like that situation, but that is how it is. It is that way because this is the most practical way to reduce overall harm to real people. It is this way because most people agree that bad though abortion may be, it is not as bad as banning abortion. That's it. You are in a moral minority.
 

jonathan_hili

Well-known member
That makes no sense whatsoever. Why would a real god command Abraham to kill his son if it was morally wrong to commit murder, and given that the ten commandments etc obviously didn't apply to Abraham or Cainan or Noah's father since Moses hadn't even written them yet. Would you kill your children if a god commanded you to? Or is that story just an imaginative fantasy?

And the bible says that Abraham had a sexual relationship with his sister Sarah and committed adultery with Hagar, given that a biblical marriage is simply a personal agreement between two people to shack up together and doesn't require a legally signed marriage contract or a wedding celebrant.

And why did Abraham's god need to ask Abraham about the number of righteous children in Gomorrah and walk down to count them anyway after finishing the meal, unless it wasn't an omniscient and omnipresent type of god?
The command was a test for Abraham. To command something immoral (especially when you know the outcome - i.e., that action will not take place and why) is not itself necessarily immoral. The moral principles in the Ten Commandments transcend historical contingency and are universal; they would have applied to Abraham, Cain, Lamech, etc. I wouldn't kill my innocent child even if God commanded it but Abraham lived at a time when that kind of thing (human sacrifice) was more common, so his actions need to be judged by that context.

Sarah was Abraham's half-sister and that kind of thing was quite common (even today, it's not unknown). As for adultery, well, polygamy was practiced too so it's not the same thing.

The discussion between God and Abraham over Sodom and Gomorrah is typical of Middle Eastern haggling. As with Isaac, it is a test of Abraham's character and a revelation of God's character (to both the reader and to Abraham).
 

jonathan_hili

Well-known member
I am short of time this morning, so I will answer your post in two parts if I may, taking the easy bit first. To my mind, it is silly to call someone or something innocent if they lack the capacity to be guilty. It becomes a completely redundant adjective, in effect, meaningless. By talking of the innocent foetus you are not distinguishing it from the guilty foetus, since such an entity is impossible. (Unless original sin is held to apply to the unborn.)

Sure, there are several. The most obvious case is when the "victim" themselves requests it. We could discuss euthanasia elsewhere, but suffice to say here that I support it with caveats to support the vulnerable.
Also in the medical field there are operations to separate conjoined twins where only one can survive. Palliative care which shortens life and ceasing interventions which are prolonging life against the interests of the sufferer, are also examples.
Non-medical examples would include armed combat and police acting in good faith and with good cause. I would also include lawful execution. I disagree with capital punishment, but I don't hold those who carry it out to be immoral, even when the condemned is subsequently found to be innocent.
As far as a general moral principle is concerned, I would say that the overriding aim is the avoidance or reduction of harm. There are circumstances where destroying the life of another person is, or is honestly believed to be, the best way of reducing harm. I would apply this principle to abortion, with the added caveat that I do not consider the unborn foetus to be a person.
Okay, that's fine. We can take off innocence/guilt from the table if you like. I don't think that makes a considerable difference.

I would argue that suicide and euthanasia are also wrong based on the principle: it is always wrong to intentionally and directly kill an innocent human being. Separating conjoined twins is not the same as the intention is not to kill either of them; it's a foreseen but undesired side-effect that one (or both) of them might die. Palliative care is in the same boat: the intention is to relieve pain with a shorter lifespan as the foreseen but undesired side-effect.

With regards to non-medical examples - armed combat does not involve "innocent" people as combatants are "guilty" (namely, those who are aggressors) (though it can obviously involve killing innocent civilians, which would be wrong); lawful execution is also of guilty people (though, again, innocents can be wrongly convicted).

As far as I can see, the avoidance or reduction of harm is a fine moral principle but a secondary one. I think the maintenance and protection of life trumps it as a first-order moral principle.
 

jonathan_hili

Well-known member
So you would include all those fertilised eggs stored in freezers for IVF, and those that are discarded as unsuitable, as well as sperm cells, unfertilised eggs and cancer cells, particularly those in labs such as HeLa cultures. Human, born, alive.

