AHA News |  

To life, not martyrdom

By Herb Silverman

May 16, 2013

Recently, I read two articles about dying for a cause. The first, on these pages, by Sally Quinn, addressed the Dalai Lama’s lack of compassion for not criticizing the self-immolation of more than 100 Tibetans since 2009 to protest China’s occupation of Tibet.  The second article concerned 813 Italians who were just declared “saints” by the Catholic Church because they chose death in 1480 rather than convert to Islam

Different religions have formulated arguments about what constitutes a “just war” and causes worth dying for. Some of history’s most brutal wars have been holy wars, perpetrated by people who expected heavenly rewards for killing countless “heretics.” They justified their massacres because designated infidels either did not believe in “the one true god” or did not worship the one true god in the one true way. Most of the civilized world now condemns those who take innocent lives, regardless of the cause. More nuanced is whether we can justify taking our own life for a cause, the theme in both articles mentioned above.

To read the rest of this Washington Post article, click here.

Herb SilvermanHerb Silverman is founder and President Emeritus of the Secular Coalition for America, AHA board member, and author of Candidate Without a Prayer: An Autobiography of a Jewish Atheist in the Bible Belt.

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