Both these answers skirt around the central issue of why it matters. In other words, are human beings important because they are human or should they be regarded as human because they are important? In these matters I tend to use the not entirely satisfactory term "person" to distinguish from the kind of human being encompassed by your definition. It is not difficult to think of beings that we would certainly call a person, who are nevertheless not human. Anyone watching Star Trek can do this. Many people on these boards, including yourself believe such beings exist. I could define a person as a being to which the law attaches human rights and responsibilities, but I'm not sure that moves us forward any. Better would be: "a being that is self-aware and capable of moral responsibility." Some animals may fall into this definition, but I don't see it as a problem.

What this boils down to is that I believe that we are morally obliged to treat beings that are self aware and have a notion of moral behaviour, as persons, or as fellow human beings if you prefer. Anyone human, born and alive would be included in this. (Even if they are asleep or in a coma.) The human foetus, particularly in early pregnancy does not meet this definition, and in my view there is no obligation to treat it as a person. This is not just my view. In my country a specific Supreme Court ruling has declared that the foetus is not a person, has no rights and cannot be a victim of crime.
I know that there are many who strongly and sincerely disagree with this. All I can say is that I strongly and sincerely agree with it, and that my moral views are no less important or worthy than theirs. Unsatisfactory as it may be, we cannot use morality to solve this issue as no moral consensus exists. We are reduced to designing a law which does least harm and which is regarded as least unsatisfactory by most people. We have achieved this in my country. I don't think they have yet in the US.
A "fertilised egg" is a human zygote, so yes, they fall under the definition of human beings. Sperm cells, unfertilised eggs and cancer cells do not as they are not living human organisms, that is, given time, nutrition and the right environment, sperm, eggs and cancer cells will remain what they are, which is very different from a zygote. I suppose another way of looking at it would be to ask: Does this organism have human parents? If so, then it's a human organism.

Well, I'm not sure it makes sense to ask: "Should they be regarded as human because they are important?" since humanity is an ontological not value quality. There might be other lifeforms too that are important but not human. I agree that personhood is a significant philosophical distinction for knowing the worth of a living being; however, I wouldn't define personhood necessarily by function as by species. Since humans are the kind of species to be persons, I would say that all humans (even unborn ones) are persons, even if not functionally so. Now, it might very well be the case that species can evolve to become persons over time but I don't think personhood is an emergent quality in any particular individual member of a species.

I don't know about the proposed definition: "a being that is self-aware and capable of moral responsibility" of a person. This would basically mean that no human being is a person until 2-3 or so years of age (at least for self-awareness) and even longer for moral responsibility. You say we are morally obliged to treat such beings as persons: "anyone human, born and alive would be included in this", but why the qualification "born"? It seems quite arbitrary to me. I generally agree with you but I'd just extend it to anyone human and alive.

Since I'm not American, I really couldn't care less what the US Supreme Court thinks on the issue.
 

Torin

Active member
Since I'm not American, I really couldn't care less what the US Supreme Court thinks on the issue.
SCOTUS' opinion on abortion affects millions of people (as well as countless fetuses). I'd think you would care about that.

Aren't you "pro-life?" So you think many thousands of babies are being murdered on a regular basis, but it's not happening in your country, so... that's fine?
 

jonathan_hili

Well-known member
SCOTUS' opinion on abortion affects millions of people (as well as countless fetuses). I'd think you would care about that.

Aren't you "pro-life?" So you think many thousands of babies are being murdered on a regular basis, but it's not happening in your country, so... that's fine?
Sure, that's true. I meant I didn't want to based our arguments on what the US Supreme Court thinks.
 

Temujin

Well-known member
Okay, that's fine. We can take off innocence/guilt from the table if you like. I don't think that makes a considerable difference.

I would argue that suicide and euthanasia are also wrong based on the principle: it is always wrong to intentionally and directly kill an innocent human being. Separating conjoined twins is not the same as the intention is not to kill either of them; it's a foreseen but undesired side-effect that one (or both) of them might die. Palliative care is in the same boat: the intention is to relieve pain with a shorter lifespan as the foreseen but undesired side-effect.

With regards to non-medical examples - armed combat does not involve "innocent" people as combatants are "guilty" (namely, those who are aggressors) (though it can obviously involve killing innocent civilians, which would be wrong); lawful execution is also of guilty people (though, again, innocents can be wrongly convicted).

As far as I can see, the avoidance or reduction of harm is a fine moral principle but a secondary one. I think the maintenance and protection of life trumps it as a first-order moral principle.
I just don't see why
it is always wrong to intentionally and directly kill an innocent human being.
Should hold against the wishes of someone sane who wishes to die. That implies not only that their life does not belong to them, but also that it is more important to someone else than it is to them. Presumably you would say that the someone else is God. That is a very heavy price to place on someone for your belief, particularly if they don't share it.

I served in the army and have experienced combat. There are no "aggressors" on the front line, just desperate men and boys reduced to very basic instincts. I have seen an Argentinian teenager bayoneted to death. His government may have been the aggressor, but he was as innocent as my friend who killed him, who still has nightmares. Warfare may be immoral, but don't lump guilt on the men who fight, on either side. They have enough to cope with.
 

jonathan_hili

Well-known member
I just don't see why
it is always wrong to intentionally and directly kill an innocent human being.
Should hold against the wishes of someone sane who wishes to die. That implies not only that their life does not belong to them, but also that it is more important to someone else than it is to them. Presumably you would say that the someone else is God. That is a very heavy price to place on someone for your belief, particularly if they don't share it.

I served in the army and have experienced combat. There are no "aggressors" on the front line, just desperate men and boys reduced to very basic instincts. I have seen an Argentinian teenager bayoneted to death. His government may have been the aggressor, but he was as innocent as my friend who killed him, who still has nightmares. Warfare may be immoral, but don't lump guilt on the men who fight, on either side. They have enough to cope with.
I think suicide of any kind is wrong because of the moral principle and points, in fact, that you highlight: (1) one's life doesn't belong to oneself and (2) one has obligations to the human family that trump suicide. Even from a purely secular perspective, I think both these points be can defended.

I agree that the combatants themselves might not be the aggressors but by fighting on behalf of an aggressor (government) one is guilty by implication. One might not be personally culpable if there's no real choice but to fight (e.g., if you don't fight in the army, you and your family will be arrested or tortured or killed). I'm sorry, I didn't mean to imply that soldiers are personally guilty, only that the situation makes them guilty for association.
 

Temujin

Well-known member
I think suicide of any kind is wrong because of the moral principle and points, in fact, that you highlight: (1) one's life doesn't belong to oneself and (2) one has obligations to the human family that trump suicide. Even from a purely secular perspective, I think both these points be can defended.
I disagree on both points. People who self-harm or attempt suicide certainly need help and possibly treatment. I disagree with the notion that they have moral obligations to live a life that has become intolerable in order for wider society to be more comfortable. The case for voluntary euthanasia in terminal degenerative conditions is even more stark. You would compel someone to sacrifice every shred of dignity and endure physical and mental pain. And how does the wider human family benefit from seeing its members treated so?

I agree that the combatants themselves might not be the aggressors but by fighting on behalf of an aggressor (government) one is guilty by implication. One might not be personally culpable if there's no real choice but to fight (e.g., if you don't fight in the army, you and your family will be arrested or tortured or killed). I'm sorry, I didn't mean to imply that soldiers are personally guilty, only that the situation makes them guilty for association.
My grandfather was a Methodist minister and a pacifist. He was a stretcher bearer in the first world war and an airforce chaplain in the second. He never carried a weapon. I respected his views, but he was wrong. His ability to indulge his conscience was enabled by those around him who were prepared to fight. Pacifism is a very selfish and self-indulgent belief that reeks of superiority over the lesser beings with lesser consciences who fight to preserve your personal peace.
 
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